“You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
I’ve never heard this phrase uttered by a person who wasn’t either grinning or stifling a laugh, and I’ve never heard it from a person who didn’t unconditionally love the one to whom they said it. Truth told, the sentiment behind the statement has almost nothing to do with shame and disappointment and everything to do with pride and joy.
It’s a phrase usually uttered by the older generation to the younger. It’s recognition and delight that the world and its conventions hasn’t broken us all just yet. It’s what you say when you glimpse the Eden in someone, when you realize someone’s still comfortable to run naked through the garden when they “ought” to be ashamed. When you see that Satan’s whispers that tell us all to hide from God and everybody either weren’t heard or were completely ignored by this one, you say “you ought to be ashamed of yourself”!
I don’t know if this is even a thing outside the rural south. I do know that people outside the region are puzzled by our tendencies to call our babies rotten, say they’re wild, and that they “ain’t no count”. I believe that what is meant when we say these things is that these rotten, wild, no account children of ours have been given the gift of a childhood quite unlike the childhood of their grandparents and great grandparents. These rotten kids have gotten plenty of food- excess even- when their parents and grandparents may have had to go hungry. These “no count kids” didn’t have to go straight to the kitchen or the fields, and they’ve gotten lots of attention because they’re one of 2 or 3 rather than 6 or seven like their grandparents were.
When my babies were little, I couldn’t believe all of the “treats” and toys my family poured out on them. With Christmas coming up again, I’m still a little uncomfortable by just how much they do to make sure my kids can have absolutely anything they really want.
I’m gonna do my level best from here on out to keep my mouth shut about it though, because it has finally really dawned on me WHY they do it. And, as usual, the WHY is far more important than the WHAT.
Mom and dad made sure I could swim because they didn’t want me to fear the water like they had. My grandma made sure I was stuffed with food if I wanted to be because she’d been hungry a time or two. They sent me to piano lessons because they loved music but had never gotten to play themselves. My daddy, who didn’t finish high school, and my mom, who never went to college, sent me to arguably the finest but definitively the most expensive college in the state, and unlike the majority of my peers who had families of considerable means, I came out of college debt free because my parents worked and sacrificed to pay every dime of what my scholarships didn’t cover.
I could go on with this list for page after page after page.
But what I’ve discovered is this… if you can look at your spoiled rotten, wild, no-count kids being their unashamed selves, you have arrived. You have succeeded.
Bathed in grace, covered by the unconditional love and sacrifice of others, those of us who ought to be ashamed of ourselves, live free. Thank you Jesus, MaMa and PaPa, Momma and Daddy, and all y’all.