Have you ever had an embarrassing moment? I am sure some of us have had more than others, but who hasn’t at one time or another. Some people can laugh about their embarrassing moments and have no problem sharing them, for laughter’s sake, with others. I’ve never really been that person. Even if you are, however, that doesn’t always mean you want other people sharing them for you. And some embarrassing moments just aren’t ones you want public. Not everything needs to be caught on tape and shared with the public.
I was thinking about this other day, about some of the video compilations that I’ve seen floating around out there of embarrassing moments caught on tape. I’m not talking about the times someone tripped and fell or sat in a chair and it busted. I’m talking about really embarrassing, painfully embarrassing things that you really want to keep private. Maybe someone did something and got caught, or possibly even worse, something happened to them, like someone’s clothing “malfunctioned” or their body betrayed them in some way and this embarrassment was not only captured on tape, but has now been posted online and marketed for the world to see. When I see those videos, a part of me is curious while another part is horrified. What if one of my embarrassing moments had been caught and paraded around for others to laugh at?
We have lost the sense in our world that some things ought to be private, covered over, protected. We see no reason why everything shouldn’t be paraded and exploited, especially if it’s something we can laugh at or be shocked by.
As I was thinking about this, the Bible story about Noah and his nakedness came to mind, and I suddenly realized with greater clarity why I find those videos so troubling and so unfunny.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.
When Ham caught his father in an embarrassing situation, he had a choice, to exploit it and laugh at it and point it out to others, or to cover it over and give his father dignity. “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Ham was not acting in love for his father when he exploited his embarrassment to others. You may not think it a big deal, but Ham was cursed for it. His brothers, however, who covered their father’s shame, who protected him from further embarrassment—they were blessed.
Why? Because this is the way of the Lord. From the very beginning when shame first entered the world with Adam and Eve, the Lord worked to protect them and cover their shame. He sacrificed an animal and gave them clothes to wear from the skin. It was an act of love, protection, and covering. Love is a safe place. It’s a place where you can be naked and unashamed, because no one is laughing and no one is exposing you.
If we are to live in the image of God, we have to learn to love like He does. We have to become a people who don’t rejoice in (and who aren’t entertained by) other people’s shame or embarrassment. We need to be people like Shem and Japheth who, when presented with an opportunity to catch someone at an embarrassing moment, make two choices: 1. Not to look. And 2. To cover it over, best they could. That means we don’t watch those videos and we certainly don’t forward them. With regards to such videos, we may not be able to take them out of circulation, but we can certainly not perpetuate them.
Think beyond that, however. Think about things like Jerry Springer type shows and real housewives type “reality” shows—shows which exploit people’s sin and stupidity and drama. Yes, they are proudly putting themselves on display, but it is our attention to their display that glorifies it and feeds it. Maybe such things also ought to be covered over, minimized, and quieted. Certainly, they ought not to be celebrated and laughed at. Is another’s sin or stupidity really something to laugh at?
It’s a sobering thought to consider how one day God will judge us for the things we looked upon. I’m not just talking about whether we saw a rated-R movie, but also for the way we looked at (or looked away from) the embarrassment and/or shame of our fellow man or woman. Let us be a people who treat people with dignity. To treat someone with dignity means we will often have to choose to look away from someone’s shame and simultaneously provide some dignity where it has been lost, following in the steps of Shem and Japheth. It’s not always easy to do so, but don’t miss that God blessed them for doing so, while he cursed Ham who looked and laughed. This is serious business.