Debating the Subjective
Part 1 Part 2 Part 4
Someone once said that if you remove Christ from the equation, you have no Christianity. This is because Christianity is not about a bunch of rules. The essence of Christianity is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. You can remove Buddha from Buddhism and still have the basic tenets of Buddhism. You can extract Confucius from Confucianism and still have Confucianism. But remove Christ and Christianity ceases to exist.
Women use personal stories as a way of connecting with others, including men.The same can be said for feminine empiricism. If I may use a broad generalization, men tend to value logic and reason over feelings and personal experience. Women, on the other hand, place a high importance on the subjective. This is not to say we value empiricism over reason, but in some cases, we give the two equal billing. You can talk facts with anybody. Remove a particular person from a factual conversation, and you can still have that conversation. But the only person who can talk subjective experience with you is the person who's had that subjective experience. Women use personal stories as a way of connecting with others, including men. Downplay her personal experience, dismiss it as unimportant, and you've basically erased that woman's reason for existing - whether it be in an isolated conversation, or in the relationship as a whole.
As stated in previous posts, I am writing this series because I believe men truly do not know how certain things they do can crush a woman's spirit. I believe many men honestly have no idea how their dismissal of a woman's desire to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences can literally leave her feeling like she's been erased. To illustrate this, here is a recent example from my own life where I felt a bit trampled on:
On Tuesday night, I was talking with "Vinny," a man from my church. We were in a very lighthearted, relaxed conversation. We were exchanging funny stories, and I began to tell Vinny about the time I asked my Home Group leaders for a small favor: I needed a backyard to bury my dead cat and I was wondering if they'd be willing to volunteer theirs. (They said yes, by the way.) I began by telling Vinny that because I live in a condo-style townhouse, I had no yard in which to bury my cat. Even if I did, I didn't own a shovel to dig a grave. As a Christian, burial is symbolically important to me, so I was on a quest to find a way to bury her.
Vinny interrupted me by saying that I could have thrown the cat in the garbage and it would have been all right because animals don't have souls. I acknowledged that Vinny was correct: animals do not have souls. But that wasn't the point. My intention at that moment was to share a funny story, not to discuss the spirituality of animals. I tried to return to my story but Vinny continued to challenge me on the issue. Nevertheless, I never got past the first two sentences of my story and the lightheartedness had been completely drained out of the conversation. The opportunity to connect with Vinny had disappeared. I was now in a full-fledged doctrinal debate with this person, and I am confident that had a few more men dropped in on us, I could have slipped away unnoticed while they discussed the issue amongst themselves.
I finally got Vinny to abandon the debate and we started talking about exercise. Both of us agreed that running was preferable to swimming. We began to list all the reasons why we didn't enjoy swimming as much (water in the ears, you can't work up a good sweat, etc.). I mentioned another reason that was of particular importance to me: I didn't want to get chlorine in my hair. In honor of 1 Corinthians 11, I have chosen to take great care of my hair because it is a symbol that is important to me personally. Vinny immediately began to protest that my decision to take care of my hair is not supported by 1 Corinthians 11. Again, this was not the point. I am not clueless; I know taking care of one's hair is not a prescriptive outlined in 1 Corinthians 11. The point was that this was a glimpse of myself that I was offering this man. Vinny had dismissed another opportunity to connect with me, and opted instead to place the focus on doctrine. For a second time that night, I could have left the conversation, had someone else take my place, and the discussion would have been perfectly intact. I was no longer a necessary element in the equation.
Men, let me stop here and say that I understand it is never your intention to hurt us in situations like this. If anything, you are trying to serve a woman by correcting what you may perceive to be theological error. We are grateful for that. We are grateful you want to lead us in the right way. We were created to submit to that leadership, and we appreciate so much your desire to protect us from error. And because we respect you so much, we want for you to know us better. If you know what's in our hearts, you will know what our needs are. This, we assume, makes leadership easier for you.
Sadly, many men misunderstand a woman's desire to share her thoughts, feelings, and experiences to be trivial details that are unnecessary to the "big picture." This often results in the woman feeling as though the man thinks she is unnecessary.
Women, we need to be sensitive to the fact that while we may feel comfortable enough with a man to share with him, we do not need to blast him with a tsunami of personal anecdotes.In other cases, the woman is perceived as being self-absorbed if she shares too much. In fact, a man told me just today, "It seems like these past few months, all you've done is turn the conversation around and made it about you!" I was terribly discouraged by this statement. All these months, I felt comfortable enough in my friendship with this person to simply open up and talk about what was on my mind. To think that my attempts at sharing with this brother could be construed as annoying and narcissistic made me feel awful. It made me want to withdraw. It made me feel as though the decision to expose parts of myself to this man, and possibly others like him, is as unwelcome an intrusion as the one described in Proverbs 25:17:
Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house,
Lest he become weary of you and hate you.
In my discouragement, I wondered today, "Is there any hope for men and women to understand one another?" Praise God, we have hope in Christ, who died to bridge the gap not only between us and the Father, but between us and our fellow man. Women, we need to be sensitive to the fact that while we may feel comfortable enough with a man to share with him, we do not need to blast him with a tsunami of personal anecdotes. Chances are if you are good enough friends and you respect one another, he already knows you better than you think.
That being said, I'd like to make a plea to the men out there to allow us to share our thoughts, feelings, and experiences with you, even if they appear at first to be doctrinally erroneous. When you find yourself in that situation, remember, we're not so much seeking a scriptural debate. We just want you to listen. When we share, we are (oftentimes) not being self-absorbed, either. On the contrary, we are being quite giving. It is our way of extending an invitation to you to discover what really makes us tick!