Wednesday, August 19, 2015

7 Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Wow, I was surprised and humbled to see that several women commented on Facebook about yesterday's blog post that they felt inspired to start their own gratitude journal. I was thinking about that this morning while I ate breakfast and got the idea to share a few quick tips that have been helping me keep up with my gratitude journal. 

1. Write in something that makes you happy. That way, the first thing you can write down is your journal itself! I wrote about how a cute, but relatively inexpensive, notebook from Target is good for me. For you it might be a Moleskine notebook (rumored to be used by Hemingway himself and beloved by reporters) or a 1-subject spiral with an adorable kitten on it. You don't have to spend much money on it. Just make sure it's a dedicated notebook used only for these entries. The point I'm getting to: if your journal makes you happy, you're more likely to write in it! 

2. That being said, don't put off starting until you find the "perfect" notebook. The book doesn't matter nearly as much as your words do.

3. Keep a writing instrument with it at all times. I use a pencil because I'm a grammar freak who hates to cross out when I make corrections, but a pen is fine. Hide it if you need to, if the "pen fairies" visit your house and steal all your pens, the way they do at mine. I tend to write in my journal right before bedtime or if I get a minute during the day. If I have to spend ten minutes looking for something to write with and probably getting distracted while I'm looking, the moment may be lost. If you have a pen handy, you're more likely to write in your journal!

4. Don't be overly concerned with "correctness." This journal is for YOU. It doesn't matter if you spell every word correctly (just ignore what I said up there about making corrections. I'm a freak and you shouldn't follow my example. Plus it's quick and easy for me to make quick edits.) I don't even use complete sentences most of the time (gasp!) I use a bulleted list like this:


  • I had more energy today & I felt so much happier. Thankful.
  • Went through the school uniforms . Also decluttered closets, which inspired Justin to get a bunch of his clothes ready to donate.
  • Fun conversations playing 94% [an iPhone trivia app] and just talking with L.

 5. I like my entries to be as specific as possible. In the example above, obviously the first entry was pretty general. The second two, though, named specific activities and help me remember exactly what went on that made me happy. The great part about this is that your gratitude journal helps capture little moments of this stage in your life that you might otherwise have missed! The third bullet reminds me that my son loved playing this game with me and how it started lots of fun conversations.

6. Try to write in it regularly. I usually don't do it every day, but I still make it a habit to jot something down every 2 or 3 days at least. If I don't, I'm pretty sure I'll stop doing it. 

7. Occasionally read back over your entries and smile!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I'm Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Justin asked me the other day why I hadn’t been writing 750 words a day like I had been doing on a website called 750words.com, which is designed to help you write every day by giving you little checkmarks for every day you write in a row and also notifying you when you reach 750 words. It’s all private and is exactly like writing on your own computer except for the desire to keep those check marks uninterrupted and the fact that it costs $5.00 a month. For a couple of months I was meeting my goal most days. So why did I stop?


I stopped writing when my depression and anxiety overtook me a few months ago, and writing was not on my agenda at all, not even a little bit. I felt I shouldn’t spend even $5.00 a month when I wasn’t writing for the foreseeable future. In fact, at the time I felt I wouldn’t ever be able to write, or enjoy reading, or actually enjoy anything ever again, because that is the kind of lie that depression tells.


Then I saw my doctor and added a new medication. I got better, and I reveled in reading again. Every book seemed better than the last! I enjoyed the heck out of lots of things that had become meaningless while I was in the grip of the Black Dog, including shopping, eating, and social media. At first I only wrote comments on Facebook and Twitter because I still felt fragile and didn’t know what to write about, even in a private journal. A few weeks later, I decided to start and keep a gratitude journal, as the research is conclusive that keeping one does help stave off the grim demon called Depression. I’ve started several such records in the past, only to quit when things got so busy that I didn’t write anything for months. Sometimes life was good-busy and sometimes it was stressful-busy. That, I tell myself with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, is exactly when you need a gratitude journal.
This is a brain after the person has been keeping a gratitude journal. The highlighted area shows increased dopamine, which is a "reward" neurotransmitter that feels goooood.
So now I keep it on my nightstand beside my bed. A few days may go between recording something, but at least a couple of times a week I take a few minutes to count my blessings--not just general ones, like family, friends, and a roof over my head. Specific things, like this entry from July 13:
  • I had more energy today & I felt so much happier. Thankful.
  • Went through the school uniforms . Also decluttered closets, which inspired Justin to get a bunch of his clothes ready to donate.
  • Fun conversations playing 94% [an iPhone trivia app] and just talking with L.


Probably my favorite entry so far, though, is this one from July 18:
  • Great talk with L about angels (good and evil) and Minecraft. Longish car rides are perfect to get kids to open up.


[And if you are wondering what angels have to do with Minecraft--well, I am right there with you. I think there’s really no connection, except that my 9 yo son is currently incapable of talking for more than 45 seconds before he says, “Well, in Minecraft…” And that’s when I nod and say “Uh-huh” and “Wow” while he talks about things I do not understand at all. Unlike angels. This preacher’s daughter can expound on heavenly beings.]


I want to remember those little moments that are going on in my life right now, at this specific stage. I wish I had done this all through my kids’ babyhood so I wouldn’t be wondering, “Which one of them insisted that a stuffed Chihuahua Beanie Baby was a cat, and in the middle of an argument about it, I had an epiphany that it wasn’t worth arguing with a toddler about?” If I’d recorded that epiphany, I’d know.


Oh well, I can always start now. And there’s always Facebook.


As far as keeping up with the fragmented yet continuous record of our lives: it helps that the little notebook I’m writing in is small and pretty, but not so fancy that I feel my words have to live up to its binding. I love beautiful journals, but I’ve faltered about 25% of the way through so many gorgeous leather-bound blank books. This one has a cardstock cover, mint green, with Chapter 1 printed on the front in gold. It came in a pack of 3 from Target; the other two are white and pink, and (you guessed it) say Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. Cost: about $6.00 at Target. I bought them for some other reason but they are perfect for this.

For some reason the lighting in my bedroom didn't make it look green!

Besides this fragmented journaling, which admittedly seeks out the good at the expense of the very real irritations and sorrows of life (mind you, I don’t need reminding to dwell on the negative), I do intend to write at least 750 words a day. My job gives me plenty of time in which to do so, and it’s a much better use of my time than endlessly refreshing Facebook and watching cute animal videos. Even if I don’t have time at work, I no longer have to spend my evenings grading papers, and my husband and offspring often vanish after dinner to spend time with their electronic devices; I might as well do the same with mine.

All that to say, I have hope that out of 750 words a day, a few of them will be worth putting on this here blog. And that is going to be the first sentence in tonight’s gratitude journal entry.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Purpose

I'm back! Well, actually I've been back on the Internet for several weeks, but I didn't have anything I wanted to write about until this weekend. That's the way it goes when I have a bout with anxiety: first I withdraw from Pinterest, then blogs and Twitter, then Facebook, then actual books (gasp) and even my friends and family. I suppose I should view lack of interest in social media as an early warning sign.

I  want to write more about my struggle with anxiety and depression, including some encouraging information in a book I'm currently reading, but I'm still processing what I want to share. For now, I'll just say that I'm feeling much better, after going back to my doctor and saying, "I downplayed how I was feeling two weeks ago, and then things got worse. I do need to make a change." He added another antidepressant (later we will probably try to increase the dosage on this one and taper off the one I've been on, which apparently stopped being fully effective--a reasonable assumption given my symptoms and the fact that I've been on it for nine years.) 

So. Today I want to write about how my struggle with mental illness has given me a gift. 

It's really freaking hard to be thankful for anxiety and depression, because this silent illness has stolen big chunks of my life. 


This time it was a month. If that doesn't seem like a long time to you, imagine spending almost every minute wishing it would pass and that you could take your medicine and go to sleep since that means you don't have to feel your horrible feelings any more. Wishing you could tear off your own tensed-up skin and float away. Fighting away thoughts of how much you are ruining your family and how much better off they'd be without you. Constantly, for thirty days.

It sucks when you can't enjoy anything in your life, even when you know you have so much to be thankful for . No wonder that when I feel better, everything seems so much more precious and my gratitude overflows.

But I have always known that human beings can bear almost anything if they can find a purpose in their pain. I knew that others had found that purpose in helping others on the same journey. But I couldn't see how that was supposed to happen, if I couldn't see any glimmer of hope for myself, much less anyone else. 

"If you want me to help other broken people, You're going to have to hold me together a little better," I told God through floods of tears one night. "Because I'm way too broken to help anyone right now."

It's so much fun to live with me.

Then I went to the doctor and gradually started climbing out of the pit. And I had two opportunities within three days of each other to help women who were struggling.

Interestingly, neither of them seem to suffer from a mental illness themselves. They are dealing with diagnoses their children have received and trying to do the best they can for their kids. One mom whom I'd never met before told me about how her going-into-sixth-grade son, who has ADHD and Asperger's, has been consistently bullied at school. Another mom shared her mixed feelings about medicating her six-year-old, who has just been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). 

It turns out I'm a pretty good person to tell such things to, for the following reasons:

1. I'm familiar with conditions and diagnoses many people aren't conversant with. I was a psychology major, then a teacher, so I have some experience with children and parents who are dealing with such challenges. 

2. The Internets have educated me about what it's like to walk in these parents' shoes. If not for the stories I've read, I would very likely make some of the ignorant assumptions many people make (although I hope I wouldn't be as mean-spirited or selfish). Thank you, everyone who has written about your reality with painful honesty. I recently started following The Mighty, a blog written by people who deal with disabilities, either their own or their children's. It has changed the way I look at these children and their amazing parents.

3. There's some evidence that depression and anxiety affect highly sensitive people more than others. While this is a bummer when it strikes, it means that I can deeply feel others' pain and empathetically connect with them, like fellow veterans in the war with faulty brain wiring. I listened to both of these wonderful mothers, both of whom were trying with all their might (along with their husbands) to help their children. I listened, and asked questions, and empathized.

And then I did something that isn't always a good idea. I shared my opinion. 

I did it because both of them were experiencing self-doubt that they were doing the right thing for their child. Whereas I, the momentary observer they had briefly invited into their world, could immediately see that they were absolutely doing the right things for their kid. 

"I'm just not sure about the medication," the mom of the six-year-old said, "because it feels like I'm giving up on him."

I felt like an old, wise woman, even though I'm only about five years older than she is. "Oh, honey, no, you're not! You are not giving up on him at all! You've done the hardest thing and admitted to yourself that your kid needs help--and then you are getting him that help. You're not just saying, 'Medicate my kid so I don't have to deal with his issues.' You're taking him to an expert who can help y'all develop strategies that he can use later in life rather than staying on ADHD meds. But he may need to be on the medication for now just so he can get to a level playing field. But you are not giving up on him if you and your doctor decide he needs it," I declared, trying to be as convincing as I possibly could.

The other mom, whom I'd just met at a birthday party that evening, reached to hug me, her eyes filled with quick tears when I said, "I believe your son is going to be all right. The very best people I know had a hard time in middle and high school. And from what you said, he has you and his dad to talk to. Most importantly, he knows you are on his side. He doesn't have to face this alone."

I hope something I said resonated with those wonderful moms, because depression and anxiety have showed me that just feeling that you're not alone, that you will not be abandoned, that you are loved by someone who won't give up on you...is enough to keep you going for another day.

And if I can help one person feel that way...my life will not have been in vain.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Head Above Water

Sometimes, I just barely keep my head above water. This is one of those times. I just can't do social media or blog. I am doing self care and focusing on the people in my house who love me and am seeing my doctor tomorrow. I hope to be back soon. xo

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

D-O-N-E

Last night my son informed me, "We're not doing schoolwork anymore, Mom." His backpack was full of all the folders and notebooks that have been in his desk all year, lending credence to his statement. (Of course he was happy about that.)

Now, you might think that as a former schoolteacher, I would disagree with the elementary teachers' decision to give up. You would be wrong.

I completely understand why the last week (really, more like two weeks) are designated for field days, play days, movie days and the like. The teachers are every bit as done as the kids. Why fight it? 

Last Friday was field day (which had to be held in the gym due to mud from the continuous rain we've uncharacteristically had), and yesterday was Vertical Team party day (each team of multiple grades had 2 hours to do carnival-type activities including bounce houses and dunking booths). Thursday is the class party for everyone who read 20 books outside of class (and we barely made it as of Monday night--yay!) Friday is the last day of school, so with an awards assembly in the morning, they will just be cleaning up for early dismissal at 11:45. 

Today, however, was the day for the last project of third grade: to learn about and dress as a historic character for a Living Museum. I have to say, when I got the email, I heaved a sigh. I have to help my child create a decent costume in MAY? Even though my schedule is more flexible and I'm not bombarded by stress the way I was a few months ago, May is no time to ask parents for creativity. This post by Jen Hatmaker is hilarious and explains exactly how I feel in May.

However, this not being my first rodeo, I Googled Living Museum and looked at pictures. At least the teacher had them do all their research and write-up at school. All I had to do was assemble a costume requiring as little effort and expense as possible. Anything involving sewing was obviously out since I can only sew on buttons, and even simple things that involved clothes not currently in his closet (like, say, a black suit) were out.

Luckily my son is very easy-going about these things. "Hey, how would you like to dress up as Vincent Van Gogh?" I asked him. "Sure," he said.  

I fully intended to be the one to help him splatter paint all over one of his dad's shirts to make a smock. But his sister was right there, with no homework since finals don't start till Thursday...and she's more artistic than I am any day...

So without further ado, here is my little artiste:

Van Gogh probably didn't wear a beret, but that says "artist," and other people (online) did that. He didn't want to tuck the shirt in--fine. It's got plenty of dried paint on it and on the palette and brush, which we already owned. Note the bandage around his ear. C wanted to have visible blood so I allowed her to use a red Sharpie this morning underneath the top layer of gauze so it wouldn't look too gory. 

I feel pretty good that I didn't just write a character's name on a piece of paper and tape it on his shirt. And best of all... it's the last assignment until September. 


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome; Mini Book Reviews

Wow, I was amazed at the huge (for me) spike in new readers that happens when several people share a post on their timelines. Welcome, if anyone has come back to visit! I don't normally make it a habit to write about controversial items in the news (I am a recovering people pleaser, if that's okay with everyone) so if that's what you're looking for on a daily basis, this won't be the blog for you. However, this experience has made me realize that if I care deeply about an issue, I should write about it since my words may ring true for others.

Today I'm going to write about something that no one ever cared about back in my glory days of up to 5 comments per post: books. Although now I have several avid readers who comment here, so there's that. I thought I'd do mini-reviews of what I've been reading lately, since I don't have enough to say about any particular book to make up a full post. After slogging through The Count of Monte Cristo, I've had better luck lately in my book choices.


First up was The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer. This was the first book by Georgette Heyer I have read, and (at the risk of beating a dead cliche) I must say it won't be my last. Heyer's slyly adept descriptions and dialogue brought new life to the over-familiar trope of the murder-in-a-country-house mystery novel. I checked this out as an e-book from my library. For some reason they have this and a few of her other other Golden-Age-era mysteries, but not the Regency romances she is best known for. No matter; I'll find the other books. I can hardly wait to read more of her work--her books will be the perfect light, frothy, but not idiotic summer reading. I might buy some of them in paperback, because I can see her novels being fun to reread, too. (This is high praise because I only buy books when a) I know I'll reread them OR b) they are so cheap I won't mind donating them to charity when I've finished with them, if I don't care to keep them.) Four stars (and a half, if Goodreads would let me give half stars).


Next is comedian Jim Gaffigan's Food: A Love Story. I listened to it as an audiobook while commuting, also borrowed from the library (I love the library!) I enjoyed it, and as other reviewers have said, listening to it on audio is the way to go. It made it seem like one of Gaffigan's comedy routines, and since he's one of my favorite comedians, that's a plus for me. Of course he recreated the Hot Pocket rant that made him famous, but I hadn't heard it in a long time, so that was okay. I do think he didn't have to make the book quite so comprehensive; it was like he felt compelled to include every kind of food to pad the length. By the end, I was like, "Okay, I get it: you like to eat." In fact, I started to wonder how Mr. Gaffigan doesn't weigh 800 pounds. But there were plenty of funny parts that made up for the parts that dragged. All in all, one of my most successful audiobook picks. Three stars.

I started As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust as another library audiobook, but quickly realized I had underestimated the amount of time and attention listening to a novel takes. I would never finish listening to the book in the amount of time I had left, and since it's a new book, someone would want it immediately after my time was up. I returned the audiobook and requested the hard copy. Lesson learned: for audiobooks, stick to nonfiction or short stories (easier to get back into) or older novels that I can recheck if needed. Here are my thoughts on the actual story:


Although I read this installment of the Flavia de Luce novels quickly and with enjoyment, I gave it a 3 instead of a 4 because it was not very believable (I mean, besides the fact that the series is about a very young girl, even one who is a chemistry prodigy, encountering dead bodies every few months and solving the case). In addition, the Canadian characters had some false notes (I doubt anyone ever actually talked like some of the boarders at Miss Bodycoates' school. They sound like Jimmy Cagney at times). I was relieved when [spoiler alert] Flavia is told she is being sent home to Buckshaw, and only partly because I was tired of reading about how she is startled by her own emotions every time she remembers it. I also missed the usual cast of characters, especially Dogger. I wonder if some of the shadowy members of the mysterious Nide league will feature in forthcoming novels. If not, the book left a lot of questions unanswered. I do think Bradley does a magnificent job of subtly portraying that Flavia, despite her keen perceptions and genius-level IQ, is still a child and can make childish mistakes...although many times her childish intuitions turn out to be exactly right. Three stars ( for comparison, I gave four stars to each of the previous books). 


Another audiobook, and this one was an unqualified success. It was the best audiobook I've listened to. I literally laughed out loud on average every two minutes. Even though I'm generally conservative in my beliefs, Stephen Colbert's parody of a right-wing pundit is so spot-on that it had me giggling helplessly at the absurdity of his statements on everything from marriage to pets to higher education. I read the book in hard copy a few years ago, but this was better. Besides Colbert's word-perfect delivery, there is stirring background music and a series of actors voicing little monologues titled "Stephen Speaks For Me" from such people as a confirmed Spinster and The Guy Sitting Next to You at a Sports Arena, I highly recommend it. Four and a half stars.

I'm going to stop now. I was going to include another novel I finished a week or so ago, but apparently I have too much to say about it for this post. 

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations, for audiobooks or "regular" books, as I think of them? Either way, happy reading! 

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Monday, May 25, 2015

A Christian's Response to the Discovery of Abuse

Okay, so I haven't written about anything controversial on this here blog yet. That changes now, because I am all het up over something (and no, I don't know why I suddenly sound like an old-timey cowboy. I'll stop now.)



The Duggar family of TV fame has been forced to respond to allegations that one of their sons, Josh Duggar, molested several underage girls, including his own sisters. Josh Duggar has admitted the abuse and resigned from his position at Family Research Council. He and his parents have released statements, but since the statute of limitations in Arkansas is three years after the incident, he will face no criminal charges. Here is a thoughtful blog post about this story: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/05/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-josh-duggar-police-report.html

Really, I could just copy and paste that post with added underlines and capital letters and monosyllabic exclamations of agreement in parentheses throughout, but because I want to develop my ability to analyze situations and think through them clearly, here goes.

At the time the Duggars learned about the incidents, they handled the situation completely wrongly. And they are still approaching it in a way that is inappropriate--no, it is WRONG and--dare I say it--DANGEROUS.


Please allow me to elaborate. First, I understand as a parent and a church leader, how tempting it is to hide such a discovery rather than report it to the proper authorities. In our society, child molestation is arguably the worst crime a person can commit. They likely couldn't stand the thought of their son being labeled for all the world to see as a hideous monster (ironically, this is what is happening now that the truth has come out.) We all know that child molesters are at the bottom of the prison pecking order, below even imprisoned cops in the prisoners' minds.* In the Duggars' minds, all those years ago, given the evangelical culture they surrounded themselves with, they were doing the right thing.


Here's why they were wrong.


1. They hid the evidence of the abuse. 

The Duggars thought they were doing the right thing (although once you discover your 14-year-old son is sexually abusing young girls, you don't start off with a stern, "Don't do that again." What was next--GROUNDING him?) Eventually they sent him away in an effort to prevent further occurrences. However, even this action was inadequate and harmful.

It appears that despite their statement that they had sent Josh to a "program" where he received "counseling," they actually sent him to live with a family friend who needed help with doing some remodeling. Because that's how you cure a teenage child molester, with some good old-fashioned manual labor, am I right?


The Duggars are probably not completely lying (though I would argue they are being intentionally disingenuous, which amounts to the same thing.) In the evangelical Christian world, "counseling" doesn't always mean "a series of sessions with a trained professional." It can also mean "one talk with a 'wise' elder." (The quotation marks around "wise" are there because I obviously don't think this was wise.) This was likely their intention by having Josh talk with yet another family friend who was a state trooper. "Don't do that, it's a sin and if you keep doing it and your parents can't hide the evidence, you'll go to jail." Boom, done.


No, it was ILLEGAL. State troopers are required to report any evidence of child abuse to the proper authorities for investigation. The friend should have said to Jim Bob, "Nope, sorry, I now have to tell the state this happened. And how dare you ask me to cover it up?" Maybe the trooper's willingness to sweep the incident under the rug has something to do with the fact that he was deeply involved in (and later convicted of possessing) child pornography? 


(The irony. It burns. From a purely Christian perspective, the Duggars' "discernment of spirits" spiritual gift was an epic fail.)


It's an unfortunate example of a Christian pattern of hiding criminal behavior and saying we are dealing with it privately, when in fact there are reasons why it should NOT be dealt with secretly within the family and church. Also, there are plenty of examples in the Bible which make it clear what God thinks about people who sin and lie about it. Hint: they involve being struck down dead instantly. Sometimes I wish God still did that. I would be a vengeful God, which is probably why I'm not God.


2. Christians are not above the law.

A lot of non-Christians are (understandably) offended by the Duggars' use of the words "mercy" and "grace." This is what happens when Christians start throwing around spiritual words in a case like this, where a man is being forced to admit that he did wrong although he was never punished by the justice system. To these people--and I would think especially to victims of abuse--it sounds like Josh Duggar  is saying, "Yeah, I admit I violated those girls as a kid. But I told Jesus I'm sorry, and he's totally cool with it, so you should be, too!"

No, I am not cool with it or willing to let you off the hook, bro, and neither should any Christian.


I see it like this: there are spiritual and non-spiritual elements to every wrongdoing. As a Christian, do I believe that God's grace extends to anyone who sincerely asks for it? Absolutely.


I also believe that God's grace has nothing to do with legal penalties. "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," Jesus said, and I think that can extend beyond taxes into "OBEYING THE FREAKING LAW OF THE LAND." Fellow believers, WE ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW. We may be free from the religious "law of sin and death," but that does not make us immune from the laws of the United States of America. Otherwise we could just rob a bank, repent, and say, "Oopsies! Oh well, I repented to God, so I don't have to give the money back or go to jail."


My father is a pastor, and I'm thankful that even years ago, he was light-years ahead of the Duggars. Upon learning that a member of his congregation was sexually abusing his child, my father prayed with him...but escorted him to the authorities to turn himself in, with the understanding that my dad was going to turn him in if he didn't do it himself.


Unfortunately, far too many pastors think the word "grace" is literally a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's like we're so invested in the idea of God's unlimited grace that we can't identify sinful behavior as also worthy of legal punishment. Some of our extended family had to leave a church because the pastor was allowing a convicted child molester to teach Sunday School.


Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute. And our family members (the wife is a survivor of sexual abuse) were told to leave because they were not forgiving enough to be okay with this.


Note to pastors everywhere: DO NOT DO THIS. If you do, you are guaranteeing that more children will be abused. You are creating a haven for the abuser.


tl;dr Just because God forgives someone, that does not mean that they are free from the consequences of their actions. Period.


3. As Christians, our responsibility is to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, and to provide proper treatment.

As a PK**, I know about another situation in which one of the children was discovered to have been molesting another one for years. The parents freaked out and first denied it ("Not in OUR family!" is a common denial response) and then swept it under the rug and pretended it didn't happen.

Just imagine how damaging that is to the victims of the abuse. They are being told in effect that they are lying, that their feelings and experiences don't matter. They are shown that the abuser's reputation is more important than their pain (because it affects the family reputation, and it's important to keep up the image of the "perfect" family. And in this case, the family's livelihood--being on TV pretending to be portraying a perfect family--is at stake.) So the victims are told to keep quiet. And because they are Christians, they are told to forgive their abuser.


There are a lot of things I could say, but this post is getting too long. So I'll just say this: forgiveness is not excusing an abuser, or allowing him to get away with his heinous behavior. This has happened far too often in the Church--because the Church is a hierarchical, male-dominated structure. The powerless victims--women and children--are often bullied into silence. And that, my fellow believers, should not be. Jesus said that anyone who harmed a "little one" would be better off if they hung a huge rock around their neck and drowned themselves. Sounds pretty definitive to me.




Maybe it's just my background in psychology, but my first reaction on hearing any story in which a minor child victimizes another is that both kids need serious therapy. Yes, the victim definitely does (which does not seem to have happened in the Duggar case, at least not for their girls--I don't know what action the other parents took). But so does the perpetrator, if there is to be any hope for prevention of recurrence. If a kid acts out sexually with other kids, it often means that they have been abused themselves, that they think sexual acts are "normal" because they have been exposed to sexuality at an age when they shouldn't be. On the other hand, a 14-year-old boy, feeling sexual desires for the first time, in a repressed subculture where such things aren't talked about openly, might very well do what Josh Duggar did without having being sexually abused himself. But no matter what, his actions were abnormal and wrong, and should be labeled as such.

Look, as a Christian I believe that we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And some days I'm super thankful that my shortcomings aren't being broadcast for the whole world to see.


(I also haven't chosen to put my family on TV as an example of a perfect Christian family. But I digress.)


I just believe it is time for Christians to stand up and call abuse wrong. And to let everyone know that it will not be excused and tolerated and allowed to flourish under cover of our churches. Does grace cover all our sins, even the very worst ones? Without a doubt. But make no mistake: the same Bible says, "Be sure your sins will find you out."


In the case of Josh Duggar, they certainly have. I just hate that the revelation took so many years, and that he will not receive the punishment he deserves, nor will there be measures taken to protect children who are left alone with him. In no possible world is this a good outcome.




*I have no idea if this is true or if I just got it from popular culture. It seems right that even murderers would look down on men who abuse children, though.

**Preacher's Kid, for you godless heathens out there (just kidding! I love godless heathens! Some of my best friends are godless heathens! Please don't yell at me!)


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