What Shunning Looks Like

Have you ever been so mad you wanted to slap somebody?

Yesterday at Mass (I know, a lot of good it does attending Church if you’re going to leave angry!), this family came in and sat nearby. I’d seen them before: Dad, Mom, two boys (probably aged 14 or 15), Daughter #1 (maybe 12 or so), and Daughter #3 (aged 5 or so).

What happened to Daughter #2, the one I’m guessing is 10-ish? Well, after the family was seated — and taking up an entire pew — Daughter #2 shows up, tries to scoot somebody over to get in the pew, and fails.

Nobody would move over to let this poor child in.

Mom somewhat angrily motioned for her to take a seat in front of the family. By herself.

A horrified look came over her face, which she instantly covered. When she removed her little hands, her eyes were red and tear-filled; her mouth was trembling.

Too big to cry, she wiped her eyes and sucked back her emotions. With superhuman strength.

Now, far be it from me to judge. Or give parenting advice.

After all, I only have one child, not five. And I don’t know what went on in this family’s home before Church.

Perhaps Daughter #2 had been a real hellion all week.

Perhaps she’d sassed Mom. Or argued over clothes. Or failed to do her chores.

But did she REALLY deserve shunning?

Everything I’ve read indicates shunning is one of the harshest punishments that can be administered, and it certainly has NO PLACE in a family.

I watched in growing horror as this mom and dad, along with four of their kids, basically ignored Daughter #2.

For the entire service.

Surely the mom will send one of her kids to join this child after the sermon, I thought.

It didn’t happen.

Surely the dad will get up and join his daughter after Communion, I hoped.

Wrong again.

Nobody moved to sit with this beautiful little girl.

And my heart was breaking for her.

My late Grandma, who had five kids herself, used to liken her brood to fingers. When one hurts, the whole hand hurts, she said.

It didn’t require a college education for her to know that.

I think it’s incumbent on parents to set the example. To foster a feeling of unity in the family.

To love their kids equally (as much as is possible). To praise their kids publicly and chastise privately.

So, yes, I wanted to slap some sense in that mom and dad. Do you blame me?

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30 thoughts on “What Shunning Looks Like

  1. I would have gone to sit with the girl, and asked her to help me know what to do during the service. I don’t know how things are in your church, of course, but in Lutheran congregations, there’s always hymn-singing and responsive readings where book-sharing is appropriate. If Mom and Dad didn’t like it, well – that would be their problem, I guess.

    • Linda, that was my first inclination, too. However, I’m afraid it only would have made things worse. A Catholic Mass is fairly structured, and parishioners never simply get up and move around. The sad thing is, no one in that family even appeared the least bit disturbed that Daughter #2 was left out in the cold.

  2. Debbie, you and I are so much a like – we notice things. And when we see things such as this, we get very upset. I do the same thing. And what upsets me the most is when I see a parent treat one of their children harshly in public. I’ve actually seen parents SCREAM and CURSE at their children in the store I work – and even sometimes hit them. It’s almost as if the parent is acting like a child themselves.

    “When one hurts, the whole hand hurts, she said.”

    I’ve heard that saying before, but I love it!

    • Ron, thank you for saying that — “we notice things.” Perhaps it’s part of being a sensitive, creative human being. I just wanted to cry with that lovely little girl and I found myself watching the entire service for one of her loved ones to join her. Sadly, it wasn’t happening. And I, too, have seen those parents yelling at their children in stores — besides the shame of being yelled at in public, these poor little ones often have to endure slappings, too. How sad.

  3. At church? Guess, those parents feel like it’s enough to just show up. Yeah, I would have wanted to slap the Mom and Dad. At the rose ceremony this past week the line was shifted when the 1st graders were led up on stage. Which meant the two little boys in the middle were missed and stood on stage as they were passed by and while they would still be handed roses they had no way of know that at the time. The ironic thing is they were being a bit naughty before they were skipped. Anyway after they were left standing crestfallen without rose, one of the seniors on stage immediately left her place and kneeled down to quietly explain what had happened. Her actions brought tears (more) to my eyes. Absolutely right, there is no excuse for leaving a child out. Shame on that family.

    • What a caring, thoughtful senior to help out the omitted first graders! I’m betting yours weren’t the only wet eyes in the place! Sad that people feel obligated to attend church but don’t feel compelled at all to LIVE its teachings.

  4. No, I don’t blame you. You speak well of the injustices that are all around us, Debbie. It makes me wonder what happens behind closed doors if this happened in public. Going to church and acting in good faith are certainly not one in the same. How sad.

    • Ah, Kathy, thanks for empathizing. You’re so right — if something like this can happen in public (Church, no less!), what must be happening in the privacy of the home?? I can understand parents being frazzled, but the kids shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of those emotions.

  5. I had 4 and remember scurrying them to church and yes, we always sat together. I am left wondering though why the other people in the congregation couldn’t move to let her in. That seems a little cold. Are we a warm, welcoming community?

    • Barb, this is a rather small church, and the pew they chose really wasn’t designed for seven people. There *are* pews big enough to accommodate large families, of course, but they didn’t go for one of them. Don’t ask me why. I’d think they should know by now how many people comprise their family! So Daughter #2 was seated in a large pew ALL BY HERSELF. One of her siblings — or a parent — easily could have slipped in next to her, and nobody would have thought anything of it.Isn’t that sad??

  6. Debbie, I would imagine God to be very unhappy to witness such a situation! Like you mention, family is supposed to signify unity and the fact that this little child was left to sit alone is anything but that. Like you, I would have been very upset to see this scene unfold. And yes, methinks your wish to slap someone is quite justified! ha! I just got back from Spain, by the way. I’m eager to catch up on missed blog posts, friend! :)

    • I was wondering what had happened to you, Bella — I missed your sunny presence! Glad all it was, was a lovely vacation. Thanks for agreeing with me. I love your comment that God would be most unhappy to see such a situation, especially in His House!

  7. Poor kid. Hope she’s okay now. Was she the only one sitting in her pew? Or were there others there? How were the parents after service? Did she join them? Are you saying the shunning was real or was it because she was late in arriving? And why exactly were the other congregants so unhelpful, refusing to allow her in? That’s the weird part of the story if you ask me.

    • She was the ONLY one sitting in that pew, Monica. Her family took up the entire pew behind her. Why they chose to sit in one of the church’s smaller pews — too small to include ALL the family — is beside me. As to why she was seconds late, perhaps she had to stop off at the bathroom? But don’t blame the other parishioners — they probably were as confused (and later, angry!) as I was. What baffles me is why somebody — one of her siblings or one of her parents — didn’t either scoot closer in the pew they’d chosen and let her in, or jump up and join her in the wide open pew.

    • Kim, you are probably right. Still, I’d think the mom and dad, at least, would try super hard to leave their “dirty laundry” outside and pick up the disagreement/argument once they got out of church. To embarrass this girl publicly at her age could leave scars that might last a lifetime. Tired or no, they shouldn’t want that to happen. Thanks for coming along!

    • Truer words were never spoken, my friend. Why is it that seemingly intelligent people WORK like crazy and never have the child they want, while others merely have to flutter the sheets and BAM — baby??

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who felt that way. Sad that this entire family didn’t act like anything was amiss at all.

  8. That is just heartbreaking. That poor little girl! It always just floors me when parents can’t seem to sympathize at all with their kids, or try to see things from a child’s perspective. Now I’ll admit, I may have been the softie parent in our household as far as some people are concerned, but I just never could understand parents who administer harsh punishment without any semblance of compassion. I really hope this event doesn’t create an emotional scar that this girl ends up carrying with her for years to come.

    • That’s exactly it, Terri — emotional scars. The odd thing is, I’d never noticed this sort of behavior from these parents before. Either I just never noticed, or it was an outgrowth of something behind-the-scenes I wasn’t aware of. Regardless, it just felt wrong — especially in church. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hers wasn’t the only practically empty pew, Janna. Still, I agree, it was odd. I don’t care how bad a child has been, she didn’t deserve to be humiliated in front of the entire congregation.

  9. What is the point of going to church if you don’t do what the bible says? Oh… but people don’t read their bible or just ignores what it says.. Jesus must be so disappointed when HE sees that kind of behavior!

    I pray for that young girl and the many other children who are abused in some way everyday (mentally and physically). I had the mental abuse and it still hurts to this day! That girl will remember that!….and so will God unless they ask for forgiveness for their actions.

    • Thank you, Tanya. This is exactly what I was thinking. And if people act this shabbily toward their own kids in public, what must be going on behind closed doors in their home??
      Abuse is abuse, and everything we’ve learned points to its harmful effects, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional abuse. I’m glad you survived it!

      • I survived it by forgiving them. My husband and I live with my dad since my mom died and I had to deal with those long forgotten feelings. The memory is still there and even though there has been healing and the big sting of the abuse is well past….I can still remember every detail like it was yesterday. The mind holds on to much more of the negative than the positive. I don’t dwell on those type of thoughts because they only bring sadness. I can’t help that they are there either. What I do is dwell on is how great my life is with God and all the love I get from Him, my husband and children…oh and granddaughter! The bible says to honor your mother and father. This is so we may have wellness in our soul. I do and have honored my parents. For those who have been deeply hurt by someone…the key is forgiveness and seeking the miracle of Gods amazing grace that he bestows on His children who have been so deeply wounded.

  10. Pingback: The Rest of the Story | Musings by an ND Domer's Mom

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