I don't know when it was decided that we should fear caring for others, but there seems to be this pervasive attitude today where we shouldn't care about anything at all--that we should all act so nonchalant about everything.
This attitude stinks, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm as guilty of it as the next person, but not any more. I think something happened when I turned 40. "It's no big deal" became "I LOVE THAT! LET'S LOVE THE THING."
Except in relationships. It may leave me open to a bunch of psychoanalysis, but I know I'm not alone here. I can profess my love for Jesus, Star Wars, the Chicago Bears, multitudes of books, my dogs, my cats, and even my family ad nauseam. I can drive everyone crazy sometimes with my love of those things.
So why is it so hard to open my heart to men I'm interested in? Why do we have to play this game of seeming calm and cool and aloof? It drives me crazy. Love can hurt. For sure I'm not alone in my fear of getting hurt, right? When we first meet another person, it's difficult, because we just don't know where we stand with them. And too often we're told how to play the game rather than how to be vulnerable. There are more books written on how to get the guy, how to play the dating game, and how to manipulate people than on how to just open our hearts and be vulnerable.
And I insist it all stems from the fear that the other person just doesn't care as much as we do.
But so what?
The thing is, I don't ever regret when I've made myself vulnerable. I fear it like no one's business, but even if I get hurt, eventually I get over it and learn from it. As someone who keeps a small group of close friends and is ridiculously introverted, letting someone in is an accomplishment alone.
In talking with my friends who are in healthy, committed relationships, many of them started with one person being far more sure about wanting the other person. The other was hesitant and needed time to figure things out. However, if the one person never made themselves vulnerable and open to heartbreak, the relationship never would've happened. How sad would that have been?
This isn't to say we shouldn't be discerning. We absolutely should. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be abused or seriously harmed because we struggle with vulnerability. We still need to be careful about who we open ourselves up to, but maybe we can focus more on being open and vulnerable than playing a game. Maybe we need to be honest with people that we like them, be truthful about what we want. We can'f force someone to love us, but we can show them love.
And the thing is, we never know what will come out of our honesty. Maybe we get the love of our lives. Awesome! Yay for us!! But maybe we also get our hearts broken. Sad, but we can pick ourselves up knowing we gave it our best and move on (of course with tears in between. Endings are sad sometimes) to someone who will love us the way we should be loved.
I challenge us all to be more vulnerable with our hearts. God is and has been the most vulnerable with His--after all, He sacrificed His only son on a cross for our sins. If I walk the walk and strive to be more like Him, then maybe I can open my heart just a little more. Maybe I can show my friends and family more affection. Maybe I can extend a helping hand to someone in need. Maybe I can be nicer to the slower drivers when I'm on my way to work (I'm trying God...really!!).
Most of all, though, maybe I can make myself a little more open in my dating life to being honest and heartfelt rather than holding my feelings back. Maybe I should say when I really like someone before it's too late. And maybe I should open myself up more to God's messages on my heart about the men I date. It's a lot of maybes, true, because it's all on a learning curve. We can all try a little more each day.
But let's all commit to letting go a little of this fear of rejection. It's just holding us back from what God wants from us. We can be stronger, because we have Him. He is our rock. He is our salvation. He is who we know we can rely on when we're in tears. He loves us unconditionally, so the lack of love from someone not open to loving us may sting, but we can immerse ourselves in His love.
I was scrolling through my social media feeds this week, and a few times articles with similar titles to this came up:
Ladies...10 Ways You Can Help a Man Keep Pure Thoughts
I just can't even begin to tell you how much headlines like this irritate me. Is it wrong for us to want to help each other out and hold each other accountable? Absolutely not. It's what we should be doing. We should be helping one another be better in God's eyes. We should call each other out when we're leaning toward, or in the middle of, sin.
But this applies to EVERYONE we know, not just women protecting men.
Too often I see articles that put the onus on women to keep men from lusting after us. This idea that we control what goes on in men's minds is just another example of how we, as Christians, continue to perpetuate Rape Culture in our society. I don't care if a woman is walking down the street completely naked, it's up to the man looking at her to control himself. It's up to him to ask God to work through his lustful thoughts about her. It's up to him to control his own behavior.
When we put the pressure on women to talk a certain way, avoid certain behaviors, dress in a "proper" manner so as not to tempt a man, we take away a man's sense of responsibility. It becomes easy for them to point at the woman as the problem when it's more what's going on in their hearts.
Look at Adam and Eve. In many churches, they still believe Eve is to blame for all the sin in the world--that it is she who is responsible for the downfall of man. She offered Adam the fruit, after all, right?
It doesn't matter. Adam made his own choice.
Adam didn't have to take the fruit (neither did Eve for that matter), but he did. Adam didn't have to disobey God just because the fruit was there. God punished both Adam AND Eve, because each was responsible for their own disobedience. Had God blamed Eve alone for Adam's disobedience, the consequences would probably have been quite different.
So why do we make women responsible for what goes on in a man's mind and heart? How about we raise men to look at women as people, not objects to lust after? How about we talk in church openly about sexuality and lust, not just condemning it, but really discuss how we work through it. Let's talk about how there isn't really a person alive that hasn't lusted after someone or something. So instead of pointing fingers, let's focus on how a relationship with God works to help us resist temptation.
Now, let me be clear, I do believe we probably shouldn't start running errands in nothing but the skin we were born in, but I also don't believe clothes or being alone with a man will stop lustful feelings. I've had more men than I can count stare at my breasts whether I'm wearing a muumuu or a bikini. I've been wearing a suit in a room with 500 people when I've been asked to dance on a table. Geishas wear a thick kimono, and yet men have lusted after them for ages. In many Muslim countries, women are covered from head to toe, and yet that hasn't stopped men from lusting after women. It hasn't stopped rape. It hasn't stopped sex.
Don't use clothing as an excuse.
It doesn't matter if you're fully clothed or not, whether you're alone or not, whether you flirt or not...lust is going to happen. So let's stop talking about how to not tempt a man and let's talk about how to hold men accountable and encourage them to deal with their feelings. Stop giving men excuses for bad behavior, and start teaching them how to handle what their feeling in a responsible and spiritual manner.
Controlling a man's lust just isn't a woman's responsibility. It is his. Just like if a woman thinks a man is attractive, it is her responsibility to talk to God about her feelings. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior. When we choose poorly, when we act poorly, it's our own faults. Let's take responsibility for ourselves, own our issues, and take our flaws to God.
I am the first to admit that I have a serious issue with patience. I either have too little or too much, and it is rare that I choose the right amount of patience for the situations I find myself in. I know I'm not alone in this situation, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
After a certain age there is this incredible pressure to be romantically attached. It's almost like we're meant to feel "less than" because we aren't married or in some sort of long-term, committed relationship. We're the third wheel, the fifth wheel, the person who has to ride alone at Disneyland. Sometimes we're left out of plans, because it's a "couple thing." We sit through sermon after sermon about marriage and family life. We're told, "You don't get it," because we're not attached.
Those things start to play on us, and so we begin to think we're too picky (we're told that over and over, after all). We start thinking we should just settle for that guy who is kind of okay. We allow men to take us for granted. We listen to words instead of paying attention to their actions. We find ourselves giving so much patience to those that don't deserve it.
And then, after so many times of being burned, we finally give up. We lose that patience. We stop giving the good guys a chance, because we no longer trust them. Everything they do is viewed under a lens of suspicion, and eventually we walk away.
So what's the fine line here? The fine line is God's voice. It's the Holy Spirit. It's trusting the gut God gave us and learning to lose our patience for the pressure to be attached and grow some patience for allowing God to bring the right person into our lives.
I wish I could say that I've mastered patience. I've found myself failing more times that I can count, but I insist I'm going to keep trying to get it right. One day I'm going to give the right man the patience he deserves, and I'm going to stop giving the men that God hasn't chosen for me chance after chance to keep breaking my heart.
Every day I get better, and I trust God more. Join me on this journey to learn patience. Let's spend this week in prayer for discerning patience. Ask God to tell us when it's time to get out of a situation, to cut ties and give no more chances. Ask Him to let the constant digs about being single run off of your back. Ask Him to help us let go of all the bitterness and hurt so that we open our hearts and give patience to the right partners.
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