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Article taken from original Wikipedia article on Shunning

Shunning is the act of deliberately avoiding association with, and habitually keeping away from, an individual or group. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organizations and communities. Targets of shunning can include, but are not limited to, apostates, dissidents, people classified as "sinners" or "traitors" and other people who defy or who fail to comply with the standards established by the shunning group(s). Extreme forms of shunning and related practices have rendered the general practice controversial.



Shunning can be broken down into behaviors and practices that seek to accomplish either or both of two primary goals.

  1. To modify the behavior of a member. This approach seeks to influence, encourage, or coerce normative behaviors from members, and may seek to dissuade, provide disincentives for, or to compel avoidance of certain behaviors. Shunning may include disassociating from a member by other members of the community who are in good standing. It may include more antagonistic psychological behaviors (described below). This approach may be seen as either corrective or punitive (or both) by the group membership or leadership, and may also be intended as a deterrent.
  2. To remove or limit the influence of a member (or former member) over other members in a community. This approach may seek to isolate, to discredit, or otherwise dis-empower such a member, often in the context of actions or positions advocated by that member. For groups with defined membership criteria, especially based on key behaviors or ideological precepts, this approach may be seen as limiting damage to the community or its leadership. This is often paired with some form of excommunication.

Some less often practiced variants may seek to remove a specific member from general external influence to provide an ideological or psychological buffer against external views or behavior. The amount can vary from severing ties to opponents of the group up to and including severing all non-group-affiliated intercourse.


Shunning is often used as a pejorative term to describe any organizationally mandated disassociation, and has acquired a connotation of abuse and relational aggression. This is due to the sometimes extreme damage caused by its disruption to normal relationships between individuals, such as friendships and family relations. Disruption of established relationships certainly causes pain, which is at least an unintended consequence of the practices described here, though it may also in many cases be an intended, coercive consequence. This pain, especially when seen as unjustly inflicted, can have secondary general psychological effects on self-worth and self-confidence, trust and trustworthiness, and can, as with other types of trauma, impair psychological function.

Shunning often involves implicit or explicit shame for a member who commits acts seen as wrong by the group or its leadership. Such shame may not be psychologically damaging if the membership is voluntary and the rules of behavior were clear before the person joined. However, if the rules are arbitrary, if the group membership is seen as essential for personal security, safety, or health, or if the application of the rules is inconsistent, such shame can be highly destructive. This can be especially damaging if perceptions are attacked or controlled, or various tools of psychological pressure applied.

A key detrimental effect of some of the practices associated with shunning relate to their effect on relationships, especially family relationships. At its extremes, the practices may destroy marriages, break up families, and separate children and their parents. The effect of shunning can be very dramatic or even devastating on the shunned, as it can damage or destroy the shunned member's closest familial, spousal, social, emotional, and economic bonds.

Shunning contains aspects of what is known as relational aggression in psychological literature. When used by church members and member-spouse parents against excommunicant parents it contains elements of what psychologists call parental alienation. Extreme shunning may cause traumas to the shunned (and to their dependents) similar to what is studied in the psychology of torture.

In religious practice


Several passages in the New Testament of the Christian Bible suggest shunning as a practice of early Christians, and are cited as such by its modern-day practitioners within Christianity. As with many Biblical teachings, however, not all Christian scholars or denominations agree on this interpretation of these verses.

Policies governing the use of shunning vary from one organization to another.


Some sects of Anabaptist origin shun former members.

Upon taking instruction classes, each applicant must make a confession to uphold shunning of all excommunicated adult members, and also submit to being shunned if they are excommunicated. The stated intention is not to punish, but to be used in love to win the member back by showing them their error. (Ref John Hopkins Press, below).

Shunning occurs in Old Order Amish and some Mennonite churches. Shunning can be particularly painful for the shunned individuals in these denominations, which are generally very close-knit, as the shunned person may have no significant social contact with anyone other than those in their denomination.

The Amish call shunning Meidung, the German word for avoidance. Shunning was a key issue of disagreement in the Amish-Mennonite split. Different Amish communities vary in the severity and strictness of shunning employed.

The Mennonite ban does not usually involve shunning, but excommunicated members are banned from participation in communion. A few Mennonite groups do practice shunning, or have in the past. Mainstream and progressive Mennonites either do not shun, or employ less extreme forms of shunning. Some very conservative Mennonite churches use shunning to exclude, punish, and shame excommunicated members. In its extreme form, Mennonites who practice shunning do so by condemning, snubbing, and shaming excommunicated individuals in all social, spousal, and familial contexts without regard for family ties. When a member is excommunicated, shunning continues until the individual's death unless they repent.

See also


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