Guilt-Shame-Fear spectrum of cultures
- In a guilt society, control is maintained by creating and continually reinforcing the feeling of guilt (and the expectation of punishment now or in the afterlife) for certain condemned behaviors. The guilt-innocence world view focuses on law and punishment. A person in this type of culture may ask, "Is my behavior fair or unfair?" This type of culture also emphasizes individual conscience.
- In a shame society, the means of control is the inculcation of shame and the complementary threat of ostracism. The shame-honor worldview seeks an "honor balance" and can lead to revenge dynamics. A person in this type of culture may ask, "Shall I look ashamed if I do X?" or "How people will look at me if I do Y?" Shame cultures are typically based on the concepts of pride and honour, and appearances are what counts.
- In a fear society, control is kept by the fear of retribution. The fear-power worldview focuses on physical dominance. A person in this culture may ask, "Will someone hurt me if I do this?"
Though the same person may emphasize different considerations depending on the situation, government and business projects that bring together people from different types of cultures may experience problems.
Paul Hiebert characterizes the guilt society as follows:
- Guilt is a feeling that arises when we violate the absolute standards of morality within us, when we violate our conscience. A person may suffer from guilt although no one else knows of his or her misdeed; this feeling of guilt is relieved by confessing the misdeed and making restitution. True guilt cultures rely on an internalized conviction of sin as the enforcer of good behavior, not, as shame cultures do, on external sanctions. Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order. (Hiebert 1985, 213)
- Guilt-Innocence: more associated with Catholicism and Judaism
- Shame-Honour: more associated with Islam, Protestantism, and Eastern religions
- Fear-Power: more associated with animist and tribal societies
EnglandAnglo-Saxon England is particularly notable as a shame culture, and this trait survived even after its conversion to Christianity, which is typically a guilt culture. Other examples of shame culture under Christianity are the cultures of Mexico, Andalusia and generally Christian Mediterranean societies.
ChinaIn China, the concept of shame is widely accepted due to Confucian teachings. In Analects, Confucius is quoted as saying:
Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously.
JapanThe society of traditional Japan was long held to be a good example of one in which shame is the primary agent of social control. The first book to cogently explain the workings of the Japanese society for the Western reader was The Chrysanthemum and the Sword by Ruth Benedict. This book was produced under less than ideal circumstances since it was written during the early years of World War II in an attempt to understand the people who had become such a powerful enemy of the West. Under the conditions of war, it was impossible to do field research in Japan.
Without being able to study in Japan, Benedict relied on newspaper clippings, histories, literature, films, and interviews of Japanese-Americans. Her studies came to conclusions about Japanese culture and society that are still widely criticized today, both in America and Japan.
RomaniTo the Roma, though living as local minorities in mostly Christian or Islamic societies, the concept of lajav ("shame") is important, while the concept of bezax ("sin") does not have such significance.
- Face (sociological concept)
- Revenge dynamics, related to honor (shame) societies and blood feuds.
- Catholic guilt
- Jewish guilt
- Emotional blackmail
The introduction of a new state-sanctioned (or ruler-sanctioned) religion does not necessarily effect radical changes in a culture's basic structure of values. Not only Beowulf but the Maxims of the Exeter Book — "Dom bib selast" (Fame is best, 80) — and The Battle of Maldon attest to the vitality of the shame culture and its values in Anglo-Saxon England long after the Conversion. The theme of "worship" (i.e., Anglo-Saxon weordscipe [honor]) running through Malory's stories suggests that the ethos of the shame culture survived both the Conversion and the Conquest.
- Delia Grigore, Rromanipen-ul (rromani dharma) şi mistica familiei "Rromanipen (Rromani Dharma) and the Family Mystics" (2001, Salvaţi copiii, Bucharest)
This article has an unclear citation style.Learn how and when to remove this template message)(June 2018) (
- Guilt, Shame and Power Worldviews and the Gospel. Muller, Roland. Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door. Bloomington: Xlibris Corporation, 2001. Naylor, Mark. “Fear, Shame and Guilt.” Cross Cultural Impact for the 21st Century. 1 August 2010. Web. 17 August 2014.[self-published source]
- Guilt Shame and Power Worldviews and the Gospel  published Feb 2-15. [As visited on Friday 30 December 2016].
- Hiebert, Paul G., Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985.