“I want advice from women who have been down in the dirt and passed through the valley of the shadow.” –Rebecca at Suspended in Her Jar
It may send you into embarrassed blushes and stomach knots to know that I’ve cussed the word “fuck” at least fifty times since I woke this morning (and that’s a very conservative estimate). I’ve also taken the time to complain to God about how crappy I was feeling, how much I missed Him, and that I want to feel closer to Him again.
I want to say this from the start because, after reading your post, the biggest takeaway I remember the following morning is you associating something so culturally biased as cussing as an act that inherently prevents us from engagement with the lovelier things in life. I could launch into an entire post about cussing alone, but for now, I’ll just say this on the subject: if cussing bothers you so deeply, I wonder how you function in mature society—even the nicest, kindest people vent anger, excitement, etc in the various extrapolations that so horrify you.
Innocence is not my stock and trade and I’ll be the first one to say it, but I take exception to your presumption that such misunderstood and sugarcoated declarations of “innocence” are the only way to live a good, decent, and moral life:
Innocence is a deliberate series of choices that we make to preserve and cultivate our personal integrity. It’s like keeping mud and dirt out of my house: I want my house to be clean, but right now there’s a Michigan winter out there, so I take my shoes off at the door before I track sludge through the house. That way, my home stays bright and clean, a welcome refuge from the cold nastiness outside, both for myself and for everyone who comes over. Innocence serves a similar purpose—to keep our inner lives clean and lovely …
That, my dear innocent one, is bullshit.
You could say (and justifiably so) that I’m bitter at reading your post because I have never known the innocence you describe and take advantage of in your piece. Between being raped as a child, enduring physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse from my family, and dealing with incessant bullying and torment in school, the newborn babe complex that the upstanding person should apparently possess was never something remotely in my purview. It wasn’t even something I had a concept of until college when I was told by sanctimonious people that, because I had endured trauma, I was missing something. Because, of course, you only lose this innocence by choice. It is never forced from you, torn from you, or ripped from your sight before you’re even aware of its reality.
Where do you come up with the presumption that being innocent is somehow superior?
Let me ask you this–how do you know you have a hand up in facing the world if you claim utter innocence? You cannot–I repeat CANNOT–understand the world and its tortures, its horrors, its aches, or its beauties by sweeping out the mud and dirt from your house and shutting your blinds. That is the same fallacy that would say Christ wouldn’t need to know sin, to become sin, to suffer in each agonizing detail the pain of every turn against nature and the Divine life, to redeem the world. He could not have saved the world if He hadn’t become completely absorbed by the very vulgarity you denounce.
And, after all, what could possibly be more vulgar than the utter, wretched butchery, torture, and violation of the Son of God, the Messiah, by the hands of the people He came to save?The innocence you describe is strikingly similar to the stereotypical, middle class Christian ideal of good manners, step lightly, don’t make a fuss—Christianity is not merely for those who can afford, whether financially and ethnically, to keep the mud outside their house. Christianity is not a set of good manners. True sanctification and holiness, an actual leap in the journey towards further intimacy with God, is not about remaining proper, watching your mouth, and dressing appropriately—it is about the pain of acknowledging the world the way it is and finding God at the heart of the pain. It is not enough to keep yourself “innocent” if such a thing is actually possible in the adult, knowledgeable Christian life. Purification and uniting your sufferings with the suffering of the One Who saved us is just one of many ways to know God further—remaining innocent is not.
In preparing my post, I came up with a laundry list of names from both history and scripture that violates the treatise of your innocence defense, but I’ve decided to only use one of them: the slaughtering of holy virgins in the early Christian persecution.
Whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, these examples of holy righteousness are trotted out as the perfect suffering for Christ’s sake–and with good cause. What I take exception to is when the lives of the women who were tortured and killed are boiled down to nothing but a sacrifice to preserve their virginity—their innocence—and not about their spilling their blood in martyrdom for the faith and Truth they would rather die for than surrender.
The virgin martyrs experienced the depths of vulgarity—their breasts removed, their tongues cut off, their eyes plucked out. Does their dying no longer knowing innocence violate their morality? Does it diminish or destroy their integrity, their courage?
Stop using the lucky circumstances of your place in life as justification for declaring “innocence” as the best route in life. Experiencing life, both its goods and its ills, is what living an actual life is about. You cannot hope to function in a mature, intelligent capacity without experience, far beyond any of the realms of innocence.
Image source: https://images.pexels.com/photos/36449/flower-rose-nature-white.jpg?cs=srgb&dl=blossom-dead-dry-36449.jpg&fm=jpg?dl&fit=crop&crop=entropy&w=2592&h=3888