On 'Shame', By The Avett Brothers

On 'Shame', By The Avett Brothers

I'll keep praying the same, with some help from the Avett Brothers.


I'm the worst type of music listener: I play one song on repeat for days, and then move onto another one. The old Avett Brothers song, "Shame," is that song for me right now, and what better way to maximize what I get out of the song than write an Odyssey article about it?

With Scott Avett strumming and Seth Avett singing, the song proceeds with a country and folksy tune, with a slow beat and emotional tone. Like many Avett Brothers songs, this one starts with a love story and the reminiscing of a hectic end to a relationship: 'Okay, so I was wrong about/ My reasons for us fallin' out." But for Seth, there's a lot of regret, and a whole of shame, when he refers to the relationship as one "of love I want to fall back in." He claims to be a new man: "my name is different now, I swear/ I know now what it means to care/ About somebody other than myself." Ironically, in many life renditions of the song, Scott Avett interjects that "that's not true." Seth Avett then asks for another chance with his former lover and the relationship, and begs his ex-lover to "give a man a second start."

The chorus and crux of the song explore the theme of the song: shame. I've written before on the incredibly important differentiation between the phenomena of guilt and shame. Guilt implies that you do bad things, while shame implies that you are bad, and are irredeemable. Guilt is good, but shame is bad. I know this to be true and have often to preached the idea to others the same, but damn is it difficult as hell to not feel shame in our daily lives. And that shame, something I know to be inherently bad and unproductive, is something that overwhelms myself and so many of my peers almost every moment of every day.

Because I think they're so powerful, I'll just list the chorus here for everyone to not only read and think about, but feel:

"Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop."

I stop in my tracks every time I hear this verse. The second line, that shame hits "day after day" and hits us continually, and infests our lives with "more of the same" misery and pain hits home. In the third line, Seth Avett is begging for someone, anyone to "please lift it off," and hammers the point home in the last line to "please take it off, please make it stop."

One verse laments "the mail/ the stories people often tell/ about us that we never knew," referring to the gossip that surrounds the past relationship that only makes the situation worse. Another verse accepts that his world, now different, is changed, and often unbearable. "But now I'm out and I've had time...And sink into another world/ That's filled with guilt and overwhelming shame."

But there's a silver lining, and some consolation in the midst of this incredibly overwhelming shame. This is where the Avett Brothers choose to end the song. The singer has changed when he sees other people going through similar breakups, fallouts, and overall negative situations Previously, when somebody ' "And when they break and fall apart/ And need somebody's helping hand/ I used to say just let 'em fall." Before, he "couldn't help them," but now, he can.

So what do I take away from a song I'm doing unnecessarily exhaustive literary analysis on? Shame sucks. It really does. I see shame as an overarching source of so much pain and suffering for so many people, including myself - I often pray some variation of these words when I have the chance. "Heavenly Father, please, please, lift some of this shame. Make some of it more bearable, make some of it stop. Father please, please, make some of it go away." Although there is some good to it, and much of the shame I have felt has often been an intensively hard lesson on empathy, I'll keep praying the same, with some help from the Avett Brothers.

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