In Response to Bruce Jenner and The Duggars

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I think we’ve probably all read some major headlines lately having to do with sex. First, the Duggar scandal and second, the Jenner sex change. Lots of opinions have been flying around, which comes as no surprise.

I recently read an article about the Bruce Jenner topic and found myself discouraged. Not about the topic itself necessarily, but how the article was written. I felt similarly in relation to how the situation with the Duggar’s was handled.

I don’t mind when people share their opinions; I can appreciate authenticity more than most things. However, what I do have a problem with is how we share. Authenticity very quickly shifts into selfishness when one shares their opinion without considering the context. In other words, if I tell my wife my thoughts and feelings completely unfiltered without considering how she may receive it, is it beneficial, connecting and edifying for her to know these things? Not if she cannot receive it. I will have served myself only and yet even then, if I can see it, I will have served no one but my childish desires and impulses.

Children often cannot see beyond themselves. We have to teach them to have empathy for how our worlds collide with others. They must learn to be mindful of their surroundings and adapt so as to be respectful, courteous and therefore, mind others as equals while still remaining true to themselves. Children struggle with emotion regulation. They feel something and act out, often becoming dysregulated, perhaps throwing a temper tantrum.

So what’s my point? I struggle with how people handle the major stories in media. It tends to be incredibly nearsighted. We get so caught up in our own version of truth, that we throw caution to the wind and grow bloodthirsty for justice as we see fit in our eyes. We lack understanding of how to approach uncomfortable and at times, horrific or controversial stories, in a way that would be edifying. We lack discernment because we get so caught up in the emotion of our perspective and blast off because we just can’t contain it any longer.

I read Matt Walsh’s news story this morning. I don’t know him at all and I don’t know his job description, if he gets paid to write with a certain gusto or anything at all, so I don’t mean anything toward him in a personal way; I simply wanted to use the article as an example for what I’m describing. (Here is his article: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/calling-bruce-jenner-a-woman-is-an-insult-to-women/)

In his article about Bruce Jenner, he begins the article with one critical statement after the other. In the second paragraph alone, he says that Bruce “resembles a mentally disordered man who is being manipulated by disingenuous liberals and self-obsessed gay activists”. Next, he says Bruce “reminds [him] of someone who is being abandoned by his delusions by a culture of narcissistic imbeciles”. The next sentence is the most concerning yet: “I feel a great deal of compassion when I gaze upon this tragic sight—especially because post-op “transgenders” very often regret their decision, and in many cases attempt suicide—but few share my love or concern for him”.

This last notion really hurts. To toss one insult after another at a person and then to say you have “compassion” or “love” or “concern” when viewing them because they often times turn self-destructive afterward is nothing even close to a compassionate or loving remark. I cannot say whether this writer truly feels compassion because I am not him. However, there is no evidence of such a thing within this writing.

Imagine sitting across from someone and sharing with them something you are struggling deeply with as your own undeniable reality. You make yourself vulnerable and then pause for their response. They look at you as they begin to speak and they offer a sentiment of “compassion” saying, “I feel really bad for you, especially because people in your situation tend to regret the decision you are making or even attempt suicide.” Would you feel understood? Would you feel warmth and compassion? Or would you feel judged, labeled, invalidated, misunderstood, emotionally unsafe and hurt?

Let’s move on to the part of the article where Walsh discusses bravery. I think he gets a little too caught up here in his version of truth and the consequent justice. He dismisses Bruce’s awarded character trait of bravery, evidently, because he does not believe in what he was standing up for. This is the definition of criticism. For someone to say that a man who completely goes against the grain of social norms, making himself vulnerable to all the insults that may, and as Walsh has proven will come, isn’t brave does not seem to understand the definition of the word. One doesn’t have to agree with Bruce’s actions, in fact one can even say that it’s wrong if they believe so, but to dismiss the obvious bravery that comes with such vulnerability is reckless and to me, discredits the rest of that person’s opinion as nearsighted and unhelpful. I wonder what the point of this article was? Was Walsh hoping to start a riot? To boycott Jenner’s existence? His upcoming tv show? To bring about social awareness? To “make a change”? To “usher in truth”? If so, the “how to” is incredibly lacking. His article would be the equivalent of a white supremacist who calls Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement a man who is being abandoned to his delusions by a culture of narcissistic imbeciles. Again, despite the cause, how we approach it is far more important to the impact of the cause than “spewing out truth”. It’s part of the responsibility of being in community, let alone having as powerful of a platform as a well-known writer. If you really believe in something and want to make a change, then let the dust from a hurting heart’s footsteps cover you.

I won’t go on about the article, but instead come back to some more generalities. If we want to make an impact, we must learn how to deal with vulnerability; our own and others. I do believe in boldness, but recklessness is not the same thing. To go after someone, say Josh Duggar, and destroy his reputation, family life and job for a sense of justice is to highlight a horrific act, which is evidence that someone needs help, and to offer more destruction. We see people who are in need and spit on them. We make sure to make them feel the weight of their brokenness and add to it. It’s the slippery slope we ride when we lose sight of acknowledging one’s pain and begin to judge the manifestation of their pain. We might as well throw insults at every alcoholic, drug addict, thief, liar, bragger, narcissist, insecure person and you.

I leave you with this: If someone could launch an investigation on your life…how about further…to launch an investigation into your heart and could see all the places within, how would you want these things exposed? How would you want “truth” presented to you? What would you need?

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Learn more about Phil Zaffos, MA, LPC & Heidi Zaffos, MA, LMFT, LPC and Foundation Counseling .

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