Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Debating the Subjective

Part 3 in the "Men Behaving Badly" Series
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:

DOCTRINE vs. MY DEAD CAT

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.

FEMININE REACTIONS TO THIS SITUATION

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!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Immodest Man

Part 2 in the "Men Behaving Badly" Series
Part 1 Part 3 Part 4


We often assume that modesty is solely a woman's issue. For most people, modesty is nothing more than a word to describe one's dress. This is a very, very limited view of modesty. True modesty is an attitude: one that is free from vanity. Simply put, modesty is humility in action. Most women who dress immodestly do so for vain reasons. Whether they are exceedingly narcissistic or painfully insecure, the goal is to place the focus on the self by attracting the attention of men.

That being said, I think it is fair to say that most of the efforts put into educating people about modesty focus solely on women. It is rare we hear teaching on proper, modest behavior for men. So rare, in fact, one man raised the question in an online forum: "I wonder what do men do that cause women to stumble?" I am so glad he asked!

Men are tempted by what they see. Women, on the other hand, are tempted by what they hear. The Immodest Man is one who uses flattery.The answer is quite simple. Men are tempted by what they see. Women, on the other hand, are tempted by what they hear. The Immodest Man is one who uses flattery. Like the Immodest Woman, The Immodest Man flaunts his compliments for vain reasons: whether exceedingly narcissistic or painfully insecure, the goal is to place the focus on the self by attracting the attention of women. You may not think flattery is such a bad thing, but at the risk of being graphic, I want to give the men out there an idea of what this is like for a woman:
You are minding your business when some woman who is not your wife begins to tempt you visually with her immodest dress. Over time, things progress to sinful levels, to the point where you are unable to stop yourself from giving in to temptation. One day, the woman gets you alone. She starts to take off her clothes. She practically throws herself at you. Then, the moment you begin to undress, she slaps you in the face and says, "Ugh! What are you thinking!" You tell the woman, "But you're taking off your clothes! I thought --" And the woman tells you, "I don't want to have sex with you. I'm sorry if you got that impression." And that's that.

Ok, men. Judging from the number of vulgar terms that exist to describe women who do this, as well as the condition she has left you in, my guess is you'd be pretty angry if someone did this to you. In the long run you'd realize that God spared you from going any deeper into sin with this woman, but initially, you'd feel cheated, betrayed, and deceived. You may even experience feelings of hatred for this woman. This is an unfortunate vignette of what a man might experience when things progress to this level physically. I want you to compare this to what a woman experiences when things progress to this level emotionally by sharing a true story of two people I'll call Steve and Gina.
Steve and Gina met on a missions trip. After four days, Steve managed to get Gina alone, away from the rest of the group. Quite unexpectedly, Steve blurted out, "I know I've only known you for four days, but I haven't been able to sleep all week because I can't stop thinking about you. I think you're amazing. I normally don't do this sort of thing, but I have to tell you, I really feel that God has put you on my heart." (Again, at the risk of sounding graphic, I want the guys to know that for many women, the phrase "God has put you on my heart" is the verbal equivalent to having cleavage shoved in your face.)

Although they lived in separate states, Gina and Steve kept in touch after the missions trip. Steve spent three hours on the phone with Gina every night and told her he wanted her to move to the state where he lived so she could be closer to him. Gina knew things were moving too fast, but she was unable to stop from thinking about Steve as a "sure thing." When Gina finally decided to apply for a job where Steve lived, he became standoffish. This left Gina confused. "But, you said you wanted me to move. I thought --" Steve told her, "I am not interested in you. I am sorry if you got that impression." And that was that.

The immodest woman in the first scenario led the man down a path of lust and eventually caused him to believe that sex was going to happen. The immodest man in the second scenario led the woman down a path of false hope and eventually caused her to believe that a relationship existed where it did not.

The Bible is clear that sexual immorality is sin. It is easy to see why the first scenario is wrong. But many men do not see the second scenario as being equally sinful. (In fact, when Gina tried to confront Steve about his immodesty, he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.) Yet the Bible does take a stance on flattery. Two verses from Proverbs tell us: A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28). Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet. (Proverbs 29:5). Flattery is not pleasing to God, nor does it serve the one on the receiving end of it.

GOOD NEWS FOR MEN

It is very, very important that men watch their words with women. We need to teach men to be modest in their speech, just as we need to teach women to be modest in their dress. We especially do not want to neglect our own children. While we are instructing our daughters toward modesty with the opposite sex, we also need to instruct our sons toward modesty as well. But some men might be scratching their heads and saying, "Where do you draw the line between flattery and a sincere attempt to encourage a woman?"

Men, take heart! You do not have to stop complimenting women. You do not have to suppress the desire to encourage a woman for fear that she will take it the wrong way. How do I know? Because I'm a woman who's been there. Take it from me, there are those out there who will settle for nothing less than legalism on this issue. I've been told that my neckline should be four finger widths above the start of my cleavage, and that my skirts should be a certain number of inches beyond my knee, and that my sleeves should fall at a certain point beyond my shoulder, etc. etc. If I had to take out a tape measure every time I got dressed, my life would be a miserable exercise in the laws of prescription. Likewise, if you start to fret about every little thing you say to a woman, you are guaranteed to become discouraged.

Men, my advice to you is to do what you can to protect our ears. We will do what we can to protect your eyes. But let's agree not to let anyone steal our joy in serving one another. Modesty is something that should be guided not by a set of rules and regulations, but by an attitude of humility. To illustrate this concept, I recommend the following sermon by CJ Mahaney. Although it is geared toward women, I highly encourage men to listen to it as well:



When we understand that the God who dwells within us is guiding our actions, we will know exactly when we've crossed the line.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Men Behaving Badly

Part 1 in the "Men Behaving Badly" Series
Part 2 Part 3 Part 4


Curiosity may have attracted you to this post for the title alone. I acknowledge that it is a title which, on the surface, may appear to disagree with our mission statement. However, in the interest of returning to our original intent for this blog, as outlined in that mission statement, I feel this is an important topic to address. Specifically, I am going to begin a series of posts to address some of the things that men do to upset women and cause them to stumble.

I first discussed this idea with Geraldine well over a year ago. It has been on my heart to address some of these issues because this blog began when a man behaved badly toward me. Part of the repentance process for me was to create this blog in an effort to channel my anger into something positive. I wanted to prevent further conflict between men and women by promoting greater understanding between the sexes. However, when I first came up with the idea for this series, I wasn't confident that I could write from a pure heart. I was still harboring some unforgiveness toward the man whose actions inspired this blog, and I was afraid some of it would come through in my writing.

I decided to hold off until I could write from a pure heart. I know I can not address this subject with a snarky attitude, and let's face it, I have been known to suffer from Snarkolepsy. For me to approach this subject with a bad attitude would undermine the entire purpose of this blog's existence. On the other hand, to continue ignoring the subject would rob this blog of a series of powerful discussions that would propel it toward its very goal of encouraging women to encourage men.

This series is designed not to bash men, but to help men understand where they may be harboring some unholy tendencies which hurt the women around them.The time has come. I am confident that I can approach this topic this year with a clean and pure heart. God has changed me through this blog. He has given me the ability to denounce male-bashing and to embrace masculinity for what it truly is: a blessing to women everywhere. I am truly grateful for the beautiful, godly men that The Lord has placed in my life and there is nothing I desire more than to see men and women working together to bridge the gap between our differences so that we can grow together in Christian unity. Part of this process is to have an open, honest dialogue about sin. This series is designed not to bash men, but to edify them. It is designed to help men understand where they may be harboring some unholy tendencies which hurt the women around them. My desire is to do what I can to help men understand how they can better serve the women in their lives through self-examination and repentance.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I would like to stress that this is the first time ever we will be addressing male shortcomings. We do not make it our practice to focus on male flaws. Since this blog's inception, we have only focused on female shortcomings. This is because our primary goal is to encourage women to be better women. We have not addressed male shortcomings because the Bible tells us to take the log out of our own eyes so we can see clearly before attempting to remove a speck in someone else's. That being said, I want to make it clear that this blog is devoted to removing the logs from the eyes of women. In contrast, this series is devoted to removing the specks in the eyes of men.

This introductory post will be the only one that is filed under "Men/Masculinity." All subsequent posts in this series will be located under the "Conflict" label. Again, this is to keep this discussion in its proper context. "Men Behaving Badly" is not an appropriate discussion for the celebration of the beautiful mystery that is masculinity. We want to communicate that "Men Behaving Badly" is the exception rather than the rule. Male shortcomings do not define masculinity, rather, male shortcomings define conflict (as do female shortcomings).

It is my prayer that whether you are a man or a woman, that you will be blessed by some of the discussion to follow in the next few weeks or so. Men, I would ask that you read with an open heart to see if perhaps you see yourselves in any of the descriptions, and to ask The Lord to change you in those areas. Women, I ask that you pray for the men in your lives who may be weak in these areas, that you would be patient with their sanctification process, and that you will be forgiving toward them when they stumble. Let us not accuse one another any longer. Let us instead love one another, for the Bible tells us that the world will know we belong to Him if we love one another.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Face in the Crowd

We're a bit behind schedule, but we do have a film of the month! This month's film is A Face in the Crowd, the story of a nationally renowned television celebrity, loved by millions and revered as a pop culture hero. But behind closed doors, this TV Star is someone his loving fans would never recognize.

STATS
Year: 1957 (Not Rated)
Directed by Elia Kazan, Written by Bud Schulberg.
Starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Walter Matthau.
Setting: America, 1950's.

Content warning: Some implied sexuality. Drunkenness, abusive personality traits in Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith's character).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Celebrity Worship. Celebrities can do no wrong. We love them for who they are on television, but if we truly knew the person behind the star, we may change our minds.

2. The interesting connection between celebrities and politicians. There is a great, great scene from this film that is available on You Tube which demonstrates this connection beautifully. If your political career is suffering, just enlist the endorsement of a beloved celebrity! (Note: We do not necessarily endorse the opinion implied by the title given to this clip.)

3. Television as an opiate of the masses. There is power in the media. Click here for a profound clip from the film which claims: "In TV we have the greatest instrument for mass persuasion in the entire history of the world!"

4. Portrait of a "player." Lonesome Rhodes is a smooth-talking ladies' man who ends up defrauding the only woman who was truly good to him. While we cannot control what others do to us, we certainly have control over the choices we make as far as getting involved with people like this. Ladies, if people have warned you to stay away from a particluar man, don't be so arrogant as to think that you can change him. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person!

TRIVIA
In 2008, A Face in the Crowd was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film marked the debut of actress Lee Remick, who plays a teenage baton-twirling champion from Arkansas.

This is one of the most riveting performances you'll ever see by Andy Griffith!