Monday, August 25, 2008

Tough Life Lesson About the Sexes

Well I've entered an interesting phase for my oldest daughter. She is experiencing typical boy behavior. What I mean is that I've observed an interaction with her and some boys when I was dropping her off at Sunday school class. It quickly became apparent that she had never really encountered typical boy's behavior before. One boy came up and put a puppet in her face several times, while another boy took her bible away, while she was reading it.

They were having fun at her expense. What I expected, was for her to either get mad, or set some limits with them. She politely asked for her bible back, and didn't even say anything when the other young boy was playing in her face. I didn't interfere, because I wanted to see if she would assert herself. Well, she just didn't.

So, I pulled her aside, and asked her if she didn't mind being poked in the face. She said she did. Then I asked her if she really wanted her bible back. She said she did. Then I told her to stop asking, and demand it back, and demand the other boy stop playing in her face. She went back and asked politely for her bible—by this time the puppet boy went on to something else. Again, the boy with her bible thought she was playing along, and she chased him all over the room. Although she was smiling, I knew she really didn't know what to do.

How do I help her understand?

Being a grown-up boy myself, I knew what was going on. The boy was testing the limits, and my daughter didn't know what to do. The boy needed to know in no uncertain terms that she was off-limits and not an easy mark. So, I had a a very uncomfortable conversation with her.

I tried to explain the difference between the lack of self-respect and humbleness. She needed to understand that being kind to someone does not exclude being direct with them and keeping off-limits with some things—having appropriate boundaries. She didn't understand. So I had to give her a rule.

"When something doesn't belong to you, and you want it, you must ask for it nicely. But if something belongs to you, or is a part of your body, no one has the right to touch you or take what is yours without asking. Therefore you should demand it back rather than ask for it back. Make sure you give a command. And look directly at them without smiling. If they touch you or put their hands in your face, you can physically remove their hands while you directly tell them to stop."

Boys and girls are just not the same.

As I was talking to her I realized that I was taking some things for granted. Girls just don't think like boys. Boys understand honor and respect very differently than girls do. Girls generally have to learn this. They seem to understand honor and respect more relationally than boys—whether they are liked or loved. Boys understand directness and actions more than relational cues. My wife confirmed this with me as we discussed my daughter's dilemma.

However, I also realize that my boyhood tendency hasn't changed much over the years. I still react very differently than my wife when it comes to honor and respect. My wife wants to know the relational temperature. I want to set the gauge. In other words, she feels secure in knowing the relationships are doing well, and feelings about her are appreciative and loving. While I want to accomplish something or test something to see where I am. I generally don't perceive actions as loving or not, but as honoring or not. But my wife sees actions as a gauge of whether the relationship is where it should be, and if the feelings for her have altered in anyway.

I know this may sound stereotypical, but a lot of grief can be avoided if we all approached male/female relationships with the assumption that this principle is true. And to do so even if it isn't admitted, or if it doesn't seem to work out that way.

Think about it. What dig is the worse a woman can give to a man?
"You're not a man!"
And what dig hurts the most for a woman?
"I don't think I love you anymore."
Reverse those lines with the other sex. They can hurt either way, but it just seems to be less powerful. There's something about it that just doesn't carry the same kind of sting the other way around. Perhaps that should tell us something.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Spiritual Discipline of Everyday Encounters

I had an interesting encounter this morning. I was driving out from my neighborhood as usual, and came up to a traffic light, which was red. I was attempting to make a right turn on red, when a car drove up behind me. So far, this isn't anything unusual. There were cars driving past, so I waited for an opening. This too isn't unusual.

What made this time unusual, was that the car behind me started beeping their horn at me as I waited. I wondered why, because I couldn't go out into ongoing traffic. There was no gap either. I eventually rolled out, intent on ignoring the folks behind me. And as we drove down, they rolled up next to me on my drivers side as we came to another red light. They were in the left turn lane, while I was waiting to continue on. They stared at me. I actually looked back at them, since I felt no shame, and I was a little angry.

I noticed an old black woman in the passenger's seat, and a black man (couldn't see how old he was) in the driver's seat trying to look at me. I caught myself when the light turned green, and I proceeded through. I began wondering, "What was I trying to achieve?"

For one thing, by staring back I wasn't treating my enemies with kindness instead of retaliation. Usually in these types of situations I just ignore people like this, especially since they act without understanding. And I could've exacerbated the situation by looking back at them. On the other hand, I could've responded with a smile and a wave of friendliness. But I was too angry to think of this. (Who knows, maybe it would have made things worst, instead of cooled things down.)

In any event. I was weak right then. I wanted to tell them off. But I want to please God more. So, I flinched. I did go on, and I know I must leave most of this into God's hands. But, boy, the test shows I have some growing to do.