A few nights ago, while channel surfing, I saw something that nauseated me to the degree that I ended up just turning off the television and going to bed. Without meaning to, I had stumbled upon harsh criticism of a family I have long admired: the Duggar Family, of the popular reality television show, “19 Kids and Counting”, a family who is apparently light-years ahead of most of us in terms of both worldly success and personal peace.
These things, however, did not count with the host of the program I had to quickly exit: a young, thin, trendy-dresser, who had, of course, attained all the wisdom of the ages. As evidenced by her ideal weight, flawless make-up, and perfect wardrobe. Armed with such apparent infallibility, with just a few carefully chosen abusive words and voice tones, she derided the the Duggars for raising children who are, in her words, “sexually repressed”.
If by “sexually repressed” she means that the Duggars and their children are not throwing themselves physically at – and sleeping around like cats and dogs with—anyone and everyone who will have them, as so many of their contemporaries seem to be doing, then perhaps she is right.
But I cannot help thinking that she has corrupted a word that once denoted virtuous restraint into a cheap criticism she hopes no one will think to rebut. It seems that the word “repressed”, as used by the speaker, means something completely different than what we might find written next to it in the dictionary.
By her callous words and self-righteous demeanor, one might be tempted to believe that a world free of rigid limits and restraints is possible. Even desirable. But is it?
If repressed means what the speaker seems to think it means, then perhaps it could be applied to the following examples of substances and machinery which currently operate under some fairly stringent parameters. Are these situations in which a bit less restraint might be called for?
Do we call all the gold at Fort Knox “repressed” simply because it is not freely available to anyone who wants to make use of it? Or, would we say it is simply well-protected?
Do we call that computer “repressed” which waits for commands from an outside operator before performing any operations? Or do we call it “clean” and “virus-free”? What kind of computer would you prefer to have?
Do we call the flying machines at the airport “repressed” when, instead of choosing their own directions and timing, they follow the directions from the tower, and take turns? Or do we call them “safe” and “well-regulated”?
Is a neat, orderly, weed-free vegetable garden “repressed” when anything and everything is not allowed within its borders?
Do we harshly criticize the blood in our veins when it stays confined within our own skin?
Do we call dogs who leave others’ food alone “repressed”, or do we call them “well-trained” and secretly wish our own canines showed similar self-control?
Is anyone beginning to see a pattern here?
Do we label well-respected government leaders “repressed” when they refuse themselves the luxury of blurting out any and every thought that animates their thinking? Or do we appoint them diplomats, then award them the awesome responsibility of building and maintaining peace between warring parties?
Do we call those orchestras “repressed” who follow every whim of the conductor who wishes to see his group bring vibrant life to music notes sleeping on the written page? Or do we call them “harmonious” and pay good money to hear them perform, then fork out even more money to buy a copy of one of their recordings?
Do we call that pen “repressed” which contains its ink carefully inside itself until such time as it is deliberately applied to paper? Or do we call it “reliable”, and something we can depend on not to ruin our good shirt at the company dinner?
Do we call the markings on a printed page “repressed” when they limit themselves to a prescribed language and format? Do we not call similar pages “sloppy” and “unprofessional” when littered with spelling and grammar errors, and untidy margins? Is not this the original school recipe for low grades in composition?
In everyday living, we are acquainted with several things – “forces of nature” so to speak – that we can use to our benefit when they are rigidly contained and controlled. Water, gasoline, fire, and electricity are a few of these. We love them when they operate in their prescribed channels. But isn’t it rather disastrous whenever any one of these happens to “break free” and do whatever comes naturally?
One would think that this most recent critic of the Duggars could find a more accurate word to describe them and their behavior to the world. “Repressed” may not be the most fitting adjective here.
In a society that often labels good things “evil” and evil things “good”, we have rapidly degenerated into calling disorder, bad behavior, and lack of restraint “normal” because this is what so many of us (often, sadly, myself included) practice on a regular basis.
I can hardly imagine why anyone would prefer to see the Duggars exhibit themselves shamelessly, throwing to the wind all sense of restraint, as other families under the relentless and unforgiving media glare have done. When I see and read reports of some of these other families, and catch just a glimpse of the heart-ache these poor families are both suffering and perpetuating through their daily choices, I thank God for raising up the Duggars to shine a spot-light on life as it ought to and can be lived.
And I cannot help but call them a few choice names of my own, such as “America’s First Family of Good Conduct”; and “A family truly at peace with itself”; and “A family that has raised up and practiced such a culture of blessing and honor among its members as is rarely seen this side of heaven.” How about this one: “A public family of which Americans need not be ashamed!”
If it is true that the sexual drives are the most powerful forces at work in the natural world – and I strongly believe they are – and if they can be harnessed and controlled to simultaneously bless the users and protect outsiders – which the Duggars seem to have mastered, and not just mastered, but mastered beautifully – then I just have to say, “More power to them!!!!”
In our family, we call sex “God’s wedding present” and do everything in our power to discourage our children from engaging in any sexual activity outside the prescribed (and greatly blessed!) channel of marriage. Anything else just leaves a shameful wreckage of pain and regret that follows a person for the rest of his life.
But getting back to my rant on “repression” : do we disdain those rare men as “repressed” who refuse to take sexual advantage of any woman or child available to them? Do not we consider them trustworthy, and, when it comes right down to it, safe to associate with? Conversely, do we not call those “un-repressed” men who allow their sex drives to run wild such names as “perverted”; “criminal”; and “incarcerated”? To which group would you want to entrust your precious children?
As far as I can tell, the elder Duggars have so well-trained and directed their offspring that upon marriage, each of them will be able to enjoy all the beauties and wonders of a sexual union free of regret and shame. And, though I am not normally a betting woman, I would wager that 20 generations hence, the Duggars may still have failed to produce a single sexual pervert or criminal among their descendants.
On my own, I am tempted to attach a few choice labels of my own to the poor gal who so harshly criticized this family so worthy of our emulation and praise: I am more than strongly inclined to label that woman “a stupid, shriveled soul, spouting baloney, which should be instantly discarded!!!!” However, I believe the Duggars would frown on such harsh language. Instead, let us call her “mistaken”, and pray for a change of heart for her in the future.
Meantime, if you can find anything in this world that is currently operating under “repressive” constrictions, which we would do well to remove, feel free to let me know. But I bet you anything it will have nothing to do with a sexually-pure lifestyle.
So, I hereby proclaim that since sex is God’s very special creation, and that He has some very specific ideas about how to use this very special gift, perhaps we ought to go back to His book, The Bible, to see what His ideas are, and leave the judging of rigid self-restraint in the life of others to the One Judge Who Judges Justly.