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23 July 2022
The way out of humiliation and shame
Words Paul Farthing
As I was taking my twin boys to their first day at school this year, I had a flashback to the fifth grade. Our teacher made us do a creative writing piece, which I was quite happy about because I liked writing. So, we wrote these stories, handed them in and went out for recess.
When we came back, I saw that the teacher had made photocopies of my creative writing piece and gave one to every class member. She then announced, “This story has the worst spelling and grammar of all the creative writing pieces I’ve gotten all year. So, as a learning exercise, we as a class are going to go through it and correct every mistake.”
It was absolutely humiliating. Super, super humiliating.
The thing about humiliation is that we manage to remember it so easily – every gruesome detail. I can barely remember anything about primary school, but I remember plenty of humiliations – getting out for a duck playing cricket in the playground, calling my teacher “Mum” by accident, and, of course, the time my teacher passed around my poorly written creative writing piece. I’m sure nobody else remembers all these things ... but I do.
Being humiliated make us feel ashamed and worthless. We become anxious that a new humiliation might be coming soon. We get beaten down by humiliation, and it’s a sad truth that once we get beaten down in life, it is extremely hard to get back up.
So, what can we do about this? How can we feel decent about ourselves?
The antidote to humiliation is glorification. Glory makes a difference here. To be glorified is to be affirmed significantly. Glorious things inspire awe and delight. They are worthy of praise.
A while back, I was driving to Newtown (the urban hipster part of Sydney) on a 40-degree day. I had spent the week at the world’s dullest conference, and I hoped some time in a record store might lift my spirits.
As I was waiting at some traffic lights, Tim Rogers, the lead singer of You Am I, dashed across the road in front of me. Despite the heat, he wore a purple suit but had no shirt on, so his chest hair was glistening in the sun. He was tall, and his long hair was blowing in the wind like a lion’s mane. He was bold and exuberant. As I watched him, my spirits lifted, and I thought, “Wow, look at this fella, he is magnificent!” I covered him in glory.
In the Gospels, when Jesus spoke of being crucified, he said he was “going to his glory”, and he was. To give your life for others is always a praiseworthy thing. Sacrifice is glorious, and this was the great sacrifice.
Then Jesus was resurrected, which made him even more glorious. A sacrificial death and then resurrection is an incredible thing. Magnificent indeed. From then and forevermore, Jesus lives covered in glory as our Saviour, as our way-maker, as our hope. He is truly glorious.
But here is the mind-bending part. This is the good news part. In John chapter 27, just before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed to God. He prayed that the people who followed him would be glorified just as he was. That what he did on the cross was done on behalf of those who follow him and that they too would be glorified.
Jesus was glorified so that we could be glorified.
C.S. Lewis said that to receive the glory of God is to be famous with God. It means God can look upon us with even greater delight than I felt when I saw Tim Rogers in his purple suit. That God would see us like he sees Jesus. Glorious. Magnificent in his eyes.
But Lewis concedes that this might not seem all that great at first. Most of us have received an accolade or two, and they don’t seem to stick as easily as the humiliations. Affirmation is a temporary high. It is a fickle thing. Humiliation seems to tear us down faster than glory builds us up. Humiliation is more potent than glory.
But this isn’t regular glory. This is God’s glory. God is the true judge of our worth, and he judges us to be glorious.
Jesus died for you. He gave his life so that you could be glorified. Believe in Jesus. Trust in the Saviour, and the next time a past humiliation pops into your head, it will shiver at the sight of God’s great glory.
Do you need more convincing? For the full version, go to others.org.au/viewpoint/paul-farthings-glorification-viewpoint
Captain Paul Farthing is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in NSW.