Shame is an important part of moral psychology. Once there are commonly accepted morals and once people find that their own words and deeds violate those morals, they will consciously feel guilt and self-reproach – this is known as “shame.” Confucians considered the development of such a moral psychology to be an important goal of ethics education. In addition to wanting people to abide by external moral norms, they also wanted them to develop an internal awareness of moral behavior, and to achieve moral self-constraint through a sense of shame. This term was later used to judge immoral words and deeds, i.e., shameful.
Zigong asked, “What qualifies a person to be called a shi (roughly referring to those at the social stratum between the aristocracy and the common people)?” Confucius said, “He who conducts himself with a sense of shame, and does not disgrace the tasks entrusted by his sovereign when dispatched elsewhere, may be called a shi.” (The Analects)
Confucius said, “If people are guided by governmental decree and made to behave themselves through punishments, they will avoid punishment, but will have no sense of shame. If they are guided by morality and behave themselves in accordance with social norms, they will have a sense of shame and will follow rules.” (The Analects)