The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation started using pink ribbons in the 1980s. The foundation took off in 1992 when Estee Lauder cosmetics teamed up with Self magazine to create an awareness campaign symbolized by pink ribbons. Now look around, breast cancer awareness is everywhere. My recycling can has a pink lid. My father-in-law, a high school football coach, wears a pink shirt during games in October. Even the White House is illuminated pink every October 1 in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.
Some debate the effectiveness of the campaign. But National Cancer Institute data shows that the breast cancer death rate has fallen by roughly a third since 1990. By the turn of the century, 70 percent of women over 40 in the U.S. were undergoing screening. To all those who have worked so diligently to make us all aware of the devastation of breast cancer, and the importance of early detection, may I say: “Great job. We are aware. We are thankful.”
As an advocate for healthy thriving marriages, I see a relational cancer sweeping through families that we must be made aware of, or should I say be made to care about. Think me too harsh or dramatic to compare breast cancer to relational cancer? Think again. The effects of divorce on children make it a fair comparison. Following divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two-parent families.* Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are 300 percent more likely to need psychological help within any given year than teens from intact, nuclear families.** People who come from broken homes are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not come from broken homes.*** Adult children of divorce tend to have: lower paying jobs and less college than their parents; unstable father-child relationships; a history of vulnerability to drugs and alcohol in adolescence; fears about commitment and divorce; and negative memories of the legal system that forced custody and visitation.**** When you read these stats it puts Malachi 2:16 into perspective, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,”says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”
While divorce may be the answer for people experiencing infidelity or abuse, for many couples it simply doesn’t have to be. But I’m not simply talking about avoiding divorce. I’m also talking about bringing awareness to sick marriages that need help. I’m also talking about prevention.
When I think about the awareness brought to breast cancer by the pink ribbon symbol, I wonder what it would take to bring the same type of awareness to relational cancer. I’ve often wondered if we could create the same movement toward healthy marriages. What if we could get 70 percent of all married couples to undergo screening to see where they are in their marriage, then be given very specific “go and do” instructions of how to get healthy? What if we had a symbol, maybe an infinity ribbon, that was recognized instantly by everybody, everywhere? What if relational cancer awareness was something that united the world with the church?
Losing someone or something you love is a powerful motivator. Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. While some of us have lost a Susan to breast cancer, nearly all of us have lost a Susan and her family to divorce. We watched the impact it had not only on the couple, but on their family and friends. What would happen if we used the death of that family as a powerful motivator to change relational cancer forever? I know it’s a powerful motivator for me.
So, how do we start a movement of change to stop relational cancer and save the families we love? With all of us working together, we can find a cure.
* (Ronald Angel and Jacqueline L. Worobey, “Single Motherhood and Children’s Health,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 29 (1985): 38 – 52.)
** (Peter Hill, “Recent Advances in Selected Aspects of Adolescent Development,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1993)
*** (Velez-Cohen, “Suicidal Behavior and Ideation in a Community Sample of Children” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1988)
**** (Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study, New York, Hyperion, 2000)
From 2001–2010, Ted Lowe worked as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. His wife, Nancie, played a huge role in hosting and planning MarriedLife programs at North Point. It was during their time at North Point that they decided they not only wanted to help the married people at North Point, but married people at churches all over the world. So, in partnership with Orange and church leaders everywhere they are working fast and furiously to HELP CHURCHES HELP MARRIAGES. They have three children: Chapman (10), Judson (7), and Teddie (5), and live in Cumming, Georgia. You can follow Ted on Twitter and Facebook.