Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited

The notion of guilt, shame, and fear cultures has become a common topic in mission conversations. Ministry organizations and teams around the world are discussing the topic.

Four years have passed since I published The 3D Gospel and developed This time has allowed me to reflect on the guilt-shame-fear cultural paradigm.

The next 13 posts in the series “Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited” will address questions that commonly arise. Hopefully these posts will clarify the topic and inspire strategic insights.

Here are the forthcoming titles in the series:


resources for Majority World ministry

4 Comments on “Guilt, Shame & Fear: Revisited

  1. Social psychological has revealed that the dichotomy between cultures of shame and cultures of guilt does not exist (Tangney et al, 2007, Gausel & Brown, 2012). Instead, every sound human being, regardless of his or her background and time experiences both.

    I suggest to define honor as moral reputation. An individual’s moral reputation (=honor) can be damaged by willingly committing moral deviance, but also by others through malicious libel, slander and defamation. An alleged deviant’s affiliates such as family members are likely to receive a stigma by association and suffer too. One specific type of moral deviance in all communities and cultures is cowardice (Ermers, 2018), remember e.g. captain Schettino.

    Once an individual is considered ‘honourless’, they will be stigmatized and ostracized in their community. People will do and have done literally anything to avoid or end a situation of stigma and ostracism (= a situation of dishonor). From this perspective I believe it is quite complicated (or perhaps impossible) to define a notion like ‘culture of honor’ – unless of course one would define honor in some other manner.

    Ermers (2018) Honor Related Violence. A New Social Psychological Perspective. Routledge.
    Gausel & Brown, (2012). Shame and Guilt — Do They Really Differ in Their Focus of Evaluation? The J of Social Psychol, 152(5):547–567.
    Tangney et al. (2007). Moral emotions and moral behavior. Ann Rev of Psychol, 58(1):345–372.

  2. Thanks for addressing this topic. Helps us understand others and I’ve treasured learning sooooo much about honor-shame. I’ll never forget when Jayson shared the prodigal story from Luke 15 in honor-shame context,

  3. Glad to see the Africa issue being addressed, since I have had doubts about the Africa stats from the culture survey for a long time. Lots of other items of interest in your list of topics too.

  4. The opposite of honor is dishonor, a reputation of immorality.

    When an individual has a reputation of immorality, and is the subject of stigmatization, they experience shame (in the sense of German Scham), and, perhaps, guilt. A reputation of immorality is equivalent to shame (= German Schande), although an immoral incident can also be said to cause shame in this specific sense (Schande).

    This is true for people from all backgrounds, including Africans, Asians and Europeans, in all times. It is basic social psychology in lay terminology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.