What about Humiliation and Embarrassment?
On some level, I've realized for years that being humiliated isn't the exact same thing as feeling shamed. In the years between 1986 and 1988, my husband and I experienced heavy doses of intimidation that were intended to shame us as we stood up and spoke truth to an organization that didn't want to hear the truth about it's complicity and collusion with sexual predators in it's midst.
I now realize that they were doing this because they were afraid and felt shame themselves. What the shaming attempts felt like to me, though, were humiliation and embarrassment. Until I attended Brene Brown's workshop, I did not know how to draw a line between humiliation, embarrassment, and shame. Now I do.
When I feel shame, I believe that I deserve what happened to me. Somehow what happened was because I did something or said something to "cause" it. To take it one step further, I see myself as "one down" (or maybe "one hundred down") from the people who dished out the treatment. Not ever feeling this way, in regard to anything that occurred in regard to our case of attempting to expose the unethical behavior of a predator colleague and the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention, I suppose I had experienced some extra-healthy doses of shame resiliency already--all due to a variety of factors over the first 40 years of my life. Not that I was 100% shame-resistant. None of us ever are!
It's very humiliating, however, to be punished for speaking the truth--especially in the form of career loss and all of the economic disaster that goes with having this happen 10,000 miles from home. Isolation adds to the sense of helplessness. If I'd felt shame on top of humiliation, I probably would not have survived, I now realize.
Fortunately, what I had along with the healthy doses of shame resiliency was what some called "righteous anger" that wasn't about to let power have the final say.
Eventually, I ceased to feel humiliated and just started feeling embarrassed. That happened when I recognized, whether people believed me or not, that I had a rather common story to tell--even though the drama of being overseas and a person in a career of ministry myself made the story even more shocking to many. It was embarrassing to admit that I was seeming to "abandon" my career and ministry to which I'd felt a life-long calling. It was and still can be over-whelmingly laborious to tell the story and embarrassing to deal with the disbelief when I've tried to explain. It's embarrassing to be the underdog to this day.
Brown says we can often, eventually, laugh at the embarrassing experience. Odd as it seems to many, I DO find the entire story of the spiritual wilderness experience, with an acute stage that lasted several years, to be somewhat humorous now. It's so ridiculous, and I often get a laugh as a reward for having dared to persevere.
When I was a little girl, I considered "stubborn" to be a shaming word, often used by my mother. Today, I consider it a complement, for I realize that this is what has kept me from hibernating or being shamed for my persistence on many occasions in my life, in matters that I am thoroughly convinced are important enough to fight for.
Posted by Dee Ann Miller
at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Thu 12/04/2008 2:05 PM CST