Meeting Perversion With Tenderness


A door has been opened to an unprecedented awareness of uninvited sexual behavior, primarily by men toward women.  How many of us walk through that door, and take meaningful action on what we discover, is the question before us.

At the moment, all sorts of highly visible men are being accused of some pretty toxic conduct, and are paying a hefty price in public condemnation, loss of employment, and maybe most importantly, loss of power.

While this response makes sense, it is also incomplete––if our intention long-term is to nurture healthier human relationships.

I saw a heartbreaking example of such incompleteness on Facebook recently.  It was a photograph of a wood-burning stove with a healthy fire inside.  The statement under it encouraged parents to gift-wrap a bunch of empty boxes, place them under the holiday tree, and tell their children that these were their holiday gifts.  Then, whenever a child “acts out,” take one of the presents and toss it into the stove.

The unfortunate practice of using pain to modify behavior conveys to a child, or anyone, that we don’t really care about what’s going on inside of them so long as their behavior is acceptable to us.  From this they learn not to be real, not to value their emotions and manage them healthfully––and instead, to put on a mask, the mask of behavior.  It’s an empty place to live.

For sexual predation to be addressed in a way that grows the health of everyone, initial outrage needs to evolve into tenderness.  And within that tenderness must come a desire for deep understanding of the behavior’s origins, a willingness to honor those origins, and a commitment to take loving steps to heal them.

That’s tough to do from a place of anger and its cousins.  Which is why those loving steps must include remembering that sexual predators are not responsible for our feelings about them.

Other people and outside circumstances may trigger a certain response in us, but they don’t cause it.  What causes it is how we have defined reality.

One of the ways I’ve defined reality is this: Uninvited sexual behavior is colossally pervasive and bruises the heart of the world.  But it also elicits a whisper from the universe to each of us: “How you respond is a choice: love or fear.  What’s it going to be?”

Where the weight of our actions fall in response to that question––as it pertains sexual predation, racism, or anything else––has significant consequences.

As the voices and commitment of women and men rise to make uninvited sexual behavior a door to a healthier human family, worth considering is this: the quality of life on earth will be shaped by how much this conversation becomes an integral part of every measure of well-being––until such time that all we see in another is the sacred reflection of our true self.


  1. Thank You Steve. Well said, from a “Me Too.” Who experientially knows compassion and completion are related. And when my compassion juices are not flowing on some level, I’m reaching for them.

  2. Outrage into tenderness with dozens of stages in between. It’s a lofty goal this tenderness thing, perhaps too soft to feel like a safe landing place, a revisiting of the rawness of being born female. A fear that only a woman can feel. And then there is the shame, the guilt, like we are complicit somehow just because we are women and girls. Love or fear? Right now…we must begin to raise generations of powerful girl children who love themselves and have absolutely no fear about setting boundaries.

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth