This week a very good friend of mine, sent me an email with the subject “Found a great blog”, and the body of the email was just a link to this blog and the words “What do you think?”
In case you didn’t catch that…my friend found my blog…my anonymous blog…my anonymous blog about sex. I’m pretty sure he knows it’s me too, because he knows I have an anonymous blog, and the subject matter…I’ve just never shared the address with him, and, frankly, he’s too smart not to figure it out.
Of course, as we are mature adults, and upstanding members of our community, and leaders in our church, we have absolutely ignored the fact that he found it, and that I know he has, and have completely avoided talking about it, preferring to bury our heads in the sand, even though I’ve seen him twice since he sent that email. Granted, we haven’t had good opportunities, either too many people around or a shortage of time to really discuss it, but still… So, this is, in a sense, my coming out to him, scary as that is, and admitting that yes, it’s me. The rest of you can watch from the sidelines as my life implodes.
Just kidding, if I had to pick one person to know, it would be him, so it’s not that bad.
So, this week I’ve been thinking about the difference between shame and embarrassment, largely because of this, but also because of a book I’m reading (I can’t share the book yet, it’s not been released, but I’ll write a review as soon as it is), and also partially due to some of the things raised by some of the couples I’ve talked to through Anonymous Marriage Coaching.
What if everyone in our “real world” found out about this blog, what would happen? Am I ashamed of it, or embarrassed, what’s the difference? And I think this discussion might help others, because I think a lot of people (mostly wives, but some men) confuse shame and embarrassment when dealing with married sexuality. So, let’s start with a couple definitions, because often they are used interchangeably.
Embarrassment – A feeling of self-consciousness, shame, or awkwardness.
Shame – A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Note: Embarrassment can include shame, but it doesn’t necessarily. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s leave out that part of the definition so it’s easier to follow.
See, shame has this requirement of having done something wrong or foolish (or feeling you did). It requires a conviction that you should not have done what you did. It is based on a moral standing, and a judgement of your activities.
I think many people incorrectly feel ashamed about sex in their marriage. They don’t want people finding out they have sex, or, God forbid, that they actually enjoy it! But, this implies that having sex in marriage, or enjoying sex with your spouse is a shameful thing, that something is wrong with it. But, and I hope I don’t need to defend this, sex is a God-given activity between you and your spouse. It is good, it is blessed and even commanded. I know, everyone expects me to pull the Corinthians verse, but I’m going to reach for Exodus 21:10 as a twist.
If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. – Exodus 21:10
Let’s not get bogged down on the whole “another wife” today (I’m talking to you LatterDayMarriage), but I want to focus on the Bible stating that it is the duty of the husband to provide “marriage rights” (read: sex) to his wife. We could go back further, in fact, the very first commandment was “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28), which you cannot do without sex (at least you couldn’t then).
So, anything we do sexually, with our spouse, we should not be ashamed of (with the obvious exceptions of bringing someone else into your marriage bed, and degrading activities).
Side note: Anything you do sexually with someone other than your spouse…yeah, you should feel shame about that, until you repent and accept forgiveness, then it’s wiped away. Stop feeling guilt about these, otherwise it’s like your telling God He doesn’t have the power to forgive you. But, that’s a topic for another day.
Embarrassment is something else entirely, and it seems to be based, not on morality, but on societal norms. We feel embarrassed when we go against the trend, when we wear socks and sandals (guilty), when we mismatch our clothing, when we walk into a screen door (making us look silly), say the wrong thing, or burp accidentally.
Because the church, and our society, have been so sex-negative historically (the church still largely is), this causes us some undue embarrassment when talking about sex, a God-given, blessed, even commanded activity for spouses.
Last year my wife and I led a small group based on a the book Intimacy Ignited, which is a study of Song of Solomon. Yep, a whole book about sex…from the Bible…with four Christian couples (including my friend I mentioned in this post). It was awkward at first while we figured out what words we were comfortable saying out loud, what we were okay sharing, and that it was okay to talk about sex. After that, well, the floodgates opened, and we had an amazing 10 weeks discussing married sexuality. Turns out, many people really want to talk about sex, they just don’t know if they’re allowed to. Give them permission, and their off to the races.
And that’s sort of how embarrassment works. It’s embarrassing…until you figure out it’s not that big of a deal. People have sex, it’s good, get over it. Then help other people get over it.
As Christians, we need to be more open about sex, because the rest of the world is already open about it. If we don’t start talking about sex, if we don’t start sharing good, biblical advice for marriage, including the marriage bed, then the only place people will be able to go for advice will be what the world is telling them. God forbid that the only place a new couple can learn about sex is from TV, movies, erotica and porn.
So, I’m deciding not to be embarrassed about this. I’m proud of my marriage, including our sex life. It’s awesome, and I thank God for that. I hope I can continue to help other couples find that out as well.
Do you find it uncomfortable talking to others about sex? Are you embarrassed, or ashamed? Are you willing to admit, to others, that your God made sex an awesome and amazing thing for spouses to enjoy?