Shame Benefits Leadership
by Dr. Renée G. Soule
A key reason I choose to reframe ecological crisis as an initiation is because intentional debasement appears to be a necessary component of initiation rituals. Shame is actually evoked and must be endured. Perhaps being lost, naked, alone, helpless, stripped of identity are designed to soften pride and attachments to being correct, perfect, or complete. Perhaps weathering shame for these reasons is required to be die to the old and begin life fresh in a way that better serves self and others.
A humbled person is able to listen to and heed the intelligence of a larger system and attune to its evolutionary potential. Shame and debasement inhibit the insidious tendency of inflation, which can block one’s ability to listen. Mature ecological identity should not lead to proud strutting, but profound humbleness and a deep bowing down. A larger identity is likely to be more humble than a limited one because it requires acknowledgment a larger intelligence. Bowing down is different than grabbing the steering wheel.
Clearly, it is not our job to ‘save the planet. The Earth is bigger than “me” and bigger than humanity. People are not literally the earth just as my hand is not Renée. Nor is my hand not-Renée. My hand is integral to me and expresses the intelligence, love, and will of the whole Renée. “Bowing down,” which the potential of a wholesome response to shame, points the way to a new kind of leadership, one that involves a deep following and heeding rather than bossing and leading. Following the dictates of a larger system requires surrender. Working with shame creatively and with honor that it serves life is a teacher of surrender.