I scroll and I scroll and I stop—scroll back to the top. My cursor blinks in my own status bar and I wait and wait on an emotional cocktail of courage, wisdom, discretion and passion to wash down and make me feel like it’s the right time and the right way to say, “Me too.”
Then, I scroll and I scroll again.
I learned one of the most important life lessons quickly when I lived in India with young women who had survived years of literal sex slavery: People’s stories of pain and suffering are sacred. It is an honor for someone to trust you enough to share their stories of pain.
Over the past 24 to 48 hours, women and girls (and men and boys) in droves have shared, in varying degrees of detail, the reality of sexual assault and harassment in their lives. Every status I have read has filled me with thankfulness and grief.
I am thankful for the courage and the bravery of those who have shared. I am grieved that the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment is at once so widespread and so unacknowledged that hundreds of thousands of voices on the strangely powerful but impersonal platform of social media have to raise their personal pain in the face of society to convince the world of the problem.
British abolitionist William Wilberforce, when he was laboring to abolish slavery in England, led small tours of slave ships. High class, influential people were forced to breathe in the stench of human excrement, see the size of the traveling spaces, feel the weight of the shackles and listen to the horror stories of the slave trade.
Wilberforce concluded with the following: “You may choose to look the other way, but you may never again say that you did not know.”
Here we are, friends, with stories of pain, abuse, assault and harassment before our eyes, ears and hearts. And we can no longer say that we did not know.
#MeToo demands a response from all of us. #MeToo calls all of us to engage our relationships with gentleness, respect, honesty, vulnerability and profound care. While every human has been sinned against, women and girls particularly have been victimized through history—across almost all cultures. How does that shape your policy-making, congressman? How does that change your preaching, pastor? How does that affect your practice, counselor? How does that shape your work, artist? How does that impress your parenting, mom? How does that inform your friendship, friend? How does that influence your dating life, millennial?
It should radically change us all to know that the majority of women we encounter have experienced some form of sexual violation. It should turn us into the kindest of friends, the fiercest of advocates, the best of listeners. It should make us the most just and honorable men, and the most compassionate and strong and gracious women.
Well-known expert in sexual trauma Dan Allender shared in an interview, “You know, we wouldn’t really need counselors if we had real friends.” While mental health professionals are incredibly valuable, Allender is pointing out the inauthentic, complacent and self-centered nature of many of our relationships. #MeToo should change this.
If you saw friends, relatives and co-workers share their experience in any form, don’t opt for silence and distance in this cultural moment. Say something. Say thank you. Say you believe them. Say you’re sorry. Say you want to live in such a way that fights the objectification of women. Say that you’re there if they want to share more, and then really be there. Say that what happened to them does not define them.
Whether it has been sexual assault or another form of trauma and pain, we are frail and fractured creatures who are meant for glory. The way we treat one another always, but especially in raw and visceral moments like this one, affects that process of glory-growing.
C.S. Lewis wrote these heavy words in The Weight of Glory:
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
This must be our weepy and terribly profound response to #MeToo: Gently to shine the glory of faithful friendship, just living and merciful response like a sunrise into the broken ruins of pain.
is a lover of Jesus, wife, music-maker, advocate and writer who is based in St. Louis, MO. You can find her music at www.joshandhannahherum.com and her writing at www.hannahvherum.wordpress.com.