Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shame

I've had this topic in my "rainy day blog" list for ages, but it suddenly seems appropriate and relevant to go right after a post titled "Pride," so I'm writing it now.

I've done a few things I'm ashamed of in my life. Of course, we all have. I do try to minimize these—there are very few of them, and I do try to keep things that way. But I've failed in my judgement a few times, and these failures haunt me from time to time. People tell me that they like reading about my intimate mental and emotional details, so I'm going to tell you about the two incidents in my life that cause me the greatest amount of regret.

I pushed my brother off a bridge once when I was young. He's about three years younger than I am. He was annoying me, and we were on a bridge, and I pushed him off. He didn't fall far—six feet or so—and he wasn't badly injured. We were at a state park or something like that... I don't actually recall much in the way of details because it was a good two decades ago. That's actually not even one of the two incidents I promised. Consider that a bonus, just for putting up with my wordy posts.

#2 is much more recent—fewer than ten years ago, at least. Nebraska was trying to pass their own little version of the Defense of Marriage Act, which said that marriage was between a man and a woman only, dammit, and anything else was a blasphemous affront to God. To get this thing on the ballots, they needed a bunch of signatures. My church's pastor, a generally cool guy, decided to break his personal ban on mixing church and state for just one Sunday, and take time during the service to allow people to come up to the front and sign the petition. Everyone of voting age did.

Including me. I regretted it before I made it back to my seat, but apparently not enough to go back and cross my name off, which is worth an amount of bonus regret. I'm still ashamed to this day that I signed that thing. It's not like it mattered in the end—it's not like I was voting on it, and that sort of thing was 100% entirely guaranteed to get on the ballot in Nebraska with or without my signature, but I'm still ashamed of what I did. I don't really think of myself as a person who succumbs to peer pressure like that, but it's exactly what I did. Everyone else was doing it, and I didn't want to look like a dirty queer or something for being the only person not to sign, so I did too, even though I didn't support such a terribly insulting law in any shape or form. It took a while to forgive the pastor for that, but I still haven't fully forgiven myself. So that's my #2.

My #1 was younger. I think it was third grade. My main teacher was Mrs. Imes (pronounced like the dog food, as she was reluctant to admit), and I stole things from her desk. I developed a brief fit of kleptomania. I didn't steal from anyone else; I just stole office supplies from her and kept them in my desk. My mom sent me boxes of Kleenex because I was having runny noses a lot, and I made a makeshift safe for my treasures out of it. I had an obsession of sorts with office supplies at the time—I imagined having this fully-stocked office desk at home, poring over the weekly ads from the new store Office Depot that just moved into town.

As the class would leave the room for P.E. or art class or recess or lunch, I'd always make sure that I was the last one to leave, and then I'd snatch something from the desk on my way out—a pen, another pad of sticky notes, or something else. This went on for a couple weeks: I must have been good at it. But eventually I was caught, and I don't actually remember how. Mrs. Imes cried, and told me that even worse than having things stolen from her was knowing that she couldn't trust her best student anymore. That really broke my heart.

I didn't really see it as really stealing until I was caught. I was always a really good kid, and wouldn't generally do stuff like that. I saw it more as just collecting things—things that were provided by the school system, so I wasn't hurting anybody. I wasn't aware that teachers had to buy their own supplies, so I actually was hurting somebody. I didn't use any of the things I stole or take them home or try to get rid of them, so I was able to give it all back to her—like I said, I just wanted to acquire and collect it. But I was ashamed each and every school day for the rest of that year.

Those are the two things that I've done in life that I regret the most. Even though I'm terribly ashamed by them, they've each given me a good life lesson. I'd like to think that I could stand up for what I believed in if I find myself in another peer pressure situation in the future, and the very idea of stealing something from someone is just vile to me now. Shame is a pretty rotten feeling, but at least I learned something from it.

1 comment:

Louise said...

I still love hearing the story about you pushing your brother off the bridge - probably because it seems way out of character for you.