Confronting Embarrassment

Haven’t we all done something klutzy, been embarrassed, but then we find out someone saw the whole thing and suddenly the embarrassment escalates into massive humiliation? We wish they’d just act like they didn’t see so that we could console ourselves in the disillusioned hope that they didn’t. But they did, and to top it off they ask the dreaded—”do you need help,” or “are you okay?” Whoa…

The mentality of let-me-prove-I’m-just-fine boils up within us and we want to just jump up and run away as we call over our shoulder “Yep, I’m fantastic!” As if we have something to prove?

We wish we would suddenly melt into vapor, or that the person who saw the mishap would permanently forget the whole thing. How mortifying.

But what’s our response? Or do we even respond?

This was my experience yesterday. I had a package that had to get to the mail and I figured it would be perfect for sliding around on a bike since the roads were slick with all the snow we had recently gotten. At a particular corner, as I neared the Post Office, I swung my rear tire around into a slide and didn’t keep my weight over the front wheel enough and swoosh! I was on one knee and both hands. The bike had slid right out from under me. Instantly, my first thought was, “I hope no one is watching.” “Are you okay?” The dreaded question punctured my hope bubble like a lightening bolt with obnoxious interruption. I looked up to see a teen boy across the street looking in my direction.

He watched me. I heard him. I saw him. Now what?

Fortunately, I was completely fine. As I picked the bike up, I quickly responded, “Yeah, I’m okay. It’s kind of slick out here. I’m sure you know how it is—once the front wheel goes out from under you there’s no saving it.” He nodded.

I rode across the street, but my mind was racing for more—I’ve learned that the only way to really live is to confront every reality, no matter how brutal or gruesome, head on. A fast escape only does us harm, perpetuating the unrealistic reality that is a problem for us. In that moment, I no longer cared what the boy thought, I was concerned about my own mind and how I was dealing with one of life’s embarrassing moments. Rushing past an experience creates gaps in life, and adds to the “unconfrontables”—the list of things, moments, and memories that we’d rather not talk about.

On the other side of the street, I stopped and waited for Michael to catch up to me. When he did, I struck up a conversation with him. Not to prove anything to him, but to confront and prove to myself that I can stand up in face of total embarrassment. I can talk about something that doesn’t reflect good on me. We had a great exchange, and I rode away triumphant—not because I had proven I was indeed “okay” to him, but because I boldly confronted an area of vulnerability. And on top of that, I had taken an opportunity to make a new friend.

Afterward, the question spiked in my mind: “If, in that instance, I had been hurt (however minor or major) how would my response differ?” My natural inclination would be to act like I wasn’t hurt and like everything is fine. BUT…

What if that isn’t the truth?

What if the whole side of my leg was scraped up and my hands were bloody. How would I respond to a genuine inquiry of compassion? Run. Hide. Ignore. Cry. Shout. Act cool. “Yep, I’m perfectly fine…”

Emptiness and continued embarrassment pursue those who run from reality.

What about when someone’s words dig deep and our hearts bruise; someone else senses that all is not right and asks, “Are you okay?” Do we bluff off, suck it in, paste a smile on our face, and try to act like everything is okay? Or are we true—true to the other person, and even more importantly, true to ourselves?

You see, this isn’t just about falling down and getting hurt, it’s about mentally confronting the hard and embarrassing stuff in life. How often do we find ourselves admitting to reality, whether good or bad? “You know what, I’m hurt by those words, acts, looks/that fall, hit, scrap, etc… but I’m working through it and your concern for me is very comforting.”

How do I respond?

“But you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)

“He stores up perfect wisdom for those who are right with Him. He is a safe-covering to those who are right in their walk.” (Proverbs 2:7)

“Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3b)

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