The Problem with Embarrassment


The feeling we call embarrassment has several definitions. The one I like the best is "To cause to feel self-conscious."

This feeling of raised self-consciousness is usually directed at something about ourselves that either we ourselves do not like or that we beleive someone else does not like. 

Defined in this manner, the feeling of Embarrassment serves a useful social purpose: It keeps some people from performing some actions which are not good for society. 

Of course, it usually occurs after one has been caught performing an action they would rather not have been associated with, so it is probably more accurate to say that the feeling of Embarrassment, or the desire to avoid the feeling of Embarrassment, keeps some people from repeating socially harmful behaviors. 

As we can see, Embarrassment does play an important role in keeping society functioning more smoothly.

However, my problem with Embarrassment is that it usually is associated with either the Past or the Future. In other words, we usually feel embarrassment for actions which we already have done or for actions which we are planning to do.

Neither of these situations involve the person who is feeling the Embarrassment. The person who performed the action in the past no longer exists exactly as he/she was. The person who will perform the action in the future will not be exactly the same person as the one who is doing the planning.

Therefore, if a momentary feeling of Embarrassment is necessary make a person to take note of his/her transgressions through introspection, it can be a good thing. However, if it is something that lingers in a form other than intellectual discernment of its Dharmic (Duty), Harmonious and Karmic consequences, it is harmful.

Rather than feel Embarrassed for something that you have already done, we would serve ourselves better by resolving not repeat that action; and, by realizing that the person who just made This Resolve is not the same as the one who performed the action in the past.

The same process holds true for future actions.

If we realize the wrongness of an action and resolve not to do it, then the only thing we can be Embarrassed about is that we are the kind of person who could think such thoughts. 

If we wish not to think certain thoughts we need to resolve to Purify our Hearts in order to change the desires which well-up from it and form themselves into thoughts. If we make this resolve and hold true to it, then we are not the same person who thought such thoughts and proceeded to perform tha asscoiated action(s).

In any case, you can see that I believe Embarrassment can be a good thing if it propells the person into intiating a needed improvement to themselves. It is not a good thing if it is experienced as only a source of pain.

Remember, a person can get used to pain. A person can live with pain. A person can decide that the pain associated with an action is a small price to pay in order to fulfill their desire.

Therefore, Embarrassment is at its best as a catalyst of positive change.