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Embarrassing Reality

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Years ago someone told me that he didn’t get embarrassed by or for another person. His logic was if the person doing or saying whatever he was doing or saying wasn’t embarrassed, then why should he be?

I often think about this philosophy. Sometimes I think it works. . .for example, when your mother has one too many at a wedding reception and grabs your best friend’s husband and proceeds to instruct him on taking care of her, complete with slurred speech. Really no reason to be embarrassed. Shake your head, roll your eyes, and move on.

But what about that uncomfortable feeling you get when your mother treats the waitstaff as inferior, demanding ridiculous service, and leaving a paltry tip. Does the philosophy work here? Or is embarrassment not the right word for this feeling?

I mean, who wouldn’t do whatever she could to get one of those in her direction?

The concept of embarrassment has been much on my mind lately. Perhaps, in part, because I do such silly things in the hopes of being gifted with one of the Peter’s amazing smiles. And one day, I know, I’ll do something and instead of the smile I’ll get “Mom, gah, stop; you’re embarrassing me.” And I wonder how he will learn that response.

But, also, I have been contemplating embarrassment because someone said recently that she was embarrassed by the “estrangement from her son.” And I wonder why embarrassment is her feeling. I’m not judging her emotions. If that’s how she feels, that’s valid. My wonderment is in how she got to that emotion.

I would say that social media highlight reels are to blame for arriving at embarrassment over the messiness of family. But, while it does indeed contribute, the phenomenon existed long before the internet. Consider Norman Rockwell prints with their ideal depictions, and mild humor, of family life. Or sitcoms of years gone by where all problems are resolved in a short time slot and the family unit is preserved. Even within the church the “perfect” family is practiced. We wear our Sunday best, we sit quietly in pews, our children are proper at all times despite having emotions bigger than they are and attention spans equal to their age. Crying babies? No, no. Our babies don’t cry in church. And even if we just had a fight equivalent to WWIII with a family member make no mention of it, give no indication. We’re in church; we are a perfect family.

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But the reality is the perfect family is messy. There are different personalities, different beliefs, different emotions–despite living under the same roof for an extended time. I find this reality fascinating–how family members can be so alike yet so different. People clash with each other. And just like babies, adults have emotions that are bigger than they are.

And here’s the not-so-secret-secret. . .it’s in ALL families. What we see on social media, on TV, in church. . .it’s not the full picture. It’s not the reality.

In my experience, because I’ve done it, embarrassment leads to concealment. When we conceal we make it difficult not just for ourselves but for others. Concealment means we fail to seek guidance. We hide pain and hope others only see our highlights. We, perhaps inadvertently, promote the concept of being alone in this particularly situation . .because we don’t share it. Therefore, finally, we fail to be authentic with others and maybe even ourselves.

Maybe that guy was on to something all those years ago. But I’ll revise it a bit. If we spend less time worrying about being embarrassed by the hard work and messiness of being people, we can spend more time being real.

When you’re anonymous

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Disclaimer: this is in no way a reprimand of the churches I’ve visited.  It’s simply my experience in trying to fit in, which I can admit is my responsibility as well.  It is also not a plea for you to invite me to your church. Please take it at face value of my feelings and, perhaps, consider it when you see a new face in your congregation.

I left my church about two years ago because we moved.

It has been an arduous journey.

I have found that when you try to break into an established family, it can be exhausting.

Because a church is a family.  And ultimately, I feel that I’m applying for adoption by that congregation.

In my previous church, it was home.  I was adopted.  I was plugged in.  I was needed.  I was wanted.  I was not anonymous.  I consider that church my “adult” church.  It’s where I grew in my relationship with God to the point of truly understanding what that even means.  It’s where I grew in my talents that I can use for God and found the joy that it is to do that.  I was missed when I wasn’t there.  I was comforted when I cried.  I was celebrated when needed. I was challenged likewise. I was a daughter.

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My church family for ten years. I miss them.

Trying to find a new church home has left me feeling anonymous.  I have struggled with how to incorporate myself into a new family. . .to let people know what I have to offer without seeming boastful.  To feel needed and wanted.  I want people to get to know me, but contrary to popular belief, I’m not actually an extrovert.  I need someone to reach out to me and pull me into the fold, to encourage me, to invite me, to guide me.

No church we’ve visited has been impolite.  There has been something to love about each one.  And outside of two, I have spent several months visiting in each congregation.

And, yet, I’m still anonymous.

My heart misses having a home.