Posts Tagged With: dignity

The Gorilla and the Boy

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Social media has been blowing up about what happened this past week in the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven’t heard, a 3-year old boy fell into the silverback gorilla enclosure and was greeted by a 450lbs male named Harambe, The gorilla dragged the little boy several times across the water filled part of the enclosure. After several intense minutes the zoos special team for these types of situation shot and killed Harambe. Here is a link to the video footage that shows what happened.

Before I watched the video I heard of the incident and my natural reaction was to think that killing the gorilla to save the child was a no brainer. News and social media continued to cover this incident. I kept asking myself, why are people still talking about this? Finally after the constant media coverage I began to read what some folks were saying and I am sad to say that my hope for humanity keeps taking detrimental blows.

Human life is sacred

The line above was once a “no brainer”. No one would question the sanctity of human life, but unfortunately that isn’t the case anymore. I find that as a people we are forgetting that we are sacred. Maybe it is easy to forget this sacredness because we are so good at desecrating it with our numerous questionable behaviors and choices (aka sin). However, no matter how much we mess up and fall into sin there is an inherit goodness to you and I that cannot be destroyed. We can smear it up pretty good, but you and I will always be sacred. Always. That sacredness is given to us by being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether you are religious or not we can all rationally see that humans are different, set apart even. That difference is what helps us to recognize that a 3-year-old boy is worth saving over an endangered silverback gorilla.

It’s a slow fade

I was talking to a friend about this whole thing and he said, “Are you really surprised that people are valuing the gorilla’s life over the boy?” Unfortunately, the answer was ‘no’. There is a line in a song by the band Casting Crowns that says, “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” The song suggests that we don’t simply one day out of nowhere choose to do something bad, immoral, etc. We make smaller choices that are not necessarily immoral, but nonetheless carry moral weight that will affect future choices. Hence when the time comes and there is a situation that requires a moral response, that “slow fade” has deteriorated our ability to choose the good.

I think the lyrics above apply to our societies “slow fade” in recognizing what is good, sacred and beautiful. This “slow fade” didn’t just occur over night, it has been slowly eroding our understanding of sacredness. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, porn, abortion, affairs, questioning “sexual identity” etc. all of it has and continues to eat away at the soul of or culture. As a people we have forgotten our dignity, and when you forget that human beings have dignity, well…we can start to question whether one boys life is worth losing an endangered species over.

My thoughts as a father

As a father it pains me to see that people have gone as far as to say that letting the boy die would have been “acceptable” to preserve the endangered animal. This is crazy. Maybe these people are not parents. That could be it. Whether it was the boy’s fault, his parent’s fault—that doesn’t matter. The boy’s life is, was, and will always be more valuable than the gorilla—even if this was the last silverback on the planet. Thankfully the zoo recognized that killing the gorilla was the right thing to do. The news has quoted zoo officials saying over and over again that they made the right call, and would do it again. That is a bold statement coming from the people who have dedicated their lives to the care and preservation of these animals. Maybe these zoo officials get it. Maybe their time with these majestic gorillas has helped them to distinguish that although they are incredibly beautiful, a 3-year-old boy is inherently more wonderful, more majestic and more valuable because he is human.

Thank God some people still recognize this.

Categories: Catholic, children, dignity, fatherhood, human dignity, sacred, sacredness of human life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shame

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A few days ago Claire was having some digestive issues. I don’t know if it’s the mangos or what but it was interesting. Claire is also getting use to the whole potty training thing, which started of well, but now we have now regressed. So we are hanging out playing with her toys and suddenly I notice that Claire is doing this weird dance. I ask her if she needs to go to the potty and she says “no”, which means she really does have to go. I put her on the potty and she sat for a minute and kept trying to get up. Finally, I had enough and picked her up from the potty. I guess that the upward motion of picking her up followed by gravity pressing her butt back down onto my arm caused bombs to drop on the floor. It kind of startled me at first and when I looked at my arm and saw a giant lump of poop I was brought back to reality.

My wife took Claire, changed her and I cleaned up. A few minutes later we had restored order. My wife went to work and Claire and I continued playing. After 10 minutes or so I got a big whiff of Claire’s work…again. I picked Claire up and changed her and we continued playing. Another 10 minutes went by and Claire moved away from me and hid. I was confused. “Baby what are you doing?” Claire continued to move away from me, her face showing what I first thought was concern, mixed with fear. I had never seen her do this before. Was she scared? Did she see or hear something that caused fear? Finally, my nose told me what was wrong. Claire had pooped again. I approached her and she coward with that same weird look on her face. Finally I recognized what was happening. I had seen this look before in others, but I did not expect to find it on my baby girl.

Shame. My daughter felt shame…

I slowly walked up to Claire and she began to cry and yell, “no, no!” She continued to run away from me. I bent down and took Claire’s hand, “It’s okay baby. Lets go change your diaper.” Claire wasn’t sure what to do. She resisted some more and continued to have that shameful look. I picked her up and changed her diaper. I wiped away all the filth and told her how much I loved her. Claire’s shameful look disappeared with each wipe that took away her stains.I put Claire down and she went back to playing. I watched my little girl run, shout and laugh. I smiled and had one of those moments where you just take it all in and thank God that life is so good.

Its difficult to put into words how painful it was to see my innocent daughter experience shame. I don’t know how Claire could ever think that she needs to hide from me, even if she pooped 3 times in a row. I guess we all experience shame at some point, I just didn’t think it would begin this early on in my daughters life.

Shame is never helpful to a person. Guilt is the recognition that we’ve done something wrong and our conscience responds appropriately (at least it should). Guilt helps us to make the change or seek forgiveness for the wrong we have done. Shame however, is different. Shame tells us that the wrong we have done is bad and that we are bad as well. Shame diminishes us as a person. Shame tries to rob us of our dignity. Shame makes us run away and hide. We do this with God all the time. We fall and think that somehow what we have done is too bad. Unforgivable. Yet God the Father comes searching for us—as if we could actually ever hide from Him.

As a father I recognize that I must do whatever it takes to help my daughter process her emotions in a healthy way. When she is guilty of doing wrong she needs to properly recognize this and respond accordingly. There is no room for shame in anyone’s mind and heart because all it does is distort and lead us away from those who love us, especially God. My hope is that in any occurrence where shame tries to creep its head in my daughter’s heart and mind I will be able to help her recognize it so that instead of hiding she runs to her Fathers arms for healing, forgiveness and peace.

Categories: baby pooping on you, cleansing, daughters, dealing with shame, fatherhood, God, shame, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oh, Boy’s.

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Claire is 16 months old and my usual concerns with her range from whether or not she’s holding my hand while going outside, brushing her teeth, making sure mangos and French fries are not all that she eats, and making sure I have a paci with me at all times—the usual dad stuff. In my mind I know that in a far off distance boys will become a concern, but I never thought it would be this soon.

Most boys that are around Claire’s age are typically busy playing, running circles around their parents and not paying attention to girls in an aesthetically-pleasing-sort-of-way. However, on three separate occasions I have had boys that are around Claire’s age literally gazing at my daughter in that glassy-eyed-stupor that is common to boys 13 years old or older.

The first time it occurred we were at Mass and a boy of 3-4 years old sat in front of us. The entire time he was glued to Claire. I didn’t think anything of it—she is a cute baby. It wasn’t until the little boy turned to his mother at the end of Mass and said, “Mommy, she is beautiful.” that I thought, that’s interesting. The second time was a similar situation that ended with a little boy telling Claire and I that she was pretty. The third time was while shopping. A young family saw Claire and she waved to them. The mother approached us with her clan and shopping cart and waved back to Claire telling her how beautiful she was. This I expect from adults. This woman’s younger son looked at Claire, turned to his mother while pulling on her shirt and said in a very serious voice, “Mommy she is beautiful.”

Oh, boy!

I think my daughter is beautiful—she looks like my wife and Jess is beautiful! Yet, I have never thought of Claire as one of those stop you in your tracks kind of babies. I was telling Claire’s Godfather about these strange incidents (the three above are just a few) and he looked at me and said with a very serious and intense voice, “Dude. Claire is beautiful.”

So here we are at 16 months old and boys are checking my girl out. Sigh…

Since this boy situation seems to be creeping in a little sooner than expected it is a great opportunity for my wife and I to begin teaching Claire about her beauty. I am not speaking here primarily of her outward aesthetic beauty. I am speaking of the beauty that does not fade, is incorruptible no matter what she or someone does. This beauty is the beauty of being made in God’s image and likeness. We want Claire to recognize the gift that this beauty is and how precious she is as a person. We also want to make sure that she recognizes the power and responsibility that an aesthetically beautiful woman has. I don’t know if many fathers have these conversations with their daughters.

Outward beauty can easily be used and manipulated for all the wrong reasons, and Lord knows we don’t need more of that in this world. I want my daughter to see that her inherent, God given beauty is the most important thing and that her outward beauty should reflect the reality of that inner beauty. As a man I am well aware of the power an outwardly beautiful woman can have on me and I think that if this isn’t communicated to my daughter it could be a bad thing. With that being said, I also know the power a woman can have on a man who recognizes her inherent beauty and allows it to shine through. My wife is the perfect example. It can literally change a man.

I’m excited at the opportunity to help my daughter discover all of her beauty and to be the gift that she is called to be in this world. But boys, seriously. Can we wait till she is at least out of diapers? Or 16 years old? Better yet, let’s wait till she graduates college. Oh, boy!

Categories: boys and girls, Crush, daughters, dignity, fatherhood, growing up, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Skimpy Costume Dilemma

jackolanternA few days ago I was in a Wal-Mart with my daughter Claire and I saw that they already had Halloween costumes out. There were two high school girls looking at the different outfits and I happened to overhear their conversation. The one girl thought that the costume she was looking at was not “skimpy” enough. Yes, she actually used that word. The conversation ended with them deciding to go to one of those pop-up Halloween stores in town to get something that would be more “fitting” for their needs.

Every year I see some of my Youth Ministry girls’ pictures on Facebook from Halloween parties and I dread the potential of seeing one of them in these “skimpy” costumes. I dread it because:

  1. It hurts my heart to see them dressing in a way that is going to objectify them and have guys thinking all kinds of inappropriate things about them.
  2. I have to call them out on it and remind them that they have dignity and worth that these costumes do not reveal, which is always a tough and sometimes awkward conversation to have—mostly for the girls.

So this is my open letter to my beloved ladies of Youth Ministry. I love you girls so much that I want to say this before Halloween comes around and you buy your costume.
Maybe this year the skimpy, inappropriate Halloween costumes are hitting closer to home because I am a father to a baby girl. Maybe holding Claire as I heard the above conversation had me see her in those two high school girls. Regardless of the reason I don’t think that the skimpy costumes are necessary. So here are this Youth Minister’s 6 reasons why I would advise against the skimpy costumes.

  1. The skimpy costumes are not original: Every year there are tons of girls scantily dressed up as cops, pirates, nurses, etc. I guarantee you that there will be at least one of each at the party you go to. If having the same dress, as another girl at a dance is a no-no, then I’m sure having the same costume, as another girl is just as bad. The skimpy costumes are not original, so be more creative.
  2. Halloween is not a modesty-free-day: No other day of the year would you wear anything remotely skimpy as that costume, so why is Halloween all of a sudden an acceptable day for this? Seriously, if it is the size of a dinner napkin it isn’t modest! Modesty is not something you can put aside for a day even if Seventeen Magazine says so!
  3. You become a target for the wrong type of guy: The skimpy costume is notorious for attracting guys that only want to check you out and potentially go beyond just staring. The skimpy costume is a magnet for jerks, pervs, and guys who don’t want to see the whole you. Who wants that?!
  4. Help a brother out: Our primary sense is our sight. For most guys sight is the one sense that can really get us in trouble. What the eye sees the heart desires. If you have a skimpy costume on that shows off your body, a guy is going to desire it. That’s not to say every guy who stares at you will be thinking inappropriate thoughts, but there is a real good chance they will. Help a brother out by not having them have to deal with that.
  5. Think beyond Halloween:  You might think the skimpy costume was cool, but what about after October 31st? What will people say when they talk about that night or look at those pictures you are sure to post on Facebook? “Wow, I thought Susie was really going to arrest me.” is not one of those things. If you looked skimpy, people will refer to you in that way. The rest of the year you will have to live with what you wore for a few hours of one night.
  6. The skimpy costumes don’t reveal enough: Let me explain. The skimpy costumes may reveal the beauty of your body, but that isn’t all of you. You are a person with a soul, with intelligence, dreams, talents, gifts, personality and most importantly dignity. A dignity that is yours to uphold, protect and reveal to the world. The skimpy costume only puts focus on your body, and as beautiful as that body is, it only reveals a very, very small, tiny, bitsy piece of who you are. You are so much more than just flesh!

There are so many cool, creative non-skimpy costumes out there that can highlight your creativity, intelligence, gifts, talents as well as your beauty. My challenge for you is to not get sucked in by the worlds desire to make you into a thing, an object, a means to an end.

You are holy. You are sacred. You are precious. So be all of those things.

Categories: costumes, dignity, fatherhood, fathers, God, halloween, holiness, modesty, Parenting, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cyrus Lesson

miley-cyrus-babyThe other night my Facebook newsfeed was inundated with comments about Miley Cyrus and something crazy, raunchy, etc that she did. I finally decided to Google her name and see what would pop up.

Yikes.

I’m sure by now many of you have seen the VMA “performance” that Miley was in. If you haven’t don’t look for it, your souls is better of not watching it. Lets just say she pretended to be something less than human on stage.

My first reaction to Miley’s performance was not shock, disgust or embarrassment. I was thinking to myself, how did she get to this point? Where along the way did this 20 year old think twerking (if you don’t know what this is you are better off) on stage in her underwear was the right thing to do? The sad thing is that anyone can become what Miley was on stage that night. My daughter, your daughter anyones daughter. We all have the potential to be incredible people or to chose something less…twerking.

The picture in this post is of Miley Cyrus when she was a baby. Here is a child with infinite potential in all aspects of life. A child with dignity, worth and goodness. The Miley on stage at the VMA awards is that same person. The same dignity, worth and goodness is there. I think she just forgot, or maybe was never told about it.

A few years ago Glenn Beck (*diclaimer: I am neither a fan or foe of him*) did an interview with Billy Ray Cyrus where he asked him about his daughter, Miley:

“Are you at all concerned?” Beck asked the young star’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, at the time. “I mean, the odds of Miley turning into Ron Howard — meaning sane — pretty low. Living in Los Angeles, being a child star — hello? Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, name a million others…”

Cyrus was confident that his daughter had a “great head on her shoulders” and a “great heart.” He also explained that he tries to be her “best friend,” while letting his wife act as the disciplinarian.

“I taught them how to build a good snowman, how to ride a motorcycle, how to ride a horse, how to roast a wiener properly over a fire, and a good marshmallow,” Cyrus explained. “…But discipline I always left up to the mama. She was really, really good at that. That never was — I never was really good at that.”

There is a lesson to be learned here. Billy Ray is not to be blamed for Miley’s VMA spectacle, she is her own person and has a will and intellect to chose. One can though wonder what Miley would be like today if dad had disciplined her, told her no, change that outfit, you are grounded, don’t you ever twerk–ever!

There have been tons of articles, seminars and books that talk about the crucial role of a father in a child’s life. If you are a dad please understand this: you set the precedent to what your child will understand a man is supposed to be. You also set the precedent for helping your child discover their dignity, worth and goodness–especially a daughter. If you are a coward, lazy, angry, raunchy, immoral, good, caring, faithful, selfless…then this is what she will  understand a man to be. Why is it that every now and then we hear women say, “I just seem to attract all the losers and jerks.” The reason is probably because that is all they have seen and known.

As a Youth Minister I have ministered to some girls who have forgotten or were never told that they have dignity, worth and goodness. The majority of those girls had no fathers or if they did, were around but not fully, actively and consciously participating in their lives. So that is what they learn a man is: not around, not able to focus, not really invested in their lives.

Men, we have a responsibility to be more than a provider of house, food and education. Building snowmen, roasting marshmallows and teaching our kids how to ride a horse are great bonding experiences, but not enough for them. I realize I only have a 5 month old, but I cannot settle for anything less than my daughter recognizing that she is an unrepeatable, exquisite, beautiful human being. We must remind our children that they have dignity, worth and goodness. More importantly, we must live out dignity, worth and goodness in our everyday lives so that they can see it and understand that this is what they deserve!

If we do not…expect worse things than twerking.

Categories: fatherhood, God, Parenting, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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