Looking to Share Emotional Burdens with a Friend? Before Sharing, Let’s Seek Consent

Consent matters.

That two-word phrase is used often these days when sexual consent is discussed. Those two words are right: consent matters, when it comes to sexual consent.

However, when you are hoping to possibly vent about a bad day at work or share something emotional or burdensome with something else, it’s also important to seek consent for doing that with the person you’re hoping to discuss with/vent to. In other words, another form of consent, that I call emotional consent, is important.

Emotional consent is when you seek someone else’s permission to tell them something(s) involving deep emotions or burdens. Through exercising this form of consent, you can share emotional, burdensome things only when the listener is physically, mentally, and emotionally able to handle it.

At this point, some of you might be thinking this: “Okay, emotional consent sounds great, but how can I exercise this?” I have three answers to that question:

  1. Ask yourself whether your friend will need to invest something significant in order to help you (whether it be time, emotional labor, or something else). If the answer is “yes,” I recommend seeking consent before sharing your burdens. If the answer is no, then chat away with your friend!
  2. Ask your friends questions along the lines of: “Can I share something heavy?” or “Can I vent about something?” if it turns out your friend does need to invest in you in some way. By asking these types of questions before moving a conversation further along, you give your friend the opportunity to say “yes” or “no,” depending on how your friend is doing. If your friend is happy to let you share, then you can share. HOWEVER, if there is an absence of an enthusiastic “yes,” ranging from “ummm…okay,” to “I guess,” to no response at all, to the straight-up “no,” then please do not think that you have emotional consent to share your burdens with your friend.
  3. If you’re going to talk about a specific type of issue or event that may bring emotions with someone (examples include sexual assault, divorce, and mental illness), make sure you give the content warning that your sharing will involve something with that specific topic. It’s important to do that because, without a content warning, you might jump right into an issue or story that reminds your friend of a traumatic event or set of events in their lives (and friends, of course, don’t want to put other friends in that type of situation).
  4. Make it clear that it’s okay if your friend does not want you to share the burden. A friend might worry that it would negatively affect the friendship if the friend is unable or unwilling to give emotional consent. However, if you reassure your friend that there is no such thing as a bad answer, even if your friend says “no,” then your friend doesn’t feel the need to listen to burdens without being emotionally ready for them.

Hopefully, what I said above gives a pretty good overview of what emotional consent is and why it’s important. However, I think it’s also extremely important to discuss what happens without that emotional consent. In my experiences of being on both the giving and receiving end of a lack of emotional consent, one or more of the following things often happens without it, none of them good:

  1. You dump burdens on the friend, and the friend doesn’t respond back because the friend just can’t emotionally deal with or consider the message, let alone respond to it.
  2. Your friend does respond, but does not give a wholehearted response because your friend just can’t handle your burdens fully at that time.
  3. Your friend just says that “I can’t handle this right now.” Or worse—your friend tells you that what you said has brought back bad memories.
  4. Your friend ends up being hurt emotionally by what you shared (whether that’s said or not), even if you didn’t intend it.

Instead of experiencing one or more of these potential events, my advice is to just seek emotional consent for heavy topics. Seek emotional consent from someone if you need to talk about your bad day at work, or something much deeper than that. If your friend consents to your talking about something(s) burdening you, then great! If not, then you will want to find someone else to talk to, as finding someone else to talk to would be in the best interests of you and your friend.

Indeed, consent matters.

Note: As emotional consent is something I consider “blindly just,” this is a “blindly just” post.

Want to Keep Your Catholic (or Non-Catholic Christian) Faith and Have Been Abused by the Church? There Are Places You Can Turn to.

A couple of weeks ago, a grand jury report stated that over 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children.

For me, this report was a punch to the gut emotionally. As a practicing Catholic who, for four years, had deep ties to one of the dioceses mentioned in the report (Diocese of Harrisburg, during my time at college), it would be an understatement if I said that the report was difficult to take.

Yet, in spite of the difficulty of even thinking about (let alone writing about) those in my own denomination perpetrating such horrible wrongdoings, I think that it is important to talk about this matter. Namely, it is important to dedicate my first “blindly just” post to organizations that are working in Catholic circles, or in non-Catholic Christian religious circles, to help victims of sexual abuse.

The purpose of this post is not to go into one of the “oh…look at the fact that not all Catholics/non-Catholic Christians are abusive” types of messages. No, the purpose of this post is to: a) attempt to be a resource for people who love their Catholic (or non-Catholic Christian) faith but have been hurt by sexual abuse within Catholic/non-Catholic Christian institutions and b) show to advocates on this issue, regardless of faith, some faith-based allies in the battle to confront sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and other spaces) that many of us might want to consider working with.

Organizations doing this good work include, but are not limited, to:

  1. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)-SNAP was started in 1988 by Barbara Blaine, a victim of sex abuse by a priest. Since then, SNAP has worked to help survivors and those vulnerable to abuse, while at the same time advocating for various reforms to help curtail abuse in the Catholic Church and beyond. They have everything from their own hotline to support groups to advice on choosing a therapist. http://www.snapnetwork.org/
  2. Road to Recovery-Road to Recovery was founded in 2003 by Robert Hoatson. New Jerseyans may be most familiar with him as a candidate for governor last year, but he was actually once a priest who was suspended from performing priestly ministry because of his tireless advocacy for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (and is now no longer a priest). He and Monsignor Kenneth Lasch (who is still a priest, albeit a retired one) have an organization dedicated to, among other things, providing services to victims of abuse, offering referrals, advocating for victims of abuse, and providing direct and indirect services to victims of abuse. www.road-to-recovery.org
  3. Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF)-They provide Christian counseling to people in need at three different locations across the United States. This is more on the counseling side of things than the advocacy side of things, but counseling is still an important resource in confronting sexual abuse. https://www.ccef.org/
  4. AdvocateWeb-From what I can tell, AdvocateWeb is, above all else, a site dedicated to providing a wide range of resources to victims of sexual abuse (and even some resources for family and friends of those who were abused). Think of AdvocateWeb as a database of resources for those who have been abused, instead of simply being a resource all by itself. Speaking of being a database of resources, they have a whole page dedicated to Christian organizations and groups dedicated to helping to address sexual abuse. So, if you’re not satisfied with any of the previous three resources I gave, maybe a referral from this fourth resource might help. Several clergy people (albeit I’m not sure of denomination) are on their Advisory Council. http://www.advocateweb.org/

These organizations, all of which have deep ties to Christian faith (and with the top two, more specifically Catholic Christianity), do not negate the damage that’s already been done by Catholic clergy. However, these organizations are hopefully of help and hope to advocates, as well as people who want to keep their faith but struggle because they were abused by someone within their own churches.

All New: Posting on Just Actions People May Not Realize!

As I said in my previous blog news post, I am going to somewhat expand from the original focus of my blog. Namely, I will start to occasionally post on just actions that people may not realize.[1]

However, I don’t want to start that series without any further explanation of what it’s called, why I’m doing this, what sorts of posts I hope to have, and what I hope to accomplish.

So, for starters, any posts on just actions that people may not realize will go into a section called “Blindly Just,” mostly because I feel that name fits in with the concept of posts being about just actions that people may not realize. It will be a section, just as “Racial Issues” or “LGBTQ+” are sections.

As for why I’m doing “Blindly Just” posts, the answer is that a lot of thought and prayer has led me to do this.[2] In these thoughts and prayers, I decided that I should not only focus on situations where we or others are unjust without realizing it, but also situations where we or others are just without realizing. In other words, balancing the negative with at least a little bit of the positive.

As such, the posts I hope to have will highlight how some of us (or others) are just without realizing it. By writing these posts, I hope that readers become more aware of how some of us are, or can be, better agents of love and justice toward others and ourselves.


[1] I have no set schedule on how frequently I will do these “blindly just” posts. That being said, I hope to do a few “blindly just” posts a year.
[2] As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I am a believer in Christ. So yes, prayer went into this.