Scarlet letters and stockades went out of style in American culture as a way of creating social change, but public shaming is still very much en vogue. The phrase “shame on you” still gets thrown around in American politics, both overtly and in more subtle ways.
The Jewish tradition Mussar teaches people that there are better ways of creating change. In the March-April issue of Tikkun (article not available online), Leonard Felder breaks down three steps that people should take when trying to right social wrongs. They are:
- Try a dignified one-on-one first
- Make sure you aren’t trying to blast someone for what you yourself need to be working on
- Put human dignity and peace ahead of any other rules or laws
The guidelines not only help people act morally in conflict, they’re also often more effective than public shaming.