Two Men

During my teenage years, my family often went across the mountain from where we lived to a place called Penn Valley Christian Retreat. Penn Valley hosted lots of seminars with topics ranging from finances to missions to Christians in healthcare.

Being an inquisitive bunch, my siblings and I would take in seminars just because we liked learning about the world and meeting interesting people. If we were lucky, we would even bring a carful of friends back over the mountain to spend the night with us.

Two incidents from seminars at Penn Valley keep returning to my memory.

After listening to a message about justification and sanctification one evening, I approached the speaker when the lobby had nearly emptied its load of people. I don’t remember exactly what I asked him, but it was about a theological point he had made that I wanted him to clarify.

He listened ever so politely, then nodded his head kindly and acknowledged my troubled feelings.

I wanted him to explain to me what I didn’t understand about his theology. But the more I tried to sensibly and clearly ask him what he meant, the more this gentleman nodded and acknowledged my feelings.

Gah! I was furiously disappointed. I wasn’t asking him for sympathy! I was asking an intelligent question!

I gave up and went home feeling cheated.

Later, I wondered, did I seem emotional and needy? Was I threatening because I asked a theological question? Why did such an honorable gentleman respond to me emotionally rather than intellectually?

Some months later, I was at Penn Valley for another seminar. I was waiting in the lobby to go home when I noticed a teacher I knew somewhat from my connections at Faith Builders.

I slipped over to where he was sitting on the couch and said hi.  Then my curiosity got the best of me, and I asked him a question about passage I had read in the Bible.

His face lit up. “That is a good question!” he said enthusiastically. I grinned and sat down on the floor and for the next hour we had an animated discussion. I brought up an idea I had read in one of John Dominic Crossan’s books. (Why I was reading Crossan as a teenager, I have no idea, but the teacher never recoiled in horror or fell off the couch in shock.) He took everything in stride and engaged without judgment.

Soon several other people joined us, and we all talked until this teacher had to leave for his next deadline. He got up, and the whole group of us walked him out to his car, talking a mile a minute the whole time.

I went home, my mind and heart practically glowing.


Why did the second encounter feel so different to me than the first? They were both good Christian men. The fact that the leader in the first scenario tried to validate my feelings is worth at least something, considering that many people don’t even try that hard. I remember many other instances of church leaders not listening to me at all when I tried to ask them about things.

But women are not merely creatures of feeling. To treat them as such is degrading. Women have insight from God that the world needs. They have insight that the church needs–and the church needs to hear it directly from them, not relayed by a man.

All these years later, I have been unable to forget these two incidents. I felt belittled when I asked a question and the first man responded by validating my feelings. I felt honored when the second man listened and answered my question.

Thus I have concluded that it is not enough for a man to acknowledge a woman’s feelings. A man must also acknowledge a woman’s mind.


What do you think? It is it more important for you to have your feelings respected or your thoughts respected? Or both? 


 

20 thoughts on “Two Men

  1. Sandra Miller

    Well said.

    It would be interesting to know why that first preacher did not respond intellectually. Perhaps you could ask him sometime if you ever have a chance to meet him again? A body can speculate but still not know the reason so hearing it from his own mouth would be more satisfying.

    God bless.

    Like

    1. I have thought about it quite a bit. I don’t know if I would have the nerve to ask the man, but I wish I could. 🙂 This preacher really did seem like a good-hearted person who was not in the business of ignoring people. My guess is that the teaching about acknowledging a woman’s feelings (that you read in marriage books, etc.) made him think that was all women wanted. But the focus on being kind to women by validating their feelings ends up being a way for men to “value women” without actually giving them a voice. Yes, sometimes we need to vent our feelings. But that is not *all* we need.

      Like

      1. Verna

        The last paragraph. Yes. A woman is allowed to think for herself and speak the words God gives her. With respect, of course, but she is allowed to be a person.

        Like

  2. Miriam

    First I would like my thoughts acknowledged and responded to. Then, in further dialog, circling back to feelings can give further substance and reassurance.

    Good articulation of what I have experienced as well.

    Miriam Iwashige

    Liked by 1 person

  3. EG

    Ha, I’m a bit cynical about this. Especially since I’ve had my “thoughts” disregarded if they had anything to do with “feelings”. But thankfully I do have people around me that I can share mindfully with, relationships would be stifling and disgusting otherwise. Each to his own, I guess. I think people have their triggers or things to prove or ways to zone out depending on what they think another person is trying to communicate.

    Like

    1. I didn’t mean to imply that feelings are not as important as thoughts. They are. When I need to share my feelings, I want to be heard without judgment or lecturing. I’m sorry if people are disregarding your feelings. That is an utter shame.

      This post was an attempt to explain the frustration I feel when I’m written off and not listened to simply because I am a woman.

      But feelings are important, too. I remember one time I was sitting at a dinner table with friends when I started crying. The gentleman across the table from me was very kind to me, and I will never forget how validating that was.

      Whether it’s our thoughts or our feelings, our whole person is of value to the world.

      Like

      1. It may be a personality thing. My best friend always gives me advice when I just want her to listen and validate my feelings. I always listen when she wants me to give advice. We’ve had to learn to ask each other, “Do you want advice?” “Can I give advice yet or do you want to talk more?”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. EG

          Yes. This post did an amazing job conveying the value of the whole person (woman)! I should clarify that my cynicism has more to do with how these factors are often so compartmentalized in an unhealthy way. Or one or the other (and sometimes both) is viewed as inherently wrong, depending who is sharing or what setting you are in. But indeed, they are inseparable and part of the ebb and flow of wholeness.

          I do remember how it can be in a religious community, to dance around this thing as a woman! I found also that sometimes it was just as difficult to navigate this with women as with men. 🙂 So thank you for this message, it is needed. 🙂

          Like

  4. Tabitha, I agree that personalities vary a lot. Some may want their feelings acknowledged first; others want their thoughts taken seriously.

    However, I do think gender plays into it, because the culture conditions men to be thinkers and women to be feelers. For instance, many churches operate off what the men think. Rarely is the woman’s insight considered in this setting. It might be considered in an indirect way (such as if a man voiced his wife’s opinion at a meeting), but even then it is not even close to the same as having the woman there to speak, to sense the spiritual atmosphere of the group, and to weigh what God wants for the group alongside the men. Decisions are invariably lopsided.

    Also, some marriage books strengthen this divide by encouraging men to acknowledge their wives feelings, and by encouraging women to follow unquestioningly. What good is it to validate the feeling if the thoughts behind the feeling are ignored?

    Our culture has little place for the intellect of women. If a man wants to follow his dream after marriage, that is just fine, regardless what it is. A woman is not allowed to dream beyond the four walls of her house. The best way to keep dreaming from even happening, so that women can be peaceful and happy in their world, is to not allow women to think.

    Certainly there must be a way for women to nurture their families by their God-given instinct while also contributing their insights to the church and the world around us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Everett Yoder

    Both! Women also need to be heard, listened to and valued. On average women have a higher spiritual antenna then men. The headship order, God, Man then Woman, upside down kingdom, Woman, Man & God. ?? What? is God last? Yes he was & still is, That’s why God is first because he was willing to be last, Jesus is the perfect servant which make him a perfect king! Man is placed between God and woman, which make him a servant to the woman, yes a servant to the woman, provider, protector, yes even wash the woman’s (wife’s) feet. If a woman is scared to speak up in church then its a good chance that the Holy Spirit is not present…… well what about the Bible saying women are to keep silent in the church?? This does not mean silent as in not speaking…. it means silent as in leading out. The man is to lead out, and today… too many men don’t know how to lead, and women are trying to fill that roll. Am I making sense? Did I say too much? I am afraid what I just said would not be well accepted among in some circles. I am open for correction and I am still learning.

    Like

    1. I really want to write a post about women in the church sometime. For now, I’d like to point out a contradiction I see in conservative practice that demands a) women covering their heads for worship and b) women being silent in church. In 1 Cor 11, women are instructed to cover SO THAT they can pray and prophesy in church. If women are going to be completely silent, they may as well throw away their headcovering! Covering while being silent is COMPLETELY missing the point. Completely!

      So what does it mean for a woman to be silent? That will have to wait until another time. 😊 Thank you for commenting!

      Like

  6. Sarah

    Rosina, I will be all ears if you speak more on the role of women in the church. As a woman in a conservative Mennonite culture, I have been very frustrated that there is no place for my thoughts in the church. I too have experienced that hopeless feeling that comes when a man is politely, even kindly, dismissing my thoughts for no other reason than that I am female. And Yes, Yes, and Amen!! to what you said about it NOT being the same for my husband or some other man to try to voice my opinion in the group meeting. I have been so badly misrepresented by this method that I refuse to even try that route any more.
    The part that has been the most hurtful to me is not the being asked to be silent in itself, but the indications that the men all think there is nothing lost by having the women be silent, nothing lost by not having the women’s input. This has been my experience sometimes when the subject under discussion was undoubtedly a subject in which the women had more knowledge and experience than the men. It makes me wonder what it is about women that makes the men think we are so stupid that our thoughts could never contribute to the discussion in a valuable way.

    As for your question, I want both my thoughts and feelings acknowledged, but if I had to choose only one, I would choose to have my thoughts paid attention while my feelings were ignored. That may be, however, because I very much live out of my head and tend to ignore and downplay my emotions. I know not all of that is healthy… some of it is a result of past trauma.

    Like

    1. I remember a meeting about women’s clothing rules where some of the women spoke up. There was nothing inflammatory said, and the women’s voices were a minority. However, the men complained to the ministers about the women talking, so the next meeting was Men Only. And the issue discussed was about women!

      As you said, the worst of all is when the woman’s voice, insights, and gifts are not even missed. How far we have fallen!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s