Thursday, August 1, 2013

When Moving the Conversation Forward Means Shutting Your Mouth

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I've been gone from the Internets for a while. There was a house and a vacation with an unhealthy amount of time spent in cars. But I'm still alive, so here goes:

There comes a point in any conversation that is being dominated by one side or the other when the only way to move the conversation forward is for the dominant party to shut the hole in their face for a minute and listen. This is especially true when hurtful words have been used or when the arguments that have been presented have been twisted and distorted to justify all sorts of abuse.

There happens to be a conversation happening right now in my little corner of the Internet where I think this point has long since been reached. It's the conversation about modesty, and honestly, to all the bros, the dudes, the fellas, then men, and the boys it might be time to take a step back and shut the mouth for just a minute.

You may remember that I wrote about this once before here. And while there has been a lot of positive dialogue surrounding that post and posts that followed, I'm noticing a ugly theme starting to emerge from the male side of the conversation. It goes a little something like this.

"I'm sorry that we [insert example of archaic, oppressive theology of bodies and sexuality that dis-empowers and objectifies women], I really am,

BUT  <-------

And here is where you lose me, guys.
And here is where you lose credibility.
And most importantly, here is where your apology gets invalidated by everything that follows the "but."

When we say, "I'm sorry, but..." it's just another way of saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" which we all know isn't really an apology at all, but really, it's just another way of saying,

"You're still wrong."

We're called to be peacemakers, and that means in our homes and relationships as well, but we can't do that if we're so busy proving how right we are that we can't take a moment to see the incredible damage that being so wrong for so long has done. If we want to make peace, the kind of shalom that we're called to in this Kingdom of God that we pay lip service to, then we have to start in our own homes and our own relationships, with our mothers and our daughters and our wives and sisters and friends whose hearts and minds bear the scars of being told their whole lives:

"It's your fault that I am a sinner."

It's not her fault that you can not control yourself, it's yours. It's not her fault that you cheated, emotionally or physically, it's yours. It's not her fault that you can't separate a healthy biological response to physical attraction from a desire to control and possess. It is yours.

It's not her fault that you are weak, and blaming her doesn't make you strong.

It makes you a coward.

That may seem harsh, and I would say, "I'm sorry, but..." but that would kind of invalidate everything I've written so far, so I'll just say this:

There is great courage in admitting our mistakes, but our horribly distorted notions of masculinity don't really leave any room for such humility, but if we're ever going to move this conversation forward, our side needs to look something like this:

I am sorry. <---Note the period. It denotes the end of the sentence, the point at which we stop talking.

There are many ways we can say this, but they're all variations on the same theme.

I'm sorry that I've reduced you to the various parts of your body.
I'm sorry that I've used distortions of scripture as an excuse to subjugate and control you.
I'm sorry that I've taken part in trying to load the entirety of human frailty onto your shoulders.
I'm sorry that I've treated use as less than a person.
I'm sorry that I haven't tried harder to listen and understand your point of view.
I'm sorry that I've dominated the conversation for so long that you may have given up trying to speak.
I'm sorry that you've been hurt, and I'm sorry that I haven't done anything to bring healing.
I'm sorry that I've been more concerned with making a point than making peace.

I'm sorry. The end.

And then, we listen.
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