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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7 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 1 person

    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

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  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.

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    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

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