MOVING IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION

Life moves so quickly; it is hard to believe that two years has passed since I started this blog.   When I decided to start Living As A Woman In A Fallen World, I wanted a platform to blog about some of the experiences that I had traveling the world, especially as they related to women.  I told myself that I would commit to blog for two years and then I would reassess.

I have to admit starting this blog was never wracking.  I am not for sure why, I guess I wondered who would want to take time to read what I had to say.  What if everyone disagreed with me or thought – “That was a really stupid posting.”  Well, you may have thought that but you were kind enough to keep it to yourself:-)  I did enjoy the process of blogging, especially when you posted comments.

I basically took the month of August off to contemplate if it I should continue with this blog, stop all together, or switch gears.  I decided it was time to say goodbye to this particular blog and go in a different direction.  Let me tell you why.

In March I finished my commitment in Africa, and I am now back in the U.S. re-engineering what I will be doing.  I have decided to go back to one of my other passions and that is stress management and leadership.  For the last six months I have been updating my skills in this area through reading and taking courses, and I just completed the John Maxwell Team certification in speaking, training, and coaching.  It has been a really great experience.

I decided that if this is the field that I am going to work in then it needed to be the sphere in which I blog.   So I have started a new blog, In A Stressful World, and I would like to invite you to follow it.  I will be posting about the latest research on stress –  causes, effects, and ways to deal with it.   Since stress management and leadership principles are so closely interwoven, I also will be including information about leadership.

I would love for you to visit my new website, which also will link you to my John Maxwell website.  If you know of anyone that is interested in a speaker or trainer on stress management and/or leadership will you let them know about me.  I promise to make it engaging and chocked full of easy-to-use information that will help add value to their lives.

Once again thank you for reading by blog and I hope you will follow In A Stressful World.

ARE YOU TRULY HELPING OR OVER COMPENSATING?

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The other day as I was shopping at the mall something unusual caught my eye.  I almost took a picture with my Smartphone, but decided that it would be an invasion of privacy.  What did I see?  It was an older couple in their tennis shoes out for an early morning walk around the perimeter of the mall.   I know that doesn’t sound so unusual, but it was the image of them together that made me stop and take a second look.

The older man had severe kyphosis (excessive curling of the spine which leads to a hunch back appearance), while his wife had an extreme backward tilt of her torso.   As their feet and legs walked in lock step his head and shoulders traversed ahead, while her head and shoulders brought up the rear.

The image of the two walking together has not left my mind.  It was as if she was trying to balance out her husband’s forward tilt by leaning way back.   I wondered if she had an orthopedic problem or if over the years she had subconsciously reacted to her husband’s worsening kyphosis by bending her torso further and further back.  If it was the latter she was not doing her or her husband any good, because her exaggerated posture was not only harmful to her, but it might eventually prevent her from being able to physically help him.

As I have thought about this older couple, I couldn’t help but think about how women often over compensate and try to balance out someone else’s problem.  When in fact we are not helping at all, but making things worse.

The image of this couple flashed through my mind as I listened to a New York mayoral candidate once again try to explain away is sexual peccadilloes.   This time his wife not only stood beside him, but she also talked about how much he had changed and that she believed in him.   I don’t know what her motive was to stand there and defend him; it was evident that what he had done was grievous to her.   But I did wonder if she was truly helping him as she stated that he would be an excellent mayor for New York.    Was she in fact like the older woman at the mall, doing an exaggerated backward bend trying to compensate for her husband’s moral failures?  Was she really helping him and their family’s future by telling everyone that this was a personal issue and that the voters should ignore it and vote for him?  Something tells me that her stand-by-her-man appearance won’t help at all, but instead endangers the healing of their marriage and family.

We women are relational beings and it is easy for us to over compensate to help someone we love.  The problem is instead of helping we may be causing harm to all involved.

I hope that I have painted a vivid visual depiction of the older couple walking at the mall.  Because the next time you think about helping, I want their image to pop into your mind and for you to ask yourself if you are truly being helpful or just over compensating?

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I am celebrating a two year anniversary of Living As A Woman…  My fingers are tired so I will be taking the rest of August off.  You will hear from me in September.

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  Why do you think it is a tendency for women to be guilty of over compensating?

DO WOMEN REALLY WANT TO GO DOWN THAT ROAD?

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I have to admit that for the most part, I believe that women should have the same rights and privileges as a man.  However, I understand that there are biological differences between females and males, which separate us into two unique genders.  For example, I can’t play on a NFL team even though I love football, obviously I don’t have the physiological make-up that is needed (plus I am way too old).  Men on the other hand are not biologically able to take on the tough task of childbirth.  Even though these are two very rudimentary examples of gender differences, the bottom line is we do differ in a number of ways both physiologically and psychologically.

I was thinking about gender differences as I read Hanna Rosin’s article The Chase Ways of Female Politicians in The Wall Street Journal.  The essence of the article is that women politicians will eventually become more like men when it comes to having illicit affairs.  The author believes that the only reason it has not yet occurred as frequently is because women politicians are afraid of getting caught and being drummed out of office.  Rosin posits that eventually powerful women are going to act just like powerful men – “vein, entitled, always looking for more.”

Reading this, I wanted to move into total denial and say no way will women ever be like Weiner or Sanford or Spitzer.  After all women have been given the God given gifts of being relational and nurturing and caring about the family unit.   However I know she is probably right.  We are hearing more and more stories of women casting aside concerns for their family so that they can please their own desires.

I sit here shaking my head wondering what is happening to our gender when we care more about our own needs than our relationship with those we love?  When our immediate pleasure is more important than the lives that will be destroyed in the wake of selfish acts, such as an affair.  When we think it is okay to abandon our responsibilities, because it is now the way of the world.

As I was contemplating Rosin’s article, I thought of a Facebook acquaintence who has recently left her husband.   I don’t know what all has transpired between her and her husband, nor do I need to know.  I do know that she and her husband are splitting the care of their children.

Since leaving her husband, she periodically post pictures on Facebook of herself and a male friend having a great time together.  I wonder if she has thought of the long-term consequences these pictures may have on her young children if they happen to see them.  From studying and teaching educational psychology and human development, I have a good hunch that the children would be puzzled over why mommy likes to be with those strangers and not them.  Why she seem to have so much fun with this man and her other friends, but not with them and daddy?  Their likely conclusion is that mommy probably does not love them as much as she does her friends.   If I had a true friendship with this young woman and we could have a thoughtful discussion, I would ask her if the possibility of her children seeing the pictures on Facebook is worth the few moments of pleasure she gets from posting them?

I am thankful that in the U.S. women have the same rights and privileges as men.  However, I caution all of us to stop and remember that with rights and privileges comes a lot of responsibility.  Let’s use it wisely.

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  In her article, Rosin sites economist Catherine Hakim who believes that sexiness and charisma acts as “erotic capital’ for women and helps them to be more successful in the marketplace.   What do you think?

The Book, The Interview, The Peep Culture

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At the YMCA, I stepped up on the elliptical machine to start exercising.  To entertain myself, I brought along a radio receiver and headphones so that I could listen to one of the five TV channels playing.  I am not for sure why, but one of the TV programs caught my attention and I decided to listen to it for a couple of minutes.

When I turned on my headset the first thing I heard was, “I want to introduce you to one of my friends who has just wrote a raunchy book.”  Laughter emitted from the other two panelist seated around the table.  The young woman, who had written the book, also laughed. . .I will come back to the interview in a moment.

The Book

After listening to the interview, I decided to go online and read more about the book.  According to reviews the book is a memoir about the author’s life, and it opens with the loss of her grandmother.  The author writes about how she used excessive drinking and chain smoking to grieve her loss.  Then as one reviewer writes, the rest of the book is about her transformation.   “But out of the darkness that threatens to overwhelm her, she begins a powerful and transformative journey through crazy one night stands and ill-advised hookups with friends; band benders mixing margaritas and marijuana…an encounter with a man who finally shows her that the chance for love never disappears.”

Another reviewer praised the author for being gutter-mouthed…having no fear…appearing naked on the cover of her first book…starting a political t-shirt line with sayings like ‘If It’s Date Rape, Do I get Dinner.’”  The last reviewer I read glowingly refered to her as a female Howard Stern.

The Interview

The reviews of the book were definitely reflective of the author’s hubristic attitude as she talked about her book.  From my perspective, the author’s responses were “narcissistic” or at the very least had an “all about me” tone.

Here are some excerpts from the interview (I was able to find it again online).

Panel member: (speaking to audience) I tried very hard to find an excerpt from the book that I could read to you but it was way too raunchy, I will let her tell you about it…

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Author:  My biggest challenge is trying to get everyone as interested in me as I am in myself.

Panel member:  It is a very self-absorbed gesture, a memoir.

Author:   I think I am very self absorbed.

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Panel member:  You write about your parents in this also.

Author:  Fair game, everyone knows that I am a writer; I don’t pretend that I am a scientist.

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Panel Member:  …[your book] focuses on a post-feminist world where young woman have potentially more freedom than their parent’s generation.  There is a lot of talk in your book about how you get from there to meaningful relationships.  Why are a lot of young people looking for commitment, while people in marriages wish they were younger or freer?

Author I think it is the advice that young girls are given and the rules that they are suppose to follow.  I think the rules are just made up.

Panel Member:  What is the most important rule to break?

Author:  I think all of them… You should do what you feel like doing because you feel like doing it.

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Panel member:   With a child on the way is this going to change your raunchy writing persona?

Author:   I hope not.

Panel member:  (jokingly) Don’t let this kid get in the way of your adventures.

Author:  My mother is really concerned about his (the unborn baby) well being.  I think there are a lot worse things I could be doing.   He’ll get on board.  He will be okay.  He doesn’t have a choice.

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I didn’t feel any better about the interview the second time I listened to it.  Though in fairness to the author her book does question the thinking that the only way a woman can have a good life is by being with a man.  And, she does talk about the importance of having a meaningful relationship, though I am not for sure how she would define one.

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The Peep Culture

As I was ruminating why a young woman would want to write about her successions of one-night stands and her ill-advised hook-ups, I came across another interesting book, The Peep Diaries:  How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors by Hal Niedzviecki.    Niedzviecki posits that we have entered into a “peep culture” where people feel free to tell-it-all and show-it-all.  He points out that this, along with the rapid emergency of digital technology, is radically changing our culture and society.  According to the review, Niedzviecki uses the latest sociological research to look at this trend.  His book “captures the shift from pop to peep… [and] reflects the aspirations and confusions of the growing number of people willing to trade the details of their private lives for catharsis, attention, and notoriety.”

I may have to purchase Niedzvieck’s book.  Maybe, from a sociological perspective, it will help me understand why as a society we need to tell-it-all and focus on self.  Frankly, I find this type of behavior kind of scary.

Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you the name of the young woman’s book did I.  Since we are living in such a self-absorbed world, I have decided that have no desire to promote her work.  So, I am not going to because I don’t want to.

After Thoughts

The more I thought about the peep culture, I couldn’t help but wonder how much I am contributing to it.  After all I write a blog sharing my thoughts.  What makes me think anyone else would care?  Isn’t blogging a bit egotistical?

I also belong to Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.  I have to admit that I am more of a voyeur on these, but isn’t voyeurism part of the problem with the peep culture. Hmmmm, something to think about – I never thought of myself as a “peeper” – oh my!

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  What do you think about our culture’s tell-all and show-all attitude?  How do you view social media’s contribution to society?  Your contribution to it? Is it changing our culture for the good or bad or having little effect?

Picture: Thomas Leuthard / Foter.com / CC BY

REALLY – MUST I BE EXPOSED TO THAT

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WARNING - this is not a posting of great import – it just gives me the opportunity to share a pet peeve because I need to get it off my chest (pun intended, read ahead and you will see what I mean).

This year for some reason, I have had the inopportune timing of being around men who were 50+ who chose not to wear a shirt in public.  It seems to me unless a man this age is in his own personal space, at a swimming pool or the beach he should accommodate everyone by putting on a shirt.

Frankly, few American men 50 or older have the physique to get by without wearing some type of top in public.  (I am not being sexist because I believe most women this age also would be more visually pleasing if they would wear age appropriate clothing.)

Three events in the last few months have left me shaking my head about this issue.  When I was at a guesthouse in Liberia there were a number of other Americans there, mostly men.  One morning I got up early and went out into the dining/living room to sit at the table and do some work.  I was quietly sitting there, fully dressed I might add, doing my work when a man came out into the living room and sat down facing me.   He had no shirt on and only a towel wrapped around his waist.  I quickly diverted my eyes because of the way he was sitting.   I coughed so that he would know that someone was there, and I was sure that he probably would want to put some more clothes on if he knew there was a woman in the room.  It didn’t seem to faze him. I do need to say that he was really sick and maybe he didn’t care how he was dressed.  He appeared this way off and on throughout the day even though three women were present.  I was waiting for one of his comrades to suggest that he either should stay in his room, or he might want to cover up a bit more.

The next morning as I was once again sitting at the table, this time eating breakfast. One of his colleagues (50+) seated himself next to me to work on his computer.  I looked up to greet him and found myself staring at a slightly hairy chest.  Now I know it was hot and probably cooler for him, but really did I want to eat my breakfast as he sat there with no shirt.   Let me assure you that this man was no Adonis who would make a woman’s heart flutter.  I thought to myself, these men are pastors and they would not have found it acceptable for women to have come to the table inappropriately clothed, so why should they?  My 26-year-old female companion and I laughed about it.  I don’t think I was quite as disgusted as she was, because I understand that the body does not treat us kindly as we age.

These memories came back today as I went down to our hotel’s fitness room.   On the treadmill was an older gentleman in his 70s who was exercising without a shirt.  I credit him for exercising, but did I have to be exposed to him being shirtless?    I thought about leaving and then coming back, but I didn’t have time so I decided to stay and exercise.  I found when you are in a small room exercising you can’t constantly avert your eyes from someone else in the room. It was neither appealing to watch sweat drip off his drooping pectoral muscles or watch his midsection jiggle.   Even though he was in pretty good shape for his age, his body probably wasn’t what it use to be.

I warned you that this blog was not about a serious problem just my own personal pet peeve.  And perhaps, I just need to get over myself.  But let me close with this one last thought:

MEN OF AMERICA THAT ARE 50+, PLEASE WEAR A SHIRT WHEN YOU ARE IN A PUBLIC PLACE – I GUARANTEE WOMEN WILL FIND YOU MUCH MORE APPEALING!!!!

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  Feel free to share your own pet peeve or respond to what I have written.

LET ME SEE IF I UNDERSTAND THIS…

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A woman is raped….she should have been able to stop it, especially if she is of lower economic status…to resolve the crime it would be good for her to marry the rapist.

Sometimes, I just shake my head in disbelief.  The piece, To Wed Your Rapist, or Not:  Indian Women on Trial, highlights the plight of many women around the world.

The article captures a pervasive belief that when a woman is raped it is really not the man’s fault; therefore it must be the woman’s.   Let me share some of the thoughts that were espoused by some men from India.

  • If stronger laws are put in place to protect women then it is more than likely that many women will try to ensnare a man by falsely accusing him.
  • If a woman is raped she loses value and then it is hard for her to find someone that wants to marry her.
  • If a woman is friendly to a male counterpart then obviously it means that she is sexually available.
  • If a woman is a part of the labor class then she will be stronger physically and she should be able to fight off the rapist(s).   If she is middle-class or higher then it is more than likely she might faint or be powerless from fright.
  • According to a retired Supreme Court judge it would be appropriate for a woman who was raped to marry her rapist, though she should not be coerced.  It is a marriage of compromise; protecting the man from going to jail and keeping the woman and her family from being stigmatized.
  • Two judges that presided over a trial of a woman who was gang raped by 30 men and then was held as a sex slave concluded the men were not guilty.  One of the determining factors was that she already had a deviant background because she had once lied to her parents about giving some money to a friend.  In addition, she had been planning on taking a trip with a male friend without plans of marriage (obviously in their minds these two actions indicated that she was asking to be raped by 30 men).  The other judge pronounced that since she had been held as a sex slave that this was not rape but child prostitution and child prostitution is not rape, but it is immoral.

A LONG PAUSE……

Excuse me while I was gone, I was “beating my head against the wall.”

Many women must feel like there is little hope when even the judiciary buys into such outrageous beliefs or excuses.

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 IN OUR OWN BACKYARD

It appears that the same thing is happening in our backyard as the Pentagon again investigates sexual abuse of women in the U.S. military.  Some of the findings:

  • Women on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are reporting that they restrict their fluids in the evening so that they do not have to get up in the middle of the night to use the latrine because of fear of sexual assault.
  • Many female soldiers believe that the U.S. military is a culture where men feel that they are entitled to sex with female troops.
  • Female soldiers report that often their rapist outranks them, so each day the victim has to salute and report to her rapist.
  • Pentagon data suggest that “hundreds of thousands of current and former members of the military have been raped, sexually assaulted, or subjected to ‘unwanted’ sexual contact.”
  • Often the military handles cases of rape and sexual assault as “distractions from ‘good order and discipline’.”  Instead of putting the offender on trial, he is transferred or demoted and the woman often receives a diagnosis of a personality disorder.   This in turn can lead to the woman being discharged from the service with “a personality disorder for not being able to adequately adjust to being raped.”  While the rapist go on to have a military career with full retirement benefits.
  • Jennifer Norris, who was a victim of rape in the Air Force, and who is now a volunteer at the Military Rape Crisis Center reports a common theme: “Military men and women who are attacked by sexual predators and who report it are met with disbelief and skepticism, blamed for the crime, and disposed of one way or another…others just keep quiet because they’re ‘afraid of retaliation by the predators in the ranks.… It’s a problem in every branch of service.’”

 A LONG PAUSE……

This time I am just taking a deep breath, because “beating my head against the wall” obviously does no good.

I know that many men would find this treatment of women equally disgusting.  I also know that around the world many women would just turn their heads and/or believe their female counterparts were deserving of such treatment.

What can we do?  Let us start by talking to our sons and other men and let them know that this type of behavior is totally unacceptable.  Let us counsel our daughters and tell them that no female deserves this type of treatment and should speak out if it happens to hear because she has done nothing wrong.  Let us demand that the man be tried for rape when such a crime occurs.  And, let us hang the stigma of such violent action around the rapist’s neck and not the woman’s.

(I encourage you to read the National Journal article The Enemy Within)

Photo credit: European Parliament / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Siem Reap 028_2What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  Sometimes I don’t even know what question to ask.  So no question this time but feel free to post thoughts you may have.

PATHETIC – DOESN’T ANYONE HAVE A BACKBONE???

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The day before I flew back to the U.S., a friend, I will call her Debbie, told me about a young woman who is being beaten by her husband.   One of the most severe beatings had happened in public and no one had stepped in to help her.  The situation has become so bad that Debbie sequestered money so that the young woman could access it if she needs to flee.  I was dismayed because I knew this young woman and if I had known earlier, I would have tried to see if there was something I could have done to intervene.

The question becomes how do I help when I am miles away and come from a different cultural perspective?  A perspective that promotes women are equal to men and should have the same rights and that a man has no right to abuse a woman and for that matter, a woman has no right to abuse a man.  I believe that community members should be willing to stand up when they see abuse, especially the Christian community.

It breaks my heart that this young woman is a Christian and supposedly her husband is also.   It has become apparent that fellow Christians know she is being beaten, yet are not willing to say or do anything.  This is one of the times when I think it is appropriate to ask, “What would Jesus do?”   Can you imagine Jesus standing there as a woman gets beat and saying this is none of my business?

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End Of Flowers
Lonely she watches over the crumbling ruins, being the only one to see how everything falls apart, including her own image on the wall…

As much as I want to jump right in and do something, you have to be careful because your actions can make the situation worse or even deadly.   So I e-mailed Debbie and asked permission to write the Christian organization, with which the victim is affiliated, and let them know what is happening.  Debbie felt this was not the best time to e-mail the organization based on the response from the victim.  The young woman believes it probably wouldn’t do any good because more than likely the local organization’s administration would see it as a family matter and therefore would not intervene.  And an intervention might put the organization in an awkward situation, which could be harmful for them and their families.  And it probably would make things worse for the young woman.

When I received that reply, part of me wanted to jump up and yell – PATHETIC – DOESN’T ANYONE HAVE A BACKBONE???  As Christians aren’t we called to take risk and standup for the poor and oppressed?  (And let’s not kid ourselves the same thing happens to women in the West, it just isn’t as overt.)

However I know this is an over reaction because this might not be the organizations response at all, but the perception of the victim based on what normally happens in her culture.

What have I decided to do?  Out of respect for this young woman’s request and concern for her well being, I am going to wait a month or two and then I will write to the organization about setting up a future policy to help women who find themselves in this situation.  By this time, the young woman will no longer be affiliated.  I am hoping when I write that the young woman’s assumption is wrong.  Instead, she and others will find that this Christian organization will be a force in the community promoting equality and safety for women.

I will continue to pray that this young woman will be able to get the help that she needs and will keep in touch with Debbie.  I have to be realistic and understand that the only other way I might be able to help from such a distance is financially.   However, in the back of my mind I keep having this niggling thought – why aren’t you doing more Vicki?  Is it true there is nothing more you can do or don’t you have a backbone?

Photo credit: SnaPsi Сталкер / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  What would you do if you were in this situation?  Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated?

REPUGNANCE OF THE SOUL

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I have always thought that I would like to be a part of a “think tank.”   The idea to be able to research and debate issues and then suggest answers to problems seems like the ultimate job.   And then I read comments from someone like Leon Kass and determine that I would be way out of my league.  Dr. Kass is an eminent bioethicist and physician who is not afraid to share his perspective on issues that can have a profound effect on the human race, even though he is often in the minority.

In a WSJ interview Dr. Kass observed that the world’s indifference to the matters of human dignity is increasing.  He proffers that when we look at situations such as the murder of infants by the Philadelphia abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, we should feel a sense of repugnance.  He states,

“As pain is to the body so repugnance is to the soul…So too with anger and compassion.  november-garden-of-melancholyRepugnance is some kind of wake-up call that there is something untoward going on and attention must be paid.  These passions are not simply irrational.  They contain within them the germ of insight.  You cannot give proper verbal account of the horror of evil, yet a culture that couldn’t be absolutely horrified by such things is dead.”

Kass goes on to say that his fear is that American society is in danger of being “disrespectful of dignity and indifferent of degradation.”  He speaks to the issue of abortion, but he also believes that the same danger rears its ugly head when we seek after “perfect babies, ageless bodies, and happy souls” with the use of modern technology and psychopharmacology.    He warns that the advancement in science does not mean the advancement of morals.

I have thought a lot about this interview.  I am sure that it has intrigued me because Dr. Kass has so eloquently expressed what I have been thinking (though I do not presume that my thinking plumbs the depths as his does). From my own observation, and perhaps a reflection of my own actions, instead of recoiling to what is happening around us we often turn our heads thinking there is nothing we can do because it seems so overwhelming.   Or we fall into the trap of not questioning the cultural philosophy that is being fed to us or the use of the latest technology.   Instead like lemmings we follow others without raising the question of where we are going and how it will affect human dignity.

I encourage you to read the interview with Dr. Kass, The Meaning of the Gosnell Trial.  Then share your thoughts.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  How would you respond to Dr. Kass’ stance?  To the critic that believes the word, repugnance, should not be used because it is prejudicial in nature and can be used to exclude certain groups or people?

ADDING VALUE THROUGH A CONVERSATION – I THINK?

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Since I have been home from Liberia I have been re-engineering what my professional life will look like.   I am taking the next two to three months to do a lot of reflecting (praying), reading, training, and planning.   One of the endeavors I have decided to participate in is the John Maxwell Team training.  I have always enjoyed Maxwell’s work because his leadership training is based on foundational principles that are consistent with my Christian worldview.

As I contemplated if I would join the training I listened to one of John Maxwell’s podcast and heard him state that it is important to “add value to the lives of others, to do it well, to do it consistently and to do it with integrity.”   I thought yes, this is a philosophy of leadership training that I want to follow.

TRYING TO ADD VALUE

The other day I went to the YMCA for my regular workout.   As I sat down to use one of the weight machines, an older gentleman on the machine next to me began a conversation.  Sometimes when I am working out I don’t really want to talk to anyone but just concentrate on what I am doing.  I thought to myself life is about adding value – I need to show a genuine interest in this man and carry on a conversation.  Perhaps he is lonely and needs someone with whom to talk.  So our conversation went something like this:

Older Gentleman:  Three people have been on that machine since I have been sitting here.

Me:   Well, it is part of the circuit that we use when doing weights.

The man began to tell me about his back problems, which really ended up being hip problems.  He had had two hip replacements.

Me:   It makes you thankful for your health doesn’t it, especially now that you are able to stand up and move.

Older Gentleman:  I have never thought about being thankful for my health.

A significant switch in the conversation then occurred.

Older Gentleman:  That is an old crown that was probably put in during the ‘70s.  The guy that put it in is probably dead.

Me:   (What is he talking about?  The crown in my mouth?)  Oh… (hesitant), are you a dentist?

Older Gentleman:  Use to be.  You better watch it when the undertaker buries you he’ll yank it out.

I smiled and walked by him as I made my way to another machine.  Again another switch in the conversation.

Older Gentleman:  Did you go to church Sunday?

Me:   Yes I did, I went to Cornerstone in Brighton.

Older Gentleman:  I hear that is a good church.

He then proceeded to tell me about a number of churches that he had tried and what he didn’t like about them.   I told him that he would have to try Cornerstone; we have great music and preaching. 

I can’t remember exactly how, but the conversation moved on to the fact that I had been traveling back and forth to Liberia.

Older Gentleman:  Well who pays for you to go?

Me:   I do

Older Gentleman:  You must be rich.

Me:  No.

Older Gentleman:  Are you married?  (I nodded yes).  Too bad my plan won’t work…does your husband go along with you?

Me:  He went with me once a year?

Older Gentleman:  Well that cost even more money – he must be rich.  What did he do?

Me:  No he is not rich, we just saved.  He was a detective lieutenant in the Michigan State Police.

Older Gentleman:  He must be in good shape.  (Of course, honey I told him you were.)

Older Gentleman:  Well I wouldn’t have the money to do what you have done; I have spent it all on my three wives who have left me.   To bad you are married, I like someone with spunk.  Do you have a sister?

Me:  No.

Older Gentleman:  Do you have any girl friends?  (Don’t worry girl friends I didn’t sell you out.)

Me (smiling):  I am not for sure that my friends would trust a man who has been married three times.

Older Gentleman:  I don’t want to marry them just someone to date.

Me:  Hmmmmm.

Concluding that the conversation was over, the older gentleman picked-up both of his canes and slowly made his way toward the fitness room exit.

WHAT SHOULD I BE THINKING

I couldn’t help but laugh as I reflected on exactly how I should be feeling after the conversation that just occurred.  I figured that I had four options:

  1. Depressed that this older gentleman targeted me as viable dating material.
  2. Pleased that he knew a real “quality” woman when he saw one.
  3. Thankful for the tip to get the gold cap on my back molar yanked out before I die and I am sent to the undertaker (I need to leave some type of inheritance for my daughter:-).
  4. Have a good laugh because laughter adds value to anyone’s day.

I opted for “4.”   I am still laughing about the conversation as I write this post.  I hope I added some value to his day, because he certainly did mine.

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Siem Reap 028_2

What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  What has added value to your life today?

 

MEMORIES SPARKED

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I had arrived at my classroom early and was writing information on the white board to prepare for class.  Two female students entered the college classroom, took their seats and began a discussion about one of their mutual friends.   The conversation went something like this.

Student 1:  “I heard that Amy (fictional name) is pregnant.”

Student 2:   “Yeah, she is but she is not going to marry the baby’s father.”

Student 1:  “Oh, I didn’t know that.”

Student 2:  “She doesn’t need the baby’s father anyway; her dad said she could live with him.  She can do it on her own.”

I am not quite for sure what possessed me because I pivoted around with an incredulous look on my face and said to the student, “Do you really believe what you just said?   If you do then I think you need to think about reality.   The likelihood of your friend living in poverty has just increased.   Statistically as a single mom she will not be able to complete her education and will struggle much of her adult life trying to raise a child while working at a low paying job.  I addition if your friend makes no effort to keep the biological father in the picture, more than likely her child will struggle the rest of his life wondering why his father abandoned him.”

Oh there was so much more that I wanted to say, but I stopped myself because they were looking at me like I was a mad woman.  Thank goodness it was toward the end of the semester and they knew that I usually was not so confrontational with students.

This scenario actually happened over 10 years ago; the vivid remembrance was sparked by the 2013 report, Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, published by The National Marriage Project.

Knot Yet - The Benefits and Costs...nationalmarriageproject.org

Knot Yet – The Benefits and Costs…nationalmarriageproject.org

The report stated that though fewer teenagers are having children out of wedlock, there has been a substantial increase of unmarried moms in their twenties.  “By age 25, 44 percent of women have had a baby, while only 38 percent have married; by the time they turn 30, about two-thirds of American women have had a baby, typically out of wedlock. Overall, 48 percent of first births are to unmarried women, most of them in their twenties. (p. 3).”   The researchers found that the highest number of unmarried women in their twenties with children were high school graduates with only a year or two of college.  Women with a bachelor’s degree or higher were usually waiting to be married before having children.

Perhaps one of the key findings of the report was that young adults view  “marriage as a ‘capstone’ rather than a ‘cornerstone’ – that is something they do after they have all their ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for a launching into adulthood and parenthood (p. 4).”   The researchers point out that young people want to be married someday; they just don’t see any reason in marrying young.  Nor do most in this age range see marriage as a necessity in raising children.  Even if the couple is cohabitating when the woman gets pregnant, they still see no hurry in getting married – they can get married later.  The reality is that in a high number of cases the relationship with the baby’s father  doesn’t last.  The couple never get married, the man leaves, and the woman finds herself parenting on her own.

Even though the unmarried mother may be older, the repercussions remain the same.  Statistically the mother and child will have a greater chance of living in poverty, with the children having more behavioral problems, higher drug use, increased problems in school, are less likely to get a college education, and more likely to become single parents.

As I read through the report I kept thinking of the unintended consequences that these choices would have on the children and the single mother.  My thoughts drifted back to last fall when I taught human development at a Liberian university.

ANOTHER MEMORY

It was a busy week with my afternoons filled with students who came to my office to discuss their biopsychosocial papers they were writing for the human development course.  During the discussion of how each student’s family had influenced him/her biologically, psychologically, and socially a common theme began to unravel, especially with the young men.  As personal stories were shared, students talked about being raised by their mothers who had sacrificed so much to care for them.  But the stories inevitably included images of poverty, hunger, struggling to survive, and of the longing to know their biological fathers.  The students’ voices waivered with deep sorrow as they shared how being abandoned by their fathers had shaped their lives.

I wasn’t surprised to hear these stories because Liberia has the second highest rate in the world of teen-age pregnancy between 15-19 years old.   Obviously this has had a significant social and economic impact on Liberia with women and children bearing the brunt of this harsh reality.   Many of these young women live in squalid conditions; their children never know their fathers, and the father of their children move on impregnating other women.

As a woman it breaks my heart that we live in a world that negates the importance of both a mother and a father being involved in and taking responsibility for child rearing.  I know that life is not perfect and there are many single parents that are doing a fabulous job of raising their children, but I am sadden for them because parenting is hard and being a single parent makes it even harder.   As much as the single parent tries to keep it together, the parent and the child(ren) are at the risk of facing unintended consequences.

QUESTIONS RAISED

The purpose of this post is not to cast aspersion upon women in their twenties that are having children out of wedlock, but to raise questions:

What deceptions have we fed and continue to feed to young women and men that these are wise-choices for them, for their children to-be, and for society as a whole? 

How do we come along side these young women and children with hope and not condemnation? 

How do we teach about the importance of marriage and child rearing without preaching?  

How do we uplift without enabling? 

And from my Christian worldview: How do we help young adults view marriage as a sacred institute that God has ordained, which is one of the safest and most viable places to raise children and build a strong marriage and fulfilling life?

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Siem Reap 028_2

What is a Think Through?  it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.

Today’s Think Through:  I would like to hear your thoughts and/or response to any of the questions I posted above or maybe you have another thought concerning this issue that you would like to address .

References:

Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America. (2013).  Retrieved March 2013 from National Marriage Project at University of Maryland: http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/KnotYet-FinalForWeb.pdf

Harmful Practices affecting Girls in West Africa: Perspectives from Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. (2011 August). Retrieved 2012 8-March from UNICEF: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/cedaw_crc_contributions/DefenceforChildrenInternational.pdf

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