I wish that someone would invent a vaccine that was able to prevent embarrassing moments from happening. I will pay top dollar for this kind of inoculation if one ever becomes available. I’m sure that many of you would do the same.
Early on in high school, I had an excruciating encounter of the embarrassing kind. One that, if possible, I would go back in time and erase… (and one that I vow to never again repeat). During my middle and high school years, I surrounded myself with a group of female friends that I had hung out with since elementary school. Most of them were farm girls that were used to roughhousing their siblings and we, as friends, interacted with each other accordingly. Like me, most of these friends were part of our high school marching band.
On one occasion, our marching band had just driven back into town from a trip to a neighboring city. As it was routine, all of us was required to pick up trash and clean the bus. As we cleaned the bus, I came across a newspaper. Being the prankster that I was, I carefully rolled the newspaper and looked around for a potential victim. It didn’t take long to find one.
A couple of seats in front of me, I saw my best-friend, bent over, picking up trash. Thinking that I was sneaky and sly, I sneaked up right behind her and swatted her on the behind as hard as I could. I heard a quick yelp and, naturally, I erupted in boisterous laughter. Before I could even contain myself, she got up quickly and faced me and gave me a very puzzled look. Which immediately caused an abrupt end to my laughter and an even greater puzzled look on my face. You see, it wasn’t my friend that I was face to face with. It was my band director’s wife!!!!
Talk about an instantaneous lesson on respect and boundaries. However, I wish I hadn’t learned that way. In a moment of childish behavior, I embarrassed myself, my friend, and my band director’s wife. At that moment, I wished that I had a shell like a turtle. I would have done anything to sink my head and arms into my shell, wait for the embarrassment to pass, and emerge once I deemed it safe to do so. But that wasn’t the case. And like Lucy, I had some ‘splaining to do. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and did not repeat this ever again.
I wish that I could tell you that this self-induced scenario was the peak of my embarrassing moments. However, truth be told, my life has been a series of embarrassing moments. Some were caused by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but sadly, most of them have been the sheer result of poor choices on my behalf. I wish that I could blame most of these ghastly choices on a young age and lack of experience. Many of them, though, were made after the age of thirty, and I can name several that I made within the past year.
Coping skills, effective or not, we all have them. Since walking away from ministry, my coping skill of choice has been avoidance. At first, I avoided ministry. I reasoned that, if I wasn’t in the spotlight, it would be easy to blend in with the crowd. That proved to be untrue. Instead, I began to avoid people that I cared about. I assumed that, if they knew the real me, they would hate me.
It wasn’t long until I even began to avoid my family, namely my wife. I reasoned that, if she knew my level of struggle with feelings of inadequacy and failure, she would walk out on me. Finally, I began to avoid God. I sectioned Him off to a Sunday ritual and filed him away like an elf on a shelf after Christmastime. My inability to cope left me isolated, lonely, depressed, and without any accountability whatsoever.
Does this describe any of you? I know I’m not the only one that has taken this journey. This is far from being the road less traveled.
Fast forward to today. I have discovered a new coping skill that has helped me immensely. It is called “owning it.”
Many people will assume that owning it means taking pride in every aspect of your life, including faults and failures. However, that is not what I am referring to. The type of owning it that I’m referring to is the taking of responsibility for your own personal journey. It’s admitting that you have a say so in the outcome of your life. It’s a humble stance that says, “Yes, this is what my life looks like. I’ve made some good choices, and I’ve made some bad choices. However, I refuse to let the bad define me.”
Owning it means that you are taking responsibility for the past without allowing the “embarrassing moments” to paralyze you or deter you from your life’s purpose. In addition, owning it is a declaration to the universe that you do not give permission for circumstances or naysayers to gain influence in your life.
- Owning it reminds you that you have a say so in the outcome of your life.
Owning it is a declaration stating that you refuse to allow your “embarrassing moments” be the highlight of your life. Owning it says, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I bought the T-shirt, but I’ve since set that T-shirt to flames. Move out of the way! I’m not staying here! I’m going places, and you can’t stop me.
- Owning it reminds you of what you don’t want your life to look like.
Owning it is the acknowledgment of the painful moments of our lives. It reminds us that we are not obligated to press repeat when life tries to force us into a primitive way of thinking. Owning it says, “Nope! Not today Satan!… and not tomorrow either!”
- Owning it reminds you that you are not obligated to entertain the opinions of others.
Opinions are like armpits. Everyone has them. They all get musty after a while. And unless you wash away the gunk, the smell is going to come back. Owning it not only acknowledges that people have opinions of you. It also gives people the freedom to have any opinion that they want to have. However, owning it reminds you that you are not responsible for living up to the expectations of others.
Owning it gives you the freedom you need to move forward in the direction that you choose.
My desire for each of you is that you would love yourself regardless of where you currently are in your journey. My prayer is that you would not allow life’s embarrassing moments to define you. No circumstance, relationship, decision, or lack of movement should have the power to define you. Own where you have been. Own where you are going. Own your choices. But most of all, own who God says you are.
You are loved! You are forgiven! Your life is not over. Your life has meaning and purpose! Your best days are yet ahead of you!
Own it! Own it all!
John E. Garay
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on john-eli.com
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