Embarrassment (May 6, 2010)

The topic of embarrassment actually comes up a number of times in the early dictation of A Course in Miracles. What is embarrassment? In trying to define it, there are a couple of things to consider. One is that you only really get embarrassed when the attention of others is on you. Another is that you don’t feel embarrassed only when you’ve done something wrong or stupid. Simply having all eyes turn to you as you walk into a room can do it. Even a compliment can do it. In view of all that, here is my proposed definition:

You feel embarrassed when you are exposed to the attention of others and you fear that they will see something unworthy or invalid in you.

The early comments about embarrassment are quite revealing. The first thing Jesus says it this: “Embarrassment is only a form of fear, and actually a particularly dangerous form because it reflects egocentricity.” In other words, embarrassment is the fear that someone will see something invalid in your ego. As such, it’s fear, it’s egocentric, and therefore it’s dangerous. We often think of it as appropriately humble. But egocentric and dangerous?

Later passages make clear what this early one implies: Embarrassment comes from identifying with the ego and the body, with “an illusory self” (M-7.5:2). Once we identify with these, no wonder we get embarrassed. The ego is inherently invalid. The body is shot through with flaws. If that’s what we are, how could we not be embarrassed?

But this also holds the key to the doorway out. If we can identify with our true Self, we need never feel embarrassment again. We can enjoy a deep security about ourselves, in our bones, all the way down to our toes. Wouldn’t that be an endless relief?

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