Are We Living in Denial?

Artwork by Rebecca Hull
Artwork by Rebecca Hull

Over the past few weeks the #metoo movement has not only offered a voice to many, many victims and survivors of harassment, abuse, and oppression; it has awakened us to the reality that men have a problem.

It seems that every day we hear more accusations against a celebrity, political leader, or inappropriate male in a position of power. On the one hand it is overwhelming. With the increased number of victims sharing their stories we find ourselves wondering how many more there are who still haven’t spoken up. On the other hand it is overwhelming. Our world is rocked as those we thought we could trust, love, and know admit to some of the most god-awful behaviors.

As a minister I know this well. While ministry is exhilarating, exciting, and a powerful exercise in spiritual humility there is the dark side. I think of my 32 years as a minister and the darkness that I have witnessed in humans and I am reminded how traumatic this can be.

I want to clarify—I would never compare my trauma to that of countless victims of gendered violence, sexual harassment, and oppression. I can’t imagine how so many survivors survive and continue to have faith, hope, and love others. I have the utmost respecthat for those who speak out, those who will speak out, and those who endure. I serve a God who hears their voice and swiftly responds by calling people like me to speak out and confront those who oppress others. I serve a God who teaches that if we ignore the cries of the oppressed, I will not be heard if I cry out to my Lord.

Those who have spoken out should receive our love, mercy, grace, and support.

However, I admit that the darkness I have witnessed can be traumatic. To know the hidden secretes of those who afflict others, especially when they are a part of your congregation, is painful. To experience that a leader, clergy, or influential person in your church is guilty of behavior that is not only unchristian, but inhumane shakes your faith and your convictions. The sick feeling in your stomach when you have to confront one you respected, loved, trusted, and sometimes appointed stays with you for years.

  • Sometimes it makes you want to stay in bed and not face the day.
  • Sometimes it makes you want to quit.
  • Sometimes you would rather not know.

But—you get up, you keep going, and you ask questions because quitting is not an option (I learned that from my friends who are survivors).

And---it is better to just admit “I’m shocked and I don’t know what to do…but we have to do something.”

We are shaken by the continual stories from #metoo—and I believe that the stories will continue.

When we are shaken we tend to live in denial.

  • We deny that he could do this
  • We deny that there really are victims
  • We deny that it is as bad as people say it is
  • We deny that there is a bigger problem that we need to address
  • We deny that we have to do something

When we are shaken we tend to silence the news

  • We tell people to quit talking about it
  • We tell people to respect a person’s past or position of authority
  • We ask why people need to say anything at all

Or—we just drop the whole matter and wash our hands

About 2000 years ago a leader did this. He didn’t want to get involved. He knew Jesus was innocent, yet he washed his hands. The leader of the mighty Roman Empire that brought peace, justice, and safety decided he didn’t want any part of the justice system. He washed his hands. He ended the discussion.

  • I think of the Facebook threads that defended the accused, until the accused admitted guilt, that have quietly ended.
  • I think of the news stories that end when the person acknowledges their crime.
  • I think of the conversations that no longer exist because the person is guilty.
  • There is no justice for the victims when we live in denial and stop discussing.
  • There is no justice when a person admits guilt and we end the discussion.

I understand that our shock and anger cause us to respond punitively. We fire, we dismiss, we send away, we cut off, and we boycott—but there is no justice. Typically the person moves on and reoffends, creating more victims. The victims suffer, we live in shock, and we go back to victim blaming.

What if we didn’t fire, boycott, cut off, dismiss, or send away?

What if we kept the conversation going?

What if companies kept offenders on the payroll and required that in order to keep their jobs they enrolled in therapy? There are countless men and women who lead offender management groups, addiction groups, or intervention therapies that are underpaid yet highly skilled. What if we finally called on them to help us solve the problem?

What if organizations offered to walk with offenders and aid in their repentance, healing, and making amends. What if they said, “This is unacceptable behavior and we are going to help you stop?”

What if we offered them a job so that they could continue their counseling and make reparations to those who need financial compensation?

What if we were able to experience healing and reformation of behavior so that men could help other men change?

What if we chose not to be in denial but to face reality and help people change?

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