Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue.

I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

How can we protect ourselves from shaming and abuse without being selfish?


John said...

Is it possible to protect ourselves from shaming and abuse at all?

Without being selfish? I definitely think so. If you are constantly being shamed/abused by someone or something, we have a responsibility to still love that person, but that does not mean that we have to be in direct community with them if they keep hurting us. I fully believe in second chances, but there comes a point where we need to protect ourselves. And I don't view that as selfish.

If you just cut that person out of your life and refused to ever forgive them, that's not very Christ-like and would be selfish. But at the same time, we must be careful about letting someone like that back into close community with us.

Greg said...

Thanks for your perspective.

Dan Brennan said...

Great question, Greg,

Community, friendships, "open" relationships. Part of the shame dynamic is withdrawal or isolate oneself from others.

At a broader level--where there is communal shame and abuse is involved from leadership, greater engagement with virtuous comunities and friendships.

"Protecting" ourselves from abuse and shame dynamics is not an exact science, nor, should it have an absolute, one of a kind response, though, distancing response. I think different levels of "abuse" and "shame" must be differentiated and therefore different levels of "protection." Part of the western therapeutic culture has encouraged selfish responses to "shame" and "abuse" in the name of "protection." These have almost become code words for "Run, Forrest, Run" from communities, friendships, and marriages.

John said...

Hey Dan,
Thanks for joining the discussion. I totally agree with you. Most responses to shaming/abuse should be ones of distancing. But it gets messy when things such as marriage (which is ordained by God) are brought into the picture.

It's not possible to totally protect ourselves from abuse/shame, because those things are naturally going to occur in community/relationship. But how we deal with them is so important. But I wholeheartedly agree that dealing with these possibilities with a "Run Forrest Run" mentality is not healthy, and inherently could be selfish.

Dan Brennan said...

Hi John,

To use a cultural example, the history of the feminist movement provides an interesting study along these lines. While they have contributed much to the freedom and healing of women they have also provided a negative example of distancing themselves too much away from men, etc. while at the same time, undermining their own friendships.

Distancing, or "blanket" distancing, is not the way of Christ, imo. I can think of Christian leaders who have modeled this distancing dynamic who haven't spoken to each other for five years. Something is "off" there. High walls are not the way of Christ, where in the new heavens and the new earth, the lion and lamb dwell together.

Nuanced distance and direct communal love shapes the virtues of patience, love, faith, hope in not abstract ways, but through relationships.

Greg said...

Thanks Dan and John. I think I'd agree that while there is a need for protection and shelter, there has to be a nuanced negotiation and interaction based on the levels of shame and abuse.

How about this? The way of Christ would be seeking redemption through the mediation of the cross wherever possible. Structural mediation, if I can say it that way, may be necessary but should only take place as a last resort and not as a primary response. SM, however, when it has to take place, is not an end in and of itself, but is done in order to hopefully restore what is broken.

Fjodorii said...

In addition to what Dan said, not only 'selfish protection' has been a problem (e.g. in western culture indeed), but also violence (in arab-islamic culture for instance this has been explained as being part of a "honor-shame culture" by some observers). But no matter how we explain it, it seems obvious that a selfisch component is peeping around the corner very easily. It has sometimes be said that feeling humiliated too soon may (in certain cases) be identical to haughtiness.

However, on the other hand, the remark of John strikes me, when he writes that "it gets messy when things such as marriage (which is ordained by God) are brought into the picture". Here, people may often feel sometimes feel like they are caught in a prison. But not a 'real' prison, rather one in which you have not even any privacy anymore. Your 'jailer' gets in all the time and expects you to be nice, pretend to be happy. There are some terrible situations 'in the field' out there.

Greg sais something about 'hopefully restore what is broken' but in reality this is not always possible (and the bible verse about 'everything being possible with God' is not a magic wand so it seems - or is it). I think structural mediation is often *heavily underestimated* in this field. (Would you agree with that, Greg?)

Dan Brennan said...

I'm not a linguist, or a professional philosopher (have to yield to Greg's scholarship) but there is so much meaning packed into what is "selfish," what is "shame" and what is "abuse."

Although I believe Western psychology contributes "common grace" into Christianity, I also believe its categories and promotion of the self (and therefore "protection" of the self) has created and supported "protection" that is not consistently supported by the gospel, or the cross of Christ, loving your enemies, and laying down your life for your friends. The Western therapeutic culture has created a category of "relational enemies" with its focus on self-protection and "boundaries."

I think there are plenty of gospel nuances that are by no means passive or isolationist in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation rather than boundaries and distance. The ultimate question for the Christian is not how can I protect myself? That's not the question of Christ hanging on the cross--for you and for me.

It *is* a question to consider; it's not though, the "ultimate" question in marriages, friendships or communities.

The Walk said...

"The ultimate question for the Christian is not how can I protect myself?"

Well said, Dan. There will be relationships we are called to in which we will experience shame or even abuse. I guess this is one of those many places where connection and community are so important. God strengthens us, but one of the big ways He does so can be through the support of those around us. So if we're in that terrible marriage, loving that difficult child, trying to create a healthy relationship with that astranged mother or father...well, I guess we need to be there for one another. Living in community, supporting one another.

Dan Brennan said...

Thank you, the walk.

I'm not advocating abuse and shame. I'm not saying that we can't ask the question that Greg asked. It is a question to consider. It's not the ultimate question. And to your list, I would add, friendships. The gospel calls us to all kinds of friendships--not just convenient friendships, but friendships where we have to risk our "security" for forming a deeper unity that astonishes the world.

Greg said...

Thanks for joining in and welcome to Living Spirituality.

Truly some terrible situations - bad marriages and otherwise. I agree that it is not always possible to see restored what is broken and that there are no magic wands. Structural mediation is sometimes necessary and sometimes will remain necessary because things and people are too broken for reconciliation to take place, but this should cause, for the Christian, a real saddness and a longing for the day when it will be made right.

Greg said...

Thanks for these insights.
I'm in full agreement about Western therapeutic culture and its tendencies that you mark out so well. Lamentable. A pseudo religion of self centeredness and far from the cross of Christ.

I've also noticed that sometimes we cannot ask ultimate questions, even though they are the right one's to be asking. Too beat up. Other types of questions may need to be asked and responded to in new and redemptive ways so that the door will open to the more ultimate questions. Getting from one space to the other may take time and patience.

Greg said...

The walk,
Thanks for your input. Community and friendships are essential to the working out of redemption - not as if we're isolated islands, but we're made to be in community and to find our way in following the crucified and risen one together.

Greg said...

Good points. I think I would add that to risk "security" assumes that we have some in the first place. Not always the case, or at least not perceived to be so, hence the need to work towards having something to risk.

Dan Brennan said...

Hi Greg,

Thanks Greg, We're of one mind here.

I've seen though the distancing/withdrawal dynamic in the name of "self-protection" be used by seasoned Christian leaders while they were still were leading in their respective ministries--and encourage such dynamics in "strained" friendships.

As I mentioned I'm not advocating status quo in strained relationships or marriages where physical abuse occurs. There is a discerning process about whether to stay in such relationships where physical abuse is occurring.

I am all for redemptive distancing and protection--a view that one is doing so not in the name of self-protection as an end in and of itself, but for the gospel and for the purpose of seeking reconciliation in the relationship. That reconciliation, (For example a husband who continues to physically abuse his wife--that may end up in divorce if there is no change) may or may not take place--but that's our ultimate goal in the distancing/withdrawal, not "self-protection."

harry coe maynard said...


Arrticle in the atlant paper. Much Love is needed. I guess.
Thank you for L'Abri and the God Who I There.



harry coe maynard said...

Sorry again

Greg said...

Thanks harry coe.