Humiliation is a darkness, a cold container of contempt, that becomes in a person’s life a door that will never remain shut. It is a chilled draft you cannot see but can undeniably feel.
In maturity it becomes more clear. That most of all deep human wounds are embossed in humiliation. As children we quickly learn the importance of fitting in or instead be exiled. Public humiliation can haunt us for years. Yet, what we don’t recognize is this humiliation if it remains begins to turn to contempt and the contempt to hate.
It easy to see these kids and people that go and hurt people indiscriminately, but so few people talk about why. When reflecting on my own emotions. I find that those people who I feel the most hate for, are those I have been most humiliated by.
The things about humiliation is that there is often no means of recovery, nothing that one can do to recover from the self action or circumstances that led to a humiliating situation. It is something all but impossible to talk your way out of.
“I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody.”
– Mother Teresa
Now I know humiliation and I will explain in the next paragraph.
Its embarrassing to write about it here, so I must. For we all have had something that happened in out lives we are ashamed to talk about or let others know happened to us. Lets not fool ourselves thinking that sometimes we are ashamed of how we treated another person. A crime buried inside of us, shame locked down tight.
When I was in high school I was into riding BMX bikes. There were some bicycle dirt jumps near my house where me and my friends would drive to and ride around on. One day I went with some friends and we started trying out some of the bigger jumps. There was this one jump that dropped down into a pit. Lets say I way over did it and I crash landed down to the bottom of the pit. Having gone over the top of my handlebars I actually had my crotch fall right on top of where my handlebar end was pointing straight up to the sky. The handlebar tore through my pants and actually lacerated part of my scrotum.
I’m, not kidding… Yes, the family jewels!
My friends trying hard not to laugh and warning me to not get ball blood on the car seats as they drove me home to my house. My Mom took me to the emergency room and treated me way to nice considering what just conspired. The time in the hospital was degrading, after requiring a catheter and watching the beautiful lady doctor sew Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum back together, I was ready for someone to punch my ticket permanently. The embarrassment and uncanny novelty of the wound hurt more than the wound itself.
For the most part everything healed up ok without complication. The worst part was the humiliation afterwards, remember this was my High School years. After staying home for about 3 days I was back in High School with my crotch in a sling and crutches under my arms. Cant remember a time in high school when I had so many eyes on me. I remember all the girls who were once my friends forget they ever knew me and I watched from afar the bodies oriented in my direction and the whispers and the giggles.
About a year later when I assumed people were starting to forget, I was at a party in another town and I overheard some kids telling a story about someone who had the exact same thing happen to them. Trying to laugh it off, I informed them that it most certainly actually was me and for some strange reason they felt honored that I happened to be in their midst.
There is a subtle thing about humiliation that is easy to miss. The worst thing about humiliation is not always the humiliation itself. Although the pain of humiliation feels life threatening. That which is actually life threatening is the stories we begin to believe about ourselves. The stories that seem all but impossible to stop from living out. This story can be forced onto us by those who around us. Trapped within a toxic environment. This is near when unfortunate events enter the realm of being a curse.
As we begin to believe these stories. It can even get to the point were we push people away who like us, deciding that we are not worthy of being liked. That there must be something wrong with them for liking us. Because if they really know our history or what happened to us in the past that they too would be embarrassed to know us.
A few years after that all happened. I met a girl a few grades younger than me who was crazy about me. She was beautiful, unassuming, kind, smart, and funny. We actually were a good match for each other. We dated for awhile but soon I broke it off. That was a mistake. Easier to see 20 years later.
But what I didn’t know at the time, was deep down I believed there was something wrong with me that could never be accepted. That the only way I could ever be accepted was if I could date someone like those girls who hid in the shadows after hearing of the news of what happened. If only I could outcompete all the guys who laughed at me and rope back in the in girls who were no longer interested in me.
This period of my life started my long battle of insecurity with myself and the opposite sex. Driving me to run away from those who knew me and it subtly influenced my desire to become a a dangerous rock climber. The desire to become something that no one could refuse…. something that no one would humiliate ever again.
So, can you see how toxic shame can become a serious disease? Sadly, many people become consumed by, that it can slowly possess them until the point that nothing but a miracle, prison, or death can resolve. Think of the young guys who go and shoot the sources of their humiliation. Or the girls who hate men so much that they find a type solace in killing children in the womb and wiping masculinity off the Earth.
So I encourage you to reflect upon your life and your relationships. Ask yourself, do you feel humiliation deep in your heart that you have never allowed yourself acknowledge?
If you think you do not, let me ask you this. Do you look to humiliate others, do you pounce on an opportunity to embarrass people in their most vulnerable moments? Do you humiliate your children? Do you hurt your coworkers with jokes at the wrong time? Make fun of strangers you never met? Use authority as a means to humiliate others because there is no one to stop you?
If so I would say you have experienced and are in denial of your own self humiliation and because of this, your hurt projected onto others. Possibly even those who you purport to love the most.
Does it satisfy us to always crush and humiliate your son or daughter. To hit them violently, yet rationalize to yourself and others that it is for their good? What may appear to us as an essential aspect of child rearing could actually be doing nothing but causing your children to feel that which you have been too afraid to feel yourself. For your own youth…
Now life has adversity and teaching our children how to endure through tough time is important. Sometime we need to smash a bully in the face, but it is important that our methods be conscious rather than reactionary.
So, ask yourself.
Have you been humiliated by woman in your life? Have you been humiliated by men? Humiliated by those in authority over you? By supposed friends?
If you have, I’m sorry.
Sometimes people are cruel and sadistic, unconsciously continuing the cycle of abuse they learned in their youth. Sometimes we make mistakes and deserve the social humiliation. But the most important thing is not to take it as a reflection upon ourselves.
The power to end cruel humiliation in society is to allow it to stop with ourselves, to not perpetuate it. Many people see this as meekness and weakness. More and more I see it as love. To use the ability to trust in God, to allow vengeance to be his, and end the cycle of abuse for the good of other. To stop using the weapon of of humiliation against others.
Humiliation left to indwell us will slowly but surely turn into a hate and anger towards those who have humiliated us in the past. This why forgiveness is so important. Thankfully, this is the power God gives us as his children. He helps us through the humiliations we cannot face on our own. You don’t need to face it alone, but he expects you to be open to feel it and bring it to him.
Stopping the spread of humiliation certainly is not easy, and it requires us to deny ourselves. Many of us want justice for our shame. When we choose that path of forgiveness we give others the sane opportunity that God gave us to choose a different future. They may not always choose to take it. But we will have show them that it is possible if they choose.
A few years after that incident I described above. There was an acquaintance I knew briefly in High School. At a party he seriously injured his hand with a homemade firework. He lost a few fingers from it. He came into my work one day, and looking into his eyes I could see the shame and humiliation that he felt because of this. He asked me, “It was pretty stupid wasn’t it?” Looking him back in the eyes I said, “No, it could have happened to me, too….”
Now I’m not sure what that meant to him. But him asking me meant something to me. I could see that there was someone else who could understand the embarrassment I felt amongst my peers. Thank you Mike.
To love others, when they cannot see how to they can love themselves… I hope that I am able to also help you see a different path.
As Jesus hung on the cross enduring humiliation from all directions. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34