Giving as Good as You Get

Christianity molded me in somebody who is non-confrontational: call me names – really say something insulting, question my honor, my parentage, get down-right mean and use a few expletives – and I really have no response for that. I’m told that until I “grow a backbone” and “stand up for myself” people will just walk all over me. Until that time, people won’t respect me.

Much of it was emphasized not so much in words but in action – ladies were supposed to be quiet, gentle – and the word most often used to describe me was “sweet”. Most would say that I’m a picture of perfection – particularly in what sort of character a Christian woman should have. Ultimately though, I’ve been set up to behave according to a standard of norms that in the real-world make me a doormat. Non-Christians interpret my behavior as weakness, and even my Christian co-workers think of me as pathetic. (To be honest, their Christianity was not the same one I grew up in – so they haven’t had the same teachings I have had.)

I loved the delicious irony of the lady telling me to grow a backbone having remembered an account where she had to break up a fight and she lamented that she had to be un-lady-like about it. “I’m supposed to be the gentle one, and it hurt me to have to show a tougher side of myself.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the insecurities that Christianity has filled me up with. I know – a perfectly sweet person like myself should take a sort of humble pride in having successfully carried out the Biblical commandment that I ought to foster a quiet and gentle spirit, this is the truest beauty I could possibly have – according to the scriptures. But there are so many times when people try to push my buttons where I have to carry on without showing how annoying they are being. There are times when people are being racist or just rude and I can’t call them out on it. There are so many times where I don’t say what I really think (I find it’s easier to just avoid thinking so that you’re not tempted to say those things as you’re thinking them.) Then I come home, get on my blog, and let the fury fly. I had to constantly question how my actions might alter that carefully constructed image and choose not to take any action that would mar my perfection as a result, I never learned to respond in any way to anything that anyone did to me. I’ll usually go silent and try to walk away, if possible. If I can’t walk away, then I’ll go into a sort of non-participation mode, shutting down, trying to say and do as little as possible until the source of irritation leaves – non-acknowledgement, I suppose.

You don’t really get a prize, any acknowledgement from the real world for your ability to take whatever they dish out at you. And when they push your buttons in an attempt to get you to stand up for yourself and earn respect in their eyes and you don’t do that – you fail the test and they keep on at it. But Christianity doesn’t really tell you that it’s okay to speak up for yourself, to give as good as you get it, to respond likewise – because you’re called to the higher moral ground of turning the other cheek. Doubly so if you’re a woman whose Christianity emphasized that your gender expectation is to be quiet, gentle, non-confrontational, and sweet. I’m not supposed to lose my cool.

What I find hardest though, is learning how to stand up for myself after so long of not really being prepared to do just that. I’m not a person who can do a come-back type response on the fly. When you’re taught to be non-confrontational, learning how to confront somebody is like being tasked with assembling a puzzle but being given none of the pieces to do so. Since I highly doubt my Sunday School class is going to offer Biblical Insults 101, I’m left with a rather puzzling conundrum and no real solution apparent.

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14 thoughts on “Giving as Good as You Get

  1. Hey Jamie,

    Good heartfelt post. As I was reading this the Scripture came to my mind, “There is a time to speak and a time to stay silent.” The thing of it is we must discern those times.

    Jesus Himself was never a doormat throughout His ministry and I go to Him whipping the tax collectors in the Temple. There were times He spoke and there were times He did stay silent.

    The Day of the Cross Jesus said very little and endured most of His sufferings in silence.

    Sometimes Jamie, it takes more “backbone” to stay silent then it does to speak. So do not forget that. I know within myself some of my most “backbone” moments have been when I wanted to lash back, but stayed quiet. (If you can believe it or not I actually do have those moments!) 🙂

    I know one time my husband and myself got into and arguement, and he was saying some pretty nasty things. My reply to him was, “Do not talk to God’s daugther that way.” That really did bring silence from that moment on. Arguement was over and done with.

    So at times, it is about how we respond as well.

    Hang in there Jamie. I love your heart and the beauty of your soul. For those who cannot see that, THAT is their loss. Love and God Bless, SR

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks! I hadn’t thought of it in that way. Perhaps in time I will find both strengths, the strength to know when the time to speak is and what to say, and strength to know when the time to remain silent is and the ability to do just that.

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      1. Discernment in all things, Jamie. I am not saying I always do the right thing when it comes to this. To me, you sell yourself way too short. I am going to explain this with myself.

        Okay, I am from the south, Texas. The quote is, “A Texas woman is tougher then the toughest football player.” For the most part that is true, at least in my case.

        The reason for this is, is because of our work value, our beliefs, being a “free thinker,” tolerance is not really in our vocabulary, etc…. Just the enviroment and teachings we have been brought up in, as yourself.

        But…there are times I have the same struggles you do in the opposite direction. At times I cannot stay silent, when I should. That is why I said, “When I have stayed silent, those are some of my biggest “backbone” moments.” I mean it is taking all the strength I have to “shut up!” At times I make it, at times I do not.

        If my dander is making my hair stand on it’s end, I “ain’t gonna make it!”

        The thing of it is, I do not beat myself up for this. It is a part of who I am and at times it does have it’s value, and at times it is not worth two cents. I never want to get rid of it completely, regardless.

        When it is not worth “two cents” is because I did not take a moment to “discern” the worth of it’s value at said moment.

        Jamie, ever since you hit my blog, you have become a very special person to me. You have an absolutely beautiful soul, heart, and mind. You have a humility which I will probably never be able to accomplish in my life.

        I want you to quit looking at so many things about yourself as, “failures.” If you do have a “failure” learn how to make it into a success.

        Religion Jamie, is full of so many contradictions at times. I mean my Church right now is becoming split on many things, within it’s core. I still hold to the heart of the teachings of the Church. As that is where my value lies, concerning my Church.

        It is the same with you. You are going to have to take the teachings of the Church you were brought up in and hold to the “heart” of her teachings and let the rest go. The heart of any Church teachings should be love, love for ourselves and love for others. Jesus never told us, “Not to love ourselves.” He said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

        So I hope this helps a little. Love and God Bless, SR

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with SR. Love yourself. God made you ‘non confrontational.’ Embrace it. Jesus confronted those who God wanted confronted. Jesus is very gentle. You have been given this gift of gentleness. Use it how God instructs you to. Also, love God first. Only by knowing His goodness do we find our own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks – maybe I just needed another perspective to help me see that I’m doing better than I think. I’ve been working on my self-confidence lately, but it’s hard to know just how far I’ve come and how much further I have yet to go.

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      1. I do not think we ever “conquer it all completely.” Every single day I am a “work in progress.” Let us take an addict for example.

        Now they may no longer be doing “drugs,” but they will always be an “addict.” They overcame the drug part, but if they ever go back to it, it is done and over.

        I think you are wonderful like you are. Faults and virtues. There is something inside of you which you feel needs a little changing. So be a “work in progress” with it. There are many others doing the same thing, including myself.

        All we can hope for is that God will get us all to the point He desires us to be. It takes work, it takes a lot of prayer, and it takes a lot of determination.

        Just don’t lose who you truly are in the process. As Scott said, “Embrace it.” “It” being yourself. God Bless, SR

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Little late on the scene here, but it is an interesting post. I can see SR had some good advice.

    I just have a few observations.

    The Books of James and Proverbs have much to say about the foolishness of ill-considered speech, but theses books have relatively little to say about what fools did not say. If you were silent when you could have let loose with some angry words, consider your self blessed. Such self control is not weakness. Usually, when something needs to be said, we have the time to wait for everyone to calm down, particularly our self before we say something. If we have something to say that is worth hearing, then we probably want an audience that is listening calmly.

    Consider that God is Love. He want us to love each other. Love is just about as confrontational as it gets, but love is rarely expressed well in anger. When we sincerely care about other people, we start trying to see what they see from their point-of-view. That is extremely difficult, but it helps us to understand each others needs. And it helps us to choose the words that will help the most.

    How does love affect our speech? Instead of saying what we might want to say, we strive to say what the people we love need to hear. Sometimes we don’t have the words, or it is not for us to say them, but sometimes we have the words, and God would have us speak. If we can then speak as Jesus did, in the fullness of truth and grace, then we should do so. Usually, however, it is not the multitude of our words, but our conduct that most matters. As each of us walks through this life, we leave tracks. If our tracks lead others to Jesus, then we will hear the words we most desire to hear. Matthew 25:21. It is His Words that have the most power. Our words should speak of Him.

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    1. That’s good in theory, but sometimes not having the words isn’t a good thing. Let’s say that somebody really questioned my parentage using a terrible, horrible insult. My church never equipped me to respond to conflict in such a way as to defend others. Instead, I was pretty much taught to be walked all over and when all else fails, fall silent.

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      1. When someone calls us a foul name, they have won nothing, and we gain nothing by responding in kind. Consider.

        Matthew 7:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

        6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

        Hating someone is not the cruelest thing we can do to another. When we are indifferent to someone, want nothing to do with them, that is the most cruel thing we can do. Yet sometimes we have no other choice.

        What do we with a skunk? We separate ourselves from it. A mad dog? We kill it because we have no other choice. These are simply logical decisions based upon necessity. We cannot reason a skunk out of its stench, and a mad dog is beyond taming.

        When someone insults the way you described, what is there to say? Nothing. Gifts and works of service would be wasted. Pearls of wisdom would not be heard.

        Consider the example of God. Remember that those who go to Hell choose that destination. As best we understand, God is not in Hell because those in Hell hate God. Therefore, to separate Himself from those who hate Him, God created Hell, which is simply a place where God is not. It is the inmates who make it Hell, not God.

        If this is how God treats those who detest Him, why should we not follow His example? After all, that is what Matthew 7:6 says we should do.

        Can those who hate us repent? Yes, but it is wise to wait until they do. Until then, we have nothing to gain by letting them trample and tear us.

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      2. That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about. Say there’s a situation where the right thing to do is to defend a friend, to stand up for somebody else, to point out error – that’s just not something I can do. The other night, this guy referred to Mexican-Americans and Arab-Americans by derogatory words and I just fell silent. I let them down. I might as well have been on the racist’s side by not calling him out on his prejudice. My church never taught me how to be proactive, protective, a force for good; rather, it was the opposite – weak and cowardly. And the Bible says that cowards don’t go to heaven.

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      3. I don’t know is this is the advice you need, but it is the best I have.

        You are right. There are times we have to speak up, but I don’t understand why you are blaming your church. If you honestly believe (your conscience tells you that you should speak up) you should have said something, what is it you think you church should have taught you that you don’t already know?

        Courage is something we all lack to some degree. Some exhibit more than others. Did you think your church conditioned you to be submissive? Well, maybe that is true, but can change that.

        I have fought stage fright all my life. The only thing that has made it easier is forcing myself to speak when I had the opportunity and something worth saying. Still, I had to practice. So I joined a Toastmasters group, rehearsed, and gave speeches before the group. Could I have done the same thing in high school or college? Yes. I actually took a speech course in college, but the guy teaching it did not know how to help someone with stage fright. In fact, I don’t think what he taught helped anyone who did not already know how to make a speech.Some people are just place fillers.

        Since I don’t think particularly fast on my feet, I am not happy when I have to do so, especially in front of a large audience. So I don’t seek such situations, but sometimes they find me anyway. Nothing to do in such a situation except to keep what I say simple and direct. Getting fancy is just a way to get tangled up.

        What I suggest you do is join a Toastmasters (https://www.toastmasters.org/) club. There two skills we each want. One is learning how to give a rehearsed speech. The second is practicing ad lib. A good group will teach both. A church? Be good if they did teach these skills. It might give some people more confidence when they have to defend the hope they have placed in Jesus Christ, but most churches don’t see that as part of their mission.

        Anyway, I would imagine the racist and others saw a shocked expression on your face. Often that sight speaks louder than words. Racists and other bigots can complain all they want, but if we don’t associate with them and we do associate with the people they call names, I think they soon understand what we think of them.

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      4. I really wasn’t shocked, his attitude is commonplace here. In fact, I remember reading about a church that prides itself on not letting anybody who wasn’t white and straight through it’s doors. I saw a picture of its members doing military exercises in the woods wearing camouflage as if they were a militia. They strike me as dangerous folk with hair-trigger tempers.

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      5. @Jamie Carter

        Then there is no point in arguing with the man.

        I suppose there are still a few places where that sort of racism is commonplace, but not many. These days we have gone to the opposite extreme. It is almost racist to observe that blacks have dark skin and whites have a skin color that make us easier to see in the dark. When we cannot even address the content of our religious differences without being called bigots, that shuts down discussion to the point we cannot even learn why we might be wrong.

        Think about it this way. When they still had slaves, the Southern Plantation owners made it illegal to educate slaves. Then they had the nerve call blacks dumber than whites. Yet if the vast majority of blacks could not legally be educated it stands to reason they would be more ignorant, not dumber. In fact, if blacks could not make us of a proper education, then the government would not have bothered to prohibit educating them. Nevertheless, if you had tried to point that out to most Southerners at the time, they would either have called you names or ostracized you.

        Most Southerners knew slavery was wrong. They just refused to give it up. That is what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of being a slave to sin.

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