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Why do you know your limitations?

“I can’t do that,” a friend of mine said to me recently. “I know my limitations.”

I’ve heard that phrase many times. “I know my limitations.”

But my question to anyone who has uttered those four words is this: why do you know your limitations?

Do you know your limitations because you put them there? Did you hand pick the bricks to build up the walls you’ve put around your life?

Or, do you know your limitations because you’ve been to them? Because you’ve tested them and pushed them?

Do you know your limitations because you’ve tried over and over to beat them? Or do you know your limitations because you limit yourself?

We all have limits. And it’s not always bad to set limits for ourselves.

But we need to realize why we know our limitations before we say, “I can’t.”

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The wrong spiritual gift?

Update: for anyone who’d like to read my male friend’s personal thoughts on this issue, check out today’s guest post: “Conquering with kindness!”

I am not a fan of gender roles, as anyone who’s been reading my blog lately knows. As a women, I am constantly presented with expectations that I either cannot, or do not wish to live up to.

But gender roles are bad for men too.

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with a male friend of mine (who gave me permission to anonymously write about him) about our spiritual gifts and how to put them to good use.

My friend, frustrated, admitted to me, “I feel like I have the wrong spiritual gift.”

His spiritual gift is kindness.

And we live in a world where kindness is not manly.

Men are supposed to be rough and tough. Men are supposed to get into fights and  conquer things. This is a prevailing attitude, both in society and in church.

Famous church pastors encourage us to follow a “prize fighter” Jesus who is looking for bad-ass, testosterone-driven disciples. Men are told to “step up” and be leaders. To be powerful and forceful. Men in egalitarian marriages are thought of as “whipped,” or even emasculated. They are told that “nice guys” finish last.

Kindness is the wrong spiritual gift for a man.

“Real” men have the spiritual gift of leadership.

Now, let me be clear: all of us, at some point or another in our lives are going to have to “step up” and be leaders for some reason. I am not saying that it’s okay for any of us to shirk those responsibilities. I am also not saying that you must be forceful, or “hyper-masculine”  to be a leader (that’s just a silly concept that, unfortunately, some influential preachers hold to now-a-days).

But the church should be the first to recognize the power of kindness. Instead, we tend to view it as a weak, feminine trait (I won’t even get into how degrading that is to women).

It is incorrect to assume that kindness = weakness…

…that men who aren’t natural-born leaders are immature…

…that men who aren’t powerful and dominating are effeminate….

…that nice guys finish last…

My friend has now come to realize that he has exactly the spiritual gift that God wants him to have. When we talked today, he told me that he has realized that “kindness is not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign of strength, self-confidence and security.”

God doesn’t give people the wrong spiritual gifts. And there are no spiritual gifts that are more important (or more masculine) than others.

Christ is the great equalizer. We are all one in him.

What about you, readers? Have you ever wished for a different spiritual gift? Have you ever been unsatisfied with the abilities that God gave you?


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The problem with generalization

I have been unable to avoid thinking about the issue of gender roles in our society and in the church.

A few days ago, a famous pastor posted a facebook status calling people to mock “anatomically effeminate males,” and reactions to this brought up some interesting discussion in the blogging world. “What gives us the right to call a man effeminate?” people wondered. Where do our standards come from?

Inspired by others (especially Tyler L. Clark and Dianna E. Anderson) who were frustrated with the church’s traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity, I began to explore the issue myself.

I began a few discussions on facebook, and wrote a blog post myself, and some good conversation resulted.  However, I was left with unanswered questions.

The Bible doesn't lay it all out for us like this (fortunately)

“God, not society, defines gender,” was one criticism I received on Facebook, and several people “liked” it. But this simple answer ignores the fact that the Bible gives no such simple answer. The is no one way given to be masculine and one way given to be feminine.

So, do we follow the example of bold female leaders like Deborah, Esther and Phoebe? Or do we assume that Paul’s advice to the Corinthians about women keeping silent in the church is God’s wish for all women of all time?

Should men be rough and tough war heroes like David or gentle peacemakers like Jesus?

Should the church treat women as property, like Old Testament law did by enforcing a “you break it, you buy it” policy for men who rape virgins? Or should the church treat them as Jesus treated them- as friends and as people?

Should men be the leaders and breadwinners while women stay at home? Or should women follow the example in Proverbs 31 and be the ones providing food for the household?

Some of these questions seem to have more obvious answers then others. But all of these questions are based on Biblical accounts. Which accounts should bring us to our conclusions about gender roles (as Rachel Held Evans points out, we ALL pick and choose when it comes to the Bible. It’s not about whether we pick or choose. It’s about what we pick and choose)?

I’m sure God does define gender. But I think the diverse accounts in the Bible make it clear that gender does not place a person in one of two boxes.

“People are too complex to generalize,” said one friend of mine. I couldn’t agree more.

Humans aren’t commodities.

There isn’t a man factory and a woman factory in heaven. We don’t come off of one of two assembly lines. We were created, not manufactured.

NOT how the female brain works.

I am a woman. But that doesn’t put me in a box with all the other women in the world. My womanhood doesn’t require me to have specific character traits, abilities, or desires.

I am happy to accept my femaleness as part of my identity. But I will not let my femaleness detract from the other details that God has painted me with.

I am a work of art. And God is no minimalist. My femaleness is just one brush stroke of who I am.

What about you, readers? Do you ever feel like a single aspect of the work of art that is you gets more attention than it deserves? Perhaps you share my frustration with gender roles. Perhaps a physical or mental “handicap” prevents people from seeing the other details that God has given you. Perhaps people attempt to limit you based on your race, social status, or orientation. I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!


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Words bruise

As I’ve discussed in several of my posts lately, my first boyfriend was abusive.

He didn’t hit me very often (in fact, I only remember him hitting me once). He didn’t need to. He could bench press 300 lbs, so I was just a rag doll to him. He pushed me around, threw me into things, or picked me up and shook me when he was angry. If I tried to run away, he would grab my arm so tightly that it would leave bruises in the shape of his hand.

Those things hurt. They hurt badly. And the bruises were ugly, purple and green.

It’s been five years. They don’t hurt anymore. And the bruises are gone.

But my first boyfriend left some bruises that haven’t faded. Bruises that can’t be seen. Bruises that still hurt.

Bruises caused by the impact of words.

I haven’t done the research, but I would guess that verbal abuse is far more widespread than physical abuse. As easy as it is to get away with physical abuse (hint: it’s pretty damn easy), getting away with verbal abuse is even easier. I would assume that this is partly because people do not take verbal abuse that seriously. 

But it still hurts. The words always come back to me, always in his voice.

Whenever I firmly stand up for what I believe I hear,

“Bitch.”

Whenever I am reminded of the fact that I am not a virgin due to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child I hear,

“Whore.”

Whenever I study for a difficult exam in college I hear,

“You’re too stupid for college.”

When my current boyfriend tells me he loves me I hear,

“You don’t deserve to be loved.”

I know they say that words can’t hurt, but to be honest, I think I’d rather take my chances with the sticks and the stones.

Physical abuse is a terrible, terrible thing. But don’t ever think that verbal abuse is not terrible as well. Don’t ever think that just because your wounds aren’t tangible the pain you suffer isn’t legitimate.

If you have suffered verbal abuse, you have been hurt and it is okay to need to heal. I belittled myself for years for letting those words bother me. I thought I was weak for that.

But the truth is, words can hurt.

So, how do we heal?

Join the facebook fan page for Not This Girl if you'd like to get more involved in the fight against physical, sexual, and verbal abuse!

I’m still in the healing process myself, so I am not an expert. But the best advice I can give you is combat the lies by constantly filling yourself with the truth. And surround yourself with others that fill you with the truth.

God doesn’t make mistakes. You are a beautiful creation. You are significant. You are enough.

**Read more on this topic here, here, and here. If you have a story to share, feel free to do so in the comments or to send me an email. Help me be a voice!