Being formed for justice can be a painful experience. Sometimes that pain takes the form of shame and contributes to the formation and exercise of conscience. But shame in other forms can be opposed to human flourishing and social justice. Psychologist James Fowler provides a spectrum of two forms of healthy shame and four forms of unhealthy shame, to which the author adds four other varieties, strategic shame and spiritual shame, at one end of the spectrum, and murderous shame and genocidal shame, at the other. Various experiences of shame are dramatically illustrated in Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin’s classic narrative of racism in the Deep South. It is crucial for social justice educators to be able to discern among these forms of shame in their own experience and when reported by students, so that healthy forms can be sympathetically honored and unhealthy forms critically examined.


A new version adhering to APA guidelines replaced the original version on 12/01/2015.