The silver lining to the ugly Kavanaugh-Ford hearing

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford agree on at least one thing.

It’s terribly wrong when two men and a woman, inebriated in a locked room at a house party, engage in sex acts without consent by all involved.

Whether that actually happened depends on who you believe.

Either way, neither defends that as appropriate behavior.

This is the silver lining in the ugly nomination process for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and his “(I) believed he was going to rape me” accuser, Ford.

The sexual revolution in this country has gone too far.

Kavanaugh and Ford agree on that.

No boundaries

A man should not touch a woman’s private parts unless both have rings on their fingers and both consent to it.

Anything looser than that, and we’ve begun traveling a slippery slope from “he made me uncomfortable” to “he raped me.”

That’s why we need boundaries. We must talk with each other, and to listen to each other intimately.

Men and women are wired to desire each other. That’s in our nature, the way we were created.

When done right, physical touch is beautiful in every sense of that word.

When done wrong, we get Kavanaugh-Ford scenarios. And worse.

Who decides what’s “right” and “wrong” in today’s anything-goes society?

Young boys are by nature aggressive, touching, tasting and learning. Where are the parents to teach them boundaries, especially where young girls are concerned?

What are the boundaries, anyway?

This is the question no one is asking.

Loose morals vs. strict morals

We know what’s wrong when it happens, when a girl or woman feels uncomfortable or says no. Can we not learn from the mistakes of others and prevent harassment from happening in the first place?

No, we can’t, because we do not know what the boundaries are.

Your values are different than mine are. This is not a male vs. female question. This is “loose morals” vs. “strict morals.”

kavanaugh

If Kavanaugh and Ford attended the same party, either they were friends or they had mutual friends, which means Kavanaugh and Ford likely had similar moral values at the time.

If that locked-room incident happened, Kavanaugh crossed a moral line. But he (and Ford) crossed an earlier moral line by getting drunk first.

Why didn’t their parents prepare them for such scenarios by giving them a moral leg to stand on? (Parents do have the authority to tell their teenager he or she can’t go to a certain party. And parents should know who their friends are. That’s what good parents do.)

Second chances

Here’s another thing we don’t understand in this country: second chances.

If we are looking for perfect people to rule on the Supreme Court, we’ll never find them. If we’re looking for the perfect spouse or lover, we’ll never find that person, either.

Let’s assume that Kavanaugh is guilty of the harassment he’s being accused of 40 years ago. My question to him then is: Have you learned anything from that? Do you still do such things?

He’s married with two daughters. Has he earned their trust?

If he has, I have a question for you:

Does that count for anything?

I attended my school’s ninth-grade dinner dance, and never dated after that in high school. I wasn’t ready for relationship then; I was too naïve and immature, and I knew it.

I’ve had only one girlfriend, and I married her.

I haven’t left bits and pieces of myself with other women. For those of you who have: Could that come back to haunt you someday in the form of a harassment charge?

I’m not saying I’m completely innocent. Every man who’s ever lived, including me, has looked at a woman with desire.  Have I ever made someone uncomfortable? No one has told me so, but if I ever ran for public office, I might find out otherwise.

That’s the culture we live in today.

Innocence lost

Where is the innocence of life? Even our children lose this far too young.

 

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Page 90, To Kill A Mockingbird, copyright 1960 by Harper Lee

 

Where are the mockingbirds today? Harper Lee wrote that in 1960, the year I was born. In the book, a mockingbird was killed, figuratively speaking.

We are still killing them today.

Are there any mockingbirds left?

Where is joy in life, pure joy, just the feeling of happiness to be alive? Who has it?

Anyone?

Are there still one or two mockingbirds hiding somewhere, just waiting to come out?

Too often we hurt each other, not just in harassment cases but in other ways too. A harsh word. Selfishness. Anger. Theft.

No boundaries. No rules. Little compassion. No respect.

And we wonder why abuse happens.

We’re looking for love in all the wrong places.

Innocence found?

The right place is a man and a woman who give each other a ring.

We’ve looked for love in many other places since time began, and we’ve never improved upon the most time-honored team ever formed.

This is the lesson from Kavanaugh and Ford.

Neither of them learned that as teenagers, apparently.

Both of them are paying a very heavy price because no one taught them to respect the opposite sex, and as a result to wait until marriage for physical expression.

Perhaps we’re turning this corner as a nation.

If we finally realize the promiscuity of 21st century America has gone too far, then maybe we’ll learn how to get along with each other again.

Let the mockingbird sing.

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Learning to love ourselves

… love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:39

 

When Jesus said this to the Pharisees as part of his response to their question about the greatest commandment, Jesus assumed that the Pharisees, and us as readers of Matthew’s gospel, love ourselves.

The focus of Jesus’ command is to love our neighbor. This takes many forms. It’s not an option. It’s the second-most important command Jesus gave us, behind loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

Loving myself

But how can we love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves?

Am I the only person who asks this question?

I know my sins and shortcomings far better than anyone else does. And I’m sure God knows about sins I commit that I’m not even aware of.

I know God forgives me. I really do.

But can I forgive myself?

That’s hard.

As a result, over time, I’ve learned to bury my feelings deep in my heart. I can’t remember the last time I cried.

A friend asks me frequently who the Detroit Lions’ next opponent is, since he knows I lived most of my adult life in Michigan (I’m in Ohio now). I’m in a family-based NFL pool so I pick the winners and point spread of each game. Still, I often don’t remember who the Lions are playing.

Very little in life registers with me. Nothing penetrates my deep inner being. I feel like I’m just going through the motions.

How can I love my neighbor when I have no feelings for myself?

Several good friends recently attended a weekend men’s retreat based on a book by John Eldredge, “Wild at Heart.” I didn’t attend the retreat, but I’ve read the book.

When they told our Wednesday men’s group at church how the retreat went down, they emphasized two themes that I relate to very well, themes that Eldredge knows affect men deeply.

The father wound

All men have a wound in our hearts. For most of us, that wound comes from our father.

Mine did.

I never doubted my dad’s love for my sister and me. He was (and still is – he’s 84) the strong, silent type. He’s opening up more now, but as a child I didn’t receive hugs, praise, verbal encouragement or emotional support. There are reasons for this; his own childhood was not that way either.

I didn’t realize all this until I became an adult. Indeed, I’m still figuring this out.

I decided I wanted to break the cycle, to give our sons what I didn’t have.

All three of our sons are adults now, living on their own and doing well.

However, none of them are married. More than that, none of them have ever had a significant girlfriend, to my knowledge.

And that’s OK. There’s benefits to being single.

But I passed the father wound to my sons. I know I did.

Will the cycle ever end?

It can.

By the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, it can.

The poser

The second Eldredge theme proves why I bury my feelings. Like many men, I put my best face forward in public. If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll say, “Fine” or “doing well” or something like that – even if I’m not.

I’m posing. I’m not being real with you.

Do you want a “real” answer when you ask me that question? I could give you an earful if I really wanted to.

I can talk superficially just fine. I’ll tell you about my job, a volunteer role or two I have, how our new house is coming along or the yardwork I’m doing – stuff like that.

Ask me how my soul is, and I most likely won’t give you a “real” answer. I have wounds in there, things I don’t like about myself. Things I’d rather hide.

Our Wednesday men’s group this fall is going through a video series on overcoming addictions, especially sexual addictions – because those in particular are so prevalent.

I’m not surprised that sexual harassment and worse is the issue of the day in the news. Pornography is huge. So are other sexual sins. The male species is exposed to it at a very early age – preteens for most boys. Did you know that?

It’s all over the internet, and boys have access to it (unless the parents have blocked it).

We men are posers, remember. We hide things. We’re very good at it.

But these sins have a way of showing up at very inopportune times.

I’m not saying every man is a sex addict. The temptation is there for every man (and boy), but we don’t have to give in to that temptation.

In fact, by the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, we can turn down that temptation – or overcome it if we’ve entered in to it.

We hide other things, too. Things we think. Money we spend. Things we do in private, when we’re sure no one is watching. (Do we ever want to get caught?)

The solution

I’d like to say I’ve figured out how to overcome the father wound and the poser mindset. I haven’t.

The speakers in the video series say there’s no quick fixes for this kind of stuff. It takes time, perhaps years. It takes accountability with other men who are willing to listen as we break down those poser walls and get real.

We know what we’re doing is wrong. We can’t stop by willpower. It just doesn’t work that way.

This is why it’s so hard to like ourselves. We hurt inside when we fail.

Sharing my feelings with someone else when I’ve literally never done that before doesn’t happen by chance. That too will take time.

In the meantime, don’t be so quick to judge me. Not all of us men are evil. Many of us want to get it right. We really do. Perhaps we just don’t know how.

Is that a sin?

Be patient with us, please. Encourage. Ask questions. Listen.

We probably won’t respond right away. Trust doesn’t come naturally.

Be patient.

We just might get there someday.

This is one way to love our neighbor. We listen to his story. We share ours.

Our real stories.

We become brothers.

Paddock’s possible motive: loneliness

Stephen Paddock was married previously and currently had a girlfriend. He bought 33 guns in the past year, USA Today says. He was a real estate developer, but his full-time job was gambling. He was wealthy.

Paddock had no apparent ties to any terrorist groups, no political animosity or religious zealotry that might set him off.

So, what made him kill 59 people and injure more than 500 others in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history?

Understanding why

There’s one nugget in there that many people have overlooked, but that may provide an important clue.

As a gambler, according to The Associated Press, “his game of choice was video poker, a relatively solitary pursuit with no dealer and no humans to play against. And while neighbors described Paddock as friendly, he wasn’t close to them.”

Police still have no answers to Paddock’s motive. Joseph Lombardo, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department sheriff who has become the face of the investigation, questioned whether anyone would ever truly understand why the shooter did what he did, Yahoo reported.

Even his girlfriend apparently saw no warning signs of the mass shooting.

Perhaps that’s the way Paddock wanted it.

No clues. No warning. No history of hatred or violence.

The sheriff is likely correct. We never will fully understand why.

Loneliness

But it began in his head. His heart left him long ago.

He was a loner.

Even though he had relationships, he kept secrets.

Las Vegas Shooting

Many men keep secrets. We’re good at that. Especially those of us who struggle mightily to share our thoughts and feelings with someone else, even a spouse or close friend. Some of us never figure that out.

I understand loneliness very well.

It’s hard to describe or explain. Loners by definition do not share their deepest thoughts, desires or fears with anyone. When we feel injured or wronged, we internalize our feelings, twisting the pain over and over in our brains, most likely increasing the hurt and convincing ourselves that the person who wronged us had motives that he or she most likely didn’t.

In other words, we make the problem bigger than it really is. But that becomes our reality.

Crossing the line

What pain did Paddock suffer that affected his brain and/or damaged his heart so severely that he buried it?

It may not have been one thing. Perhaps little things just added up over the years, until he crossed a line.

Most loners don’t kill people. We react to internal pain differently than that. I’m sure we hurt the people closest to us by not opening up to them, not sharing our feelings and seeking help or at least a different perspective.

Paddock apparently had anger issues. I saw reports that he berated his girlfriend in public numerous times. Perhaps he was a control freak.

Perhaps he just didn’t know how to relate to a woman.

I wonder how prevalent that is in American society. Probably more so than any of us would care to admit.

Paddock didn’t care about people. He didn’t understand the human soul. If he did, he wouldn’t have destroyed so many.

The answer

How do we overcome loneliness? Can we discover that it’s enjoyable to be around other people?

Many of you won’t understand that question. You do enjoy the company of others. Affection and joy come naturally to you.

I envy you.

Some of us prefer to be alone. Even if we are in a long-term relationship, alone time is valuable to us. That’s not a slight against our significant others; it’s not their fault. Even though that hurts them. Deeply.

So, what’s the answer?

Communication.

Talking about our feelings, wishes and desires.

I know that.

But that doesn’t mean I do it.

It’s not natural. I daresay more men, especially, than we think understand this.

No precedent

I’m 57 years old. I’ve never in my life had an “accountability partner,” someone I can share my deepest secrets with.

Opening my deep heart with a man I trust would cross a line.

This line is worth crossing. Indeed, it’s necessary for inner peace and healing.

I should intentionally step out in faith and do it.

Trust does not come easy, however, when we’ve never done it.

So we continue to hurt ourselves, and we hurt those closest to us.

What was Paddock’s dark secret? Was it the gambling? If so, why did it turn lethal?

Or was it something else, something he never told anyone?

Did he keep a journal? I’m sure the authorities will find it if he did. That’s a place to write our deepest thoughts, yet keep them hidden.

We can’t hide our thoughts and feelings forever. I think we all know that.

Motive

manalay bay

We rent a hotel room, as Paddock did, for a myriad of reasons. Motive isn’t always as obvious as it seems.

My wife and I rented a room in Glendale, Colo., recently. The motel clerk did not know why, nor did she care – as long as we gave her our credit card to pay for it. We were there to visit our son who lives there, certainly a legitimate reason to rent a motel room.

Paddock spent thousands of dollars a day at the casino tied to the hotel where he rented a room last weekend. Over the years he gambled so much at that casino, they gave him the room for free. He was there to gamble, the hotel staff thought, I’m sure. Or, perhaps to see the country music festival, since he requested a room overlooking the venue.

We now know he had a different motive. Even his girlfriend was unaware.

Motive.

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we think the thoughts we think?

We cannot hide

Some of us prefer to keep those answers to ourselves.

But we will get found out.

Even if I hide my thoughts from you, the living God knows everything about me. I cannot hide from Him. That’s why you cannot judge me, but He can. You don’t know my motives. God does.

We may never know Paddock’s true motive. But God does.

Justice will come.

For you and me as well.

Ultimately, we cannot hide. We will get exposed.

Sooner or later.

Sooner is better. Let’s talk.