On Honour and Shame

I found this video from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. Liz was joined by her dear friend and fellow writer, Rayya Elias, who shared her story about self-discovery. Rayya starts off with a letter she had written to her stumbling block, her head. Right away, I liked her. Here was an honest, raw, sincere, and passionate woman who just gives off a sense of wisdom and love (am I making sense here, or have I delved into yoga/new age/spiritual territory?). She talked about mental health, creativity, failure, fear, and many other significant things that we all experience but hardly every talk about. There are so many quotable moments in this video that I can’t possibly include all of them, so you might as well hit the play button.

One thing that I do remember, though, is Liz saying that honour is the opposite of shame. Which, of course, being a nerd and an Avatar fan, led me to think about Zuko’s journey of self-discovery. The word “honour” is definitely associated with Zuko (which is an understatement). He’s out to regain his honour. He must capture that Avatar to regain his honour. He needs his honour. He believed that honour was something that his father had taken from him. Zuko came to learn that honour is something that you hold within yourself.

Zuko_with_his_swords

An aside, if you will — Avatar: The Last Airbender is such a beautiful story of love and redemption and forgiveness and growth and compassion that I kind of forget how people dismiss it as a children’s show. If you’re reading this and feel that way, please take some time to reconsider. Children’s stories are often dismissed as unrealistic and fluffy and utter crap, but they’re also universal and true. People tend to forget that.

Anyway, back to honour and shame — I thought it was so interesting that they can be opposites. Shame is like a subtle undercurrent of icky shit that sticks to your gut and weighs down your soul. It is triggered by a disapproving look, a word of caution, a smack on the arm, a billboard ad, a vote. Basically, it’s anything and everything that makes you feel unworthy, and it builds up into that undercurrent. You don’t truly realize that it’s there until something significant happens that makes you suddenly feel it.

For a while, I had felt shame about who I was, as somebody who loved books and stories and could not pull myself away from them. I was ashamed of being such a fan of all of these stories (most of which were categorized as children’s stories), of fantasizing about the characters, predicting what comes next, spending hours looking up fanart and fanfiction – all of it, I kind of hated it. It took some time for me to come to terms with it. I also gained the ability to live with that aspect of myself, to be able to set aside space in my head and my heart with set expectations and boundaries. That way, I could contain this fan without it taking over my life.

It turns out that it wasn’t just the fan taking control; it was the shame. I had let it affect my thinking and how I spent my time. I didn’t sulk for hours on end, though. But I do remember feeling sad and worthless for being myself, which was definitely not healthy.

And it did take time for the honour, or a sense of worthiness and self, to come in. Honour came in the form of the Harry Potter Alliance, and with that a group of people who adore stories and proudly claim that stories have shaped their lives for the better. These people use these stories and the power of fandom to better themselves and the world around them. I was amazed that there were other people like me. They (and yes, Zuko) taught me about honour.

Honour is a source of light and energy that you carry inside yourself. It can grow or fade. It feels clean and centred, lightweight and grounded. It is confident, courageous, and calm. It can also be incredibly fragile, which is why we should constantly work to feed that fire and keep it alive.

Easier said than done, right? Well, we will all feel both honour and shame throughout the course of our lives. Just like we feel intense honour, we can feel intense shame. Neither will completely disappear, and that’s okay. It’s something that we have to remember and learn to appreciate. And we can always change things if we’re not content; we have that choice.

What choice will you make today?

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