Black sheep in a family, cheats in a corporation, AWOLs in the army – these are the kinds of people and behaviors that embarrass us. They tarnish us with their misdeeds since they are part of us and our identity. Sheer foreigners can be shameful but not embarrassing, as people near us are. We may know these intimates are faulty but it hurts when their faults become public.
As a professor (retired) I am embarrassed by stupid and malicious scholarship – it impugns my academic commitment to honesty and truth. As an Athenian I am embarrassed by our rising COVID-19 infections because it means that members of my town are bringing, spreading, and suffering illness that might have been avoided.
As a Christian I am embarrassed by some who claim that name yet behave and speak in ways that I deplore. When they hear “Love your neighbor” they make sure no one they dislike moves into their neighborhood. When they hear “Do not kill” they choose enemies and legitimate war. When they hear “Turn the other cheek” they moon their bullies and bully others.
The more one loves family and community the more one is ashamed of supposed comrades who abandon common ideals. It’s worse when they do not realize it. I have to forgive them because I respect their freedom of thought and action – freedom and respect are part of my version of Christianity. I wish it were part of theirs.