I figured I’d give it a shot because I didn’t want to be that girl, the one who spoils everyone’s fun because she can’t loosen up or take a joke. I was warned that the game was crude and not really what I consider a good time. Our guests had been warned that I might nix the plan to play. But they had brought the game anyway, and while I was assured that it was okay if I didn’t want to play, there weren’t any other suggestions on the table and it seemed rather clear that everyone else did want to play. So I thought sure, I’m a grown up, I can handle it. And we played.
And for a couple hours that evening I exposed myself to vulgar language, crude jokes, and sexual innuendo. After I finally called it quits on the game the conversation turned to a couple recent celebrity lip sync contests on a comedy show I had never heard of. Assured of the hilarity we would all share in together, we looked up the videos on YouTube and the assault on my eyes was more than I could handle. As A-list celebrities gyrated and imitated sex acts on the screen I averted my eyes and sat for a minute, fretting over how to leave the room gracefully. I finally decided to forego the grace and just got up and walked away. It took me a minute to compose myself before I could rejoin the group.
I had a lot of takeaways from this experience, points to ponder about what makes a gracious host, how to honor my own integrity without casting judgment on someone else, what it is about my inhibitions around being the odd one out that caused me to go along with activities I knew from the outset weren’t suited to my taste or health for my spirit. Lots to chew on here. But one of the big themes running through my mind since this happened is the denigration of decency in our culture, the commodifying of vulgarity and the comedic use of the crass and crude, and how this type of environment affects our children.
Our kids are not immune to sex, violence, and vulgarity in our culture. Just because parents may send the littles to bed before they turn on the prime time programming (a weak safeguard that it seems more and more parents are foregoing anyhow in the name of changing norms and enlightenment) doesn’t mean those children are not exposed. Filth creeps into the fabric of our homes and reaps a harvest. As parents we need to pay attention to the affects.
What happens in a home where sex acts alluded to, joked about, and modeled on television become a sick joke?
What happens to our kids when they see us amused or enchanted by celebrities writhing on the ground in suggestive poses or imitating acts of domination?
What happens in our spirits when making jokes at the expense of the poor, the weak, the uneducated or the outcast becomes a form of entertainment?
What happens to our culture when we publicly reach out to embrace and unite with those who are different from us, only to poke fun, criticize or blatantly stereotype them behind closed doors?
I know what happened in my own spirit that night I was too weak or too foolish to speak up and say this isn’t the kind of “entertainment” I find nourishing. I know an evening of “naughty” jokes and “all in good fun” celebrity antics left me feeling nearly sick to my stomach, and certainly sick in my soul. I also know that my tolerance for this type of vulgarity is low, and that such performances are lauded and praised in our culture and in the media regularly and with great enthusiasm. That gives me pause, and great concern for the conditions of the soul of our culture and our country.
The environment in which our children grow will shape them. There’s no getting around that—we are all molded and influenced by the culture around us. In a world that thinks vulgarity is a virtue, we as parents have got to take seriously our responsibility to create a home environment conducive to bringing about our kids’ best. Once upon a time the message of our culture reinforced the message in the home—that respect, responsibility, selflessness and hard work should be esteemed. Not to say that the world was ever perfect, but the pervading messages were in alignment with the values most parents wanted to instill in their kids. But no longer.
Parents, be careful. The good news is that parents are still the most powerful influencers in children’s lives. Pay attention, be on guard, and use that power wisely. If we allow filth to become commonplace, our kids will pay the price. This is no secret, and yet we allow ourselves, as I did that night, to be complacent, cajoled or convinced that it’s not that big a deal. But it is a big deal. Cheapening sex and using coarse language and treating the inappropriate as appropriate comes at a price. Let us be the gatekeepers of our homes; let us allow wisdom to govern the standards we hold.
Let us remember that the people we are tomorrow are wrought by the choices we make today.