Judgment and Shame: Fishing for Validation

When we judge and shame, we become the fisherman. We cast a line and hope to hook and reel in validation. We even find a little thrill in the fight.

Sometimes we hook the person we are shaming and they shame themselves… we want to believe this will change their behavior. Sometimes we hook someone who will agree with us.

This is usually catch and release, but there is as much thrill in setting the hook as there is in fighting the desperate attempts to escape. When we reel someone in, especially after a fight, we’ve won! It’s over and we set them free. After all, if we don’t, who will take the bait next time?


When the fish aren’t biting, we change the bait, the line, the spot… we keep casting and angling. Sometimes the thrill dies without a bite and eventually, the only thing left to do is reel it back in and go home.


Try as we might, we may never really be able to retire the rod, but we can try again each day. We can’t control others from casting, but we can do our best to control whether or not we take the bait and what we do when we’ve been hooked.


I will learn to be the fish that doesn’t bite. Someday I will not be pulled into shaming others or myself. Someday we’ll bore the fishermen and rods will be retired, especially ours.

Until then, when I take the bait, and the fisherman reels me in, I’ll resist the urge to pull back and defend. He’s hooked me and I’ll go in without the fight that thrills him.

When he reels me in to release the hook, I’ll stare back with compassion and reflection and grace – for the fisherman and for me – and I’ll resolve to not take the bait again.

I will remember that at any given moment we ALL – including myself and the fisherman and me AS the fisherman – are doing the very best we can.


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