He ain’t heavy (thoughts regarding embarrassment and dignity).

I’ve long been interested in human-to-human relationships. The various permutations, combinations and types that exist. I’ve spent the last couple years thinking about one in particular: a certain kind of relationship that is so close that it goes beyond the archetypal soundbite of:

“I’d die for you.”

The kind I’m talking about is deeper than that. And it’s more rare. Let’s face it: it’s super easy to say something dramatic, like “I’d die for you.” Because for most of us, at least those who surround themselves with people who have fully-functioning kidneys, the idea of sacrificing your life (or super-important body organ) for someone you love is a fairly abstract statement.

It might be true, but it’s also something that, according to most actuarial tables, you’re probably not going to be tested on. So what is the real question, what is the statement beyond “I would die for you.”

It’s this:

I would be embarrassed for you.

Seriously. Every person alive, at some point, has known what it means to be embarrassed. To be humiliated, to feel bad and put down and laughed at by others. Maybe only a couple times, maybe on an ongoing basis, but chances are that most people can recollect a point at which they were embarrassed. It’s not a good feeling. But it happens. To some more than others.

I decided a long time ago, having felt this feeling plenty through a certain portion of life, that I was going to work on…simply facing embarrassment head on and not worrying about what other people thought of me or what their perception might be. Of course I’m still susceptible to embarrassment, which is sad. But I fight it.

What does virtually everyone want, beyond survival and love?


And embarrassment is the loss of dignity.
On some level, that’s pretty much what it is.

I truly believe I am one of the fortunate people in this world who has people who would lay down their lives for me.

But people who would sacrifice their own dignity in order to preserve mine?
That is a short list.

There’s people I have great relationships with overall. But I know from experience how easily they get embarrassed and self-conscious in front of others, and how quickly the need to preserve their dignity and the way they’re perceived.

Or rather, the way they perceive they’re perceived, which likely far different from how they’re actually perceived.

It takes an incredibly confident, empathetic, and loyal person to prioritize another’s dignity over their own.

My brother Jonny, junior to me by eleven years and in initial historical appearance only, is one of those rare people. His presence in my life is incalculably important, and though I am loathe to subscribe to the notion that an image is more valuable than the right words, I shall, in this instance, refer to the 32 images above that are a micro-sample slice of his life, as it has intersected with mine in many ways and with many people over the last decade.

He is skilled in the field of media production, proficient in the language and discourse of visual communication, and one of the most relationally-connected people I know - his connections span many countries, communities and circles. He is well regarded and respected by many, many people, both personally and professionally.

Jonny and Joseph Long, brother hugging 2014.jpg

And I know that no matter what level of success has achieved or ever will achieve, there is one thing that is certain:

He will go to the mat for me.
He will go to bat for me.
He will give everything and anything he has to protect and grow the relationships important to him.

And he would and will be willing to…

…be give up his dignity on my behalf. To be embarrassed for me. Think about it.

It’s easy to embarrass other people, just like it’s easy to hurt people in general. Easiest thing in the world. And in movies, bullies and arrogant pricks get their comeuppance in satisfying and public ways. But in real life, and with the proliferation of social media and people’s ability to easily be mean to others without facing them…the spectre of public humiliation or embarrassment is ever-present. You’re only an errant sentence, faulty word, or public misstep away from being laughingstock to anyone who’s watching.

(to be fair, there are generally fewer people watching or paying attention to what you say or do at any given time than you probably imagine).

I know how it silly it sounds when you first think about. But think about it. Seriously, seriously think about it. What are you willing to do for those you love the most? What are you willing to give up?

Your life?

Your dignity;
a willingness to sacrifice it if meant stepping in to help someone you loved save face, or take away some of their embarrassment on as your own?

Just think on it, and then think about the relationships you have, and how that idea fits into your closest relationships.

You might die for someone, Romeo, but would you intentionally throw yourself in front of someone you cared about so much that protecting their dignity was more important than protecting your own?

Can you answer that? It’s a really sucky feeling to be publicly embarrassed.

I can answer that. See the photos above.

They’re from various phones I’ve owned over the last 15 years. Crank up some Townes Van Zandt or Journey and take a quick run through.

Goes at life hard,
and stays true;
his love and loyalty a blood imprint to anyone knowing him.

If you do,
count yourself lucky.

I do.