Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Feelings - A Burden or a Blessing

Posted by Hannah at 10:55 PM

I read an article online recently, and it got me thinking about the genders. What is taught within the church at times regarding this.

To read the article in its entire content - please click here, or as usual the title of the article above.

Here are some portions of the article:

When I was a teenage girl, growing up in the church, I was taught, probably like most evangelical teenage girls, that modesty was very important. In our youth group, whenever the genders were separated, the adult women would take the opportunity to warn us about how we dressed and acted in front of the boys. In theory, this is a good lesson to learn. But in practice, it was something else.

The way it was presented to us was that boys were basically at the mercy of their hormones, and it was a marvel akin to the building of the pyramids that they could control themselves in public at all. The message we got, loud and clear, was that we should fear the visual nature of their sexuality.

I don't know if those particular boys received a corresponding message about the fear they should have of the emotional nature of female sexuality. I imagine they did because we girls also received a message about keeping our emotions under control. That we should fear out own capacity for emotion. Out of a desire to help teens pursue purity, we were fed a diet of fear and shame.

I think they had good intentions, but it left me feeling not only afraid of men - I was taught that even a man who looked like he was just innocently standing there was probably secretly lusting in his heart about every woman in the room - but it also left me suspicious of my own emotional capacity. Even as a teen I knew I had a capacity to feel things very deeply (heck, I knew that as a pre-school age child), but instead of being taught that this could be a blessing to me, to others, and the Lord, I was taught that it was to be treated with suspicion. Nothing good came out of feelings. They were not important and should never be trusted. The message I heard was : God created women to have deep feelings, but feelings should never be relied on. It was pretty easy to understand what God thought of me.

Yes, there is some value in understanding that there is a degree to which men can tend to be more visual, and women can tend to be more emotional (though I think there is lots of cross-over and alternative expressions of those characteristics, and a disaggregated understanding of how people function would ultimately be more beneficial). But it is wretched to teach either one of those as something to fear. And it makes me kinda sad that it took me 20 years to figure that out. Being an emotionally deep person, rather you are female or male, can be a deep blessing not only to yourself, but also to others, and to the Kingdom.

I was in church recently hearing a program, and at the end of this program the pastor stood up and spoke about the struggles of men with visuals. How it is hard with how some ladies dress even at church. I'm thinking to myself - as I was looking around and saw nothing of real substance dresswise around me - I can't believe I'm hearing this again. It was a rather long speech about modesty. I don't have an issue with modesty okay? I'm sure not EVERY person in that building at the time was dressed as they should be. They way he spoke about it sounded like men have no self control! They can't help it, and you need to hide ALL forms and fashion that may hinder that! There was no sense of accountability of their lusts in any real form. The lady next to me was very attractive, but she was dressed modest. Guess what? On the way out I noticed some eyes wandering her way. Did she do anything wrong? I don't think so. She was a very pretty lady, and there was nothing wrong with what she had on. It wasn't to tight, to low, to form fitting, etc.

I realize men are more visual than ladies in some form. Some more than others. I think some women can be visual also. I guess the way he descibed it reminded me the sterotypical scene with the construction workers whistling to every pretty lady that walked pass them during lunch break. I don't mind the mentioning of this, but it should also be mentioned this concept called "self control" also. I think the second part should be pushed a bit harder. With some men it doesn't matter how modest you are!

The article also spoke about how women need to stop being so emotional! To me that portion is a stereotype! LOL I'm not saying some women can't be, but God made us this way. I don't know - it seems to me if I have to be stared at even with modest dress they could put up with a bit of emotion! I realize they may be talking about the ones that tend to go over the top at times, and to be honest they bother me as well! I think everyone has those types in their lifes! Everything is a drama!

What do you think? Am I totally off the mark here?

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Anonymous said...

Wow. This was a really good post. I so agree...I'm all for modesty, sure, but in many halls of conservative Christianity I think we've made it a false god, building it into a huge thing...maybe because it's measurable with outward eyes, when inward hearts are not, making it easier for us to measure righteousness (always a human temptation to lean toward law, always!)? Maybe just because it's one of our "pet issues" right now...? I don't know. I'm just experiencing overkill, perhaps, and so am sick of it due to hearing about it WAY to much.. lol... So I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks. :)

Hannah on 10:07 AM said...

I think at times people have an honest approach they feel is right, and with time never stopped to think about its impact when taken to literally. Its not until someone steps up and questions things do things get looked at again. Nothing wrong with adjusting the message accordingly after that. I think some people take that as an attack (when it shouldn't be), while others say, "I never thought of it like that! hmmm!" LOL!

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