We’ve all been humiliated–kids are no exception. I remember being in seventh grade when a classmate whispered across the aisle and called me an embarrassing name. I really didn’t know how to respond. All I knew was that I was ashamed. And even though we hung out and were friends, my ‘dignity’ couldn’t stand a non-response.
So I did what any insecure seventh grade boy would do in the middle of class. I got up, pushed my chair back, walked over to him and started punching. The next thing I knew, we were in the principal’s office.
I can play that moment back in my mind like it happened yesterday. Underneath it all was a deep sense of insecurity. Was I accepted? Did people like me? Well, apparently not–not the way I hoped. And yet, I thought a moment of humiliation like that could somehow be overcome by more humiliation. Isn’t that the way it works? If you’ve been humiliated by someone, humiliate them back.
So what do you do when your child gets cut from the team, or isn’t recognized for her incredible performance, or gets laughed at during recess? I know that as a parent, I might want to do everything in my power to right that wrong. But I don’t. Here’s why. Humiliation can be a key to learning humility. As painful as humiliation is, pain is a great teacher. I can learn much about humility from humiliation.
Here’s something that has helped me:
No one can knock you off a pedestal you’re not standing on.
If you were never on the pedestal in the first place, the loss isn’t humiliating. If you were, it can be a great reminder to get off.
In fact, what a wonderful opportunity to reflect on humility with your child or teen. Some of our greatest heros were among the most humble and humiliated people of their day.
Ironically, dignity comes from humility. Mother Theresa found herself with people of no social standing and no pedestal. Her greatness came from her humility and her desire to work in very humiliating circumstances.
Humiliation has taught me much about humility. If I cultivate a humble spirit, it is hard to be humiliated. And if I have been humiliated, it is a sign that I need to work on greater humility.
How have you learned from humiliation? How do you teach your child about humility?