Embarrassment: One Emotion Christians Rarely Address
Embarrassment: One Emotion Christians Rarely Address
Peyton Garland iBelieve Contributing Writer
Embarrassment, the one emotion Christians rarely address, doesn’t come with much of an equation, a way to solve its problems, outside the root answer to combatting everything that sin has mangled.
If you know me, you know my dogs, Alfie and Daisy. I’m your ultimate Helicopter Dog Mom and lover of all things furry and slobbery. But, if you really know me, you know that my dogs are gremlins. In fact, I’m not so sure they are canines… perhaps aliens disguised in adorable brindle and speckled coats. Diabolical, destructive, and deceptively cute—that sounds more like my pups.
They aren’t terrible in your typical sense of animal chaos. They never wet the house, chew up shoes, or constantly bark. Instead, our everyday shenanigans include things like:
Alfie deciding he has the hots for a three-legged female dog at the dog park. Proceeding to do the dirty. And starting an alpha male riot involving 15 other big boy dogs.
Daisy adopting this gremlin snarl, a noise unparalleled to any other dog noise, so people feel the need to stutter, “Uhhh, is she ok? Should I be concerned?”
Weird stuff. Always weird stuff. But never bad stuff.
When Things Get Messy
Since weird rarely turns into bad, my husband, Josh, and I don’t think twice about letting our pups play in the apartment complex’s dog park. Our dogs love making new friends, burning energy running laps, and tussling each other for whoever has the shiniest new squeaky ball.
Unfortunately, weird turned to bad in the worst of ways just a few weeks ago. Josh and I didn’t see what happened, but Alfie and a Great Dane got into a fight… and Alfie won. When a dog wins a fight, it doesn’t come with the trophy and confetti. Instead, the only feature a canine champion can boast is the damage done to the loser.
The poor Great Dane had a solid bite mark in his ear. Thank goodness, it got stitched up and no serious harm was done, but the owner didn’t let all the wounds heal quite so easily.
He tried to get Josh’s boss’ phone number so he could call and complain on Josh at work.
He threatened to sue the apartment complex if we didn’t have our dog removed in 48 hours (so we drove halfway across the country, from Colorado to Arkansas, so my parents could meet us there from Georgia to look after Alfie for a while).
He verbally accused Josh of all sorts of dog parent things that weren’t true.
After we voluntarily paid the vet bill (roughly $1000), we never received a simple “heart” on Venmo.
We’ve reached out multiple times to check on the Great Dane… still, an echo of a response.
Josh and I understand that there’s a chance Alfie could have started the encounter, but we also know that the Great Dane isn’t fixed and is more prone to “alpha male-ing” throughout the dog park. Regardless, we took our losses and volunteered for an unconfirmed blame—but that’s not the worst part of it all.
Am I Still Called to Love?
The owner never let the ugliness, the anger, die, and if one thing spreads faster than a new strand of Covid, it’s ugliness. Rumors spread quickly throughout the dog park. I overheard other pet owners talking, saying things that they knew nothing about.
Stepping outside our little apartment post-accident feels a lot like trying to find a seat at the middle school lunch table when you know that everyone at every table has it out for you, even when they don’t know you. Even when they’re making assumptions for the sake of their own pride or image.
It’s vicious. It’s cruel. And it leaves people feeling lesser out of sheer, voluntary ignorance.
Anger is my standard go-to emotion. I’ve been so angry with the Great Dane’s owner, furious at the childish way he has handled an accident… that we aren’t sure who started. And the anger comes from sheer embarrassment.
This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve had to deal with embarrassment head-on. The more I thought about how to walk through this awkward season, the more I realized that few pastors, leaders in the church, Bible study chit chats, address embarrassment.
We know that mourning and sadness come in the night, but joy is just around the corner. We know that you aren’t supposed to be swift to anger—never ends well. We know that happiness is a season to rejoice in, a celebration to be shared with others. But where does embarrassment fit in the middle of these emotions?
Honestly, I’m not sure the Bible gets super detailed about embarrassment. I can’t point to any examples of embarrassment taking center stage of a parable. But what I can tell you is that embarrassment does one big, kind of frustrating thing: it calls you to kill your pride.
Not what I like. Definitely not what I want to discover.
How Embarrassment Roots Out Pride
One night, after an uncomfortable trip to the dog park, I was steaming, spouting off hate about the dog owner, and Josh turned to me and said, “But you’re called to love him.”
I was, and still am, in no mood to love this guy who has rallied a force of troops and waged a war based on assumptions and nature’s standard mishaps. But that’s what embarrassment does. It fuels anger. It puts up a fight against love. And meanwhile, the Holy Spirit uses this emotion and calls the believer to lay down pride and pick up love.
I don’t believe that means I’m supposed to hand-deliver this guy a batch of cookies, send sympathy cards, or donate a year’s membership to Chewy for the guy, but I do believe I’m meant to give him the space to be human, to take just a few seconds and put myself in his shoes, and to allow whatever retaliation he throws at us to be willingly received with an “It could happen to anyone. We’ll get through this and be just fine.”
Embarrassment seems to reap the same benefits of forgiveness—when treated properly. When we let embarrassment drive love and empathy, we’re instantly free of the burn. When we forgive people for the unthinkable, we’re free from the ways they hurt us. That doesn’t belittle the damage done, but it does take the edge off the low blow, the sting out of the harsh words. It keeps bitterness at bay, saving the heart a long, slow, grueling recovery.
Embarrassment, the one emotion Christians rarely address, doesn’t come with much of an equation, a way to solve its problems, outside the root answer to combatting everything that sin has mangled: love. The real love that’s hard, awkward, agitating, and always worth it.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Koldunova_Anna
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.
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