Lessons in Embarrassment

No one likes being embarrassed. People will lie, squirm, shut down, walk away, and do just about anything to avoid embarrassment. It is not a comforting feeling. I really do not enjoy talking about my most embarrassing moments, but in the spirit of honesty and to level the playing field, I have compiled a top-ten list of some of Adrienne’s Greatest Embarrassing Hits.

1. The time that I was new at school, went to lunch with the cool girls, fell and slid on my rear down a muddy hill (age 14).
2. The time that I held a boy’s feet in gym class while he did sit ups, and he farted in my face (embarrassing for both of us, age 15).
3. The time that the whole audience laughed at me because I was cast in a male role in a school play and had to dance with the female lead (age 15).
4. The time that I served my family macaroni and cheese without draining the noodles (age 16).
5. The time in college that I angered a female softball player because she overheard me in the bathroom at a club talking about wanting to steal her boyfriend. (You do not want to mess with softball players!)
6. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
7. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.
8. The time I got drunk and cried over a boy.

Disclaimer: Numbers 5,6,7, and 8 are from my “dark days” in college and early 20s. BC and BB–(Before Christ and Before Bryan)

9. The time I served my family a shrimp salad–covered in raw shrimp. (Last week)
10. The time I opened my big mouth on social media and hurt someone’s feelings. (Last week)

Looking back over the list, some of these memories now make me laugh, but some of them still provoke a cringe and remorse. So why mention them? Well, it’s because I believe that a little humility is good for the soul and something that our world respects, whether we acknowledge it or not. And sometimes, being embarrassed is the way to humility, even if it hurts.

I think my #10 is a scenario to which most people can relate. Most of you have probably made a fool of yourselves on Facebook at some point, whether autocorrect had you saying something you didn’t mean, or you forcefully gave your opinion without giving your emotions a day or two to settle. And you may still believe that you were right, or you may avoid mention of that unpleasantness at any cost. Regardless of what you think now, we can most likely agree that when we realized that we had offended someone we cared for, we had an “uh oh” moment and reluctantly read their response. When it comes to embarrassment, I think what we do with the fall-out is crucial. Do we become defensive? Do we go radio silent and avoid the person for months? Or do we step back and replay the interaction with fresh eyes and ears and realize that we made a mistake, do we apologize and own up to our part of the problem? This kind of honesty and vulnerability is never easy–as humans it frightens us, but it produces humility which is key in any kind of relationship. It builds trust and strong connections.

Humility is rare. It is the quiet little sister to the loud, boisterous brother who shows off and elevates his persona to get attention.

Now, this is not a political post, but the fact is that one of the top candidates for the presidency is a reflection of what is valuable to our country. From Trump, to sports stars, to celebrities, to corporate execs, to prideful parents, to YouTubers and even to bloggers, our culture at large has adopted a practice of perfection. Our opinions and methods are so sacred to us, heaven help the person who offers advice or tries to give constructive criticism. We can’t ever be wrong, we can’t admit that we should have handled a situation differently. We have all but lost the admirable quality of humility and therefore, forgiveness is even more rare and strange to most. People would much rather exercise retribution–just look at the theme of many popular films.

Yet something beautiful happens when embarrassment produces humility: we get to witness altruism, forgiveness, second chances and fresh starts. The world stops and notices. In this age, we can make fools of ourselves faster and across greater distances than ever. But despite how the world has changed in its speed of communication, people’s spirits have never changed. The practices of humility and forgiveness are just as effective and work just as quickly.

I want to close with some lovely quotes about humility. (And by the way, I don’t know anyone in history who humbled Himself more than this last guy!)

-We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully, Mother Theresa

-Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right, Ezra T. Benson

-I believe the first test of a truly great man is humility, John Ruskin

-Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted, Jesus of Nazareth

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