Shame Hates Empathy

Me Too


“You too? I thought I was the only one.” If I could count the number of times I have heard this phrase from women in groups I have led, I would be counting long into next week. Women share their trauma, their pain, their longings, their desires and thus gain assurance from others that they are not alone. Many common experiences exist that connect women to each other. We just have to muster up the courage to reveal them.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, shame thrives on secret keeping. But as shame researcher Brené Brown says, “Shame is a social concept - it happens between people - and also heals best between people.” If we can connect to one another in the midst of our shame, pain and trauma, we can also experience healing in the midst of our shame, pain and trauma.


I like to call part of this healing the Me Too Principle. When I share my story of adultery and shame, it is rare that a woman doesn’t come to me after and essentially say, “Me too.” She may not use those words, but she always thanks me for being bold enough to speak what she hasn’t been able to. In many ways, connecting through our stories gives her hope that she is not the only one attempting to erase the scarlet letter from her soul. She now knows that someone else understands her story, her pain and her shame.

Empathy takes place when we gain the strength to be authentic with our stories and our lives. If you’re not familiar with empathy, it is the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. It is the ability to say “Me too” when you hear another’s story because you’ve been there. You can identify with and understand the shame, pain and trauma. And let me tell you this: shame hates empathy. Since shame despises empathy, shame and empathy cannot coexist.

Shame loathes empathy as it connects us to one another. Where shame attempts to isolate, empathy solidly connects. When we listen to another share their pain, shame loses its grip on their soul. Accepting another’s story without judgment speaks volumes to that individual of their worth and value, unlike shame that speaks to them of their insignificance and inferiority.

We essentially communicate to one another a powerful message: “You’re not alone. You’re not the only one.” You no longer have to hide under your shame. You no longer have to fear total rejection. You no longer have to wonder if others think your soul is ugly. You can join me in saying “Me, too.” I have hidden. I have feared. I have wondered. No longer. As long as we stay connected, shame cannot live in our hearts. So, my friend, stay connected. Stay connected.

Ponder a time when you’ve been able to say “Me too.” Describe what that was like for you. Who are those you connect with today? What will it take to stay connected with them during this dark time in your life?