Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Bullying and Shame

I didn't wear purple on Wednesday (primarily because the only purple garment I own is short-sleeved and the weather on Wednesday precluded such a wardrobe choice) but I understood the sentiment behind Spirit Day.

Bullying is a blight upon many of our lives.  Many of us live daily with the scars of it.  Some do better than others, some have healed, some still have raw open wounds in their souls.

I was a bullied child and teen.  My Junior High years were horrid.  And I bore those wounds (now healed-ish scars) well into my adult years.  The voices that told me I wasn't worth much at all kept me from growing until a counselor finally helped me put them to rest.

This morning I preached on the balance between pride and shame (I describe the balance point as realistic, honest humility).  Bullying is about lack of that balance.  The bullied victim is pushed to a place of shame.  And shame cripples, shame weighs us down, shame gutters the light of God that is within us.  In point of fact, shame can kill.  That is what Spirit Day was all about.  It was about standing shoulder to shoulder to those who have been told to be ashamed of themselves, in particular because of their orientation on this occasion.

But what do we do about bullying?  I really don't know.  The reality is that I was a good victim (and got to be a better one as the bullying continued and I became more pressed down and less sure of myself).  My counselor, as he pushed me to stop taking responsibility for what happened kept asking "where were the adults?".  This ties in well to the belief of school systems that they can enforce a bully-free environment in the school.  They can't.  All my bullying was school and schoolyard based and really there is only so much that can be done.  Most bullies aren't idiots after all, they know how not to get caught through a combination of timing and threats.

What we do is that we as children of God ensure that the people in our lives all know that they too are children of God.  We ensure that they know this makes them special and worthwhile and that they have no reason to be ashamed of being who they are.  In the end this is more important than the necessary disciplinary actions we take towards bullies.  We break the cycle of victimhood.  That is the only way to fight the bully.

And sometimes it means we hold a different mirror up.  When I took CPE my supervisor had been minister in my childhood church when I was 11.  Often during that unit she would say "this is not the person I knew, this is not who you are".  No I didn't believe her at the time.  But it was what needed to be said.  When we see people bearing the wounds of bullying we all have to say those things.  We all have to remind people who they really are.

May God help us to do so.

PS> as a lead in for this sermon I read You Are Special for children's time, and re-read the climax of it during the sermon.  The prize line is that "the stickers only stick if you let them".  As a bullied child I never would have believed or understood the wisdom in that sentence.  But now I do.

Friday, Schmiday, I'll do it anyway

Over at RGBP a couple days ago the following queries were posted:

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood?  When I was 3 (or 4??) we were heading up to Miette Hot SPrings in JAsper.  As we were unhitching the trailer for the steep windy road a friend from church introduced us to another family who were new to St. ALbert and the church.  THis family is my surrogate parents and sisters to this day.  Another earliest memory (although a few years later) is of the classmate of mine who lived 2 doors down when I was in kindergarten-Grade 2.
2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend?  I am sure I have many times.  But I just can't name one at the time.
3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet?  THere are a number of folks I have reconnected with via FB, in fact I had the chance to chat with one on the phone last week who I haven't seen or talked to in 15 years or so. 
4) Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one?  Small groups is best for me.
5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you?  Honestly, it depends on the day.  SOmetimes it is really comforting, sometimes ti sounds kind of hackneyed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book 18 of 2010

SLowed up a bit haven't I?  Partly because I got busy.  Partly because this one, Atonement for a 'Sinless' Society, just didn't grab me.  I've been working away at it for over a month and in fact reshelved it without reading teh last couple chapters.

I grabbed it off the library shelf because the concept of finding an atonement theory to counter the issue of shame struck a chord with me.  Atonement theory only works when it speaks to the great longing in our hearts.  FOr some that is guilt, for some it is being isolated, for others it is shame.

But in the end I was underwhelmed.  I was underwhelmed in Mann's description of post-industrialized/post-modern attitudes towards sinfulness and morality. I was struck that Mann only seems to use sin as meaning wrongdoing rather than that which separates us from God.  ANd whiole I think he started on a helpful track, that Jesus' life and death show that he follows the good advice from SHakespeare's Polonius "to thine own self be true" I found that he lost that track.  Mind you he was trying to find the atonement moment on the cross and I tend to find the key to salvation in the resurrection so we were on different wavelengths to start.

A good theses.  ANd a topic worthy of exploration.  But in the end the style of teh writing is what did me in.  Dry dry dry.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2 Songs, One Sermon Concept

To go with the Luke passage of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. And teh sermon title Humility and Shame.

What is the balance between pride and guilt and humility and shame?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book 17 of 2010

No cover image for this one, and no link to it either.  It is a personal and yet a corporate history titled What lies Behind the Picture: A Personal Journey into Cree Ancestry. It was written by a former minister hereabout his delving into his family's history.  But as he does that he tells a great deal about the history of the Canadian West.  Very enjoyable and Vern offers a way of looking at some of the telling discrimination that has long been a part of Canadian society.