Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most

Churches may be emphasizing the wrong selling point of the gospel, suggests LifeWay.
Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most
Portion of Domenichino's "God admonishing Adam and Eve."

Many Americans are more worried about their reputation than their conscience.

They worry less about guilt and fear and more about avoiding shame, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Shame has become particularly powerful in American culture in the internet age, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. A single mistake or embarrassing moment posted on social media can ruin a person’s life.

“What’s our biggest cultural fear? Shame,” he said. “What’s surprising is not that personal freedom, ambition, and doing the right thing are valued by Americans. It’s that risk to our reputation is what matters most.”

Mixed motivations

Shaming has been a part of American life since the days of The Scarlet Letter. Set among the Puritans, the novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, a young mother forced to wear a scarlet “A” after committing adultery, considered a crime at the time. But Americans gave ...

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