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50 Shades of Broken   2 comments

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I’m not going to tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do. I’m going to tell you what I couldn’t do, what I won’t do and why. 50 Shades of Grey . . . you’ve heard of it right? The wildly popular AND controversial trilogy. Now it’s coming to the big screen and it’s causing a stir, again. I’ve heard people for it, against it and in between. I tried to read it, and didn’t get past the 6th chapter. It literally made my stomach churn. Before you give me credit for feeling deeply convicted about reading the risqué dialogue, I need to confess that it was the entire nature of the relationship between the main characters, Christian and Anastasia.
So, why is a poorly written book about a dysfunctional couple so popular. Is it the tantalizing sex scenes? That may be a large part of it, but I think that is just the symptom of a much larger issue. Society is broken. Who doesn’t love a good romance? And we all know that sex sells. But “broken”? Probably not what you expected to read. I come from a background of brokenness. By the grace of God, those wounded places are healed and they don’t carry sting anymore. I’m whole, and am becoming more whole every day. To return to a state of brokenness, or to dabble in it, even in thought, isn’t an option for me.

Here’s why I couldn’t finish the first book and why I won’t see the movie:
Broken isn’t romantic or sexy. Have you ever been in a relationship with a controlling person? Personal, work, family . . . any relationship. Think about what it felt like? To feel like in order to maintain the relationship, you have to give up any say. To fear doing the wrong thing. To be emotionally or even physically “punished” for simple mistakes. To fear being rejected if you failed to please the other person. Maybe you’ve experienced a romantic relationship like that, or not. But imagine giving that person everything you have, entrusting them with your LIFE. Pretty scary isn’t it? Not so romantic anymore. When did we start convincing ourselves that jealousy, control and manipulation were indicators of true love? It took years for me to heal from a controlling relationship. Unpredictable anger and jealousy is NOT sexy, it’s scary. Living in fear of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, and having to face the repercussions of it . . . not romantic. AT ALL. Fear can’t exist where there is true love. (2 John 4:18). Not only is that relationship broken, but BOTH people who have opted to co-exist in that kind of relationship are broken.

Bandaids can’t fix broken. Romance novels, pornography, fantasy . . . it all provides a means of escape from the mundane, discontent, ache for MORE . . . the longing to feel ALIVE. Yet, instead of driving us to fill that ache with God, too often we fill it with anything else that we can. We find other things to make us feel alive, when God can truly give us LIFE. We use bandaids to heal what’s broken . . . and it doesn’t fix a thing. In fact, it can make us desperate. So often we run to “socially acceptable” vices, because it’s easy to be convinced that it’s “not so bad”. This book, this movie, is socially acceptable, for the most part. Just look at book sales and pre-movie sales. It’s already passed Twilight in pre-sales. It speaks to the parts in women that visual pornography appeals to in men, yet more socially acceptable. “Mommy porn”. It’s makes people feel alive . . . temporarily. Even fictional Anastasia identifies the longing of wanting to feel alive, and what she is willing to do to have it. “I don’t want to lose him. In spite of all his demands, his need to control, his scary vices, I have never felt as alive as I do now. It’s a thrill to be sitting here beside him. He’s so unpredictable, sexy, smart, and funny. But his moods…oh—and he wants to hurt me.” (James, E.L 355). She is willing to sacrifice whatever she needs to, including her physical safety, in order to apply that  to the festering wound of inadequacy. As a society we are settling for so much less than the healing and wholeness God has for us. I love what C.S Lewis says in Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Broken can’t fix broken. It’s so tempting to buy into the idea that if we just love someone enough, we can help them, we can fix them. Its part of the romance isn’t it? That through Ana’s “love” she “fixes” Christian. I’ve been guilty of it. If only I did this, or said that, or looked this way, then I could please that person and everything would be all right. Have you ever known anyone who is obviously outwardly fighting battles that leave them in a state of brokenness? Ever known an addict? Not just drugs, or alcohol, but the more socially acceptable addictions like work, people-pleasing, relationships and food. You can give someone all the love and support possible, but you can’t “fix” them. In fact, that “fixing” and “making everything better” behavior, can be very destructive. For every addict or every abuser, you will generally find at least one, if not several “enablers”. An enabler is “one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior”. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enabler .Sound familiar? Like Anastasia? Maybe even like you. I remember living in a perpetual state of running around cleaning up someone else’s mess, lying for them, hiding their behavior, taking the consequences. It was exhausting and didn’t fix a thing. In fact, it broke me more. If it were a real relationship, Ana and Christian would have eventually spiraled to self-destruction. “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Matt 15:14. So, broken people attracting broken people. We just need to fix ourselves then, right? Nope. Most recovery programs include a step that is some version of this: “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable” (Baker, 12).
Broken people break people. The most alarming thing for me about the storyline in 50 Shades of Grey, is that it perpetuates a very dangerous deception. I was abused as a child. One of the major things I had to learn again was to trust myself and my ability to hear God. I had been “groomed” to mistrust my instinct, and to ignore or minimize abuse. “Grooming is a tactic of overcoming the survivor’s defenses by slowly desensitizing his or her natural reaction to abusive behaviors . . .Grooming works by mixing positive behaviors with elements of abuse. At the beginning, all behaviors are positive. Slowly, abusive elements are added in amounts that surprise the survivor to an extent, but do not push alarm to a high level. Overtime, the inappropriate comes to feel normal.” (Michael Samsel). Not only is this a classic strategy that Christian uses in his relationship with Anastasia, but the glorification of this type of behavior is actually grooming the audience . . . to be more accepting of sexual perversion, violence, and blatant violation of rights. Author of Crazy Love, Leslie Morgan Steiner lived through extreme domestic abuse. She addressed the question “Why didn’t she leave?”, the answer was that even though she was being beaten, thrown down stairs, guns to her head, she didn’t know she was being abused. Instead, she was “a very strong woman deeply in love with a troubled man”. Romantic, right? More like deadly. You can hear more about her story at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1yW5IsnSjo. Domestic violence is more common than you would imagine. More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/).  Not convinced that has anything to do with 50 Shades? Think I’m over reacting based on my own past brokenness? The fact that the series has come under fire from the BDSM (Bondage & Discipline / Domination & Submission / Sadism & Masochism) community should tell you something. The community touts the relationship in 50 Shades as abusive and a blatant misrepresentation of BDSM. Yet, the general population is embracing it as a beautifully sexy romance. Women’s organizations and shelters everywhere are calling for a boycott of the movie, based on the abusive nature and glorification of violence and rape. Not sure if something you are experiencing is abusive? The National Domestic Violence Hotline website is an excellent resource, and gives specific descriptions of abusive behavior. http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/#tab-id-3. If you’ve read the book, you will see Christian’s behavior detailed in several different categories.
God fixes Broken. We’ve all experienced brokenness in our lives. God wants to heal every broken area, including sexuality. It’s a subject that has been taboo throughout history, but is so much a part of our identity. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” 1 Corinthians 6:18. Just think back to through your life, what are the deepest wounds you experienced in a romantic relationship? Chances are that the most emotionally charged memories are tied to someone you connected with sexually (including kissing and touch). God can heal every part of you. Even the most painful memory. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. Wherever you are, there is hope. If you are in a situation where you are questioning whether you are being abused, please, talk to someone you trust, tap in to local resources, and at the very least follow the link to the National Domestic Violence hotline provided above or call 1-800-799-SAFE.

One shade of Grey

Poster photo used with permission. Courtesy of http://the6thsiren.tumblr.com/Comic used with permission,Tatsuya Ishida http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2012-06-21Baker, John. Celebrate Recovery. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998
James, E L. 50 Shades of Grey. New York : Vintage Books, 2012
Michael Samsel (http://www.abuseandrelationships.org/Content/Behaviors/grooming.html)
James, Susan Donaldson. (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/bdsm-advocates-worry-fifty-shades-grey-sex/story?id=17369406)
“Enabler”. Merriam-webster.com. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2015, Web. 29 January 2015.

Posted February 13, 2015 by canadianmeesh in Uncategorized

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