Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thinking Only in Black and White

It’s interesting living in a family where we have a great number of drug allergies and idiosyncratic (unusual, odd or unexpected) responses to medicines. Doctors hate it and some have become angry with us, the patient because our bodies don’t elicit the “correct” response. There’s a particular class of medicines that causes a life-threatening asthmatic response and my tongue and face swell. I went to a new doctor, seeking an alternative to the medicine to which I was allergic, and he recommended that since “I had not taken it in awhile,” I should try an injection of it there in their office. I told him that he would have to phone the local emergency room in advance to plan for my arrival and have epinephrine ready there in his own office. The last time I took the medicine orally, my lung capacity dropped to less than 50% of normal and my tongue and airway started to swell shut. He was actually offended that I refused the medicine Needless to say, I left that doctor and never went back.

I understand the plight of the doctor. Certain treatments, sometimes the best therapy for the condition, should work. But doctors should be treating patients along with and not just only the conditions that their patients have. We need doctors who can discern findings, otherwise we would need only textbooks (or computer programs into which we could just enter our symptoms.)

What should work and be true in general is never universal when it comes to people. The application of principle to people ALWAYS requires discernment.

Someone recently sent me an email asking whether I thought that “Purity Balls” that some Christian groups host for fathers and their teen daughters were an example of “Botkin Syndrome” or emotional/covert incest (a topic recently discussed on this blog). Ah ha I’ve been placed in a position quite similar to that of the physician who wants an easy job of solving serious problems. What does one say?

Particularly concerning human behavior, nothing is all inclusive. I have dear friends who I know would love to participate in one of these events if there was one offered in their area, and I would not be the least bit concerned about them personally because I know them so well. It is a pity, because the whole idea seems rather nice. Yet I feel pretty safe to say that at any given “purity ball,” people will likely fall across a continuum between perfectly fine and healthy to the opposite end of very unhealthy and enmeshed. I have friends that run the gambit: some will participate in a healthy way and some will turn behave in the emotionally incestuous manner (as they do without things like purity balls). Human beings are not that simple, and neither are their activities.

Do I see flashing red lights in my mind when I hear about “Purity Balls”? You bet I do. Another friend of mine who has daughters expresses some concern about these things. Commenting about the video of Vision Forum’s father daughter tea last year where the girls practiced shaving their fathers, he said that Lizzie Borden shaved her daddy, too Does that mean that the person who made this comment about that Vision Forum event believes that girls will grow up to be axe murders? Certainly not, and I know that he prays that such a thing will never happen. But he sees the same flashing red lights of warning that I do, knowing other elements of the Vision Forum belief system.

A few weeks ago, I noted in a post that I believed that our theologies are much like tools. If a tool presented here seems useful to you, by all means use it But keep in mind that this is a “no absolutes zone,” save for the essentials of the Christian faith. Just like the effects of a medication, though many people respond like a textbook case, there are always exceptions. People are uniquely complex and so are their responses to events and factors in their lives. It’s the best doctor that can think beyond the black and white of all or nothing. This type of thinking – psychological splitting – rules and reigns in spiritual abuse and is one of the factors that perpetuates the process. It’s actually an emotionally and cognitively primitive way of dealing with the world, and I discourage those who read here from thinking in those terms about anything presented here. There are no short cuts around good discernment and vital grains of salt.

If you find a good tool here or if you find one that is not helpful to you at all, please remind yourself that (with the exception of Christian essentials) this is a "no absolutes zone." If you see something described here and believe it does not apply, it may not apply to you. But I do not think in absolute terms concerning the things people do and the way that they respond, and I want do discourage people from reading information here, interpreting it in terms of black and white. Especially concerning behaviors of individual and very unique people, the general rule need not apply. If you went to Vision Forum’s daddy daughter tea, you may have and continue to have a wonderful relationship with your family, though I would hope that the reader here would consider the cautions and concerns that others have regarding the whole process. But nothing about human beings is an all or nothing enterprise, even though we tend to fall into patterns of behavior that is often quite predictable.

I hope that you see with clarity, not in black and white. I don’t even think you should think in shades of grey. I hope you see things in living colour.