A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Leadership dynamics and gender. What pastors need to know about leading women.

Have you ever sat through a sermon by a pastor and felt like he was behaving more like the coach of a male sports team than a pastor? Have you ever sat under a pastor whose tone was hectoring—who sprinkled his sermon with lots of forceful ‘shoulds’ about what you should be thinking, feeling and doing?

I have. Many times. Many different pastors. And all of those pastors, surprise surprise, were men.

It is worth considering what preaching has in common with sports coaching.

In sports coaching, the coach’s goal is to get the team to win matches. This requires bringing each member of the team to reach their potential as a player, and getting the members to work together to reach the team’s goal.

In preaching, a good pastor has two goals. To bring the born-again members of the congregation to greater maturity in their Christian walk. And to urge the unregenerate to trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.

Think for a moment about coaches of male sports teams. We know that they often bear down on the players: they yell, they hector, they get angry. They drive them with their own personality. Or, to put it in hormonal terms, they posture their own testosterone to stimulate the testosterone of the players so the players will courageously go out and fight for control of the ball on the field and the team will score goals.

Think of pastors you have sat under who drove the congregation. They used the same approach as men who coach male sports teams. But unlike the coaches of male sports teams, they were preaching to a mixed sex congregation.

The driving dynamic is seldom appropriate for women and girls. (I can’t speak from personal experience, but it may not be appropriate for young boys or teen boys either.)

The pastors who use this approach are insensitive. Full of hubris and pride. They use their male instincts to try to coach (exhort) the whole congregation to think, feel and act like mature Christians. But they have no idea how to get through to women.

If a woman bravely and politely tries to give such a pastor feedback about the harshness or lack of balance in his sermons, the pastor usually reacts badly. He will ignore the substance (or all) of her feedback, throw up smokescreens to bamboozle her, imply there is something wrong with her, etc. If she keeps trying to get the pastor to see how little he understand the feelings and experiences of women, he will typecast her as a trouble maker.

I speak from much experience. And I’m sure many readers of this blog have had similar experiences to mine.

Here is a video by an experienced soccer coach, Anson Dorrance.

The coach has to try get male athletes down from their platform of over-confidence and hubris. But women, even when they who are highly skilled, lack confidence, so the coach’s job is to build them up.

Men don’t evaluate their own mistakes, so the coach has to show them where and how they made mistakes. Women do self-evaluate, they self-criticise, so the coach’s job is to highlight the women’s successes, allow the women to articulate their self-evaluation, and show confidence in their ability to self-correct and do even better.

I am a fan of the BBC TV series Call the Midwife. The midwives always say to women in labour: “Your doing great! You’re doing really well! You can do it!”

But how many pastors and elders say this to women?  – especially women who are dealing with abusive husbands!

Here is an article by Anson Dorrance. It was published in Olympic Coach, Spring 2006, Vol 18 No 1, p 8.  I had a link to that article, but that link is now dead. Thankfully, I saved the text of the article, so I am able to republish it here.

COACHING WOMEN: GOING AGAINST THE INSTINCTS OF MY GENDER, by Anson Dorrance

Although I was young, when I was first asked to coach the University of North Carolina (UNC) men’s soccer team in 1974, I was prepared. Being male, and a devoted athlete and scrappy soccer player myself, I understood training men. The shock came in 1979, when I was asked to coach the women. The feminist literature at the time was telling me there were no differences between men and women; however, I have spent nearly my entire career discovering, and appreciating, those differences.

Perhaps the best way to view coaching women is to explore how different it can be from coaching men. In fact, our program at the UNC is largely defined by the social (and yes, athletic) differences between men and women. And while we, as coaches, never want to cease learning about our sport, ultimately, coaching development ceases to be about finding newer ways to organize practice. In other words, you soon stop collecting drills. Your coaching development shifts to observing how to support and motivate your players, and how to lead them to perform at higher and higher levels.

Equality between the sexes doesn’t necessarily mean that men and women need to be led the same way. In fact, I find that the way to coach women is a more civilized mode of leadership. There’s a coaching cliché that states, “You basically have to drive men, but you can lead women.” Women relate through an interconnected web of personal connections, as opposed to a more traditional male hierarchical style.

To that end, what is critical in coaching women is that all the players on the team have to feel like they have a personal connection with the coach, and it has to be unique. So, your effectiveness with women is not necessarily through a powerful presence and force of will; it is through your ability to relate to them.

Obviously, what I am sharing with you are generalizations—truths in my own experience. But for the sake of illustration, I will summarize the differences between coaching men and women with some specific examples.

Leading by the force of your personality isn’t effective. When I first began coaching women, I was the typical sideline critic. I think every coach interested in developing players has the habit of being critical. Like many coaches, I couldn’t keep it to myself. In the beginning, I was continually muttering about mistakes or poor performance—some comments were quite harsh.

During the beginning of one women’s game, that had immediately followed one of the men’s game I had also coached, one of my wing midfielders, who was closest to the sideline and thus got all the abuse, said to me, “Sit down Anson; you’re coaching the women now.” Since I had just finished coaching the men (and was in men’s coaching mode), my natural instinct was to continue aggressively coaching in what my gender dictates. The great lesson was that in this environment (with our young women), it didn’t work.

Leading with your humanity. While you may successfully lead men with the force of your personality (In general, men respond to strength; burying them verbally doesn’t crush them, their egos are too strong), it is more effective to lead women with your humanity. Early on, I learned you don’t lead women effectively with intimidation. You have to be savvier than that. You lead by gaining their respect, being sensitive to their strengths and weaknesses, and showing that you value their contributions. You will not succeed if women feel their relationship with you is simply dependent on their soccer success.

Men need videotape; women don’t. If you make a general criticism of a men’s team, they all think you are talking about someone else. Videotape is proof of the guilty party. You don’t need that proof with a woman. In fact, if you make a general criticism of women, everyone in the room thinks you are talking about her. If you tell a woman she made a mistake, she’ll believe you. Seeing it on tape often only makes it worse.

However, because I have found that a lot of women do not have the confidence to feel they are as good as they actually are, we use our videos as highlight reels to build their confidence. This doesn’t mean you can’t help an individual player to improve her game using negative videotape. And it doesn’t mean a female player doesn’t want or need criticism. It is simply that it is important to choose the appropriate method with which you deliver that critique.

(On that note, coaches have a tendency to stop practice only when something goes wrong, to correct mistakes. Yet one of the best times to stop practice is to praise something particularly brilliant or noteworthy).

Tone is critical. My greatest half time talk to men was kicking a waste basket in frustration and anger. That let them know how I felt, in no uncertain terms.

“Well, what do you think?” I will ask women during a particularly tough game. I do this because I want them to be self-critical. Very rarely do male athletes take full responsibility. Men respond to a passionate or emotional rant. Women see that for what it is—my own frustration. They don’t see how that benefits them.

In my experience, women will criticize themselves honestly. Asking them to take responsibility eliminates the coach from the equation. Then, when they have evaluated themselves, showing the way and building confidence—positive attributes—becomes our job. (Also, when a man is criticized, he understands it’s just someone taking his game apart, not taking his life apart. A woman doesn’t separate the two.)

I have also learned that women listen less to what I say than to how I say it. In other words, they listen less to the language and more to the tone. They also watch your body language. If either of those are negative, that’s the message, regardless of what comes out of your mouth.

Praise has to be doled out differently. Men love public praise. But if you praise a young woman publicly, every woman in the room now hates her with a passion, and every woman in the room also hates you, because you have not praised her. To top it off, the young woman you’ve praised hates you for embarrassing her in front of her teammates. However, a sincere and well-timed individual comment, such as “You were awesome,” can be very effective and meaningful for any player.

Making connections is important. Men don’t necessarily want a relationship to a coach. With women, you need to establish a different relationship with each one. Some women don’t want any kind of connection, while others require a closer and more caring relationship. Some want constant feedback; some don’t want any. However, whatever the relationship is, it must be a relationship of their choosing. They will let you know what they need, or don’t, and it is your job to respond.

Women coaches have it tougher than men. Women coaches have issues different to the ones I’m describing here. Women athletes have higher expectations of women coaches. A woman coaching women will not be forgiven as often for the mistakes she makes. Women will judge each other more harshly. I think women are always surprised when a male does something right. So if a man can evolve to a certain level, can learn to lead women well, can gain an even greater respect for it.

THE COMPETITIVE CAULDRON

There are some aspects of coaching leadership that are expressed in more concrete terms. They are connected to the nature of our sport. For one thing, soccer is not a sport like tennis; soccer has a very large physical contact component. However, there are certain general truths to all sports, and competition is one. What probably defines our program above all else is our belief that despite the enormous gains in women’s athletics, there still exists a deeply entrenched sociological drawback. It is women’s lack of support to wholeheartedly compete. And competition is at the heart of the game (and, many would argue, in life).

While men have been schooled to “beat each other up” in the spirit of the game (or in life), women have not completely embraced it yet. They can do it under conditions—against an opponent, for example. But in our experience, until that intense, no holds barred level of competition is a total part of their being, they will always be holding something back, especially in practice against teammates and friends.

Early in my career, I was inspired by the legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith. He used to let me come to watch his practices. They were a marvel of organization, efficiency and accountability. His assistant managers scattered around the floor, recording statistics—such as who hit or missed a shot, and whether a team won or lost a scrimmage. Statistics were tabulated, and players were ranked.

We adopted this method for our program, “soccerized it” and took it to a new level. We call it the competitive cauldron. It’s a system in which we track, record and post everything. The competitive environment we foster is our attempt to inculcate it, to make female players understand that competing against each other should not jeopardize friendships. Trust me, if you want your players to get the most out of themselves, they must be re-socialized in an environment that totally supports, even more, rewards, this intense competition.

Coaching women, therefore, can be said to combine some attributes of what you know of athletics to be universally true (i.e. competition), with the more subtle, or artful, aspects of leadership. If you are capable of leading women effectively, I genuinely believe, you will have evolved to a higher level of humanity. This is because you are forced to develop a connective leadership style that is much richer and more satisfying than the hierarchical style that pervades so much of male leadership. In fact, this more connective style is the direction into which our entire culture is evolving. No doubt, the civilized man would much rather be lead this way as well.

[End of article by Anson Dorrance]

In my experience, the kinds of pastors who preach like coaches of male sports teams also tend to preach to genuine believers and the unconverted as if they are all one conglomerate. They hammer ‘shoulds’ on the believers and they seem to think that this hammering will convict the unbelievers and bring them to Christ.

Okay readers – over to you.

What are your thoughts about all of this? What stands out to you? Do you have any feedback for male pastors? Not that they are likely to read it, but we can hope that a few of them do. Have you experienced this kind of thing when sought the pastor’s help for the abuse you were suffering at home?

71 Comments

  1. daughterofgod

    This is an interesting observation. although, I’d say that not all males would respond well to that type of coaching. The type of males that are attracted to soccer I imagine would relate to that. It sounds a lot like bullying to me and bullies do respond well to bullying. Jmho

    • Helovesme

      DaughterofGod I fully agree with you.

      I enjoyed Barb’s writing in this. She is spot on about relating to women is different than relating to men, and how she described that type of pastor is accurate. The other example that came to my mind is the condescending type of pastor, who is only appearing to be sympathetic but is actually dripping with contempt. He isn’t berating you outright, but he is wearing you down with his utter lack of respect for you.

      But I do disagree with some major parts of Anson Dorrance’s viewpoint. My husband is not into sports, so perhaps I am unfit to comment about how you coach men vs. women. And I am speaking from a very narrow, very individualized point of view, since we are only talking about one man, and one man does not define the entire male gender.

      Since he is a coach and has coached both genders, I do want to leave room for his point of view based on real life experience. But I also tend to balk at generalizations about either gender, or in the case, both of them (he did allude to that: “what I am sharing with you are generalizations—truths in my own experience”)

      Not all of it seemed unreasonable. Using videotape for men, but not women, for example—was interesting.

      Here are the points about coaching men that I particularly balked at. Again, keep in mind I’m married to ONE man, and he is speaking to his experience at coaching MANY men. This is entirely personal and not meant to shoot him down:

      “My greatest half time talk to men was kicking a waste basket in frustration and anger. That let them know how I felt, in no uncertain terms.”

      “Men don’t necessarily want a relationship to a coach.”

      “While you may successfully lead men with the force of your personality (In general, men respond to strength; burying them verbally doesn’t crush them, their egos are too strong),”

      “Men respond to a passionate or emotional rant.”

      I don’t speak for my husband. I do think I can say, however, that these sorts of behaviors, regardless of the setting, would put him off.

      Now, at the end he did say: “In fact, this more connective style is the direction into which our entire culture is evolving. No doubt, the civilized man would much rather be lead this way as well.”

      So I think he tried to be honest about his own experiences, and then tried to point the way for the future.

      Since I’m not into sports myself, I too balk at trying to give feedback at how he coached women. However, he did see the necessity of relating to women as people, not players. He seemed to gain more ground that way. I can see that something male pastors could very much learn from. Treat women like real people—they’re not space takers in your pews.

  2. Seeing Clearly

    I will always be able to recall the pep talk my pastor ended Sunday night sermons with, in my high school years. Yes, he loved coaching young men’s basketball. His sermons were an instructional format. His endings were always instructional to go out and “tell others about Christ” throughout the week.

    It never worked for me. I was not bold, brash, and cunning.

    My temperament was gentle, caring, giving. There was a great chasm between his coaching style and my lifestyle.

    Yes, dominant men were drawn to his style. Women understood they were second string, at best.

    • Helovesme

      Seeing Clearly that is about as good as I’ve heard it described.

      Ironically, I used to try to be more “brash,” thinking that was Biblical. Or, thinking that that would prove something—-that I was just as qualified as the men to be effective for Him. And, I figured being outward about my faith proved that I was passionate for Him.

      I do recall one woman trying to witness to me as a non Christian and she frankly scared me with her intensity! We ended up being good friends, but at first I avoided her. I think she caught on and scaled back a bit—-bless her heart. I would not call her cunning; she was the real deal. She just came off a bit intimidating at first!

      Being bold is a tough characteristic to nail down and effectively move in. As you pointed out, it was all about witnessing and talking and “getting out there and claiming people for Christ.”

      Okay, people have souls, they’re not sausages that you “grab!” Goodness, what a turn off, but that is how it came across. We really wanted to share Him with people, but we had no idea how to treat them like people it seemed.

      I remember being told that the “silent witness” method was a cop out. So, demonstrating who He is without preaching in their faces won’t an effective witness. A silent witness somewhat means that you don’t care enough to open your mouth, and people DO need to hear the Gospel, not just see it demonstrated.

      My roommate was the main source of witnessing to me. She did both. She talked to me about Him AND she lived it. I would say that the latter was the most effective, and she loved me more so than talking to me, or at me.

      I knew she was a Christian, so she didn’t have to love me and then remind me that this is who Christ is—did I want to become a Christian, too?

      She was more like you: “My temperament was gentle, caring, giving.”

      Trust me, it works. I’m living proof that it works.

      I loved it when Christians, male or female, just listened to me (as a non Christian). They didn’t need to be the center of attention; they were more than happy to let me experience some real, positive and affirming attention. That is the sort of Christian I would like to be, and would like to see around me as well.

  3. Kind of Anonymous

    I hadn’t thought of it in these terms, that is male sports coaches. But I have observed that most pastors and leaders seem to assume that everyone has grown up in a Christian home and so nothing needs explaining beyond general assumptions. They seem to assume everyone is of course biblically literate. When I first came to church, I found I had entered a world where apparently people like me didn’t really exist and evil homes like mine didn’t exist, and if I insisted that they did, it was because I was disrespectful of my parents. I was told that family is sacred. Somehow this seemingly scriptural ideal blinded people to what scripture actually said so that there was a big reality void. There was rank disbelief that some people act badly because they want to and aren’t actually reasonable people willing to work things out fairly. Which is really odd, given what the bible says about the nature of man and the reality and perniciousness of sin. Given what Jesus Himself said about not entrusting Himself to men because He knew what was in a man.

    I have though observed that male hubris thing in male pastors. Many of them are so arrogant that they automatically assume they are OF COURSE in the right and you are wrong, and if you are a woman, all the more so. Any criticism from a woman is usually seen as insubordination. She is a woman. I am a male pastor. She therefore has no right to criticize me. She is therefore in the wrong and I do not have to respect her or listen. I can dismiss her. They do not possess the humility and love of Jesus and in fact care more about their image and position than they do about someone’s eternal destiny. Not all but many.

    I think when pastors use the sports coach model or the CEO of a company model to lead, they are showing that they are more impressed with the world’s ways than God’s and that they don’t really know or understand Jesus on a personal level. It becomes method over person. Giving to get. Performance based acceptance vs. love. The bible says things like
    ” the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God”.

    Being type A may intimidate people into performing but it doesn’t change much heart wise. Outward success and bodies in the pew doesn’t equate to hearts sold out to Jesus. Many churches have indeed adopted the whole business model and now have mission statements and purpose visions written on the walls of the sanctuary. As if saying it equals doing it. Does it not occur to churches that if indeed we really walked with Jesus, it would be obvious and the hungry would come? Not much good comes from aping the world’s ways. Putting on an external framework, even if it garners some outward success, usually doesn’t do a thing to bring real inward heart change. And success by whose definition? This subject requires some more thought for sure so I will stop here.

    • Marg

      Love your comments, Kindofanonymous, on your experience of joining a church from a non-Christian family. You hit the nail on the head!

    • Helovesme

      Kind Of Anonymous you write wonderfully:

      “When I first came to church, I found I had entered a world where apparently people like me didn’t really exist and evil homes like mine didn’t exist, and if I insisted that they did, it was because I was disrespectful of my parents.”

      This wasn’t quite as harsh as it was for me, but your comment resonated with me for sure. Especially for abusive childhood homes, those that are Christians AND parents might find themselves sympathizing with parents—-who are “just doing the best they can.” Again, not at all understanding how dangerous that sort of thinking is.

      “Any criticism from a woman is usually seen as insubordination.”

      It’s a long, hard uphill climb for me, to be taken seriously. I feel like I have had to keep proving myself, over and over again—-that I can and do have the ability to think intellectually, and that having emotions does not negate my intellect. It’s exhausting.

      The pastors or male Christians I’ve mostly dealt with are condescending. I will try to tell them how I feel, and they will try to argue with me! That is not a conversation. That is one person trying to dominate the other—-I can only assume that they find it necessary to have the final word, or convince me that my way of thinking and feeling are problematic. So it’s not worth it to even try to lower your guard. All they’re looking for are vulnerable places to attack or take down, so you’re better off leaving your guard up.

      I have had this happen with older female Christians as well. You won’t believe how many times and how many ways they’ll try to correct me as if I’m a child. Or put me down in ways that are subtle, even slight—-but I felt it for sure.

      I can’t say “amen” to this enough:

      “Outward success and bodies in the pew doesn’t equate to hearts sold out to Jesus.”

      There is way more we could say, right? I would leave it at one crucial fact: be wary of using words like “success” or “successful” when it comes to ministry, or leading a church.

      Those aren’t bad words, and growth of a ministry or church is NOT a bad thing. You want hungry souls, both saved and unsaved, to have a safe place to be spiritually fed in.

      But use those kinds of words sparingly. God is simply not impressed by the same things that we tend to be impressed by. It’s imperative to take on what matters to Him and what He is pleased by—or else a church will reflect an image of Christ, but the substance of Christ is nowhere to be found.

  4. justsaltwriter

    Great points, generally speaking, and a fascinating sociological topic!

    I have two thoughts on this: first, I would think that in a ‘coaching’ setting, there may be some men who might benefit from a more ‘female approach’ (confidence boosters and encouragement–less ‘shoulding’ and criticizing) and some women who might benefit from what is termed here ‘male’ treatment (not all the women I know are naturally self-critical; some are quite the opposite).

    Secondly, as a survivor of clergy abuse from someone very close to me (molestation and sexual assault in childhood, and then ongoing harassment and spiritual abuse and mind control) I am also leery of this sort of broad ‘generalizing by genders’.

    While I like the points brought up here and do find them to be generally applicable — to apply these principals based upon gender only (without considering individual personality traits) seems a bit like a cop out from doing the real work of relationship and mentorship. And abusive leaders will do just that — they look for tips and tricks to make it easier to sway and enthrall and further entrench those who follow them. In my experience: abusers are lazy — especially relationally, and so they actually look for easy and proven ‘handling’ techniques that they can use.

    In other words: my fear is that the pastors I’ve seen behave ‘like a coach in an all male locker room’ would take information like this, about women, in order to use it to further manipulate and control! So I would caution anyone to look a lot deeper than the surface treatment of the different genders; when nosing out an abuser. My hunch is that the really adept (and sick/evil) ones are probably already treating women as this coach in the video suggested.

    • Hi justsaltwriter,

      I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know that I tend to write posts that are on the long side…and many blog readers don’t like reading a post that is more than 1000 words. I have been criticised on Jeff Crippen’s new blog for writing long posts that go on and on. I know this post of mine is dealing in generalisations. If I had gone into qualifying the generalisations by mentioning how they do not always apply, the post would have been even longer than it is.

      Having said that, the comments thread of a post is an okay venue for qualifying the generalisations and adding nuance to the understanding of the topic.

      I also want to say that this post was not about “how to identify an abuser” or “how to nose out an abuser”. (There are many other posts at this blog which deal with that topic — see here for starters.)

      • justsaltwriter

        Barbara,
        That is a tough spot and I ‘get’ it! For what it’s worth I actually enjoy an occasional lengthy post! Generally speaking, I agree with the observations and really enjoyed this post.

        My comment about nosing out abusers wasn’t based on this particular post as much as it is my belief that it’s our job as followers of Christ to be on the watch for wolves in sheep’s clothing. I take Jesus commands seriously, found in Matthew 24 and throughout the New Testament — We are warned repeatedly to watch for wolves in sheep’s clothing. And so I wanted to make others aware that some wolves love knowing ‘how’ to treat women versus how to treat men; in order to further manipulate. I will check out the link you shared to some posts on that very thing, thanks!!

    • Helovesme

      Barb thank you for giving some context for the post. I thought you did a great job. At the end of the post you asked for thoughts and opinions and feedback, and I think people have been doing just that. They started with the broad generalizations presented and then added more content as they saw it.

      I’m sorry you’ve been criticized for posts that are too long. You should have read my wedding vows. 🙂 The ones that are longer just take more time to read—-how is that a totally bad thing? For me, I might not be able to read such posts until I can make the time, but I wouldn’t recommend cutting down a post if it means cutting out helpful or encouraging writings.

      And Justsaltwriter’s comment was excellent:

      “While I like the points brought up here and do find them to be generally applicable — to apply these principals based upon gender only (without considering individual personality traits) seems a bit like a cop out from doing the real work of relationship and mentorship…. In my experience: abusers are lazy — especially relationally, and so they actually look for easy and proven ‘handling’ techniques that they can use.”

      I enjoyed that whole paragraph but tried to cut it down a bit so this comment wouldn’t get too long (pun intended!)

      That observation is about as good as I’ve ever heard, far more applicable than just abusers.

      If you don’t want to spare any real time or energy to give to others (which are the key pillars in any sort of relationship), then I would advise you learn how to give, before you go around taking from others. And there are many people who have this sense of entitlement.

      If the only way you can relate to others is if they fit an image you have, I would again suggest moving on and looking to mature before putting such demands on people.

      I was bullied a lot in school, and I think teachers tended to blame me for it, because the bullying was disruptive to them. It made their jobs harder. For example, we had to trade papers with someone so they could grade them. No one would trade with me, so I had to grade my own paper. I didn’t cheat and graded them honestly.

      The teacher decided to humiliate me in front of everyone for it. She never bothered to ask why, as if I hadn’t tried. Or that I was being rebellious. She just didn’t like that I had disobeyed her, had been disruptive, and challenged her authority.

      Note: even after that event, and I tried to trade papers, the first person I asked refused to and told me to ask someone else. Thankfully someone finally gave in to me.

      So, if teachers, pastors don’t want to deal with the MANY different relational dynamics and distinctions you are bound to face—-my sympathies are with you, but don’t expect people to be easy to deal with, so that it’s easier on you. I don’t think that that is the job for you, if that is the attitude.

      • Yep, at the end of the post I asked for thoughts and opinions and feedback, and people have been doing just that. Thank you everyone! 🙂

        The applications, the teasing out of the topic, the discussion of whether and to what extent the gender dynamics described by the soccer coach apply in church circles — it’s all great stuff. I never know where a comment thread will go when I publish a post, and commenters here constantly blow me away with the depth of their thought and their ability to articulate finer points and give illustrations and examples.

    • Hi again Justsaltwriter 🙂 You said

      “my fear is that the pastors I’ve seen behave ‘like a coach in an all male locker room’ would take information like this, about women, in order to use it to further manipulate and control! So I would caution anyone to look a lot deeper than the surface treatment of the different genders; when nosing out an abuser. My hunch is that the really adept (and sick/evil) ones are probably already treating women as this coach in the video suggested.”

      Good point. Pastors who are abusers could utilise the tips this soccer coach gave about how to coach women, to further their abusive agenda. They could use those tips to enhance their own skills as abusers. Or they could use the tips to defend and ‘justify’ their approach to women if they were questioned by bystanders. Bystander or overseer might ask the pastor, “Why are you cultivating a personal relationship with this woman?” Abusive pastor could reply, “Because that’s the best way to motivate women to grow in Christ.”

      What is the difference between a good coach using this approach and an abusive pastor using it?

      The good coach is cultivating a personal relationship with each woman on her terms, to the degree she wishes it. As Anson Dorrance pointed out, he must take his cues from each woman about how close and personal she wants the relationship to be. And he is doing this to serve the overall goal of the team, which is to win matches.

      But the abusive pastor is doing it only to serve himself: his fleshly lusts.

  5. Finding Answers

    The first comments made this morning (Daughterofgod, Seeing Clearly, Kind Of Anonymous, Justsaltwriter) contain some excellent points. My difficulty is in generalizing in ANY sense, as there are so many variables to consider.

    I have encountered those (male and female) who coach well. I have also encountered those on the team (male and female) who do not fit the suggestions made for gender-specific coaching styles.

    I have encountered those (male and female) who use gender-specific coaching styles to manipulate both coaches AND team members.

    If I were to condense my initial thoughts into one sentence, I would write: Know your coach / shepherd / Shepherd, know your team / flock.

    • Helovesme

      That was great, Finding Answers. Especially the last line.

      It’s not that radical of a concept, but it seems to be a hard one to grasp!

      A chef tends to work that way. He knows what his or her customers like to eat, or if he doesn’t—-they will likely try to find out beforehand. It’s a lot of work to plan, prep and prepare food—-so you have to make sure you’re working with their particular tastes.

      I’ve been verbally and physically abused. I’m very sensitive to harsh words and treatment.

      It’s hard for me to try to relate to people who have a style that I would consider “bullying.” Now, I’m not asking to be babied, but I do ask that you put on some kid gloves for me. Dial it down, try to be gentle and PLEASE—-try to be patient with me as well.

      And I’ll try to do the same for you. Being abused doesn’t mean I’m incapable of giving back to you, as I ask you to give to me. I’m willing to work hard for you, if you’ll do the same for me, and likely we’ll work together very well.

  6. Kind of Anonymous

    Can’t help but wonder how much fatherlessness and lack of male affirmation and nurture plays a role in how the soccer coach in the article described the reaction of the women if he singled one woman out for public praise. He said all the other women would hate her because she got praise and they didn’t and she would hate him for embarrassing her. He does admit that he is generalizing. I have seen how very competitive women can be with one another though. Makes me wonder why. What is it that elicits that reaction?

    Lack of male/father nurture resulting in an almost orphan like scrambling for “food”?
    Basic sin?
    Idolatry in the form of basing one’s worth on male approval?
    A lack of personal worth, secure identity and confidence?

    The way he described the women, they sounded like squabbling seagulls. And I know some men regard that sort of thing as a “cat fight” , they seem to just accept women as being vain, shallow, competitive and jealous rivals as if that is particular to our gender alone. Petty war that is illogical to a man and therefore not something he ought to meddle in. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest it is. But then Cain murdered Abel because God praised Abel and not him. So perhaps there is no real difference between genders as far as such things go except that perhaps men are more covert about their true feelings. Begs the question is it nature or nurture?

    • In my experience, the question “Is it nature or nurture?” sets up a false dichotomy because it is almost always nature AND nurture.

      The “nature” part goes back to Genesis 3 where God announces the consequences of the Fall. Please bear in mind that I’m speaking about general tendencies and overall patterns, not individuals. Men as a collective group get some consequences from the Fall, and I think we see that playing out in men’s hubris. Women as a collective group get other consequences from the Fall, and I think we see that playing out in wwomen’s lack of confidence. So that’s “nature” — the fallen (sin) nature of human beings. I’ve written about this here. And although born again believers are freed of the penalty of sin, they battle against the flesh (residual sin patterns they may still have) for the rest of their mortal lives.

      And of course, the “nurture” part is how culture and family upbringing affect each of us.

      • Finding Answers

        Barb commented “……So that’s “nature” — the fallen (sin) nature of human beings……”

        and

        Barb also commented “And of course, the “nurture” part is how culture and family upbringing affect each of us.”

        In a previous comment, Barb wrote: “The applications, the teasing out of the topic, the discussion of whether and to what extent the gender dynamics described by the soccer coach apply in church circles — it’s all great stuff. I never know where a comment thread will go when I publish a post, and commenters here constantly blow me away with the depth of their thought and their ability to articulate finer points and give illustrations and examples.”

        ^That.

        Helovesme commented (29TH MAY 2019 – 12:19 PM) “Wanting attention is NOT a bad thing, and being neglected is a big deal……”

        ^That.

        Helovesme also commented “Pride is one of the most intense struggles for humanity, as well as believers……”

        To which I reply:

        Barb commented “In my experience, the question “Is it nature or nurture?” sets up a false dichotomy because it is almost always nature AND nurture.”

        ^That.

    • Helovesme

      Kind Of Anonymous I picked up on that too (the female competitive aspect).

      Pride is one of the most intense struggles for humanity, as well as believers. Without a doubt: pride dies slowly, and it doesn’t die without a fight. But it CAN and DOES die, as the Lord works and works in you. It is often a slow and painful process, but it does yield results.

      I agree with Barb. I think it’s both: nurture AND nature.

      I have no problem admitting how much I’ve wrestled and struggled and sadly, stumbled—-due to jealousy. I would be jealous of girls or women who were prettier and more popular and more pleasing. I never fit into that mold, so having that shoved in my face was particularly grueling.

      I read a post one day titled “owning your lust.” I really and truly enjoyed the “owning” aspect. So often we don’t own up to our choices. We just react instinctively, without thinking or realizing that there are consequences to those choices.

      I have not lusted sexually after women, but I HAVE lusted in wanting their near perfect body shapes. And pretty, shapely women were always admired and praised and treated well.

      I was guilty of objectifying these women, reducing them to nothing more than their body shapes—-even without a sexual component attached to it—-I wasn’t much better than boys or men that salivate over them. I also objectified myself in the process: I am MUCH more than what I look like, but that is all I saw about myself.

      BUT—I realized that I needed to “own up” to my sin. Own it, and accept it, and repent. Take responsibility and don’t blame anyone else. Yes, we live in a shallow, superficial, sexed up world. Yes, I was abused and treated like trash and no one seemed to love me or even like me. Yes, I can see how I would think that if only I looked right, I would be treated right.

      Therein lies the difference between being “squabbling seagulls,” who just live to peck and shove and consume without any real concern for others—-and a real person with real problems, with real needs, with real problems.

      Wanting attention is NOT a bad thing, and being neglected is a big deal. This is how the competitive foolishness in me woke up and grew like a cancer. I thought that in order to get those real needs met, I had to push and shove to have them met. The other girls or women weren’t real people, they were mere obstacles that I had to shove out of the way!

      “They seem to just accept women as being vain, shallow, competitive and jealous rivals as if that is particular to our gender alone.”

      This is so true, but I find that it reeks of hypocrisy. Professional sports are extremely competitive. I’ve listened to former athletes who lost all their money and how it happened. They talked about how they felt the need to outdo the other players on AND off the field—-cars, houses, expensive possessions. That is shallow and vain for sure.

      “He said all the other women would hate her because she got praise and they didn’t and she would hate him for embarrassing her.”

      I thought about that. Professional sports are all about teamwork. You work together in order to play well. That coach, in boosting the confidence of one woman on the same team, could have boosted the confidence of the entire team. Or, in praising her, he could have also made it clear how proud he is of every single one of them. There are ways to be inclusive, and not exclusive—-when it comes to encouragement.

      I’m sure someone has or will bring up the “siblings” aspect of competition. I’ve been there as well. I have two siblings who are successful and very well learned. I would be considered anything BUT. It was very hard to deal with, but now I am proud of them both.

      However, it’s never easy when both Christians and non-Christians tend to prize and idolize things that the Lord is not impressed by. Making babies and making money doesn’t impress Him, yet I’ve noticed that those are the two measuring sticks that both the secular and the spiritual world tend to use to measure the worth of a person.

      I find THAT to be quite petty. God doesn’t care if you are married, or have no kids or twenty kids. Or, if you have ten dollars or ten million dollars.

      PLUS, you don’t have to compete with anyone in order to be loved by Him. For Him, power is not all about being powerful. The main source of His power is rooted in love, but sadly we tend to see that as a much lower priority, almost more as an afterthought than the one thing we should be going after!

  7. I find this coach’s admonitions to be fascinating — for coaching athletes — and will ponder them. But the church is made up of so much more than athletes. The men of a church will usually consist of the brash athletic types who perhaps need to be brought down several notches . . . and, very often, there will also be those who have come out of abusive homes who are constantly second-guessing and blaming themselves. The women of a church will most likely consist of “team players” like the girls this man coaches . . . but also the narcissist types who want the ascendancy (though in conservative churches this can look subtle). At any rate, this coach’s observations seem to me to be very much worth studying and learning from.

    • Rebecca, thanks for talking about all those different kinds of men and women in churches. I agree with your observations. 🙂

  8. Hello Sunshine

    I had not thought of this in terms of sports coaching or gender–which are both illuminating thoughts!–but I have often experienced sermons that were not for thoughtful people with a working conscience. The pastor tended to assume that we were all self-indulgent, thoughtless clods who needed to be shocked, shaken, torn down, revved up, and exhorted to do the simplest, most basic sort of things a disciple of Christ might reasonably be known for. (This wasn’t a church full of uneducated, new converts or anything…but the two pastors I’m thinking of were big sports guys and imagined themselves rather macho…I think your analysis explains a lot!)

    I hate pep talks. I hate getting yelled at. I hate getting lumped into groups to which I don’t belong. I hate sexism. I hate appeals to group unity and emotional rah-rah tactics from the football field.

    What I’ve seen in churches in recent years is an acceptance of any nonsense that seems macho in order to get men in the door. I have seen it result in puffed up, jocular men who felt free to be more openly sexist; I have not noticed increased fruit of the Spirit.

    • “sermons that were not for thoughtful people with a working conscience”

      What a great way of putting it. Thanks Hello Sunshine! 🙂

    • Hello Sunshine

      Personally, I’ve sometimes been kind of a sucker for anyone telling me how to do something better. Attributable, I hope, partly to a tender conscience, sense of responsibility and duty, humility, and love of goodness, but maybe going too far for my own good thanks to growing up years spent trying to please an angry, exacting, competitive parent.

      But anyway, I have found the sports coach sermon style a dreadful experience. I have sat in sermons and classes where they were pounding their theme, doing everything possible to get us to do X, and I would be thinking, “Oh yes. Oh dear. That’s true. I resolve to start doing X. Oh, what a worm I am that I don’t do X.” But while I was listening and mentally planning how to incorporate X, it would dawn on me that I do X every day, have been cheerfully doing X since I was 12 years old, and could probably give some pointers, if asked, to the speaker who apparently doesn’t do X much. Not that experience had shown they’d want to hear from me. So then these sermons became an exercise in frustration and mental efforts at self-protection.

      I believe most people in the church were reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned Christians who had come to church willingly. Why they needed to be hit over the head and insulted once they got there, I don’t know. But that is an old stereotype of motivational speaking and team building in the military and sports.

      I would suggest to pastors that such a style does not reach those (women and men) who aren’t steeped in a manly man sports world. And worse, that it may not be endurable by members of the congregation who have experienced harshness and criticism at home.

      • So well said, Hello Sunshine!

        I particularly identify with everything you said in your second paragraph. 🙂 🙂

    • justsaltwriter

      Thank you for this— have experienced exactly this type of thing and couldn’t put my finger on why it was so distasteful but you have really nailed it!!

    • Hello Sunshine

      I should probably add that these pastors may not think their style was harsh or insulting. They could be arrogant, and that may explain it fully, but with their backgrounds, I could believe they felt they were doing the helpful motivational thing and that if anyone didn’t like it, they were overly sensitive, not one of the guys.

      If such a pastor wished to better understand their impact, I’d say that just the assumption that we all need to be pumped up by them is something that rubs me wrong and can activate a feeling of inadequacy and fear that I then have to work to overcome by tuning them out.

      • “just the assumption that we all need to be pumped up by them is something that rubs me wrong and can activate a feeling of inadequacy and fear that I then have to work to overcome by tuning them out.”

        ^ That — with this nuance: It used to activate a feeling of inadequacy and fear in me, but now it activates feelings of frustration and anger because I know the man in the pulpit is failing to understand many people in the pews.

        In order to continue attending church services, I have had to cultivate the art of tuning out the man in the pulpit when he is saying things that are off — off in tone, or off in doctrine.

        Quite often I leave before the sermon begins. But if I choose for whatever reason to sit through the sermon, I usually have to tune out some parts of it. I can consciously dissociate so I don’t get too frustrated by his foolishness. I have had to do this with many preachers, not just one particular man.

        It took quite a few years for me to accommodate myself to doing this. I felt guilty tuning out at first, but in the end my conscience was okay with it. I knew it was the right way for me to handle things. The alternative — not tuning out — left me feeling such a lot of frustration and anger that I had to process those negative feelings for hours or days…. a giant waste of time.

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Oddly this is related to why I always hated gym class in school and later hated the atmosphere of fitness clubs. The pumping people up thing seems to be based in forcing and aggression, which is of course connected to fear based motivation. It brings in the whole domination and control paradigm. This is so interwoven in our culture it’s not funny. In some countries the use of imperative language is forbidden in advertising because the law makers are aware that it’s a form of forcing which violates people’s right to think it through and choose. So one cannot say “Buy THIS product”. Instead one must say “If you would like to try our product, you will notice benefits”
        “Would you like to try our product, here is where to get it”.

        I can’t recall which Christian author said this, but he contrasted our culture and how in north America, the predominate paradigm and assumption is that of manufacture. The idea that the earth and all it contains is ours to take, use and force into whatever shape serves our purpose. He spoke of how an American child will say “how do you make a baby” and a Japanese child would ask “how do you grow a baby”. I found his observation shocking and interesting at the same time.

      • Helovesme

        Hello Sunshine and Barb—that is near EXACTLY how it is for me, too. Especially Barb’s addition to Hello Sunshine’s comment.

        I admire Barb’s technique of tuning in and out—that’s a fantastic skill to have.

        I still recall feeling so vindicated when other women have spoken of feeling uncomfortable or squeamish when topics like submission or authority came up in sermons—-with almost no mention of abuse. The fear and jumpiness in my stomach, confirmed by others, assured me that I was not alone.

        I DO have sympathy for pastors who really are trying their best. They can’t always preach in a style that satisfies everyone. This does not excuse them when they cross a line. I just mean that it is impossible to never ruffle feathers and never say the wrong thing. And always use the right tone and be 100% aware of every single person’s background in the pews.

        Christ Himself was often challenged and told that He was crossing lines, being offensive and turning people off with His ways. They would have preferred Him, I think, to be smooth talking and speak with smooth words. As if that would get His points across more effectively?

        Well, the Bible isn’t into that. In fact, the Old Testament warns us against “smooth talkers.” They act like the way to please God was to please people.

        So while I can’t stand hysterical preaching disguised as instructive, I also can’t stand the politician type of preaching—all smooth but with no substance. They are talking, but they really aren’t saying much.

        I am all right with being challenged in church—-I’m not going there so I can be told how great I am and how there is nothing wrong with me. But Barb and Hello Sunshine have made extremely valuable points—don’t crush me in order to challenge me. Christ never did that. He knew that would never be effective.

    • Hello Sunshine

      Justsaltwriter, I’m so glad you understand, but sorry that you do, of course.

      I keep trying to articulate what exactly has bothered me about it and I think the whole idea that this man is making uninformed (probably derogatory) assumptions about me (and everyone else) without asking questions, that he is expecting I must think, feel, and do as he says on the weightiest and most personal matters, while trying to manipulate my emotions right past my brain, without any chance for me to ask, answer, or explain anything…ugh! I can’t imagine any victim of domestic abuse appreciating more bossiness, uninformed pronouncements, or one-sided, high pressure communication in life.

      The pastor I had growing up had a general attitude more like this: “I was reading X passage from Scripture this week and noticed some wonderful things! I’ll offer some outlines/summaries/conclusions/historical and Scriptural context for your consideration. As you think about this passage on your own with the Spirit’s leading, I hope we will grow in the goodness of God’s love and truth.”

    • Helovesme

      ” I have not noticed increased fruit of the Spirit.”

      You focused on a crucial area right there. What is the point of a pastor bullying, berating and beating his chest in an effort to “draw out” the spiritual warriors in us? Has that ever worked, and most importantly—-did Christ ever demonstrate those sorts of methods? Does it really and truly produce anything substantial and praiseworthy—aka fruit of the Spirit?

      I once did a very rare thing and walked out of a sermon. The man preaching was making jokes about being physically disciplined as a child himself, and then talking about his own kids in gender stereotypical ways.

      I found it all to be in very poor taste. People were laughing, but I am guessing that others were like me—-horrified and humiliated. I have to admit that ten or maybe even five years ago—-I might have joined in and laughed. But I was always trying to fit in and I usually suppressed my better judgment in the process—-and you will eventually pay a high price.

      I’m working on it, but I also carry around a sense of shame for minimizing my own personal trauma in favor of possibly traumatizing others. Like I said, I’m sure others in that audience felt just as uncomfortable as I did.

      The “macho” qualify is undeniably not Christ-like. I have no idea how anyone who has read the Word can dispute that. So I don’t know what is is doing being promoted or tolerated in churches, taught to boys and demonstrated by men. And no, being “macho” is not a personality trait—-not as I see it.

      One pastor in particular was what I now label as being more like a politician. That is not the same thing as being macho. He had a strong and passionate personality, but wielded it in a way to be inclusive of both men and women—-but also used in ways to be controlling and somewhat manipulative.

      I now think he didn’t know how to be inclusive of both genders, and ALSO see and treat them as equals. Therein lies the huge and all too often missing aspect in churches. Oh, the women feel welcomed all right—-as long as we don’t make trouble and stay in our places.

      He also didn’t understand women as a whole very well. We simply aren’t all cut out of the same cloth. We come in all shapes and sizes and personality types. Perhaps male pastors can intuitively understand their own gender better, and find women to be something of a mystery? Is that why men and women ministries and activities and events are often same-gender oriented?

      However, I can easily dispute that, too. My husband has spoken about the difficulties in trying to relate to the men in his family. It is simply not the case that men tend to understand each other easily, or at least more instinctively.

      The “emotional rah-rah tactics” are extremely dangerous. I’ve been to revival type meetings or services and they are hyped up and hyperactive. I used to get into them a lot and now I am totally burned out and completely disinterested. As you said—when I look back on those times, I do not see that any of it produced any real, substantive, long lasting fruit of the Spirit. Emotional overload is not a fruit of Him, but people are often drawn to it.

      It may LOOK like we are passionate for Him, and maybe they are or maybe they aren’t—-but if that passion doesn’t translate into something that builds us up in Him—it was more like a big rush to the head. When that wore off, so did the excitement for Him.

  9. Kind of Anonymous

    I had one pastor who liked to use technical/theological jargon like you would find amongst seminarians. For instance, today we are going to talk about our church polity. Our whaatttt? Didn’t know we had one of those in this church. Do all churches have one of those….lol.

    When folks complained that he needed to speak in language that the average man on the street would understand, he got snotty and said that rather than him having to dumb himself down to suit them, they ought to come up a few levels and make the effort to learn. Perhaps there might be room to agree with both in actuality, but it wasn’t exactly a humble servant like response.

    • Hi Kind of Anonymous

      If you think I use words that are technical/theological jargon, I’m open to hearing that feedback if you email it to me with some examples.

      • Kind of Anonymous

        Hi Barb, thank you. I haven’t found your writings to be overly peppered with jargon or or odd ecclesiastical language beyond the reach of ordinary mortals 🙂 Some stuff is unavoidable in a scholarly work so it’s good to know I can give you a shout and ask 🙂
        I think the pastor I mentioned was trying to sound like MacArthur, who he was a devotee of.

      • Ah… there are lots of men who try to be clones of MacArthur. JMac has a very loyal fan base.

  10. Princesa

    I agree with the article, in that there are general ways in which men and women differ in their response to sermons, coaching, or military training. I don’t get anything out of the “He Man” type of sermonizing. Fortunately, my pastor is a mild-mannered academic whose sermons tend to emphasize whatever history book he’s currently reading.

    I also agree with the comments that one can’t overgeneralize, saying “Men are like this!” and “Women are like that!” Human variability is too great, and forcing either men or women (or boys or girls) into “gender” boxes is inhumane.

    • Thanks Princesa

      I agree that forcing men and women (or boys and girls) into “gender” boxes is inhumane. 🙂

  11. Finding Answers

    From the original post “In sports coaching, the coach’s goal is to get the team to win matches…….”

    NOT ^that for me.

    I like some sports and some board games, but simply for the joy of playing.

    I like a FEW computer (not video) games, but I don’t pay attention to the score / time elapsed / overall statistics.

    My strongest and best memory was of being the anchor in a particular race and finishing the last leg of the race by myself. We came in last place, but I had the simple pleasure of watching my physically handicapped team-mate compete in an event that provided my team-mate with an option to participate in a team event. (Omitting details for my protection.)

    This scenario reflects how I have lived / live my life.

    I am not interested in winning. I AM interested in finishing the race.

  12. Finding Answers

    Hello Sunshine commented (27TH MAY 2019 – 4:35 PM) “I hate pep talks. I hate getting yelled at. I hate getting lumped into groups to which I don’t belong. I hate sexism. I hate appeals to group unity and emotional rah-rah tactics from the football field anywhere.”

    (Strikethrough and the word “anywhere” added by me.)

    ^That.

    Most of all, I hate the interchangeable use of the words and / or concept of “family” and “team”.

  13. nolarond

    I think there are a lot of men who don’t like that style, either. Not every man loves being on a sports team. Some men aren’t athletic. Some athletic men don’t like team sports. Some men who like team sports have a low opinion of themselves and need to be built up. Some men who aren’t athletic would love to try but don’t want to be ridiculed. I think it’s about understanding the great diversity of all people, not just gender.

  14. Charis

    I will have to chew on this.
    I have been assigned as preceptor to new nurses on our floor. It could be adequately compared to coaching as described in this article. Thus, the chewing I need to do and some introspection. Perhaps my personal style is more masculine in certain areas? My mother was very Spartan or stoic. And being on high-performance teams led by a man with military training…I can see where some of this comes naturally. Video was used w/ us…and all of it negative. Tape doesn’t lie.

    I can agree with several observations in his article at least as it pertains to me. For example, I can personally identify with his statement that if something negative is said openly/publicly in a group setting, then I tend to think it was aimed at me. Bingo! And likewise, I am horribly embarrassed if complimented or praised publicly. Isn’t that odd?

    And along the male-driven side – I can see where my XH never thought the criticism was his to own. Sermon, coaching, personal or otherwise. It was always…”someone else.” So, some interesting parallels there, too.

    Regardless, I have some work to do as I coach these new nursing grads on our floor. There are some take-aways for me for sure.
    I am also wondering – how much of these observations are generational? Are these less relevant for the millenial population? Just a curious thought.

    • Hi Charis, nice to hear from you! 🙂 I’m glad you’re finding stuff to chew on in the post.

      “I can see where my XH never thought the criticism was his to own. Sermon, coaching, personal or otherwise. It was always…’someone else’ “

      ^ My ex husbands too, especially the first one. 😦

  15. Kind of Anonymous

    Still thinking on this; I am put in mind of Paul’s instructions to Timothy where he says things like do not rebuke an older man harshly, but treat him as your father, younger men as brothers, women as sisters, etc. I don’t see any room in there for aggressiveness or acting as if the congregation is made up only of men and only what works with men is of value.

    One of the reasons I had a great deal of trouble trusting God was that I had the suspicion that female lives didn’t matter much beyond homemaking, cooking and cleaning, serving men and having children. Which not only devalues homemaking but other forms of serving. The pastors I met did little to dispel that notion unfortunately.

    I remember listening to a Christian broadcast, might have been fotf, where they were discussing the awful advice a pastor gave a woman being abused by her husband. The pastor kept urging her to continue to submit and serve saying that if he harmed her and she responded with grace and compassion that would be a real witness and that if he KILLED her God would use that to bring this bad husband to himself. The commentator remarked on how this woman’s life apparently had little value to this pastor, and he painted God’s ideas of her as her being merely a tool for God to use as He pursued this man who apparently mattered very much. He made it sound as if continuing to take abuse was actually service to God comparable to that of Jim Elliot giving his life for the gospel in martyrdom, and that this is of course reasonable service and the sort of thing God requires if one is a real Christian willing to suffer for Christ.

    In addition to the “do female lives really matter to God” question, I also had the distinct impression that being a Christian means that one is denying Christ and refusing to suffer for Him if there is any thought of setting boundaries or resisting evil. I attended a Mennonite church and of course Anabaptists are known for their pacifism. Noble stories of Christians who responded to brutality with compassion and second mile service abound and seem to reinforce the idea that there is something almost apostate about refusing to remain in a marriage where one is being treated badly, be it being hollered at all the time, or actually hit, emotionally abused, devalued etc. As if one is abandoning Jesus and denying the faith to refuse suffering without limit. Really it makes it sound as if God doesn’t value women much and as if having faith means one should never tire and have limits.

    It’s eerie how much in common with the typical sports coach type attitude this kind of thinking would seem to have.

    • Great comment KoA! Especially this – I think you nailed it here:

      “Paul’s instructions to Timothy where he says things like do not rebuke an older man harshly, but treat him as your father, younger men as brothers, women as sisters, etc. I don’t see any room in there for aggressiveness or acting as if the congregation is made up only of men and only what works with men is of value.

    • Helovesme

      I really liked your comment Kind of Anonymous as well.

      “One of the reasons I had a great deal of trouble trusting God was that I had the suspicion that female lives didn’t matter… The pastors I met did little to dispel that notion unfortunately.” (I omitted the specifics listed).

      Yes I understand this only all too well. This attitude isn’t just applicable within the church; it is far reaching and runs deep. There are so many examples we could pull from both secular and spiritual history, and sadly—many examples from present day or the recent past.

      I believe the attitude is easily debunked, but since sexism is so deeply rooted, it’s not going to get pulled up that easily.

      First, there is the terrible assumption that God doesn’t value each and every individual life He makes. In the Word, there are examples where He executed judgement as He saw fit. And people lost their lives as a result. Not only that, but it’s clearly written that mankind is like the grass—there one day and gone the next.

      Without applying the Lord’s love for people, you can get the VERY wrong impression that for Him, people are disposable. He can flick His wrist and thousands will die. So what’s the big deal if a woman is murdered by her own husband, or intimate partner? People come and go. Besides, you’ll go to Heaven, so what are you so afraid of? And what if your life, finite as it is anyway, is used to bring your murderer to Christ? His soul is more valuable than your flesh and blood body, which, again—-is finite.

      I truly believe I don’t even need to explain how completely horrible, wrong and deceptive this sort of mindset is. Even in typing it out, I felt sick to my stomach, but that is pretty much how women, abused or not, are made to feel. They are second class, in every sense of the word.

      Second, if that is the attitude—then why do I so often hear screaming and shouting about abortion? That is real deal life, right at conception. This is despicable. This is heinous. God is going to dump load after load of His wrath because of all these unborn babies being aborted.

      So let me get this straight: a life in the womb, not yet born, not even visible to the naked eye yet—-must be fought for, tooth and nail. We will wage war over this.

      A female life, NOT in the womb anymore, HAS been born into the world, and is VERY visible to the naked eye—-is not worth fighting for. We are apathetic, and refuse to lift a finger.

      The extreme ranting and raving over abortion tends to be most ferocious from the older generation. Roe vs, Wade, in America, was enacted when I was not alive yet. Make no mistake, there is plenty of passion from the current and my own generation.

      But Barb once pointed out, rightly so, that men FROM that older generation seem to have a harder time treating her with respect.

      The hypocrisy is on full display in my mind. Perfectly right to oppose abortion, as a believer. But if you don’t care about that life in AND out of that womb, whether that life is male or female—-your “right to life” views can legitimately be challenged.

      Do you care more about control and power and authority—-or are you passionate about the rights of the living. Those that cannot speak for themselves, in AND out of the womb.

      And once that life CAN speak, and testifies that she is being abused or has been preyed upon by a professing Christian—-are you going to let her speak, or are you going to tell her to be silent?

      She was silent in the womb, unable to speak for herself—-and you spoke up for her, insisting that she be allowed to live. Now she is born, and can speak for herself—-why in the world did you just tell her to stay silent? You said she should be allowed to live. If you meant it then, why don’t you mean it now?

      Victims of abuse will tell you that they often feel like the walking dead. Alive on the outside, but lifeless on the inside.

      If you treat a woman like that, in essence—you are murdering her from the inside out. Ask yourself: how much do you really care about the sanctity of life?

      Life is fragile, yes. God has and does give and take away. The Bible never said that, however, in order to enable and endorse a flippant attitude for life!

      As for the “suffering for Christ” narrative, that is also as foolish as one can imagine. No one LOOKS for chances to put their lives on the line and then claim it’s all for Christ. That is reckless and irresponsible, and indicates a disregard for your safety and security.

      Paul never, ever did that sort of thing. And he also actively ran for his life when he found out his life was in danger. No one LOOKS to get persecuted for His name, even—-Paul experienced it, but he never actively looked for it.

      On a personal note, I’ve experienced attitudes around me that indicated a “swap in, swap out” mentality towards people. Something like a revolving door of people that come and go. These are from professing Christians.

      I don’t understand that sort of thing; not for a moment. There is nothing that makes a person more righteously angry, when a loved one is not treated with the full and complete worth that YOU know they have. So my personal outrage in this area is real, and I believe it mirrors the heart of the Lord.

      Make no mistake, I’m a work in progress. I’ve become numb to loss of life when I open the news and find out that another school or place of worship has been shot up. I fight that numbness, but it can be hard. Your mind sort of shuts down and it’s hard to get it moving again.

    • Helovesme

      Hi again KoA I loved this other part of your comment so much that I wanted to leave a second response:

      “I don’t see any room in there for aggressiveness or acting as if the congregation is made up only of men and only what works with men is of value.”

      When the article Barb posted spoke of the coach violently kicking a trash can, and he claimed that that got the message across to his male players—-I cringed. I am not here to dump on him, FYI. Just taking those words to back up your comment.

      James, in responding to his own post—brought up how boys and men are told to be tough and tough things out and to act tough. Male believers are likely not exempt from that sort of influence—-and even if they are not raised with this attitude, the world around you will very much encourage it.

      I appreciated that—-it opened up a window of insight into what you spoke of: the aggressiveness of male pastors.

      I spoke to my spouse about that sort of attitude and he very much confirmed James’s words. And he was raised in a Christian home.

      Without my prompting, he brought up how such a man might choose to use a hammer to deal with life’s problems. That was ironic, because an analogy had been forming in my mind using a hammer.

      A hammer can be used to break and shatter things—to tear down. A hammer can also be used to construct and create—to build up.

      It is all about the person holding that hammer and how he chooses to use it. By no means is the hammer to blame if the person using it decides to capriciously destroy, versus carefully construct.

      I have little to no sympathy for a male pastor who isn’t, at the very least, AWARE of the fact that you better dang well learn how to wield that hammer as the Lord sees fit. You break down what He says to break down. You build up what He says to build up. If they aren’t even fundamentally aware of that enormous responsibility—-consider that God may have a different calling for you. Or, that you need to understand what your calling truly entails.

      I can tell you that there are men who do not want to use a hammer to be aggressive, and they don’t want a hammer to be used toward THEM in that sort of way, either. They did not become Christians in order to emulate the gun toting, fist punching male action stars in the movies or in video games. They want something much better.

      This applies to women, too. Believe me, women can be bullish and brash. There are all sorts of reasons why this might be. But they are just as much in need of being taught and encouraged how to be tough in the Biblical sense, not in the tyrannical sense.

      This all starts with having a heart for the Lord, and along with that—-building yourself up personally, and encouraging others—-to model their lives after the Lord Himself.

      Who, as KoA brilliantly noted—used His words as His main source of power, not His fists and certainly did not bully or berate. Add to that—-His occupation was a carpenter before He started His ministry. I have no doubt that played a part in preparing Him for His ministry.

      There was no electricity back then, so no power tools or other such fancy equipment. Things took real time, real patience—because you cared about the final product.

    • Hello Sunshine

      Even beyond specifically pacifist traditions, I think it is often taught in churches that Christ is to be our example in all things and that His number one act was to suffer and die for horrible sinners. That alone makes it easy to believe that we should be oppressed and afflicted, led like a lamb to slaughter, and open not our mouths…that this is love, to suffer silently for another’s benefit, whatever wrong they do. You know and I know that there is much more in the Bible about the nitty-gritty of human to human relationships on this earth that is practical and protective, but much of it gets ignored.

      Another commonly emphasized and potentially misleading idea is that God is in control and all things work for good…the logical conclusion being that we would be kicking against the goads to take action to change things rather than accept the situation and try to grow closer to God through it. Again, that conclusion as a blanket recommendation ignores a great deal of Scripture, but seems a very common belief among Christians.

      (All of which makes me want to say thank you, Barbara, for your good work!)

      • Thanks Hello Sunshine 🙂

        And for those who are not familiar with this website, we have an FAQ page about suffering and how the doctrine of suffering is greatly misunderstood.

      • Artina

        Hello Sunshine, I’m glad that you brought up these two concepts and how maybe they are used to keep people keeping the status quo. When I was attending a church that preached unbalanced scripture (and my kids were sports kids) and I was trying to put my finger and my mind on what it was that seemed “off” to me, interestingly enough, I came up with a sports term (as I was a faithful sports mom). I call this kind of teaching “clipping”, as in soccer or football (an illegal act, not playing “fair”), certainly not balanced whole scripture teaching. Hell (rather than Heaven, IMO) forbids that anyone thriving in their growth is given encouragement, gentle caution and encouragement (rather than harsh reminders) to pursue humility.

        I’ll add two other ideas where this word “clipping” came to mind for me. The timing, of using the following scripture right after an act of dominance by male leadership to put patriarchy in the by-laws of a church that I attended, was disturbing. —

        “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

        In other words, IMO, they were “teaching/suggesting this ^ to women, right after they had been devalued….by elevating themselves”.

        These same church-leading men just loved Sunday school classes on apologetics and they loved male authors who seemed to ridicule “the world” for not being able to “follow their views to their logical conclusion.”

        No wonder my children and I got sick there!

        Another section of scripture, that I’ve heard many patriarchal men teach is:

        “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “

        Then I heard a liturgical church female pastor teach, using this section of scripture as well as others. She gently added enough to remind listeners that we don’t enter the kingdom of heaven on our own merit. I can’t remember exactly how she said it, but I noted it was different. There seemed to be challenge, but also gentle encouragement. It felt refreshing. I had never, ever heard that section of scripture preached like that sister in Christ did.

        I can relate to many of the comments on this post.

      • Helovesme

        Hello Sunshine you offer wonderful thoughts.

        “much of it gets ignored.”
        “that conclusion as a blanket recommendation ignores a great deal of Scripture, but seems a very common belief among Christians.”

        Deception is not just about out and out lying. Making up facts that don’t exist, or putting forth narratives that are simply full of falsehoods. Lies are presented as though they are truths.

        Deception can very much involve omission of facts. So a false theology might not involve lies that are spoken or written—-truth is just conveniently left out. Lies are presented all right, but they are not obvious or easy to spot.

        Fact checkers in the political world exist for this very reason. Politicians will make speeches or give interviews, and it’s important to make sure they’re being truthful.

        They will call out things that are simply not true. But they will also insert facts that were not brought up or were left out—which usually changes the entire narrative.

        Fact checking is quite hard and time consuming, but we dang well need them. The research that they do in order to inform the public requires tenacity. But without them, people could very well get hurt. We could vote in people that are more interested in power and authority. People who have an agenda of their own that has nothing to do with serving others. They aimed to earn our trust so we would vote for them, but they had no interest in honoring that trust.

        Apply this thinking to those we listen to in the church. It doesn’t have to be a pastor. Anyone who claims to be a believer, and puts out narratives that are suspicious (Artina said something seemed “off”), should not be trusted just because of who they claim to be. Fact check them, as best you can.

        I would add, however, to do your homework even when something doesn’t SEEM suspicious. A lot of false teachings sound very pleasant to the ears (2 Timothy 4:3) Lies that are out, or truths that are omitted, are not always horrific sounding.

        Imagine a piece of smelly, disgusting trash wrapped up in a soft, clean, scented towel. All you see is a spotless towel, and all you smell is a lovely aroma.

        Unwrap that towel, however, and suddenly you are aware of what was underneath the whole time.

        Go back to how the devil deceived Eve. He was about as clever as it gets—he told falsehoods AND left out key aspects in his narrative.

        This is why I am personally disgusted with those that bring the hammer down on Eve.

        Attitudes like: if it had been Adam, he would have known better. So men should be in charge.

        That’s not true. Adam was directly given the commandments from the Lord, not Eve. He knew better, but ate the fruit anyway. He also blamed his wife for his choice to sin.

        The devil preyed on Eve so women must be prone to deception.

        Also not true. The Bible never says that. We don’t know exactly why he picked her. Keep in mind that this is the devil himself tempting her, not one of his lower minions. It is no small thing.

        Ask yourself what you felt like when you are tempted. Are you a tower of strength and spiritual superiority? If a demonic element was involved in your temptation, it was probably not from the devil himself, but a lower level entity. So you likely have no idea what Eve faced.

        False narratives also leave OUT a lot of relevant facts:

        Fine, I accept that a woman was tempted, and a woman sinned. For me, that is not shocking—-that a woman sinned and fell short of the glory of God.

        A man named Judas actively went out and actively sought to betray His teacher and friend—-someone who he spent 3 years with in close, intimate ministry with Him. Someone who actively chose HIM to be a part of His inner circle. Someone who put his hand into the money bag which he was entrusted with. Someone who was so full of hate that 30 pieces of silver (not a lot of money) was enough of a bribe to turn Him over to those that hated Him just as much, maybe even more.

        You will never, ever hear me say that men are more prone to betrayal, love of money, abusing trust AND hatred of the innocent. Not to mention stealing and being actively involved in murder.

        The devil actively sought Eve out to tempt her to do do evil; she did not seek him out. Actively Judas sought out evildoers to be in league with them.

        I’ve been hurt by a lot of men over my life—both saved and unsaved ones. If I make blanket statements like: all men are pigs—-I deserve to be rebuked. I deserve to be convicted of sin. Not only that, but the small but significant amount of kind men that I’ve met over the years do not deserve to be thrown under the bus like that.

        I try to focus on my brothers in the Word that are nothing like Judas. Same with my sisters in the Word—-they set examples that I want to follow. And there are plenty of them to work with. That too is something that can be conveniently omitted.

      • Helovesme

        I thought a bit more about Hello Sunshine’s comment because it was so thought provoking. Rightly so, she didn’t need to go into the many flaws those false theologies pointed out.

        One thing that I think is VERY important to remember—is that the word “suffering” is an extremely loaded term. Tragically, there are so many different ways to suffer as human beings. Each form of suffering is painful in its own way (and again, there are many ways to suffer, so not all suffering produces the same level of pain). But to shove every single form of suffering under one “Biblical” umbrella is incredibly dangerous. Can you imagine the extreme harm that will cause, and HAS caused—-and then try to put a religious “band-aid” over it all.

        Reminds me of Matthew 23:14: “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.”

        The link Barb provided is a wonderful eye opener. To include abuse under that umbrella of Biblical suffering is sadly something that I entertained for awhile. I simply had no idea how to make “Biblical sense” of the terrible experience AND consequences being abused.

        The Bible doesn’t hold back when it comes to the horrors of what humanity can do to one another. I read a blog about women that are included in Jesus’s lineage. Tamar, David’s daughter was included. She is forever memorialized in my mind because she made it clear that her life was ruined due to the unspeakable suffering she endured.

        In present and and previous generations, it seems like the horrors of sexual crimes are treated as nothing more than mere paper cuts. Or, lame attempts at minimizing the trauma as “opportunities to forgive the worst of humanity.” The narratives are restructured in a way to sanctify the sinful, evil and criminal acts that destroy lives and traumatize the innocent—-but if we “dress it up” in way that promotes something Biblical, it’s not as bad as it looks. So, we’re off the hook to treat it as seriously as it deserves.

        And Tamar’s story illustrated just that. Her father was “displeased” when he found out, a very lame and limited reaction, considering the gravity of the crimes—-not to mention WHO was the assailant, and who was the victim.

        The Bible never, ever portrays the horrors of suffering as one, big generalized model to spiritual growth and maturity in Him. He will make beauty out of the ashes, but does the Bible ever say that it’s a GOOD thing to have as many ashes as possible, simply to experience what He can DO with those ashes?

        I know I’m speaking to some of the most intelligent persons—just bear with me in referencing Romans 6:1 to back up my words. Just to be thorough.

        I DO love how the Bible says where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. For someone like me who has a lot of issues, that is music to my ears. However, I’m not interested in “testing” that verse out: I wonder how FAR His grace will abound beyond my sins. Setting aside the “wages of death” that sin always reaps (or that those who sin go from bad to worse)—-He’ll use the suffering that sin causes for beauty anyway, so I’m covered.

        Shove all that suffering under that Biblical umbrella, and my name is sure to still remain sealed up in the Book of Life.

        For those that deliberately choose to live that way, or deliberately and constantly condone those that choose to live that way—I suggest that you might be very unpleasantly surprised when you see Him face to face again.

      • Well said!

        Reaching Out, can you please add this to our Gems:—

        “God will make beauty out of the ashes, but does the Bible ever say that it’s a GOOD thing to have as many ashes as possible, simply to experience what He can DO with those ashes?”

      • Reaching Out

        The GEMS page has been updated with the quote by Helovesme.

      • HeLovesMe

        Thank you. That means a great deal!

      • Helovesme

        This reply is to Artina’s wonderful comment:

        If I understood right, when you spoke of demeaning and elevating women: it’s fine and dandy to treat women as unworthy, because (all of us) are told we are deemed worthy to suffer on behalf of Him. So their humanity is fine to devalue and demean, because that is how He was treated, so it all works itself out—-it’s okay to cause them suffering because Christ Himself lived to suffer and die for us. So we’re actually helping them grow and mature in Him.

        Just making sure I understood you right. It was a myriad of excuses to justify the inexcusable. If I missed something or added something in, feel free to correct me.

        You know, ridiculing “the world” in a way that promotes spiritual superiority is about as low as one can go. I will never fully forget the shamefulness I now feel when, as a new believer, I laughed hysterically along with everyone else at ridiculing the supposed wisdom of the world, versus the superior wisdom WE have in Christ.

        Now, make no mistake—we are told to reject the wisdom of the world for something far, far better (and life-giving)—-the wisdom that is only to be found in Christ.

        But it wasn’t that long ago that I was trapped in that system. Where did I get off pointing fingers at the very world that yes, He rescued me from, but He still loves and cares for the people still trapped in it. And where did I get off thinking that I had rescued myself from it? If He hadn’t sought me out, I would still be in it.

        Plus, there is a lot of learning in schools and books that is by no means evil. History and science and music and art—one should be careful of course, but curiosity about the world we live in doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

        I love how Artina described the gentle encouragement from that sister in Christ.

        Proverbs 15:4: “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

        Isaiah 42:2: “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

        My dad was my main abuser, but my mom was not much better. She used to tell me that she would yell or scream at me because that was the only way I would listen (when I would dare to ask why she spoke to me like that). The only way to make me pay attention. The only way she could get me to comply—if she put enough fear and intimidation in me.

        Not all pastors scream and shout and use scare tactics I’m sure. I think they can also use the fear of the Lord narrative to keep us in line.

        However, those that love Him already understand that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And since fear of Him is just the start of His wisdom—there is obviously much more to dive into in order to embrace His wisdom. Fear of Him is the foundation—-so why not build on that, versus using that fear as a way to control us?

        Those that have been a part of the “purity culture” will testify that “fear of the Lord” was used to keep them quaking in their boots. The more virginal and pure they remained, the more merit it would earn them in His eyes. He was sure to bless them if they just kept their hands to themselves, kept their bodies covered up as much as possible, and kept giving no opportunities for lust to abound. A virginal wedding night meant you had played well, beaten the odds and were victorious in the end. (This ignores the horrors of being sexually preyed upon.)

        The coach in this article illustrated that struggle. He wanted to motivate his players, both male and female. I disagreed with some of his tactics, but I did think his endgame was sincere: he wanted his players to succeed. I don’t know if that always meant they won games, but that they competed well? And fairly? And grew and developed in their sport—-gathering experience, but not always displayed in beating the other teams? Higher scores, a list of wins just means that you beat your competition, but did it mean that you were actually the better team? Hard to tell.

        If a pastor’s “endgame” is to keep their congregation from sinning, fear tactics might keep them controlled, but also so confined that they cannot possibly grow in Him! In order to grow, you cannot live in the tightest box imaginable—-justifying it as a “fear of God” tactic. Growing in Him means you bear fruit. Is there any room in that box to bear that fruit?

        Only those that are free in Him can bear fruit in Him, and you cannot do that if you insist on anything BUT living in that freedom.

      • Artina

        In reply to Helovesme’s reply 2ND JUNE 2019 – 5:46 PM, referencing my comment on 1ST JUNE 2019 – 9:40 PM

        “If I understood right, when you spoke of demeaning and elevating women: it’s fine and dandy to treat women as unworthy, because (all of us) are told we are deemed worthy to suffer on behalf of Him. So their humanity is fine to devalue and demean, because that is how He was treated, so it all works itself out—-it’s okay to cause them suffering because Christ Himself lived to suffer and die for us. So we’re actually helping them grow and mature in Him.

        Just making sure I understood you right. It was a myriad of excuses to justify the inexcusable. If I missed something or added something in, feel free to correct me.”

        “It was a myriad of excuses to justify the inexcusable”

        I think you’ve understood what I was trying to say. Thanks!

        Isaiah 42:2: “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

        I love this verse from Isaiah!

        I’ve been a part of the “spiritual authority” systems, too, ridiculing or judging the world.

        And I’ve been in academic settings where there have been “intellectual superiority” attitudes and talk that seems like ridicule to me. And I’ve grown up around people who referred to people with higher education as “educated idiots”. So, I am sensitive to ridicule, but I’ve also done it and I have rough edges even now. Someone humble would not do this. I aspire to humility. And it makes me think of the Mark Twain quote again, “It’s a small man/woman who belittles another’s ambition”.

        I like the verse “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In a more “secular” stage I went through it still made sense to me that respect for the unknown was a wise first step. Later I found that I had such unhealthy fear that that needed to be addressed along my growth path.

        My kids and I were in a “purity culture” church, the one went through the by law gender language change. The “purity culture” curriculums seemed a little “off” to me, but I had fear of the world for my kids and the church leaders were pushing this curriculum. While we were in the midst of that, I was in a parachurch ministry where it felt more like a growth environment.

        “If a pastor’s “endgame” is to keep their congregation from sinning, fear tactics might keep them controlled, but also so confined that they cannot possibly grow in Him! In order to grow, you cannot live in the tightest box imaginable—-justifying it as a “fear of God” tactic. Growing in Him means you bear fruit. Is there any room in that box to bear that fruit?”

        I think we are hearing of some of the fruit of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse in some organized church settings. I agree with you that if the structure is too tight then growth is hindered. This makes me think of the past practice of binding women’s feet in some parts of China.

  16. Princesa

    Helovesme wrote: “In present and and previous generations, it seems like the horrors of sexual crimes are treated as nothing more than mere paper cuts.”

    I think this is a reflection of the general theme of “male sexual priority.” If sex is something one can be required to do because it’s what someone else wants, how can it have any unique meaning? If “consensual,” it’s a household task, something one does to earn one’s keep, like mopping the floor … only if you mop the floor, at least you end up with a clean floor.

    • 🙂 🙂

    • HeLovesMe

      Wow thank you for that comment. Well stated.

      Sex can be somewhat hyped up before getting married, if you want or intend to marry someday. I recall being very young and very clueless, so my imagination tried to fill in a lot of empty gaps.

      The element of curiosity might play a part, especially if sexual education isn’t taught or explained well by parents or the school system. In my experience it was fairly sparse and very lacking.

      The romantic element drove that hyped up mentality as well. Or, the potential element of romance? Again, very limited insights and even less ability to find answers to such questions.

      Without a doubt, you wanted to fall in love, be loved and express that love, but I grew up with the very wrong impression that sex and love were nearly one and the same.

      I remained a virgin as an unbeliever but I must be clear: I had no offers. I was extremely lonely and the boys did not find me attractive. It’s fair to wonder if I might be telling a different story had anyone expressed interest in me. I also could have been a prime target to be exploited. Very lonely, very open to manipulation.

      Post marriage, sex seemed to be described and portrayed as a wifely duty. You waited and waited to get married before being intimate. But often times I would hear that the spark wasn’t as easy to maintain within marriage. So now, as described, it was more like a chore.

      And this was before I myself got married, so that added even more confusion. I started to wonder how consent worked within marriage. Did you have to say yes (no, of course) but if sex is a wifely duty, how does that play into the concept of consent?

      Only until brave women dared to tell their stories did I realize the extent of marital rape. I always knew it existed of course, but not as much as I realized. I’m still reeling. This is your husband; how can he do this to you??

      And he is a leader in the church as well? A measure of innocence was shattered in me when I read such testimonies, but I never doubted these women. They are brave beyond words. Not only did they endure the unthinkable, they dared to tell their stories. So people like me would be woken up to the horrors I truly had no idea existed.

    • Artina

      Responding to things Princesa, and Helovesme wrote

      “In present and previous generations, it seems like the horrors of sexual crimes are treated as nothing more than mere paper cuts.”

      I think this is a reflection of the general theme of “male sexual priority.”

      “If sex is something one can be required to do because it’s what someone else wants, how can it have any unique meaning? If ‘consensual,’ it’s a household task, something one does to earn one’s keep, like mopping the floor … only if you mop the floor, at least you end up with a clean floor.”

      I appreciate your comments and that you can so succinctly convey these ideas that I can relate to, too. This is not where I want to spend much of my mental energy, but unfortunately it is some people’s priority (“the male sexual priority”), along with the seemingly omission of other values and priorities as well. And as I am in the fallout of their pushiness and complicity of this agenda I often feel a need to give an answer back to ward off this agenda. Or I feel a need to at least speak up (probably more carefully), or just live, to say that I am made such that I have different priorities. And I am a fellow human being created in the image of God also. So, those with this agenda do not speak for me.

      It seems to me that some professing Christians make this a priority to the detriment of other wonderful values, such as learning to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn”. Also, what Jesus said about becoming like little children makes me think of intellectual curiosity, that is, marveling together over finding creative solutions, creative beauty, how nature works, just observing nature…., hardly ever competitive if it’s being truly enjoyed in “a one another spirit”, but if competitive a type that is really lighthearted and fun for everyone. To me, this is life-long learning together. My children had a music teacher that always said at the final performance how much he learned from them. I always liked that. Can you imagine a pastor/just a man or woman preaching from a pulpit say how much they have learned in relating to various people in the congregation?

      What I’ve heard, even some women who seem to share or go along with a sexual priority, leads me to believe that their perspectives/priority of values are way different than mine. The whole subject of sex being, not just potentially one of God’s blessings, but The blessing of God makes me just shake my head in disbelief that anyone would believe this. Am I being judgmental or just expressing a different perspective?

      I am curious about the apostle Paul saying he wished others could be free in Christ like he was, unmarried (celibate and single, I assume), and he referred to others, too, who could more easily focus on the Lord and the Lord’s leading this way. I think he also said it was a gift that he wished everyone had, but that not everyone had. Still, some men that I’ve been more closely associated with either in professional settings or considering my nephews and sons, do not seem to have an entitlement to making this a priority, or compartmentalized form, and they seem to have interest, and enjoyment, in other values, too.

      • Helovesme

        “It seems to me that some professing Christians make this a priority to the detriment of other wonderful values”

        You pointed out something fabulous that I too have picked up on over time. It’s quite refreshing to know I’m not the only one with such sentiments.

        For those that profess Christ as their Savior, who claim that they are in the world but not of the world, for those read verses commanding us to love others AND to be transformed by the renewing of their minds:

        Such persons sure do seem to have sex on the brain way more often that one might imagine. Sex is demonized before marriage, and then it is idolized after marriage. This sort of attitude drains the joy of intimacy that the Lord intended for married couples.

        Before I got married, I did tend to notice married women speaking about their marriages and sex lives with other women—-whether married or unmarried. It was interesting then, but puzzling to me now. As Artina mentioned, there are so many other wonderful topics to focus on and share with one another.

        “What I’ve heard, even some women who seem to share or go along with a sexual priority, leads me to believe that their perspectives/priority of values are way different than mine.”

        I’ve listened to discussions or testimonies about girls and women being told to dress and behave in certain ways so as not to “provoke” lust in the boys and men. The narrative is that “raging hormones” in males are just that—-raging—-and the females are mandated to not intentionally OR unintentionally trigger them.

        The hormones of a woman were not described so much as “raging,” but they were certainly problematic. A girl can start to develop as early as nine, which means her body shape will start to change, along with a whole lot of other changes. Hormones are certainly shooting around in us, too, not just in the males.

        (So I think the attitude that Artina brought up is instilled in boys and girls when they are young. So it’s understandable how deeply rooted it is as they grow up.)

        Girls are now seen and treated as little more than objects of lust. You have curves, legs, hips and bosoms—-and you should be ashamed for daring to develop.

        You look at me, how I look, how I’m changing—-and all you see is sexuality. Those parts of my body are mere sexual instruments, and sexual components. That is what you have reduced me to. And it’s claimed that this is all Biblical, so this is how God feels about me?

        There is so much more to females. We have brains and thoughts and ideas and dreams and all sorts of characteristics that make us real people. As an adult woman, I look back and I recall that growing up is very complicated. You start to think for yourself. You start to wonder what you want out of life. You start to think in more mature and meaningful ways.

        And all you can see are: hips, curves, breasts and butts. And then you connect parts of my body to sexual activities. And you claim to care about sexual purity, but all I see is that you’re obsessed with sex, period. There is so much more to me, and thankfully God knows that.

        We see sex or the potential for sex in nearly everything. An ad for women’s underwear is all about sexual appeal—it has nothing to do with the need of a consumer to be able to determine if that merchandise will work for her body shape (those ads have personally helped me; my shape is hard to shop for.)

        Example: I am talking with a male who is not my husband. The immediate reaction: is she having an affair? Did it ever occur to you that I may be talking to a man because we are two people who want to talk, not devise a way to be intimate?

        Another example: a male pastor is meeting with a woman that is not his wife. Well, they must be on their way to the bedroom. Never occurs to anyone that he might be ministering to her, as a pastor and brother in Christ.

        One more example: a girl or woman are wearing clothes that seem immodest, but she’s covered in all the right places. Well she must be “asking for it,” or looking to get attention from the males, or looking to provoke a sexual encounter.

        In the Christian world I was exposed to, the “male sexual priority” did seem to be projected. Men were oversexed and women needed to be aware of that, before AND after marriage. If you did not “service” your spouse, you could easily be blamed if the marriage suffered. Serving him with sex was no different than serving him a meal. Just as you give him food, you give your body to him as a means to serve his needs.

        The female sexual drive was differently portrayed. For men, sex was more physically-based. My body needs this. For women, it was more emotion-based. She wants to feel loved and feel special. My heart needs this.

        In a nutshell, that is all hogwash. There is nothing Biblical in this—intimacy goes both ways. I have no doubt that men want to feel loved—-they don’t want to be “used” as a means to an end any more than women do.

      • Princesa

        Helovesme wrote: “Serving him with sex was no different than serving him a meal. Just as you give him food, you give your body to him as a means to serve his needs.”

        Yes, that’s very much what I was taught. Men have “needs,” and women have an obligation to service them. (Women, on the other hand, have no “needs,” and men have no obligation.) The urgency of men’s bodily appetites, we are told, is such that whatever they do satisfy themselves is pretty much justified.

        Far off the original topic, I have often been confused by writers teaching, in essence, that men have no cognition beyond their overwhelming bodily appetites, and yet, women are suppose to revere men as if they were God. Has anyone else ever been puzzled by this?

      • Helovesme

        No, you’re not alone in being absolutely appalled by the hypocrisy you brought up. Not to mention the direct contradictions to such falsities in the very Word of God.

        The attitude you brought up is more reflective of “pop psychology” than Biblical doctrine. For a born again child of God, male or female—-treating oneself and others as anything less than what Christ has claimed we are in Him, and called us to be in Him—-is downright despicable.

        Make no mistake—the struggle with sexual sin is the real deal. Being a believer does not make it all magically go away. I would be surprised if anyone, male or female—-could say they’re an absolute exception to this struggle. I have no problem with acknowledging it regarding my own life.

        Instead of tackling those individual struggles through the Holy Spirit, we instead deflect the blame and pile the shame onto others. Unfairly and unjustly so. Men, you can’t help yourselves. Your sex drive is that strong. Women, live in such a way that recognizes that.

        Men, because you are male, you are higher than and superior to women. Live in a way that recognizes that. Women, because you are NOT male, you can’t do anything about that, so the sooner you accept that, the better off you will be.

        When church leaders encourage this, that is an indication that there is less concern about eroding sin, and more concern about exerting control.

        The narrative you mentioned: “women are suppose to revere men as if they were God” tended to be explained away like this (as I saw it):

        Males are called to be leaders based on their gender. Therefore they must be revered and respected—-it is as God intended it. However, BECAUSE of that gender (male), they have a lot of stress. Females have to do what it takes to help him relieve that stress. These are acts of service: feeding his basic needs (hunger for food and sex). He’ll be less stressed, feel supported by your service, and God will view you as His servant. And he will be and become a better leader, which is what every male is called to be, so you are fulfilling your own calling as well as participating in fulfilling his.

        When you serve him, you are serving Him.

        There is nothing in the Word that claims that “men have no cognition beyond their overwhelming bodily appetites.” NOTHING. Nothing that ever claims that men are more prone to sexual sin, or lack self-control in some way that is unique to them.

        The Bible claims one is tempted by their own sinful nature (“James 1:14: “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed”)

        However, verses like that oppose an agenda that is driven by a desire to control and subjugate others. It’s just as bad on males as well as females. Men are told that they are mere objects that seek to satisfy whatever drives them. They are at the mercy of instinct and intuition, nothing more than that. Not encouraged to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fight temptation. They are built to give into temptation, not resist it.

        Women are reduced to nothing more than objects to be objectified. They are not told that they are worthy and lovely in His sight. And if they too struggle with sexual sins (I can attest to that myself), or sexually preyed upon —-they are treated as dirty and defiled. They are nothing more than objects of lust, to be lusted after—-and if something goes horribly wrong, you have no one to blame but yourself.

        Again, it’s all about control. They don’t care about the Lord. His name (and the fear and weight associated with His name) is used a means to that end.

      • Hi Princesa 🙂 you said —

        “I have often been confused by writers teaching, in essence, that men have no cognition beyond their overwhelming bodily appetites, and yet, women are suppose to revere men as if they were God. Has anyone else ever been puzzled by this?

        Yes, I have been confused by writers who teach that. And like you, I have detected the illogic in what those writers teach.

        Bravo to you for noticing and detecting the illogic, the contradictions, the falsity of their ideas. 🙂

        The world needs people like you who can not only detect contradictions and false teaching but who have the courage to expose and challenge those contradictions and false teachers.

  17. Princesa

    Helovesme wrote: ‘There is nothing in the Word that claims that “men have no cognition beyond their overwhelming bodily appetites.” NOTHING. Nothing that ever claims that men are more prone to sexual sin, or lack self-control in some way that is unique to them.’

    That is an extremely good point. There is nothing in the Bible that says men are always on the verge of running sexually amok, and that women have the duty of preventing it.

    • Helovesme

      Princesa, I should have brought up what Barb took the time to do—point out and say “thanks” that you pinpointed such a huge but hard to see contradiction in gender dynamics.

      It was such a good observation that I gave it a bit more thought. In your reply, you may have unintentionally pointed out another huge but hard to see contradiction:

      “women have the duty of preventing it.”

      I may only be at the start of working out that “knot,” but again—you brought something up that has taken me years to accurately nail down.

      My father was my abuser. I want to be careful in how I say this, because male spousal abuse and male parental abuse are different. However, the power struggles that abused wives have spoken of have reflected some of my own as a child. So I’m hoping victims of spousal abuse AND parental abuse can relate to this.

      In my world, females were treated in contradictory ways. We were not on equal footing with the males, but we were encouraged to be educated and somewhat ambitious. But we were always in a lower position of power compared to them.

      We were expected to be near perfect, but additionally—compensate for the lack of perfection in the males—-who were NOT expected to return the favor to the females. They could be as hard as they wanted on us, due to their inherent power and privilege as males, and we were not permitted to do or say much about it.

      Overarching over all of that is that females tend to be the weaker gender, physically. My dad was physically abusive to me, and he was and is the bigger person.

      If you’ve ever endured abuse (any kind), you know it takes some measure of strength and tolerance. And you tend to build up that tolerance, almost like a an athlete builds up his or her muscles in order to endure the strain and pain of their sport.

      So, I’m smaller than the males, so that means I can be slapped around, due to the likely inability I have to fight back. I’m female as a gender, so I’m trained to NOT fight back or dare to stand up for myself. Or, dare to tell him that it’s not right to hurt me, and he should stop.

      I was usually blamed for the abuse. So to add to my narrative: I’m weaker physically, I’m near powerless to call him out on it, AND I have no one to blame but myself.

      One more addition: I have no power to fight back physically, I have no power to stand up for myself, I’m so “powerful” that I easily provoke my dad’s temper—-AND I am told I have the power to prevent him from hurting me.

      Add to that—I’m told that this is my lot in life. So you need to find something within yourself to “empower” a sense of survival. A sense of self-preservation. You know episodes of abuse are likely to continue. You either try to be as non-provocative as possible, wondering if that will prevent more intensive abuse—or you might try to be compliant somehow.

      Or not participate when he would abuse: my dad was also emotionally and verbally abusive. Shouting matches with him only fed the narrative that I had the power to increase or decrease the episodes. If I participated, things were likely to escalate. If I didn’t, things were likely to deescalate?

      Not true. Silence often provoked him even more. So he would work harder to push my buttons, and he would only get angrier and angrier if I tried to remain passive. But, I was again usually guaranteed to be blamed: you could have prevented it somehow.

      As I said in my previous comment, males tend to have an arsenal of excuses they try to use, or those around them use on their behalf. Stress factors in, or narratives like “he may come off as too hard but he means well.”

      So, males have all this power to do nearly whatever they want to whoever they want for whatever reason they want—-and they’re excused for wielding that power in destructive ways. They don’t mean it, they mean well, they mean to do better, they mean to try harder.

      I’m clearly NOT a person with any real power. But I have no excuses. You meant to provoke him, you meant to cause trouble, you meant to hurt him, you meant for things to escalate. You could have stopped him. You could have helped him. You could have tried harder.

      You’re hurting this family (abuse is NEVER in a vacuum. It hurts a range of persons). You’re causing division, you’re not a team player, you’re not playing by his rules. No one wants you around because you’re weak—you’ve dared to say that the abuse actually affected you.

      I was supposed to be SO powerful that I could be fairly unaffected about the abuse. So not only did I deal with the problematic conscience of my abuser, I was supposed to sear my own in order to survive. If I tried to call out the abuse as wrong, and my dad is to blame—-I’m basically saying that I am in the right (I have no rights to say that I am in the right.)

      The only right I have is to admit that there is no such thing as right and wrong. That requires me to sear my conscience, or at least suppress it so it stops trying to “mess things up” by trying to call out right and wrong.

      I have no doubt my testimony is not unique. I did not grow up in a Christian home, but it was quite conservative and tradition-based. Swap out some of the specifics in my story, and those that grew up in a family full of professing Christians will relate to me.

      By the way, I married into a family that mostly professes Christ. I can tell you that I have seen strong and disturbing parallels between my family and this one. When you throw in the power of distorted Scripture, in order to remind those of how powerless they are—-you have an additional layer of blasphemy that is particularity offensive to me as a believer.

      • Princesa

        Helovesme, there are so many great insights in your post that I’d never get any laundry done … ‘scuse me a minute … remembered to turn the dishwasher on.

        However, the concept we’re exploring, that men have all the authority and women have all the responsibility, is so pervasive in society that it’s almost impossible not to see it everywhere, once you’ve noticed it one time.

      • Helovesme

        Thank you for the kind words Princesa.

        I agree with your last statement for sure.

        However, I stand by Barb’s compliment to you and my own—just because what you spoke of is all around us, does not mean it is realized and rebuked as it should be. It really did and does take a perceptive person to see it for what it is.

        I like how you said it though—it’s almost impossible to miss, right? Whether it’s grudgingly accepted or actively ignored—the seriousness of that double standard remains unchecked.

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