5. Ruis

Regret, pride, shame, embarrassment, learning from experience, resolution

Tree: Elder (Sambucus spp.)

Letter: R

Photo by Anna Regelsberger

Shame isn’t all bad and does not deserve a uniformly awful reputation. Without shame and the fear of being shamed, every human child would be demonically bratty. Shame is a limit that informs us to keep our own ego in check. It is often about considering others. Having shame about one’s own past behavior is motivation to avoid shameful behaviors such as cheating and stealing.

Shame is an emotion that demands confrontation. All too often, people run away from what shames them, attempt to excuse themselves from wrongful or immoral behavior because they’re too cowardly to face what they have done or to admit their responsibility in causing their own misfortunes or the misfortune of others. Ruis indicates a willingness to face one’s own shame and to do with shame what it was meant for, and that is to use shame of the past to build oneself into a better person for the present and future. Ashamed of something you did? How can you make yourself into the type of person who would never even think of doing something like that? Overcome being the type of person who would engage in the shameful behavior and you become the master of it; you won’t have the remotest chance of repeating such a mistake. Did you become embarrassed because you did something you now understand to be greedy? Then learn to balance thriftiness with generosity. Adjust to the circumstance rather than overreacting to it. Are you ashamed about cheating on a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse? Become a person who would never cheat on your boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse regardless of conditions, which could mean an assortment of outcomes: sticking to a resolution of no cheating and staying together, admitting one’s sexual preferences and going with the flow, changing the person you are with, or being single for a long time.

Because humans tend to remember negative experiences more easily than positive ones, it’s important when you draw Ruis to acknowledge the things you are not ashamed of about yourself. For every bad or shameful thing you’ve done, remember there are a thousand shameful things you avoided. Maybe it is time to appreciate the places you could have gone horribly wrong and did not.

Questions when you draw Ruis:
-What are three acts you are most ashamed of? Are you now the type of person who would not do that anymore?
-What are three shameful behaviors you’ve never done but someone who know has done?

Ruis ill-dignified excess: Beating yourself up too hard
You may be too hard on yourself. Thinking deeply about what you’ve done in your life that you aren’t proud of is great — don’t go too far with it, or only superficially examine behaviors you’re not proud of in order to beat yourself up. Do you have feelings of inferiority you need to analyze? Don’t be afraid to dissect your own shadow.

Too much shame can result in politically correct cowardice. Address your own mistakes before judging the mistakes of others. When you try and repress your feelings of hatred, anger, and fury, the result is toxicity that leaks out under the cracks. If Ruis is ill-dignified in the Situation position, it may be warning of all too common privileged, self-hating bigot types who attempt to enforce political correctness via shame — for instance the idea that racism cannot happen to white men. For those who attempt to use shame to control the behavior of the masses around them, their karma is to end up in the middle of a circular firing squad at best and at worst to be pointing the gun’s nozzle to the roof of their own mouth. Excessive shame can easily sour into a vile form of self-hatred that refuses to acknowledge limits. There is good that can come of shame, but not when it is rooted in dishonesty and the urge to weaponize shame in order to force others to conform.

Ruis ill-dignified dearth: Lacking shame and the good sense that goes with it
Too little shame is solipsism, or the belief that since we answer only to ourselves in the end, the world is a free for all of Social Darwinism and we’d do best to grab all we can in the feeding frenzy. Drawing Ruis ill-dignified isn’t necessarily saying you are the smoking train wreck of a sociopath who is acting the compleat solipsist; it is more of a warning of tendencies towards that type of flawed thinking or a call to look at the nature of solipsism and to meditate upon what it means to you. Don’t be the pot who calls the kettle black. Caring about how your actions impact your family, friends, the environment, and the future is ultimately anti-solipsistic. A little self-shame goes a long way in bettering one’s own development as a human being.

“The best revenge is to be unlike him that performed the injury.” -Marcus Aurelius

“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” 
-Stephen Fry

“’In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.’
‘What is it then?’
‘It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.”
-Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Shadow