Imperfect Weakness

Have you ever been mocked or embarrassed by someone else? A few thoughts on being publicly humiliated, and ultimately what it tells us about ourselves.

Have you ever been embarrassed?  I don’t mean doing something embarrassing, like tripping over your own feet or having a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe –I think we’ve all had a few cringe-worthy moments we’d like to forget–but have you ever been intentionally put down or mocked by someone else?

A few months ago I attended a conference where I was deliberately and very publicly humiliated by two of the speakers.  These guys were both strangers, but one was a blogger  who I had read and admired for some time.  In fact, I had actually been really excited when they sat next to me at dinner the first night of the conference.  At the table we had enjoyed a lively, somewhat heated discussion about blogging, a subject we were all clearly passionate about.  It ended by agreeing to disagree.

Or so I thought.

Until, of course, one of them chose his moment on stage as an opportunity to call me out and viciously mock my ideas.  It wasn’t a debate, and I had little choice other than to sit there and listen to him make fun of me.  I found out later that he and his friend had carefully plotted this chance to make me look like a fool.

At first I was mortified.

And then I was angry.

But then, as I calmed down and the initial sting of embarrassment faded away, I began to feel sorry for both of them.

You see, these two guys seized an opportunity to put me down when they were already holding all the cards.  I was nothing to them.  Not only wasn’t I speaking, I was basically a nobody at this conference.  They were the ones everyone was there to see.

Humiliating me only made them small.

On the flight home I replayed the scene at dinner over and over again in my head.  I wondered what I could’ve done differently.  I had genuinely tried to be helpful, to share a few tips that had worked really well for me, and in the end, I was scorned for it. The advice I gave them was sound, and it might have actually helped them, but they were more interested in proving they were right than learning something new.  Ultimately I decided that I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Even more importantly, however, I realized that I don’t want to be small.

I don’t want to live my life being petty or mean-spirited, arrogant or smug, jealous or insecure.  I don’t want my life to be about putting others down so that I can feel big.  If that means I am vulnerable to criticism or that people will take advantage of me or even call me a fool, then so be it.

On the back of my napkin I wrote down five reminders to myself:

  • Be humble.
  • Be generous
  • Be kind.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be forgiving.

It wasn’t so much a set of goals as it was a creed, a motto for how to live my life, a list of the five characteristics I most want to display to everyone I come across, five words I want to embody this year and every year.  I wish I could say it was original material, but the reality is that it comes from a source so much bigger than me.

Because the hard truth, that truth I don’t always want to admit, is that I am small.

I am often petty and jealous and mean-spirited and insecure.  I too can be arrogant and smug.  When it comes right down to it, I am deeply flawed and hopelessly weak.  Quite frankly, I am a mess.  We all are.

We are nothing without Grace.

In my morning devotions over the past few months, the one verse I keep coming back to over and over again has been 2 Corinthians 12:9:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.

Our weakness, our flaws, and our insecurities are nothing more than God’s opportunity to shine.  All that we do, all that we are, anything we might manage to accomplish in this life, comes from him and can only be for him.  It is never about what I can do, but about what HE can do through me.  I am imperfectly weak, but he is strong.

And it is because of that grace that I am deeply humbled, knowing nothing I could ever do compares to the gift I have already been given.  It is because of that grace that I will strive to be generous and kind, if only to share just a tiny piece of the generosity and kindness that has been shown to me.  It is because of that grace that I want to be encouraging, to show the path out of despair that I have found.  Finally, it is because of that grace that I can forgive just as I have been forgiven.  Even those that mock me.

His power is made perfect in my weakness.  That grace is good enough for me.

2 Corinthians 129

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Have you ever had someone embarrass you?  What did you do?

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{ 53 comments… add one }

  • Kim Anderson January 3,

    WoW. Thank you for sharing this story. I just can’t imagine that scenario. Right before I got married, I worked in an office full of women and at lunch one day the subject of my honeymoon came up. Honestly, it was like being in a men’s locker room or something. When I let everyone know that I had “saved” myself for marriage I was pretty much laughed at and scorned for not “trying” out more than one person before I decided on the one I wanted. We are talking about a group of 15 women, mocking me. In response I shared that I felt like it was unwise to “try” out so many people with all the diseases running around never knowing if you’ll get one. One of the women then proceeded to go from office to office in the building telling the other women that I had basically called them all, and I quote, “STD’s”. So strange what adult people will do. But it comes back to grace just like you said and not letting others get to you. Personally, I would love to sit next to you at a table at a conference because I have already learned so much from your book and blog that have really made a difference! Keep going and growing. Love the verse!

    Reply
    • Shana January 5,

      That is so sad. Grown women can be the worst!!

      Reply
  • tatiana January 3,

    I think we all come across some mean people in life, and you are right… there is nothing you can do about them… just chose not to be the same way!!! You are an amazing person, every time I check your blog or the facebook group I am amazed by how you encourage change and help people bring out their best!!! Thank you for sharing!!!!

    Reply
  • Tracy January 3,

    I think this is beautiful and helpful. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Jennifer January 3,

    Oh, such powerful words. Thank you for sharing your heart hurt. Your insight and healing will help the rest of us! Beautifully written truth.

    Reply
  • Carolyn January 3,

    This is a beautiful post. I’m so glad to have read it this morning.

    Reply
  • Mike January 3,

    Spot on, Ruth! You chose the right path, and are the bigger person for it. What a shame “they” did not.

    Reply
  • Tammy January 3,

    What a wonderful post. I haven’t been in that situation before, I guess because I’ve never been in your type of situation with a conference. But, oh my, have I had people upset me. You betcha. And I have learned, with the grace of God, to realize they just made a fool of themselves and I’m the better person for not saying anything. Great post and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Mel @ Trailing After God January 3,

    Wow, that is awful. And you’re right, it shows how small they are and that they need a Jesus intervention. Something in their hearts is not right. Good for you coming away with grace. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I wonder if they even realize how bad they made themselves look?

    Reply
    • Bill March 29,

      - I love the picture of staci and noah going down the slide with eielme’s feet sticking out in between. so cute! and a priceless photo of 2 beautiful strong women your mom and your wife. as for eielme, it breaks my heart to see those laser burns but i know God is healing it bit by bit can see the peaceful look on her face as she’s sleeping. i’m sorry you and staci have to see eielme endure those painful treatments we’ll be praying for her! and noah? love his smile! especially on that yellow ride thing!

      Reply
  • Bonnie Egbert January 3,

    Thank you very much for your words. People interacting the way you described at the blog conference seems to be the norm feel in the society I live in. I am grateful to hear someone describe it so well and be so clear in how they react with integrity. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Michelle January 3,

    This is lovely and well thought out. I appreciated reading it. I have felt this way many times in my life and you are right. Your approach is the only one that allows you to grow and give and not let these things eat you up inside. Cheers!

    Reply
  • Kristia January 3,

    It amazes me when people can be so outwardly mean. But it most likely came from jealousy and unhappiness in their life/career. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    Reply
  • LeSha B. (@TheLovelyPhotog) January 3,

    Those guys were unbelievable! This just goes to show that every conference may or may not be good for you. Choose wisely. You handled it with grace and the grace God bestowed upon you. I’m happy that you were able to keep you composure and learned a lesson from it. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’ve had many situations where I’ve been made fun of and humiliated in front and behind my back, but I’ve never confronted a person but it used to crush me. Now, I pray for people who don’t understand me or who choose to be negative towards me. It gets better to deal with the more love and grace you have in your life.

    Reply
  • Vickie January 3,

    You handled it so well! It takes a while to get over that but by his grace you did it! Such a good post!

    Reply
  • Alisha @ The Savvy Bump January 3,

    Their weakness has made you stronger. Thanks for the lesson on grace.

    Reply
  • Sarah @ An Inviting Home January 3,

    It never seems to amaze me how hurtful and unkind human beings can be. What you shared is the best way to handle it. His grace is sufficient…

    ~Sarah

    Reply
  • Clair January 3,

    I too would be thrilled to sit by you at a blog conference. You really made the most of this situation. It takes a lot of maturity to learn and grow from something that initially hurts your feelings. You are generous and wise and kind, and those characteristics will serve you well. Thanks for letting us learn from your experience. I love the scripture you shared and wish you the best!

    Reply
  • Sarah January 3,

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! If things like this happen to me, I want to bury the moment and forget it ever happened…but I was really encouraged by the way you applied Scripture to redeem the situation and turn the focus onto God and his grace. Thank you for that much-needed reminder!!!

    Reply
  • Stacy January 3,

    Thank you so much. This is just what I needed to hear tonight. I’m sorry you had this awful experience, but it sounds like you have a great attitude. I have a Sister-in-law who is so very good at making comments that are condescending and rude (very subtly though) and makes everything a competition. I have never experienced anything like this before in my life and I’m having a hard time with it. I’m still having bad feelings over things that happened at a family gathering over the holidays. Tomorrow my husband and I are headed out of town to 40th birthday party for said Sister-in-law and I’m absolutely dreading it. I’m already feeling defensive/guarded/wondering what she’s going to say this time. I’m planning on writing down the verse and the 5 characteristics on a index card to stash in my purse to read as an emergency reminder. It is so hard to be the bigger person rather than get my two cents in, but I suppose then she would know she’s getting to me. Thanks again!!

    Reply
  • Sara Kiiru January 3,

    So sorry that this happened to you. What a frustrating and hurtful thing. I’m grateful you’re willing to share this with us readers, because we all have times like this and it’s crucial to remember that we’re living a bigger story than that one fragile, terrible experience. Thanks for letting us peek in on your process so we too can be encouraged and refined. And know that your readers are grateful for you!

    Reply
  • CeCee January 3,

    I am a bartender who moved from South Louisiana to Reno, Nv when my husband was transferred with his company. I have a very thick very strong accent. I get made fun of for it daily. I have had people literally laugh in my face while I was talking about serious subjects because they think the accent is a joke. People ask me is I am related to the “Water Boy” (you know the Adam Sandler movie). People mock me on a daily basis, and talk to me slowly like I am stupid. 80-90% of the time I am really good at ignoring it and shrugging it off. My husband thinks I am overreacting, but he only sees a very small part of it happening. After all, if your service providers treat you like that imagine how people treat you when YOU are serving THEM. I just try to remind myself that these people are too stupid/immature to realize what they are doing. I know that might be a mean way to look at it, but if they were intelligent/mature enough they wouldn’t do it. Right?!? I try to have grace, but it is hard when it is a daily occurrence.

    Reply
    • Anonymous January 4,

      CeCee- how hurtful that must be for you to be made fun of on a daily basis by those you serve. As Ruth stated in her blog, she began to feel sorry for those who were being so mean spirited. I feel sorry for those who are mistreating you, because just look what sort of people they are being–they’re just lost and have no clue what they are doing. When you are confident in God’s love–and he does love you immensely–it gives you the grace to see others as they really are and know that you are secure in His love no matter what.
      ~Blessings.

      Reply
    • Sandra January 6,

      I am so sorry! I too live in Reno, and people seem to be super rude here! I am praying for you.

      Reply
      • Denise February 5,

        CeCee ~ I’m from southern West Virginia and years ago, took a job in a call center where I took calls from folks all over the US and Canada. When I needed to pose a question to a supervisor, I would ask the caller to hold and then press a mute button … they couldn’t hear me but I could still hear THEM and they thought they were on hold. The made merciless fun of me, not knowing I could hear. A little different from laughing in someone’s face but the feeling is the same. I hate to say it, but I purposely lost my accent as quickly as possible. I really wanted to comment here to let you know how much I enjoy the Louisiana accent but this time in my life came back to me and I had to share. I hope you meet lots of nice folks in your future who appreciate your heritage and enjoy talking to you as much as I know that I would. Take care!

        Reply
  • Judi J Jennings January 4,

    I appreciate you sharing this story! I needed to hear (read) this! Thank You!

    Reply
  • Mai January 4,

    I’m not sure of the whole story but perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. These two bloggers probably felt you were a potential competitor. because of their actions they have probably brought some readers to your site that you didn’t know who would be interested.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that. At least you handled it with grace. I always find that people who rather find flaws and imperfections with people always end up holding a grudge in the end. That’s is a sad way to live life. I’ve actually been embarrassed by family, friends, and coworkers. Sometimes my relationship becomes better after a MATURE confrontation but I have lost friends, kept some family distant, and ignored coworkers because of their pettiness.

    Reply
  • Belinda January 4,

    Those two guys sound like absolute charmers!!! It would have been so awful for you, having to be the recipient of that. I’m sure that they would have lost the respect of many people in the audience, by being so mean-spirited and downright rude. Sounds like you handled yourself really well, when dealing with people who obviously don’t hold themselves to a very high standard of behaviour.

    I love the 5 reminders that you wrote for yourself…they are things that we should all always keep in mind in our dealings with people.

    Reply
  • Jamerrill @ Free Homeschool Deals January 4,

    I love you all the more for this post!

    Reply
  • melissa January 4,

    I REALLY hope I am not subscribed to either of them because I do follow a fair amount of male bloggers. Those are the exact types that I try to steer away from.

    Reply
    • Susan Osborne January 5,

      I was just thinking the same thing Melissa! Good for you for rising above it Ruth.

      Reply
  • Liz January 4,

    Wow, thank you for sharing! I’m so sorry that they but you through that humiliation and embarrassment, especially when you were blindsided. I have been through that my whole life, with my own father and brother. In home, in front of friends, and in front of groups of friends and family. I struggle with what to do, how to get them to stop, or ignore without snapping back, which happened a lot when I was younger. I will not ever sink to their level but it’s hard having feelings hurt, not being mad, and not snapping back and going to their level. Thank you for your beautiful words!

    Reply
  • Julie January 4,

    Beautiful lessons can come from pain where God’s grace has touched our lives. Thank you for sharing your experience and the lovely Truth it revealed to your heart. What clarity was revealed to you in that moment! It inspired me to pray on a deeper level this morning and reminded me that Jesus said to pray for our enemies–those who despitefully use you. Also that I rely on myself way too much, when in reality, I can do nothing apart from Him, for every moment of my life, every breath I take is from Him.
    2 Corinthians 3:5
    Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God … (NKJV)
    Blessings

    Reply
  • Claire @ A Little Claireification January 5,

    From a gal who starting blogging because of YOU a little over a year ago… this made me tear up and it made me angry FOR you. My initial thoughts were “how dare them”? Why would anyone do that anyway??
    Yet, how beautifully you have handled this. Shame on them for that type of behavior but you know better and have woven it into a wonderful reminder and life lesson for all of us.
    xo

    Reply
  • Jackie Johnson January 5,

    Just finished Max Lucado’s Grace. Perfect example. May God continue to bless you in His grace.

    Reply
  • Andrea January 5,

    Look how far you’ve risen above it. I know that situation- where the pit of your stomach gets lava hot and then just spreads and then the realization and horror that you are not imagining what is happening. Yep, been there done that. Then if you say nothing and are politely silent (by the Grace of God), they will further assume that is weakness and they have “won”. Joke is on them at that point. It’s sick and sooo immature but is a reflection only of them. Just today this popped up in my newsfeed “How people treat you is THEIR Karma, how you react is YOURS.” Kudos to you for embracing HIM.

    Reply
  • Sarah Mueller January 5,

    I think that experience would have really scarred me. It sounds like you handled it with such grace. It’s too bad that people feel that humiliating others is a way to make oneself feel superior. They are so wrong.

    Reply
  • Stephanie@Mrs.Debtfighter January 5,

    WOW, how horrible!! I believe that if blogging is your business you should treat it as a business and be professional! That was highly unprofessional of them to publicly humiliate you!!! Thank you for reminding us to take the high road and not stoop to that level! :)

    Reply
  • Katie @ Preschool Inspirations January 5,

    I am in awe of how you can share that!! Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing such a personal story. Your perspective is beautiful and eye opening. You are truly an inspiration, Ruth!

    Reply
  • Debi January 5,

    Good for you! Those folks obviously have a lot to learn about being professional. They wasted attendees time having to listen to them bad-mouth you when they could have been teaching something positive and uplifting. Shame on them. And kudos to you for standing tall.

    Reply
  • Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace January 6,

    This is so encouraging! I absolutely loved this: “All that we do, all that we are, anything we might manage to accomplish in this life, comes from him and can only be for him. It is never about what I can do, but about what HE can do through me. I am imperfectly weak, but he is strong.” I am learning this truth slowly but surely, and what a beautiful truth it is.

    Reply
  • Sherri January 7,

    I have had, and still do have, a similar situation with a family member who tries to make herself look better to others by belittling me and bragging about how great she is. Other family members and friends are very upset about the whole situation and vow to confront her. I have told everyone to just leave it alone, that many people know the truth, and that it is not worth worrying about. I tell them all that she will have to answer to someone way higher than those of us her one day, and if she can live with her conscience and how she acts, it is no reflection on me. Not always easy to do, but I think, for myself, it is the right way to be.

    Reply
  • Emily @ Urban Departures January 8,

    Hello Ruth- I just stumbled across your blog and thought I’d say hello. I am a personal finance blogger with a love for crafts and cooking and Christ and felt a bond in spirit :)

    Thank you for this post and sharing your story of remember how grace makes us whole; it’s beautifully written truth.

    Reply
  • Barb @ A Life in Balance January 9,

    I saw the image come up on your site, and decided to click over to read it. I am so glad I did! I have an issue with one of my sister-in-laws I need to resolve; it’s been going on for 18 months. I’ve struggled with knowing she thinks she did nothing wrong. I need to let that go, and work on my own stuff, what I did wrong.

    The issue has helped me be more supportive of the moms around me. I felt so humbled to hear 2 moms tell me how much they appreciate my support and encouragement this week. I so hate to hear moms feel like they’re alone. We’ve all been through stuff. There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to kids.

    Reply
  • Debbie January 12,

    I had a trusted friend treat me horrible on Christmas eve while I was teaching a class full of people. I was
    so shocked by her behavior I lost my focus. I tried to talk with her afterwards but she continued to behave in a angry self righteous way. I felt so small and weak because I thought she cared about me as a friend. I wanted to quit my job. I remembered 1st Peter 5:8 , the devil is among us, he works through people. Although it breaks my heart, I can only control myself an continue to review my materials to take the emotional reaction out.

    Reply
  • Leah Bea January 27,

    It’s so sadly disappointing how petty people can be, and even worse when they are in positions of influence. All we can do is remind ourselves that we are not part of their ‘stuff’ and keep our eyes fixed on God. I’m sorry you had to experience that on such a large scale.

    Reply
  • Beth February 5,

    I am very disheartened to hear of your experience!!! The only thing that went through my mind when I read this was, that THEY made THEMSELVES look foolish. They are the ones that no longer have any credibility with that audience, because I bet you everyone in the audience did not appreciate them being so mean spirited.

    Reply
  • Cyndi W. February 5,

    Very well said!

    Reply
  • Rachel Holland February 5,

    Jealousy, my friend. 100% jealousy.
    “Jealousy is the suspicion of one’s own inferiority.” -Emily Post

    Reply
  • bella February 5,

    I am so sorry to hear that. I met a blogger a long time ago that I really admired and really looked up to. She was not the women she was on her blog, in fact she was the complete opposite of the friendly housewife she was on the blog.
    Well done for taking the higher ground and learning from it. Hopefully they will read your post.

    Reply
  • Shelly February 7,

    So sad people have to be like this to one another. I don’t understand what they were trying to accomplish by doing that to you. It just makes them look childish, foolish and insecure. Good for you for sticking to your own motto and taking the higher ground. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. It has encouraged me.

    Reply
  • Anonymous March 28,

    This is very touching. And eye opening. And a wonderful message to start the day with.

    Reply

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