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I'm not here to re-count the revelations surrounding Penn State and some of its coaches and administrators.
You're a well-informed person.
I have no doubt the information is cascading out of your electronic devices as fast as it is pouring out of mine.
Make no mistake. I'm angry and grieved.
But that's not what I want to talk about right now.
Instead, I want to look specifically at 3 things the Penn State scandal is ready to give YOU.
1. An opportunity to better appreciate what is GOOD about sex.
"What?!" you might be saying. "Isn't this scandal all about what is bad about sex?"
The degree to which we see sex skewed, manipulated and used for harm should remind all of us the degree to which it is tender, powerful and sacred in its right context of a loving marriage.
Those of you in particular who have been consistently lackadaisical and indifferent about sex in your marriage, I implore you to listen to me.
One of the greatest ways we can take a stand against sexual depravity is to nurture, protect and value sex in our marriage bed.
If you want to side with God on the horrendous injustice of sexual abuse, then please be equally willing to side with Him on the indescribable one-flesh gift He offers you when you make love to your spouse.
If sex in your marriage is a place of pain, sadness and miscommunication, then do everything within your power to seek healing, hope and health.
Sex, designed by God, is meant to endear you to your spouse. The Penn State scandal should help clarify this for us.
The scandal also is...
2. An opportunity to talk to your kids about sexual integrity.
Many speakers, writers and bloggers (myself included) have expressed the necessity of parents to talk to their kids about sex. I've written two posts on this, including this one and this one. Mrs. Hot Holy Humorous also did a post worth reading.
There are more resources than I could even list that equip people to do this -- and not just to do it, but to do it with depth and a lifetime of age-appropriate conversations.
And yet -- so many parents don't!
What is up with that?!
Either they don't do it at all; do it with shockingly little depth; or hide indefinitely behind the safe excuse of "I'm protecting their innocence."
(Notice I used the word "indefinitely" in that last sentence. I'm not saying there isn't value to a child's innocence -- to shielding them from adult complexities they neither should nor can comprehend. But this whole "protecting their innocence" mantra is too often extended to a point where their innocence, ironically, is then decimated by what they learn from media, friends and entertainment).
Every parent must decide what information their child needs to know regarding sex and at what age they need to receive it. (I'm one who leans on the side of earlier being better, but I respect not everyone feels that way).
Here are some teachable moments we gleaned from the Penn State scandal that we then passed along to our 13-year-old (who, by the way, has learned about sex through ample age-appropriate conversations over several years):
We reminded him that not only is it wrong for an adult to touch him sexually, it also is wrong for an adult to ask him to touch them sexually. (Yes, it's good to explain both, because it may not occur to a young person that the adult will ask the child to do something to them sexually, instead of only the adult touching the child).
We reminded him that anyone who would want to harm him will lie to him. They will tell him that we as his parents will be ashamed. They will tell him he will "get in big trouble." They will tell him a host of other bold-faced lies -- all in an attempt to silence him and derive further sexual pleasure.
We reminded him that anyone who would entice him would do so with something that will resonate with him. The "want a puppy" or "want some candy" examples are usually short-sighted and over-simplified.
I told my son that someone who wants to molest him would likely say something like, "Hey dude, I have all these extra video games that my friend got real cheap at this store where he works. I don't know what to do with them. Do you want some of them?"
See the difference?
Role play with your kids so they know what a predator is likely to say. And remind them to trust their gut... if something feels uncomfortable... even when they are around someone they know well... they need to get out of there and tell a parent or trusted adult.
We reminded our son that standing up for what is right potentially comes at huge personal sacrifice.
Our son is an athlete, so I used an athletic example.
I said that a moment may come where he will see a coach he respects do something that is clearly wrong (steal money, molest a child, abuse someone, etc.) If indeed he sees this (or hears of it), he must immediately call attention to it (or get help if the situation warrants it), even if it means that he could be ostracized by the coach or team members, lose playing time or even be kicked off the team.
The Penn State scandal also gives you...
3. An opportunity to trust your own gut.
When I was a child, I knew I was as accountable to my friends' parents as I was to my own.
That's not the case today. We live in an age where people are pretty protective of their parenting, and to a degree, I understand this. Nowadays it is less likely that children are surrounded by other kids whose families all share the same or similar values.
So, we tend to keep to ourselves and "not interfere."
But the Penn State scandal should remind us that as responsible ethical adults, we have to trust our guts when we suspect a child is being abused or sexually exploited.
I know this is not easy, because let's face it -- we could be wrong. We could misinterpret something that isn't really happening. There is risk involved -- risk if we stay quiet, and risk if we speak up.
But we're talking about kids here. I can't help but echo what former Penn State player and current ESPN analyst Matt Millen said in response to the Penn State scandal. Through tears he said,
"This is about people, and if we can't protect our kids, we as a society are pathetic."
Maybe that's harsh. But what resonates through that comment is that collectively, those of us who operate with integrity and high regard for the well-being of children, need to trust our gut if we suspect something.
How we act upon that gut reaction may vary with the circumstances.
Maybe you confer with another adult close to the situation to get their take on things?
Maybe you ask the kid more questions to see what further information you can gain?
Maybe you immediately call the police if a child tells you what happened or you see something happen?
Maybe you do a combination of actions to ensure you know you've done all you can.
From where I'm standing, I really think the Penn State scandal is ready to give us all some opportunities.
Within every sexual scandal are opportunities for heightened awareness. That may be heightened awareness about the state of our own marriage, the well-being of our own children, or the well-being of other children.
And, as always, I pray we are compelled toward a spiritual longing for the things of God -- a hunger for the Lord who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
If ever there was a time for a promise like that, it is in situations like these.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.