On healthy shame and valuing our girls

March 23, 2020
Harvey Weinstein prior to his recent sentencing to 23 years in jail.

(The Hamilton Spectator – Monday, March 23, 2020)

I’ve never been one of those fathers who believes that having a particular relational status somehow makes you a more complete human being. Even so, we’re not made to be alone, but to connect in spirit and mind and other ways with other people, for better or worse. Discuss.

Okay, maybe that’s too much to talk about today. So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let’s talk about something lighter. To start, let’s talk about hands. (And, yes, remember in this COVID-19 crisis, we need to wash our hands. But not wring them.)

Anyway, about hands. It’s good to keep your hands to yourself. Because if you don’t, you might get your pants pulled down. Yes, today, for something different, let’s also talk about this, having your pants pulled down. Let’s talk about healthy shame. And fear.

It’s true that we’d all do better if we were less fearful about talking about these sensitive matters. Yes, girls, you have what you’ve been given and this is good. Boys, likewise. Boys, I’m talking to you now. Look at me boys. Over here now. Pay attention. You have a brain. You think with your brain. You also have a, you-know. It’s not your brain.

It’s important to understand this, because boys who later become men can sometimes think with their pants, so to speak. This gets them, and others, in all sorts of trouble. And pain. Look at Harvey Weinstein. Look at his victims. Have a good look, people.

Because it was in the midst of Weinstein’s trial and sentencing – you’ll recall he’s now been sent to jail for 23 years – when emails were flying between myself and the principal of a local school. A handful of girls were being mistreated by a pubescent boy who was thinking with his, you-know. A little Harvey in the making, maybe, at least without some thoughtful intervention.

The hopeless boy couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Or his feet. Yes, feet. And his words? Think porn. (Speaking of, in a culture of casual porn it’s harder for boys to become men, that is reliable men who aren’t, if not abusive, then sexually dysfunctional, completely desensitized and unrealistic. No, boys, breasts are normally not like cantaloupes.)

Not that girls can’t be desensitized or abusive. They can. In either case, certain porn-like words were spoken by this boy to a certain young lady, a middle school teen classmate. This is when, God bless her, this girl pulled the boy’s pants down. That’s right. Pulled them down. In front of others. To give some of that healthy shame. Have a good gander at this too, people.

My kind of girl, this one, this girl with no fear. Because fear often keeps girls silent, even as fear, with ignorance, keeps too many parents from talking with their kids about healthy sexuality and, for sure, this healthy, pull-those-pants-down, shame.

With this incident, the spark was lit. Other girls who’d been mistreated in that school then needed encouragement to be honest and tell the truth about the boy. This is what I told the principal. Eventually, these girls were encouraged. And eventually the school suspended the boy for several days and initiated some other interventions. The message? Our girls are valued. (And the pant-pulling girl? She apologized.)

This is worth repeating. Our girls are valued. They’re valued In this community, in this case a school community. They’re valued, let’s hope, simply for who they are. And in this type of value there’s a decent chance for some wholeness in a world where, sure, there’s enough brokenness and relational crap to go around for everyone. You might say it’s viral.

Which is to say that you can work hard and get straight A’s in school, later even become a big somebody, and still fail miserably in the school of life. This school is about more. It’s about finding those deeper connections with people, and finding our identity as human beings made in the image of a rather relational God.

That’s something that’s larger than your sexuality, larger than even some regret or shame you may have. It’s an identity with less fear, and less anxiety, and less ‘dis-ease,’ as this particular word goes. And isn’t this what the world needs?


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March 23, 2020 • Posted in
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2 thoughts on “On healthy shame and valuing our girls”

  1. I don’t have young girls in my family, only sons, and my sons respect girls and women in this world of ours. They were dancers for over 10 years during their young school lives, and the girls were eager to dance with them in shows and plays that the dance studio produced. “Break a leg” they would say to other dancers that competed with them. It was kind of a good luck saying to one another.

    And for those naysayers out there, they are not of gay nature, but the world thinks that all male dancers are gay. I, for one, do not like that way of thinking! I have nothing against the gay community or malice towards them, for every human being is special in their own way! This knife goes deep into my heart, for they were bullied for it. The world needs to open its eyes! A loving concerned father knows that not everybody likes football or hockey culture. Art is also a way of life!

  2. It’s true, Nelson. I couldn’t imagine a world without artists, without the sense of beauty in our world, and the wellness in this. Thanks for reminding us of it. I’m sure your sons are better for their dance, and other other artistic experiences, even all these years later.

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