I loved the Nancy Drew book series when I was a child. When I outgrew the books, I put all my Nancy Drew books in a large box to save for my daughter. I still have the books but I never had a daughter so I guess I’m now saving them for a future granddaughter(s). Years ago when we were talking about the books we loved as children, I told EJ about Nancy Drew and her incredible ability to discover a mystery in the most common events and situations. For example, in one book–I think it was called The Secret of Red Gate Farm–a clerk refused to sell Nancy Drew the last bottle of a beautifully scented perfume. Nancy found this odd, suspected a mystery, and investigated it. She discovered a ring of counterfeiters, and she brought it down. Yay, Nancy!
Over the years I have occasionally stated to EJ that I am absolutely NOT like Nancy Drew because I would not find something trivial–like a clerk refusing to sell me the last bottle of perfume–to be odd, mysterious, or worth investigating. I would just assume something normal and innocent–like that it was promised to another customer who was coming later to pick it up. Sometimes when I realized that I had not noticed something important or had been deceived, I’ve exclaimed, “Ugh! Unlike me, Nancy Drew would have suspected this and investigated it! I am SO not Nancy Drew.”
Why am I telling you about Nancy Drew?
It has to do with ignorance, knowledge, and denial. (In this post I’m not talking about the wicked people themselves, but those who are ignorant or in denial. If you want to learn about the wicked–the wolves in sheep’s clothing–click on the title of this excellent podcast from Church Protect: “The Wolves Among Us“)
In recent months, I’ve read articles about people who noticed odd situations, realized something was not right, and did something about it. One article was about a flight attendant who noticed a teenage girl with greasy blonde hair sitting next to a well dressed older man. Not being Nancy Drew, I probably would have assumed that the girl was being a surly teen who liked the “grunge” look. However, the flight attendant said the difference in age and appearance between the traveling companions seemed suspicious to her at the time. The flight attendant was especially struck by the demeanor of the girl who looked like “she had been through pure hell.” The man became defensive when the flight attendant tried to talk to the girl, so she managed to convince the girl to go to the bathroom where she had left her a note stuck to the mirror. The girl wrote on the back of the note that she needed help. The flight attendant immediately reported the man to the pilot who then alerted police. By the time the flight touched down in San Francisco, cops were waiting at the terminal. It was then revealed that the girl was the victim of human trafficking and the flight attendant had just saved her life.
The other article was about an Uber driver who picked up a girl and two women. He became concerned when he overheard their conversation. “They started like talking, like saying everything that was going on. Like what they’re doing, child sex trafficking,” the driver said. After dropping them off at a Holiday Inn, he called the police and this girl also was saved from sex trafficking.
Both these people were like Nancy Drew. They sensed something wrong, acted upon it, and saved a life. Amazing.
I think many of us start out very ignorant about abuse. There is nothing particularly wrong with ignorance. “Ignorance” merely means that we lack information or knowledge. Since none of us knows everything about everything there is to know, we are all ignorant about things. Like…I’m ignorant about quantum physics, how to play a musical instrument, how to sew (although I can crochet), and how to fix evil decepticon lawn mowers, to name just a few things. I can choose to learn about things that I am ignorant about–and I often do because I like to learn–but there are many things I am uninterested in learning. I think it would be awesome to learn to play the violin, for example, but I am actually more content to listen to violin music rather than learn to play it. Same with sewing. Although I think quantum physics could be interesting, I’m not interested in learning it because its technical language and equations would either give me a headache or put me to sleep. I think I would rather beat up the decepticon lawn mower than learn to fix it. This ignorance is ok–although I probably shouldn’t beat up the mower. However, some things that we are ignorant about can do much harm. Like not knowing the difference between true and fake morel mushrooms. Fake ones can kill. EJ really wants to go morel hunting, but I’m a bit anxious about it because I’m aware of my ignorance. I don’t know how to tell the difference between which are yummy and which would kill us. I’d prefer not to die from mushrooms.
I only started to learn about abuse when it happened to me. The abuse was always there, but I didn’t see it because I was mostly ignorant of it. When it happened to me, I found myself confused and hurting so I began doing research and learning about abuse.
As I wrote the other day, I think that learning about abuse is sort of like the science fiction movie “The Matrix.” In the movie, Neo is offered a choice: He can take the blue pill which would allow him, like most others, to remain in the comfortable fantasy world of the Matrix. Or he could take the red pill which would show him the reality that most of humanity had been captured by a race of machines that lived off of the humans’ body heat and electrochemical energy and who imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. From birth to death humans existed in sort of embiotic sacks, plugged into the Matrix. They weren’t really living, they just thought they were.
There can be sort of positives and negatives to both ignorance and knowledge. When ignorant about abuse, it’s easy for a person to believe that the world is a very good place, life is fair, people are always as nice as they appear to be, families will always love you, and our unconditional love and forgiveness can always transform an evil person into a good one. However, ignorance is also dangerous. Evil doesn’t cease to exist simply because someone isn’t aware of it. It’s always been there lurking unnoticed in the shadows, and even in public places in the middle of the day–like on an airplane flight or in an Uber car. Abusers can appear very charming and they are extremely skilled at deception and manipulation. Ignorant people can be easily deceived into believing the abuser’s mask is real. Being ignorant of their tactics makes a person potential prey. Ignorant people can lack knowledge of who is actually the abuser and who is the prey and end up supporting the abuser in his oppression of the victim. Not good.
I think that as people’s knowledge of abuse increases, so does their sorrow as they discover the reality that monsters really do exist and that they cause great damage and suffering to their victims. Increased knowledge reveals how common abuse is, even within the church, the family, and a group of friends. They who increase in knowledge often experience misunderstanding and insults from others who–ignorantly or wickedly–accuse them of being negative, judgmental, and bitter because they spoke out.
In many ways I can’t really say that there are “positives” to gaining knowledge about abuse because the experience has caused damage that I wish I didn’t have and knowledge that causes heartache. However, a person who doesn’t realize she is a prisoner is still a prisoner, and I’m glad that experiences have taught me wisdom and helped me escape. I’m glad that I am developing the skill to recognize abusers and their tactics, which enables me to avoid their traps. I’m glad that I’m learning to set boundaries and stand up to bullies. And I’m glad when I can help other victims escape and/or heal.
There is another character in The Matrix who is significant. His name was Cypher. He knew the truth, but he didn’t like it and he didn’t want to see it so he deliberately chose to close his eyes and believe the delusion. He ended up betraying his friends so he could return to the fantasy of the Matrix. Because of his denial, he actively helped the machines and caused the death of many people.
I think there are many people like this. People who are ignorant can gain knowledge, but people who deliberately choose to believe a lie are in denial. In choosing not to see, they refuse to believe that abuse is occurring or they stay silent because they don’t want to get involved. Such people allow monsters to devour the innocent. They would rather believe the delusion that they have a loving, supportive family than deal with the reality that one of them might be a molester. They would rather silence the truth-tellers than deal with the problem. They shut their eyes to suffering and refuse to hear the cry of the needy. They are the ones who justify the wicked and accuse the righteous. They twist and misrepresent what God says and tell victims that it’s wrong to try to escape. They make me angry.
In regards to this topic, one of my friends said something very profound and true:
Ignorance and denial are not the same thing.
Ignorance is innocent.
Denial is chosen.
I think that the choices we make matter. I sometimes cringe at memories of my past ignorance and get frustrated when I see ways in which I am still ignorant, but I know it’s not wrong to lack knowledge. When we know we are ignorant, we can seek to grow more knowledgeable. It is wrong to choose to be willingly blind. Our choices to see or not see, to hear or not hear, to know or not know changes who we become. If we could know the truth and deliberately choose not to, I think we can become a person who is a friend of monsters–or even a monster himself. I agree with C.S. Lewis, who said:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
Once upon a time, I was ignorant about abuse. But when I encountered it, I chose not to close my eyes. When given a choice between being comforted by lies or hurt with the truth, I choose the truth even if it is scary, or sad, or hurts. I choose to open my eyes to reality so someday I can be a Nancy Drew who notices that something is not right and acts, and maybe saves a life or two. This is why I read about and research abuse, and why I speak out against it, and why I vow so firmly,
“I will not be a friend of monsters,
no matter who they are!”