Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dismantling Chauvinism



Chauvinism:  An attitude that members of your own sex are always better than the opposite sex.  It means you believe the opposite sex is inferior to your own, and unworthy of equal treatment.  Chauvinism is not just a guy thing; it’s a gal thing, too. 

While some men may slap hands over “score” boards and cat call women on the street, women may say that all men are idiots or malicious predators.  Both are different manifestations of the same bigotry.  Chauvinism at its heart is a distorted view of reality, which plays on our worst fears.  It's very similar to racism. 

Post-Civil War, a war-wearied nation emerged free from the shackles of slavery, but the Jim Crow South still showed a reckless and violent disregard for people of color through institutionalized bigotry.  The races were kept completely separate – in restaurants, on buses, in schools, restrooms and drinking fountains.  While the chains of slavery had been officially broken, the underlying bigotry that fueled slavery was still deeply rooted in American culture.  There were (and there still are) remnants of distrust between the races, which in the Jim Crow days was manifested not only by overt fighting words, but more so by the cold shoulder of disinterest and disdain for our neighbor because of the color of their skin.  Racism was just “the way it was.”  Like a pot boiling over, it was just a matter of time before the deep-seeded anger surfaced.  What lay beneath soon emerged to the surface in the Civil Rights Movement, a movement where people began to walk in the liberty already guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution.     

Chauvinism and racism are two different creatures, but the same spirit of division fuels them both.  Like racism, chauvinism is something you feel.  People don’t have to say anything to display their attitudes toward people of a different sex.  The spirit of my attitude is on display for all to see through my words, actions or awkward interactions. 

How we view each other determines the quality of our relationships.  The bottom line is this:  Do we see each other as objects to be conquered or companions to be cherished?  How we answer that question will define the quality of not only our romantic relationships, but our platonic ones as well. 

If I see you as an object to be conquered, then it’s really not about you.  My relationship to you is only defined by what you can do for me.  I want you as long as I can use you, but then I can throw you away at will.  You become a play thing rather than a person to me.  That’s disgusting, I know, but is this happening even now?      

A cherished companion, however, is in it for the long-haul, through thick and through thin. 

It doesn’t matter what’s happening in life – in good times or bad times, a true friend will stick with you.  True friends don’t fizzle out when the going gets tough, but will bear your burdens and work through the hard stuff.  If I see you as a companion to be cherished, then I will role up my sleeves, wash your feet (at least metaphorically!) and lay down my life for you. (John 15:13).  That is Love.  That type of Love eschews selfish ambition and prefers you to me.    

Do you see the difference?   

One is selfish (childish/immature); the other is gracious and giving (grown up).  1 Corinthians 13:11. 

If I’m trying to objectify and conquer you, then that’s not on you; it’s bred out of my own insecurity that craves control.  Men and women, you don’t have to act tough if you are tough.  Strength speaks for itself.  We don’t have to overcompensate for our own insecurities by conquering and controlling others.

If I cherish you as a companion, then I don’t wake up in the morning wondering if you’ll still be in my life or if I need to cut and run.  I am devoted to you, no matter what.  In a relationship (friendship or otherwise) where I cherish you as my companion, I am strong.  If I cherish you, then I am being chiseled, with you, into a stronger, more durable companion as we face and overcome the challenges of life together.

Who do you want to be?

Someone who fits into the crowd, cracks crude jokes and demeans the opposite sex, or someone who, through your good deeds, puts to silence the ignorance of foolish men (and women)?  1 Peter 2:15.   

Today’s a new day.  The cease-fire in the battle of the sexes starts with us, and Love is always first to lead the way.  I may have missed it in the past, but I know which path to choose today.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Growing-Spiritually#sthash.qlIsKRQi.dpuf
 ...Speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. ~ Ephesians 4:15

PS ~ I have to laugh, because I know that some of you are disturbed by the fact that the video at the beginning of this post comes from an ad campaign sponsored by a feminine products company.  The *funny* thing is, some of you are more disturbed by that than you are by the real and latent prejudices between the sexes.  To which I say: case in point! :-)
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Growing-Spiritually#sthash.qlIsKRQi.dpuf

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Despising the Shame

Yesterday we talked about Leaving Egypt.  We said that before we can enter the Promised Land, we must leave behind what holds us captive.  I admit that it’s really tempting for me to skip over the Egypt / bondage part and get to the fun stuff.  But tearing down unhealthy relationships is an essential part of building the foundation for healthy ones.  You have to uproot the weeds before you can plant new seeds!   

I hated pulling weeds as a kid, honestly.  It was my least favorite chore.  Weed pulling seemed always to happen on hot days, when I really wasn’t in the mood (not that I ever was in the mood to pull weeds).  Putting work gloves on, kneeling in the dirt and pulling weeds from the garden was never fun, but it was necessary.  I’ve always enjoyed watching flowers in full bloom.  I wish flowers bloomed year round, but tending a garden takes work.  Flowers can’t grow and thrive in an environment where weeds are choking the life out of them.  Uprooting weeds cleanses the atmosphere where flowers live, so they can grow to full bloom.  That’s what we’re talking about: learning how to tend the gardens of our hearts and uprooting old, life-choking weeds so we can enjoy a lifetime of beautiful flowers.   

Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues (forces) of life. ~Proverbs 4:23

Suppose you’ve identified some abusive or unhealthy relationships in your life.  Or perhaps you’ve even gone a step further and taken the difficult, but necessary, step of saying: “No more.”  Now what? 

Chances are, if you are freshly stepping into your new freedom, your emotions are pulling at you.  You may feel remorse or doubts about your future.  Perhaps the most insidious sub-turf feeling you have is shame.  Shame is a deep sense of humiliation or embarrassment that strikes to the heart of who you are as a person.   
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement (payment) of our peace (wholeness) was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  ~Isaiah 53:4-5

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  ~Hebrews 12:2

Don't be ashamed if you've been abused in your life.  That's not your fault.  Jesus Christ took the blame and carried your shame and nailed it to a cross.  He bears the scars to prove it.  That blame, that shame, is dead and gone, but Your Redeemer lives!  And for you abusers out there, you need to know that just as much as the people you hurt.  Christ died for you, too.  His love is big enough to cover your sins.  (1 Peter 4:8).  1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  Do it now!  Turn away from your abusive ways and turn into the embrace of a loving God who has never left your side, who never condemns you and who always wants to restore you with His love. 

A lot of you have been hurt.  Consequently, a lot of you say of yourselves, "I have anger problems."  Well today is the day to get rid of that once and for all.  You don't need years of counseling to hash and rehash every bad thing that you've done or what's been done to you.  I'm not knocking counseling.  Counseling helped me get back on my feet after breaking free from an abusive relationship.  But counseling is only helpful if you are bettered because of it.  (See Mark 5:25-34 for the story of the woman with the issue of blood who was nothing bettered after seeing physicians for 12 years, but one touch from Jesus Christ healed her completely in an instant.)  At a certain point we have to make a personal decision.  We have to choose whether to be defined by what has been done to us and/or wallow in the consequences of our own decisions, or we can choose to move forward and never look back.  

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 3:13-14

Why not today?  Why not right now?  Instead of repressing or medicating your anger, how about dealing with it?  Look, I understand you have legitimate reasons to be angry.  We all do.  But if that hurt and that anger is the undercurrent of every decision we make, how we see ourselves and how we treat others – then shouldn’t we just nip it in the bud and deal with it?  Abuse may have kicked your butt in the past, but why let it continue to beat you down now and into the future?  Let’s let go of the hurts of the past TODAY, so we can embrace a better tomorrow.  

Those hurts are just residual weeds that will try to choke the life out of your future relationships.  Pull those weeds and cultivate an atmosphere in your life that will allow new seeds to grow, flourish and bloom.        

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Leaving Egypt

The Israelites had to leave Egypt (the place of bondage) before they could inherit the Promised Land.  Likewise, we have to leave behind what binds us before we can live free.  If we want to enjoy good relationships, we must first leave unhealthy ones behind.

Why do so many men and women stay in abusive relationships (physically, sexually or emotionally)?  

Our culture tends to diminish and ignore abuse, to sweep it under the rug and pretend like it's a unicorn - a mythical thing that happens to 'other' people, but not me.  Since our culture over-sensationalizes even the most trivial of pursuits, if there is such a thing as real abuse, it's probably not as bad as someone makes it out to be.  And certainly, it doesn't impact anyone I know personally.  Because the people I know are too smart, or too strong, or they would never get into a situation like that.  And if they did, then they would certainly kick the perpetrator’s butt!  Right...?

I laugh now, because I actually used to think and talk like that.  Until it happened to me.  Now I consider it part of my calling in life to show you what I could not see.       

If you’ve been browbeaten emotionally or hurt repeatedly by a person or group of people, part of you may really want to leave and get away from the abuse, but what holds you back?  This list is not exhaustive, but here are a few common lies that keep us captive and some Truth that will set you free:

#1        Denial:  “It’s really not so bad.”

Many ‘victims’ of abuse don’t leave because they think, “it really isn’t that bad” – or at least not bad enough to justify leaving.  From my own experience, I didn't even recognize the abuse I was in (or to what degree) until I was in too deep, and even then I was unwilling to admit that I was a 'victim' of violence.  No strong, independent person wants to acknowledge that they've been duped.  It's much easier to think, "I'm in control of this situation."  Sometimes people don’t leave because they never acknowledge the abuse, or its degree.  This is called denial.  The Truth is: if we want to live free, then we must not deny or diminish the reality of the abuse, but we must deny people the right to abuse us.

#2        It’s unloving to leave / I can rescue him or her

            If you’re unfortunate enough to have heard this one in Christian circles, I apologize to you on behalf of all that is Good and Holy.  The thought that “it’s unloving to leave” is a corollary to the Savior complex that whispers, “You can rescue them.”  The Truth is: sometimes walking in Love means walking away.  Only One is mighty to save and that ain’t you!  Love does not tolerate abuse: Love sacrificed all to put an end to abuse.  (John 3:16).  God is not an abusive Father.  He never has us suffer abuse.  God doesn't tempt man.  (James 1:13).  Rather, He makes a way of escape out of every situation.  (1 Corinthians 10:13).  When God Almighty gives you a way of escape, you better take it!  You'd be a FOOL not to take it.  If you find it hard to leave, as I did, then maybe that's an indicator that you care more about what people think than what God says.  I know!  That's a tough statement.  But once I meditated and got the revelation of "cursed is the man who trusts in man…but blessed is he whose trust is in the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5-7), I broke free from my abuser.  Those first steps toward freedom hurt!  But, gosh, am I glad that I am free today.  You know, I never look back on those years nostalgically and think, "Man, if only I'd stayed in that abusive relationship..."  No!  I think, "Praise God, Almighty, I'm free at last!!!"  If I ever do look back, I don't see pain.  I see deliverance!  I see a faithful God who gave me a way of escape, who gave me strength when I had none.  I see a victory in the rearview mirror.  Thanks be to God, who always causes me to triumph through Christ!  

#3        It’s safer not to rock the boat.  If I leave, I’ll really get hurt!

When an abuser's power and control is threatened, people who have been hurt by the abuse are well aware of the consequences.  Leaving could mean death, serious injury, or in cases of emotional abuse, rejection, social ostracism, or loss of friends.  That is no light penalty, but FREEDOM is better than bondage any day of the week!!!  Don’t let that lying enemy con you into believing that it’s better to stay in an abusive relationship than to leave.  The Truth is:  You don't hurt more when you leave.  When you leave, you realize the hurt you were in.  That is not to say leaving is easy.  It’s not.  It takes great courage and it defies every emotion you have that screams at you to stay in your chains.  But it is the most freeing thing in life when you take that first step toward freedom, even though it hurts so badly.  Freedom is worth it.  

#4        If I leave, I’ll lose my relationship or my friends

I can't speak for men on this issue, but women are taught to reconcile.  Women who leave and don't reconcile are often labeled with a derogatory word that rhymes with "snitch."  And no one wants that label.  Women who stay are labeled as "weak" or stupid.  So it’s a lose-lose scenario if you’re measuring your progress by what an abuser will think of you.  This just in: the abuser hates you anyway!  Abusive people don’t care what you think, so why are you listening to them? 

Ah, but there’s the rub, right? 

Abusers don’t walk around with a scarlet “A” on them, do they?  We don’t label the people in our lives as ‘abusers.’  We call them our ‘friends,’ relatives, acquaintances, co-workers, and strangers.  Abusers most often are not strangers, but people with whom we’ve built relationships or people we’ve known all our lives.  Consequently, it’s easy to diminish or excuse the abuse.  But listen to your heart.  Imagine the same thing happening to you was happening to a young person you love dearly, like a son or daughter, niece or nephew.  Would you tolerate someone treating your young relative like that?  If not, maybe that’s an indicator that you need to get out of that situation.

This does not just apply to romantic relationships. 

For those of you in friendships where someone belittles you or continually makes you feel bad, I have a newsflash for you: those people are not your friends!  A dear friend told me years ago:  “If you want to fly with the eagles, don't hang with the turkeys!”  I love that.  If you’re tired of playing in the sandbox with gossipers and backbiters, find some grown-up friends with whom you share mutual respect and who will build you up, rather than tear you down.  "Oh, but what if I lose a friend?!" you say.  May I ask you: is it worth it?  Gossipers and backbiters are not your friends!  Ha, I know that sounds so simple, but it's quite a profound revelation.  We're comfortable with who we know.  But if I care more about how people perceive me than what God says about a situation, then it's due time to reevaluate the relationships in my life. 

“But what will they say when I’m gone?”    

They talked about you while you were there.  They'll talk about you when you're gone.  But, praise God, at least they have something to talk about!  People are going to say and do what they say and do.  Ain't nothing you can do about that.  What we have to do, is respect (prefer) God, not man.  But we like people to like us, don't we?  My friend, consider this:  the Israelites were around and bound in Egypt for YEARS.  Do you honestly think the Israelites, dragging around in their chains, had a relationship with the Egyptians?  Were they on an equal footing?  Absolutely not!  That's not a relationship: that's an abuse of power.  Let's bring it on home:  Do you think American slaves had a "relationship" with their masters?  Um...not a relationship that I'd want to be a part of!  If it's abusive, it is NOT a relationship.  You can wiggle around it, deny it, and you can dance like a worm on a pin, but it doesn't change the reality. 

If you jump into a snake pit, you’re going to get bit.  If you keep jumping into a snake pit, you’re going to get bitten some more.  I need to speak plainly to you, because philosophizing and pontificating about this stuff has kept people in some dangerous situations.  And too many people are getting hurt.  There is a way out.  You need to know that resident within you is the power to break free and that power is released as lightning fast as your ability to make a decision.

Child of God, don't ratify people's abusive conduct by suffering silently through the abuse.  Stand up in the power of God and say something or leave.  You can’t stand for Truth and remain in a lie, because the Truth will make you FREE.