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Feeling Shame When It’s One of Your Own



We’ve all had this happen. we see, read and/or hear headlines that one of our tribe has done something very wrong. We feel an immediate sense of shame and guilt. Why?

Like it or not, we live in a world of guilt by association. But let’s not forget that can work both ways. We feel a sense of pride when something goes well and it’s one of our own. This is why being sensitive to not labelling people by stereotypes is so very important.

Let me get nerdy just for a moment

Here’s a closer look of what stereotyping does and why we feel guilty by association. It starts with a faulty syllogism. A syllogism is a structured statement that has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. Here’s the classic example.

All men (A) are mortal (B) (major premise)

Socrates (C) is a man (A) (minor premise C)

Therefore, Socrates (C) is mortal (B) (conclusion)

Notice the structure: A = B; C = A; therefore C = B. If the facts in the major and minor premise are true, AND it’s in this format, the conclusion is true and valid. Successful advertisers and PR people are masters at taking advantage by manipulating facts and structure and coming to invalid conclusions by either putting in falsehoods or not following structure. Here’s an extreme example of an obviously invalid syllogism.

All men drink water

Criminals drink water

Therefore, all men are criminals

Here’s an example of a manipulated syllogism leading to a not-necessarily true conclusion.

Of America’s best tasting gums, Trident is sugarless.

People then jump to Trident being one of America’s best tasting gums, but it doesn’t say that. All it says is that Trident is sugarless. This is a marketing ploy.

Enough nerdy stuff. Here’s MY real-life shame and guilt producing news regarding false trope about all Jews and money. Two of the largest rip-offs in financial history in the United States are Madoff ($65billion) and now Brinkman-Fried ($51billion). They are both Jewish, so

All Jews ( like Madoff and Brinkman-Fired) are crooks out to steal your money

Yellen is a Jew

Therefore, Yellen is a crook out to steal your money.

It’s embarrassing.

When people are led to believe that the major premise is true, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion. And every time I become aware of an MOT (member of the tribe) doing something wrong, my gut sinks because it reinforces a false stereotype.

Fill the blanks in on your own tribe’s false stereotypes: ALL ____ ARE ___. Blacks, violent; Mexicans, lazy; Asians, deceiving; Muslims, radicals; immigrants, stealing jobs; Americans, arrogant; gays, pedophiles; women; too emotional; etc. The list can go on and on, but the results are the same. We feel guilty by association as if they have brought shame directly to us. And the conspiracy theorists only add fuel to the fire by making up false narratives.

But we often take the opposite. We see, read, and/or hear headlines that someone did something very wrong, BUT it’s not one of our tribe. We feel an immediate sense of relief. We don’t wish bad thoughts on anyone else, but we’re glad it’s not “us”. Of course, the ultimate, one of our tribe does something good, and we feel wonderful about it as if we did it with them. It’s all one in the same.

This is the very essence why we should form opinions of others based on individuals and NOTgroups.

When my son enrolled in the same department I was in as an undergraduate, the response all over the department was pretty much “Oh, no! You’re Yellen’s kid?!” Guilt by association.

Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.

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