My dear boys,
Oh, this. This has been swimming around in my mind since the oldest of you was just a year old. I write it, edit it, re-write and re-edit it with every new news story, every new celebrity headline, every time I stand in the checkout line at the grocery store. There are stories about grown men being excused for acting like 'harmless kids' while representing our country in the Olympic games. A man running for president who says - and then excuses - horribly disrespectful and ugly things. A man who committed a heinous act of violence against a woman, but instead of true remorse blamed his actions on alcohol and was given leniency. It makes me wonder: how did we get here? Why are things like this even an issue, and how in the world do we, your dad and I, show you a better way?
It may be best said by Dr. Seuss, who was a very wise man indeed: "A person's a person, no matter how small." You could interject almost any descriptor for "small", but it boils down to this: when we lose our respect for the dignity of a human, we lose our ability to truly be human, and in turn, act more like animals (and often worse).
So, when you see someone different than you, what should you do? Should you determine their worth based on the color of their skin, the accent in their voice, their ability to think or walk or speak as you do? No. Just yesterday, in fact, we had this conversation. You wanted to show an older friend something you could do, 'because then maybe he'll think I'm cool.' At four, you're concerned with being cool. I got down on your level, I looked in your eyes as you started to cry, and I told you straight out: 'Your worth is never determined by someone else's opinion of you. You are valuable because God created you, period. You are the only you that will ever be, and that's beautiful.'
We talk about respect. About not throwing our toys, not jumping on furniture, not barging around without any regard for others around us. Why? Because mommy doesn't like it? OK, sure, there's an aspect of that some days. But deep down, it's because I want you to learn the value of respect. Respect for the things you've been given (which is everything, always, because anything we have is a gift). Respect for those around you and the things that belong to them. If you can't learn to respect someone else's property as a child, how do can I expect you to respect someone else's mind or body as an adult?
When you're older, you'll see things. Things like a celebrity posting a 'sexy' nude photograph. Don't laud that as proud feminism. Feminism knows that a woman's worth isn't just in her body, and she would rather have herself be known for her mind than her breasts. Confidence IS sexy, but confidence knows that you don't have to flaunt your body to feel sexy in it; in fact, the reverse is more often true. Was it her choice to take that picture? Yes. But in that choice, she is playing into this culture of 'sex sells', and ultimately that you, as men, get to decide what is or is not attractive. I guarantee you that picture wouldn't have gone viral - wouldn't even have been posted - if it wasn't 'normal' to view a woman as an object for pleasure rather than a soul to get the privilege of knowing.
When you view a woman as a soul with a body on, your view of that woman will change forever.
When you're introduced to pornography, (which I know will inevitably happen despite our best efforts) whether through an accidental click on the internet or a friend sneaking you a picture in a magazine, remember that woman has a soul, IS a soul. She may be choosing to make videos or pose in pictures for your viewing pleasure, but that's because she doesn't know her own worth. SHOW HER. Show her by pushing that magazine away, by closing that browser window, by telling your friend 'NO. I will not be a part of this culture.' Because say what one might, but ANY form of objectifying women only contributes to our culture's skewed views of what is and isn't OK to do to and with a woman.
I don't know what the world will look like when you're older. What you'll be exposed to or what you'll see as the 'norm'. But I do know this: if we can show you the love that God has for you, and you can begin to grasp a small piece of that, it will forever shape the way you view yourself, your friends, your co-workers, and especially the women in your life. Never forget the individual beauty that is given to each and every life on this earth. Live from that place of beauty, and this world will be a more beautiful place, I can promise you that.
I love you,