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Is Humiliation Ever Helpful?


We have decided to pass. The words stung as the reality of rejection once again raised a menacing head.

Humiliation. The word humiliation does not conjure up warm feelings, does it? The opposite of affirmation, this hard word hammers penetrating nails of hurt.

Three specific pursuits come to mind where, in my adult life, humiliation coalesced with learning. In each case, I longed to broaden my horizons, and I yearned to achieve a measure of success. This journey bore the name of personal development. Setbacks and disappointments loomed large. An unseen companion, humiliation, accompanied my forays into:

Learning to speak a second language                                                                                 

With my toddler in a stroller, she and I rolled around The Rynek, the ancient medieval square of Kraków, Poland. We moved from vendor to vendor inside The Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) for me to verbally practice yet another newly learned Polish language text.


Though an adult, I needed to adopt the posture of a child using simple sentences in order to learn to speak a new language. Quickly I realized that a university degree did not translate into a practical application of linguistic logistics. Humiliation. 


Learning to play golf                                                                                                                     

The first time I heard (and felt) that glorious precise pinging sound of the club hitting the ball, I was addicted to the sport.


Yet the first time I stood on the tee box before a gathered audience and completely missed the ball in my swing, I wanted to don a paper bag over my head. Humiliation.

Learning to submit and receive rejections from publishers for a book proposal              

On this Monday afternoon in April, I sat alone in my car and reread the email. We have decided to pass. The words stung as the reality of rejection once again raised a menacing head. The final word from yet another publisher (through my literary agent to me) carried a fresh wave of disappointment. For the twelfth time—12th, 10 + 2, a dozen—I acknowledged rejection of my manuscript, and battled the temptation to take the message personally.


Though a neophyte in the writing arena, I ached for the realization of my dream. Would anyone ever share my vision to minister to leaders' wives and desire to publish my manuscript? Humiliation.                                   

Inside the painful awkwardness of humiliation, worthwhile lessons emerged-not all at once-but slowly:

  • Be comfortable with failure; failure can actually serve as a catalyst to a bright future.

  • Be content with being a novice; acceptance provides a stepping-stone to success.

  • Be realistic with expectations; time and experience are essential in broadening one’s horizons.

  • Be determined; endurance outlives challenges and discouragements.

  • Be aware of the words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, "We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully."

Personal development is painful, but the result is satisfying, and the fruit of hard labor tastes delicious and sweet. Accomplishment is absolutely awesome. So, rather than abandoning myself to the miry, mucky mud of humiliation, I am learning to take a deep breath, step back, and then with dignity, step forward. Humiliation gives way to hope and hope does not disappoint! "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy spirit, whom He has given us" (Romans 5:5).

Living with Eternal Intentionality: How about you? Where are three places in your life where you experienced the uncomfortable pain of humiliation? What did you learn?