But I know this: anyone who has not lived in the Midwest or Northeast still does not understand real winter. We lived 100 miles south of Chicago for two years. That experience was far more than two or three weeks of lows in the 20s and highs in the 40s. Someone in Maine would probably consider that a heat wave. A few cold weeks down here is nothing compared to several months of even colder weather up there.
We have had the same experience trying to explain the heat down here. When people further north see highs in the 90s they say, "Well, we get that hot, too." Here is one difference: we have it day in and day out for a full five months with no let up. Here is another: we have humidity to match it; and a third: the sun exposure, being much more direct, will sap the strength right out of you.
We tried to tell some people that once, and they just laughed. Then they came to visit for a week. It was only mid-June, so it wasn't really all that bad yet. One morning the visiting lady went outside with me to help hang up clothes, oh, around 9 am. We hadn't been outside more than five minutes before she suddenly gave a soft little "whew!" I looked over. She was red-faced and pouring sweat. "It's sort of like a sauna out here, isn't it?" she said, panting a little. She could hardly endure a week of it. And it was constant. Once the summer sets in, there is no fluctuation. A heat wave? Ours lasts from May till October. Being here a week in June still does not earn you a participation trophy in a Florida summer.
So I have learned over the years to listen to others and to realize that unless I have had their exact experience, I really do not know what they are dealing with. I have learned to withhold judgment until I gather more information. I have learned to offer more sympathy and less castigation, and I never say, "I know how you feel," when I don't.
I have been watching and listening to all these accusations of sexual harassment lately. Nothing quite gets my hackles up like someone saying, "So why did she wait so long to tell?" as if her delay makes her story unbelievable. Especially when it comes from someone without a participation trophy, and especially when it comes from a man.
I will tell you exactly why she kept quiet. Not just embarrassment, but total mortification. And the more chaste a woman is, the less likely she will say anything. If she has been raised as a Christian, to keep herself pure and to assume the best of others, her first thought will be, "What did I do wrong?" even when she did absolutely nothing. She won't want to cause any trouble or bring attention to herself. She won't want to embarrass her family. She won't want to hold herself up to all the probing eyes and thoughts of people who will assume the worst about her and dare to bring up what she considers unspeakable suspicions. Even if she is perfectly innocent. And if the harasser is older, a head taller and a hundred pounds heavier, or in authority over her, she will be too scared to speak. If she needs the job, the class, the promotion, the grades, or whatever it is she might lose if she talks, she will keep quiet for years, even decades.
So stop judging. If you are a man, don't say a word. You have no idea what it's like. You don't have a participation trophy.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt 7:1-2)
Stop by tomorrow for practical advice on avoiding sexual harassment.