#MeToo…but who?

I’ve been reading and watching the news this last week and it’s gotten me to thinking…

While I am aware that men can (and have been) sexually harassed and abused, these thoughts are going to relate to women–primarily because I am a woman.

There have been lots of questions swirling around the allegations made, and I don’t want to get into the politics of them. What I do want to do is just simply share some thoughts and concerns they’ve triggered.

Some women remember very clearly every detail of the experiences. Others remember only bits and pieces–sometimes because of the trauma, other times because of other choices they made leading up to those experiences.

Why don’t women report when they’ve had these experiences? I can think of a few of the many reasons:

  • For those whose experiences go back decades, they lived at a time when anything sexual just wasn’t talked about.
  • They may have been afraid.
  • They may have “learned” that it was their fault.
  • They may have seen how other women were attacked and disbelieved and simply didn’t want to go through that themselves.

When women did come forward, the legal focus often fell on them.

  • What were they wearing?
  • Why were they in that place at that time?
  • Were they drinking?
  • How did they know for sure it was assault?

And on and on.

All the concern seemed to be for the man. What was this allegation going to do to his future?

But what about her? What about her future?

She was “damaged goods.” If she told a potential partner what she had experienced, what was going to be his reaction? 

Somehow she wasn’t seen as a “real” person. What the assault did to her didn’t seem to matter. What was important was what the allegation would do to her attacker’s future.

Have things changed? Not really.

We still tend to focus on the impact the allegation would have on the person accused–and don’t seem to worry about the impact the experience has had on the victim. 

We still find all kinds of reasons not to believe the accuser…or to find ways to make it her fault, either for the experience or for waiting so long to come forward.

I wonder what would happen if we saw every woman as a “real” person–as a mother, daughter, grandmother, sister… Would we react differently? Would we be more willing to truly listen without judgment? to consider the impact these experiences have had on them?

Would it change what we teach our sons? Would we finally put to rest the idea that “boys will be boys” who have the “right to make mistakes” as they’re learning how to be men, mistakes that impact significantly the young women they violate? 

There are so many stories out there. They differ in details, in the amount that women remember. But they are there.

It’s time for us to listen.

Missing table fellowship…

I wasn’t sure whether to title this post “Missing table fellowship” or “Sometimes I feel isolated”…either would have been an appropriate title.

So what do I mean by that?

Many of you know that I have lived with MS (multiple sclerosis) since 1976. It’s gone mostly pretty well–at least since the first five years. Because of the vagaries of this auto-immune disease, there is some unpredictability to my life. I’ve learned to live with that.

But there’s one change MS has made to my experiences that creates that sense of loss. The one constant in my schedule is a daily nap. Sometimes it’s as short as 30 minutes; other times it’s as long as a couple of hours. There’s no specific time I have to take it–but I usually do it around noon. That’s what sometimes makes me feel isolated.

When I go to retreats or other all-day events, the schedule is often very full, with meetings leading right up to lunch and beginning again shortly after lunch. So my choices are (a) to forgo my nap…which really isn’t a choice, because if I do skip the nap, I suffer the consequences the next day, or (b) skip lunch in order to take my nap. Obviously, my choice is (b).

But that means that I miss table fellowship. It’s more than just sitting around the table, eating. It’s the visiting, the sharing, the continued development of community.

The people that I attend these events with are always very nice and very welcoming…but I often feel a little bit on the outside because I’ve missed that time of fellowship. (And when I fill out surveys afterwards, I usually mention that concern.)

There have been some events that I’ve attended where the schedule is wonderful! There is time set apart after lunch for everybody to spend some quiet time however they choose…napping, meditating, walking… At those events, I feel fully a part of the community, and I am very appreciative of the sensitivity of the schedulers.

I’m not casting blame on anyone. We’ve traditionally filled our schedules full, trying to get the “most bang for the bucks” when we pull a group of people together for these types of events. Sometimes, when I’ve mentioned my need for some time for a nap, the schedule has been arranged to allow that–not just for me, but for others who might find it useful as well.

I’m wondering if maybe it’s time that we consider that a period of intentional quiet time should be an important part of a scheduled event. I may use it for a nap (and so might others)…some might use it as an opportunity for meditating, walking, processing the events/information of the morning…

Maybe the Spanish custom of a siesta after lunch is something we should consider more seriously!

Romanticizing our history…

For the last fifteen years or so, I have enjoyed going out to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. There have been wonderful shows of all types…fun visiting with “royalty”…and I have a number of friends who perform out there.

I also enjoy medieval murder mysteries…plays (think Lion in Winter) and TV shows (think Merlin).

It is fun…but it’s also not real. It’s a romanticized view of a very real history.

When we think about living “back then,” I would imagine that most of us dream of being a king or queen, prince or princess—or at the very least, a member of nobility. Who would choose to be a peasant?!

But do we think about what it was really like? The challenges and concerns a king might have had…of maintaining a wealthy façade…fears of being poisoned…fighting frequent wars. Or the challenges and concerns of a queen…being “sold” in marriage…possibly dying in childbirth. Those concerns (and others) aren’t part of our romanticized history.

Sometimes it’s just fun to “play” history. But sometimes doing that has very real—and lasting—impacts. We forget what really happened and ignore the damage that the real history caused (and may still be causing).

We romanticize our religious history, and by so doing, we continue to believe that those whose beliefs we support were always in the right…and those whose beliefs are different from ours were (and are) heretics who don’t deserve the same rights we have.

Even in our own specific faith traditions, romanticizing our history keeps us from really understanding how that tradition developed and keeps us from letting it grow.

We also often romanticize our own country’s history at times and do that to our peril. When we are not honest about past behavior, we ignore its continuing impacts…the breakup of families…the feeling of race superiority…the genocide of indigenous peoples…

Romanticizing history can be an enjoyable amusement. But it’s not a healthy way to live in a real world.

I am not your enemy

When did the mere fact that I disagree with you make you decide that I am your enemy?

I have not attacked you; in fact, I still like you personally. I believed that we had the same goals–of making this world a safe one for everyone…of valuing the worth of all people–that the differences we had was in how to go about accomplishing those goals.

Yet somehow those disagreements have made you decide that we are no longer friends but rather that I am your enemy.

When I have asked for the places you have gotten your information, I have been asking so that I can compare it with the information I have. I believe that in many cases the truth we are both seeking is probably somewhere in the middle–and by comparing our information sources, we would both have a better understanding of what each other is hearing.

When I have asked questions about why you believe the way you do, it has been because I have wanted to try to understand your perspective.

When I have asked for specifics about why you feel the way you do, again, it is because I want to understand. There have been times when we have been involved in the same discussions and you have complained about being attacked…attacks that I have not seen. When I have asked for specific incidents or posts, it’s not because I am looking for a “gotcha”; it’s because I genuinely am trying to see what it is I’ve missed.

When I do or say what I believe I am called to do or say because I follow Jesus, I’m not attacking you. He called me to stand with the marginalized, the oppressed…those on the outside of society. When I agreed to become a minister in his name, I took on that commitment. That doesn’t mean that I am saying that everything you are doing is wrong. It simply means that I am following his call to me.

And yet somehow all of that has made me your enemy. You have decided that because I seem liberal in my political beliefs, I am your enemy. You have decided that I am not interested in your perspective…that I am demanding that everything be “my way or the highway.”

That’s wrong.

I want to find ways for us to work together. I know we’re not always going to agree, and I’m okay with that. But if we have the same goals–of making this world a better world–isn’t it possible for us to find ways to accomplish that together?

You are not my enemy. Please don’t make me yours.

“I know exactly how you feel…”

No, you don’t.

I appreciate that you are trying to express empathy with my situation, but unless you have walked in my shoes you really don’t know exactly how I feel.

Yes, sometimes you work so long and so hard that you get really tired. I get that. But the kind of tiredness that can be relieved by a good night’s sleep isn’t the same as the MS exhaustion I have to deal with sometimes…the kind that makes it impossible to keep my eyes open for a second longer…the kind that leaves me so drained that I can’t deal with anything or anybody…the kind that turns my brain to absolute mush and makes it impossible for me to string words together in a coherent fashion.

I understand that if you’ve pushed yourself on a hike or a bike ride that your legs ache. I sometimes wish that’s all mine did. But sometimes it feels like my legs are encased in 3-4″ of concrete that I have to haul every time I try to take a step.

Do you know what it feels like to have your hands feel like 25-lb weights at the end of your arms? and not be sure you can control them enough to hold onto something?

When you get a fever–even a little one–it’s not a big deal for most people. But for me…I have to be careful and try to nip a fever in the bud. Otherwise, even a 1-degree fever can bring on a flareup and throw a complete monkey wrench in any plans I have.

I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had to deal with pain or vision problems with my MS, like some have.

But the issues I have had to deal with have impacted my life…my plans…my family in ways that you can’t really understand until and unless you’ve actually lived it.

I appreciate your empathy and your attempts to understand. But please…don’t tell me that you know exactly how I feel. You don’t.

How do we see?

That question–how do we see?–could be answered in a variety of ways. But it was triggered by a short incident in a book I read…a video I saw…and a picture I saw.

First…in a book titled Wounds Are Where Light Enters, Walter Wangerin, Jr., the author, tells of an incident that involved his adopted African-American son when he was a small child. He was good friends with a neighbor girl, but one day the girl’s mother said that they couldn’t play together any more. Wangerin and his wife thought it was because their son played rougher than his friend did–but that wasn’t the case. It was because he was black. Wangerin, the family’s pastor, went to visit and talk to the mother, who greeted him warmly and then began commiserating about how difficult life was for black children, especially boys…and that she wasn’t surprised they turned to alcohol and crime. Wangerin was nonplussed and asked if she didn’t see that her attitude was one of the things that made it so difficult for them. Why had she cut him off? Her response was simple. “No…black and white don’t marry.”

She didn’t see a little boy who only wanted to play with his friend. She didn’t see a child…she saw color.

Second…a video came up on my Facebook newsfeed about a 66-year-old man who was colorblind. He was given the gift of Enchroma glasses, which allowed him to see color for the first time in his life. It was incredible to watch him see the world in a new way…overwhelming but absolutely joyful.

Image may contain: one or more peopleAnd then third…a picture I saw tonight. I have no words to describe the heartbreak I felt when I saw the picture this little girl who lives in an orphanage drew…a picture of her mother, and then she took off her shoes, and curled up on her mother’s chest.

How do we see? What do we see?

Do we only see what’s on the outside? Or are we willing to look beyond the obvious? to see the inside?

We can put “force fields” around ourselves so that we protect ourselves…because to see the inside requires us to be vulnerable, and that can be frightening. It calls us to be advocates for change…

My faith tradition talks about enduring principles, and some of them call me to see the world differently:

  • Worth of all people
  • Pursuit of peace
  • Unity in diversity
  • Blessings of community

So, how do we see? What do we see?

Are we willing to open our eyes…to see the world in new ways? I hope so.

 

 

What are we afraid of?

Franklin D. Roosevelt once famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Why?

Because fear feeds on itself. Once we start being afraid, then we constantly find things to be afraid of…and it begins a vicious circle. We become afraid and so we insulate ourselves from those things that we fear–and then we become afraid that we haven’t protected ourselves well enough and so we pull within ourselves even more…and more…and more.

Eventually we find ourselves living in such a little world that there is no room for anything but fear. We find ourselves like Rapunzel, locked into a tower away from anything and anybody that could rescue us…no door to open…and the sad thing is that we have done it to ourselves.

What are we so afraid of?

  • The “other?” Someone who is different from us in some way (ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, political, gender identity…)?
  • Anything that challenges our long-held beliefs?
  • The future?
  • Being alone?
  • Change?

So how do we get over being afraid? It’s not easy.

It’s so much simpler, at least in the short-term, to hold on to our fears. They protect us…or at least we think they do, until they imprison us.

We have to face the fears…name them. Until we do, they will continue to hide in dark corners, ready to jump out at any unexpected moment.

We have to decide whether we are going to open the door and let hope come in…let faith begin to develop. We have to begin to understand that fear often begins inside us. Yes, there are some valid reasons to be careful and cautious in our lives–but not for every aspect of living.

Pulling the weeds of fear is difficult. It’s challenging. It requires us to be willing to listen to others…to even see ourselves in them. It requires us to be vulnerable, to be willing to accept pain.

But in the long run, it’s the only way to live. When we lock ourselves in the tower of fear, we’re not living. We may be surviving, but that’s it.

When we live, we see colors…we love diversity…we choose to walk with others–perhaps to give them company, but in so doing, we find we are no longer alone.

So what will we choose? Fear? Or opening the door to love and to hope…to life?