Updated: May 31, 2019
Want to hear my most embarrassing moment? I have shared this before, so it's not likely to break the internet. Let me tell you the story the way I experienced it.
It was Tuesday morning of summer camp. My traveling drama ministry team was doing a comedic skit on the prodigal son story. I played the son, wailing my remorse in a goofy voice, flailing and grovelling across the stage in overly dramatic ridiculousness for comic relief. This was our favorite skit of the summer.
But I remember that entire week of camp afterward feeling #awkward. I couldn’t put a finger on why but I felt it. On Friday when several of the camp staff and my team gifted me plumbers’ tools I was so confused; they were laughing their heads off. I started getting really uncomfortable. And embarrassed. And then they told me what had happened.
Apparently the shorts I had chosen to wear during Prodigal Son were a poor choice for all that grovelling and flailing. And everybody saw why I needed a belt.
I unknowingly mooned an entire youth camp.
I. had. no. idea.
I never wore those shorts again. I also never showed my face (or otherwise, thank you very much) at that camp again.
I have a theory about embarrassing situations. If you experience a doozy and live to tell, that becomes the new threshold for your Pain of Embarrassment Tolerance. Food discovered in my teeth after meeting someone new? Tripping on my feet or over my words in front of a large group of people? Accidentally entering the wrong bathroom? Farting in public? These are inconsequential after mooning an entire camp.
Hindsight (hahahahahaha!! get it? Sorry, too much. Too much hindsight (*snicker-snicker*)...
Let me start over. Hindsight says the experience may have served me well in the end with a higher tolerance for what may embarrass me. Cuz who really needs embarrassment anyway?
I had a conversation with Trevor-Hubby <3 the other day that surprised me; it turns out the very same abstract thought had been swirling through both our hearts this week. (When these things happen, I’ve learned to sit up straight and take notice, for obviously God has something to say to us). The thought was this: All embarrassment amounts to is shame that I have taken on.
To be embarrassed is to agree that I deserve to feel shamed in that moment.
Now, I’m not talking about the appropriate senses of wrongdoing, remorse, and conviction that follow sin. In fact, I’m not talking about sin at all. But even these appropriate senses are kind and not condemning.
I can be easily embarrassed. I think that comes with the territory in anxiety and people-pleasing (you can read about that journey here).I vividly remember declaring as a child that embarrassment was the worst feeling in the world, to be avoided at all costs. And this is largely how I’ve lived, my daily self-marching orders: avoid embarrassment. Don't ever draw attention to myself. Of course it can serve us well in some appropriate places, like the way we keep personal matters private for a sense of dignity, or the way we wear belts to keep those pants from falling down please. But when shame is piggy-backed onto embarrassment, it will show up in the oddest and worst places like admitting what we want and asking for help.
I think I’ve seen this most often when it comes to trying new things. Embarrassment will raise its head as the shame I feel in having my ignorance and weaknesses on display. I mean for real: this is largely why I avoided ever going to gym before working through anxiety. I knew it was obvious I didn’t know what I was doing or how to use the machines. And I couldn’t just ask. What a sad way to live.
I wonder how much I have missed out on by avoiding embarrassment? These are the types of regrets I don’t want to have. Life is meant to be discovered through learning. None of us have arrived here experts; we have all been beginners at literally everything we’ve ever done.
Perhaps if we could discern the places where shame attaches itself to an otherwise harmless thought or action, we would be more apt to confront it. Because there is no place for shame in our lives. None. Christ took it all on the cross. He intends for us to live without it. Chances are, that sense of shame-embarrassment is from the enemy, and I don’t want to give one square inch of real estate in my heart for the enemy to taunt.
Sometimes remembering the Big Thing (Jesus took my shame on the cross) can help us with the Small Thing (I don’t have to be embarrassed here).
So let’s all kick embarrassment to the curb, yes? Let’s be clumsy beginners and have fun in the effort of trying. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. Let’s let “awkward” be a necessary step in the process of development but never an identity. Let’s ask questions and fumble through our first attempts at the new things.
And when the time inevitably comes that someone hands you plumbers’ tools, and the joke is on you, may you have the grace and good humor to throw your head back in deep belly laughter, change into better shorts, and keep on doing your best clumsy new thing.