Pastoral Perspectives


What are your most embarrassing moments? Nobody wants to share them. And if they do, they certainly won’t want to be shamed by making them look even worse. People will lie to make themselves look good but no one will lie to make himself look bad. Recently in a conversation with my wife about some matters in preparation for the women ministry, our conversation converged to an incident where a mother shared that her teen children walked away as if they were strangers in embarrassment because of the loudness of her voice. Inevitably, mothers and fathers seem to say or do things that make their children cringe. This can range from innocent remarks to more outrageously insensitivity and lapses in judgment.

            It’s sad but true—most of us will embarrass our kids at some point in our lives in the following ways, though this list is not exhaustive:

  1. Yelling at them in public.
  2. Dressing less than fashionably.
  3. Trying to be “cool”.
  4. Being too loud and drawing attention to yourself and them.
  5. Treating them like a kid in front of their friends.
  6. Grilling their girlfriend or boyfriend.
  7. Saying something stupid in front of their friends.

            As parents, it is important for us to know what prompts our children to become easily embarrassed, sometimes as early as the tween years. Experts tell us that it is the extreme self-consciousness that reigns in this age group, which is often ushered in by the hormonal rush and disconcerting bodily changes of puberty. Teens or young adults are convinced that everyone is looking at them–and judging them as harshly as they are critiquing themselves. They think everything they say, do, and wear is being scrutinized, as if they were being examined under a microscope. By extension, teens and young adults believe they are also being judged by everything their parents say and do, which reflects on them! So they become hypersensitive to mom’s humiliating outfit and hairstyle or dad’s lame jokes and mannerism.  Teens and young adults often want to appear as grown up as possible, they are embarrassed by their parents reminding them of their youth or immaturity. That’s why many abhor being called by childhood nicknames.

           Looking back, I wonder how quickly our children have forgotten or even not know that their parents have in their years of growing up been embarrassed by their acts of innocence and ignorant. To deal with the issue, all it takes is a little self-awareness and resolve. How you respond to complaints that you’re embarrassing is often more important than the actual offense. Teens whose parents respectfully acknowledge their feelings develop different relationships from those whose parents are indifferent, indignant or, worse yet, take pleasure in seeing them squirm. So ask yourself: How do you usually react when your teens say you’ve embarrassed them? Do you simply dismiss their accusations? Do you feel hurt or get angry? Or, do you give some thought to what they say?

           Here are some tips from the experts that are helpful for us as parents:

  1. Listen carefully and respectfully.
  2. Don’t take it personally.
  3. Acknowledge their embarrassment.

            Take heart my friends, teens are becoming more tolerant of their mothers and fathers again when they start to feel more self-confident themselves. By adulthood and after they’ve more firmly established their identities and feel secure enough to be less self-conscious, they will also stop scrutinizing their parents and finding them humiliating.

            If you have ever been shamed, embarrassed, made to feel worthless, or otherwise degraded then you need to know how Christ identified with us in our shame and embarrassment. The courage to be embarrassed is a doorway to grace. The Bible comforts the embarrassed: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). Guilt is a form of bragging. Embarrassment is a sign of humility. The apostle Peter must have had a day like that when he jumped off the boat to walk on water like Jesus did, only to sink when he was off focus. How embarrassing at that moment but how healing to be told later, “Peter, upon your imperfect character I will build my church!”

Pastor Cheng Huat

August 4, 2013