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Wisdom & Discernment

Since 2011, I’ve been speaking and raising awareness about issues relating to human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Over the years, my presentation style changes and evolves to work to my strengths and address emerging issues. One of the challenges I have speaking to audiences of strangers is not knowing how much they might already know about the issue, so I tend to start with general facts and information and go from there. Last year, I adapted my presentation and centered my content around myths about human trafficking. I did this to address another presenting challenge I face: providing information in ways that counter the misconceptions that people have come to believe about trafficking because of what they have previously seen or heard. Sometimes these myths stem from fictionalized accounts like movies. But some misconceptions stem from articles that are consumed as news and taken as truth.

Survivors have also shared with me the harm that sensationalized stories have on them.

There have been some popular stories of trafficking and sexual exploitation that I have seen online lately, ones I do not feel the need to highlight here given my belief that they are not entirely factual. On the one hand, sensationalized stories like these generate a “buzz” and provide opportunities to highlight the realities of trafficking in our community and throughout the world. But the time it takes to counter misconceptions, myths, and conspiracy theories is time and energy taken away from diving deeper into the issues surrounding human trafficking. Survivors have also shared with me the harm that sensationalized stories have on them; when they share their own stories, they are not considered as valid or as serious because they might not contain elements or experiences that sensationalized stories tend to emphasize.

Get wisdom, get understanding, do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Why do we tend to gravitate towards the sensationalized? I think we are captivated by and focus on more sensationalized stories because it is more difficult for us to reconcile the reality that evil and injustice are nearby, in our own communities. Is it possible that it is easier to believe that children unknown to us are being trafficked by large corporations or prominent people because then the expectation for justice falls on systems that we believe are out of our control or reach? Coming face to face with the realization and understanding that trafficking happens in our own communities and purchased by people we may even know takes more work, more energy, and more responsibility.

Proverbs 4:1-7 (NIV)

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;

    pay attention and gain understanding.

I give you sound learning,

    so do not forsake my teaching.

For I too was a son to my father,

    still tender, and cherished by my mother.

Then he taught me, and he said to me,

    “Take hold of my words with all your heart;

    keep my commands, and you will live.

Get wisdom, get understanding;

    do not forget my words or turn away from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;

    love her, and she will watch over you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.

    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

So why do we care about this as Christians? Why should Christians concern themselves with dispelling myths and countering conspiracy theories? God calls us to seek truth; wisdom and discernment are crucial in seeking truth. As Christians, we practice discernment in many areas of our life. Congregations regularly practice discernment when extending a call to a new pastor, making programming changes, and grappling with complex issues and topics. “Discernment” is practiced by individuals when seeking God’s direction in making personal choices. God created us with free will and the ability to exercise curiosity, exploration, discussion, and common sense. God gives us wisdom, and God instructs us to also be proactive in seeking wisdom. 

We are so fortunate to have access to news and information at our fingertips. But with that comes the importance of exercising wisdom and discernment. And this is my prayer for us all (Philippians 1:9-11): “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” 


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