I Love…….Discussing the Grey


I know the mere mention of “Fifty Shades of Grey” puts some folks into automatic conniption fits and has others moving their families into underground shelters until the constant talk of it has ended. Don’t worry….I’m not going to get into a major head-on discussion of the book or movie, because that’s not where I see value. I think there is enough discussion out there for you, giving all sorts of opinions, if you care to look for it (and even if you don’t, it’s probably popping up on your feed as much as mine!)

But I see some great value in getting involved in some of the discussions going on, and I hope that I can encourage some of those who simply go running with their fingers in their ears at the very mention, may stick around and think about where they may be able to learn or teach by becoming a part of the conversations. Warning, I will discuss some issues frankly because I think to be a bit too delicate on the matter puts people at risk. The Bible is quite gritty and bold. I think perhaps that means we sometimes need to be, too.

What I find of great interest in the discussions are some of the conceptual questions:

  • What is consensual behavior?
  • What is domestic violence?
  • How do people who are friends, who date, who love each other, who are in serious relationships, and who are married set physical limits? Do these limits differ for each situation?
  • How do people who respect each other, talk to each other?
  • What is this BDSM they talk about (it stands for Bondage, Dominance/Submission, Sadism, and Masochism for those of you too delicate to ask….or Google) and is that the same thing as domestic violence?
  • Does the dominance and submission people are talking about when discussing the book/movie differ from the biblical concept of dominance and submission?
Eek! I know. Not easy questions to discuss with others…..and I am certainly not advocating you pull these out for every person you run into. (OK, the idea of some of you doing it mildly entertains me, but it’s probably not appropriate.) I am, however, advocating that you adults put some thought into how you would discuss these subjects with others, should they come up or if they seem pertinent in a situation. Especially with your kids. Yep, even if the idea of it skeeves you out and makes you blush. Believe it or not, many teenagers are talking about this right now. I guarantee it. Both kids and adults alike are in relationships that may be different if someone discusses these things with them.
Last week our local domestic violence shelter, My Sister’s House, put up a post that said In the United States, approximately 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year.” That’s high school students, people. Mentally add to that the number of college students, some who may be away from home, out of the oversight of their parents, and experiencing what for many of them is their first chance at freedom. And why don’t we go younger….do you really think there is a magical age of high school when this starts? The numbers really go up. Think about this…..how many of the kids experiencing this abuse told their parents…or any adult? The answer to that scares me. And if they told their parents, how did those parents react? You may not be able to be completely prepared, but you need to have your head out of the clouds. Like they say parenting is not for sissies. You need to ready to be a refuge if your child needs it.

People don’t automatically understand where relational lines should be drawn. This is something we are taught….or should be taught…and we test boundaries for ourselves. This is hard enough for an adult…think of it from the mind of an adolescent. Truth is that a lot of the possibilities are in the grey….and are situational, personal, and sometimes even appear contradictory. I know a lot of these things were taboo to discuss for some of us when growing up. They’re taboo for a lot to talk about now. That’s probably why it may not be as difficult for me to discuss as it is for some others….as a rebel you tell me a subject is off-limits and it leads me to question “Why?” and want to talk about it. I am in the minority here, I do believe. Still, naivety is great until you find yourself confronted by the grey. Then if you don’t have a basis for figuring out what is right and wrong for you, you often rely on what someone else tells you is right or wrong. If the only person you’re talking to about this is your peers, their “logic” often becomes your own.

When you get to be my age, and you’re talking to people on a regular basis and are involved in their lives, you’ve probably met a lot of domestic violence victims. Lots of women and even men. Kids and adults. All socio-economic classes, all levels of education. You’ve also talked with rape victims, those who were attacked by strangers and those who have experienced date rape and incest. I’m still shocked at the numbers and scope, and I have been having these conversations for years. We live in a crazy, mixed up, sinful world. It breaks my heart each and every time I hear someone’s story. But I also see ways that some of this violence can be prevented. Being aware of what domestic violence is and the experience that others have had with it can help people protect themselves. Often it is a bit like  that old story about boiling a frog in hot water….it starts out cool, and then little by little the heat goes up. The frog doesn’t jump out because the change is so gradual it doesn’t realize the point where it starts to be boiled alive. Domestic violence is often a lot like this. Let’s yell to the frog “THEY”RE KILLING YOU….GET OUT!”

Another thing I learned from a Facebook posting from My Sister’s House that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Doggone it, people. We can’t act like these things don’t exist. We can make our teens…and adults ….smarter, wiser. We can teach them to use the words “Yes” and “No” firmly and so that they really mean them. We can teach them to respect those words when others say them. We can teach them that they are people worthy of respect and should be treated well. We can teach them that love does not require punishment or physical pain. We can have frank conversations about where lines are drawn….what they see as appropriate and what they think is crossing the line. We need to listen, and we need to speak. At times we need to support and correct. Not knowing these things can hurt people.

When I say I love “discussing the grey” I mean I think we need to discuss the grey areas of life. The blacks and whites….they’re pretty easy. The greys….which of us doesn’t have some issue with those? We adults can’t freak out when the views of others don’t match our view of the world. There is a lot of grey, or perceived grey. I think, though, that much can be lost by refusing to discuss….and much gained by talking about it. Not all of the time…..please!  But when it is necessary. 

And yes, please, talk with your kids….in an age appropriate fashion. Just as you teach them about stranger danger and people touching them inappropriately, continue to have those conversations, advancing a bit as they age. You are their number one caretakers….the ones preparing them to live in this world. Don’t send them out into it without knowing how to assess potential dangers.

Yes, I love discussing the grey. Because it brings more light into the darkness in the world. 

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