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#metoo, Part 2: Momentum

Last week I wrote about the good that’s sweeping our country with the #metoo campaign. Truly, something good has begun and I want to see the momentum continue.

But momentum can also get away from us, carrying us to places we don’t want to go. If our aims include individual healing, true justice, and healthy relationships in a healthy community, we have to take care how we handle momentum.

The anger coming out right now is an example of this.

Anger is a good and right response to sexual assault and abuse. For the victim, anger can help us move from silence to telling someone, from shrinking back to reaching out for help. For the larger community, anger can move us from passivity to action, from denial and minimization to facing the hard truth, acknowledging our part in the problem, and working together toward change.

But where the momentum of anger moves us into seeking vengeance, seeking to hurt back those who have hurt us, then the movement becomes a destructive force.

Some signs that anger is sliding this way include:

Assuming guilt without fairly hearing all the information.

Insisting that the guilty cannot change, and so should never be trusted again.

Treating sexual assault or abuse as unforgivable, irredeemable sins/crimes.

Casting doubt or judgment on everyone who resembles the guilty (e.g. all men, all leaders, all priests, all athletes, all those in power, etc.).

Refusing to face one’s own wrongful reactions to the abuse they’ve experienced.

This kind of anger may feel like a protection and a comforting balm, but in the end it denies those who have been wounded what they need most.

Anger may help pull down what’s wrong, but anger cannot put things right. This is why Scripture teaches us, “For the anger of man cannot produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Goodness is needed, compassion is needed, justice is needed, healing is needed.

And for these to come, forgiveness is needed.

Fleming Rutledge, in her book The Crucifixion, observes: “Only those who are forgiven and who are willing to forgive will be capable of relentlessly pursuing justice without falling into the temptations to pervert it into injustice.” A scan of human history reveals many angry oppressors who began as oppressed ones.

Any movement, even the best intended, if it refuses forgiveness will come far short of true and thorough healing. And for the individual person who has been wounded by sexual abuse, the road to true healing and freedom must go the way of forgiveness.

From the wounds of Jesus, forgiveness flows—to all of us who need mercy for the wrongs we’ve done and to all of us who need mercy for those who have wronged us.

Next week, I’ll write specifically about forgiveness as it relates to those who have been sexually violated.

Question: Do you agree that anger can get away from us? Do you have examples?

For you,
Josh

3 thoughts on “#metoo, Part 2: Momentum”

  1. I don’t have examples from this time and place, but anger can certainly be blinding. I love the phrase “From the wounds of Jesus, forgiveness flows…” So very true. In my own life only when I was able to forgive have I been able to find freedom from the past. Otherwise, I remained hobbled by resentment, payback, etc. Thank you for presenting more fullness to the picture.

  2. What has come out is only the tip of the iceberg of hidden sexual crimes by the powerful against the weak. If you think it’s over, time to settle in, forgive and heal, it’s obvious you have no idea the scope of the problem. Just as there can be no healing forgiveness until there is full disclosure, society can’t forgive yet. It is not anywhere near fully aware of the ways that systemic sexual abuse and harrassment have harmed all people. You wouldn’t want to stitch a patient closed til all the cancer is removed and we are just getting started.

    1. Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for your comments. I agree for sure: there is more light to be shed on the systemic problem, more cancer to be removed, and so culturally we’re not ready to stitch up the wound. I would hate to be misconstrued that way and wouldn’t want anyone to mis-use my words to defend the idea that it’s time to simply forgive and move on. I know doing so prematurely can be a form of minimizing the extent and depth of the damage done, avoiding the difficult work of restoration, and in the end, it would hurt the ones who need healing most.

      Simultaneously, I also believe we can err in other ways that likewise hurt those who need healing the most. Vilifying groups of people, assuming guilt, and harboring bitterness are examples of this. Refusing to forgive is another. I don’t mean not being ready yet to forgive (I know coming to forgive can take time), but I mean holding or encouraging a posture that refuses to forgive. If we neglect person-to-person forgiveness, if this isn’t present in us when pursuing justice, I don’t think we’ll find justice. And if forgiveness doesn’t become a part of our cultural conversation until we’re satisfied that the entire iceberg is exposed, I think our zeal will end up with us neglecting those who have been abused. This was what I intended to convey in my post. People’s healing can come even as we continue to pursue systemic cultural change, and in my opinion, only with their healing (which will come in part through forgiving their abusers) will the cultural change we hope for come to pass.

      Does this make sense? If not, maybe you could give me a call (our office is 410-661-0284) so I can better understand what I’m missing. My aim is to be in this together and I certainly don’t have all the answers. Thanks again for your thoughts.

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