beat your breast

beat (one's) breast

To publicly express emotions or views that one does not actually feel or support. During election season, all the candidates beat their breasts about how much they love our communities—and then they get into office and slash community initiatives.
See also: beat, breast
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

beat your breast

or

beat your chest

COMMON If someone beats their breast or beats their chest, they publicly show regret or anger about something that has happened. At this month's meeting of the party's Central Committee, the party leader beat his breast with ritual self-criticism. Why don't you both stop beating your chests and do something productive? Note: You can describe the action of doing this as breast-beating or chest-beating. His breast-beating on behalf of the working classes always seemed false to me. Note: You usually use these expressions to suggest that the person is not being sincere but is trying to draw attention to himself or herself.
See also: beat, breast
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

beat your breast

make a great show of sorrow or regret.
See also: beat, breast
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
See also:
References in classic literature ?
"Howl, ye warriors; weep, ye women; beat your breasts, ye maidens; sob, ye little children!
Jonathan Lambert On Cardinal O'Brien's belated and vague fessing up/ Reads like a spin doctor's dressing up/ Until the mea culpa has a maxima added/ Any apology is going to sound vapid/ So come clean, beat your breast and quit messing up.
It's that time of year again when you tear your wardrobe doors off by their hinges, beat your breast, rend your flesh and scream "I haven't got a thing to wear!"