Kahihiyan (Shame)



Aling Tinay: Jhunjhun dito na kayo kumain, nagluto na ako.

Jhunjhun: Pero Aling Tinay, kumain na po ako.

Aling Tinay: Saan ka kumain? Eh buong araw ka nandito. Wag ka na mahiya.

Jhunjhun: sige na nga po. Nakakahiya naman. 

Aling Tinay: Nahiya ka pa eh buong araw ka nandito.


What is it with Filipinos and shame or kahihiyan?

14327809-editable-silhouettes-of-the-culture-clash-as-a-western-man-and-an-east-asian-woman-greet-each-otherOur sense of shame actually occurs on three levels. The first one is when we feel inadequate for something that involves other people whom we think have high expectations for us. We feel embarrassed for other people’s expectations or praise for something that we have done. Look at how you would react if someone praises you.

The next one is triggered when we lose face or gets shamed after an error or a crime is found out. Our sense of shame emerges when our activities that we think are wrong or erroneous were exposed to other people – our neighbors, friends or family. This brings to mind the cover-up activities of corrupt people in power whenever their misdeeds were spread out in the open. More on that later.

The third one is our sense of propriety or adherence to social etiquette or standards. I remember my mother used to remind us to keep our voices down because our neighbors might be sleeping or resting in the afternoon – siesta. This one is actually ironic since the neighbors are not actually resting but are singing on the videoke on a full volume. Another example is whenever we enter as guests to a friend or relative’s house. While it is not our intention to eat, out of shame or kahihiyan, we eat whatever they have to offer.

If you will notice, all three boils down to one concept: what will others think? 

Consider how some parents react whenever they find out that their daughter is pregnant: “di ka na nahiya! Ano na lang ang sasabihin ng mga kaibigan/amiga/kapitbahay/kamag-anak natin? Ipalaglag mo yan!”

Although this trait or value is not exclusively Filipino, the Filipino’s sense of shame and embarrassment goes as far as disregarding morals.  We go so far to think of our reputation that we immediately throw away everything out the window the moment our reputations are on the line. Consider the reasons of most journalist deaths in the country. Most of these were done in efforts of the wealthy and corrupt to preserve their reputation. Morality is easily thrown out the window the moment our kahihiyan kicks in.

despairFor Christians, this poses a problem. For starters, it gives us an excuse to escape responsibility. We think that instead of facing the consequences of our actions, we try to cover it up and escape. Yet we are assured that “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23) we may try to run or hide but responsibilities and consequences make up our lives.

Kahihiyan also prevents us from exploring or growing. When we feel ashamed or embarrassed at asking for fear of being labeled ignorant, or trying something new for fear of failing, we ultimately fail to learn or grow. Mistakes and failures may be shameful but it is also a learning experience. Kahihiyan prevents us from doing that.

Finally, Kahihiyan hinders our connection with God. Consider some of the excuses of some Filipinos for not attending church or going to prayer meetings: “Hindi ako pwede diyan para sa mga banal lang yan.” “Nakakahiya hindi ako mabuting tao” among others. Out of shame for the Divine to see our failures and mistakes, we tend to shy away from anything related to God. What we do not realize is (1) God already knows we are sinful, (2) no one is not sinful (yes, even that pastor or elder talking to  you), (3) only He can cleanse us from sin. We are missing out on that deep relationship that a perfectly Divine and forgiving God is offering us, imperfect and sinful humans. His perfection is so that He understands our imperfections and still loves us despite those.

062911AnointedThoughtsOne perfect example of someone who  has transcended Kahihiyan, is Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). He was a man who was known by everyone as a sinner. Everyone knows his corruption. Everyone knows that there was nothing to be proud of himself. Yet he didn’t care. He even added to that shame when he climbed a tree to see Jesus Christ. He was not ashamed. Here he was a grown man, though short in stature, climbing a tree with children just  to see the visiting Christ. What is amazing though is that Christ knew him and decided to dine in his house. Everyone was flabbergasted. It was an outcry of disgust and dismay. On everyone’s minds, the question was “why him?”

Yet Zaccheus brushed aside all these deriding remarks, because Christ was dining with him. He was so moved by such a gesture and even more by the moment he had with Christ that he decided to expose to everyone his shame. He decided to return back to everyone anything that he may have laundered or philandered not just the exact amount but four times that amount. Added to that, he even declared to give all of his riches and possessions to the poor and needy. He was actually divulging to the public the elephant in the room: he was corrupt and sinful. No shame in that. But in exchange of that shame was a deep relationship with Christ. He was not ashamed of losing every money, house or land titles he may have acquired throughout the years. He only cared about the Christ that would be his friend and Master for life.

Are you ashamed of your sins? Nothing to be really proud of that, but God already knows it. Do not hesitate, come to Him and be not ashamed because His love outweighs all.



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