In a marathon talk with a friend, we came to the subject of the men,–the ones that are doing the hurting. We asked more questions and came up with few answers. Is rehabilitation possible? If we believe in the Gospel, then yes. And yet, if we knew a guy who once hit a girl, even if he was “all better,” would we set him up on a date with one of our girlfriends? (No.) Is that lack of faith? Do we know anyone who has done the hard work that surely comes with wanting and getting well? What is that work? And at the end of the day, the girl on the couch is so much more important.
I want to help women who have been hurt. Yet, I cannot do so without addressing the men. Any form of rehabilitation for women happens after the violence, after a part of her is already ripped apart from the rest. And I want to hold her hand through the hard stuff. I’m being vague but God is still working out the plan on how I will be there for these women. I want to hold her hand but I don’t want another woman to walk through the doors of despair and violence and pain after her and that’s why I have to consider the men.
There has to be a stop gap, a mechanism.
Two athletes have been in the news recently for violence against women (one is alleged though the police found “a pool of blood” and the woman’s face was all banged up). I’m not hating on athletes and I’m not hating on men. But the NFL and the NBA , that’s the height of athleticism and the height of, as society views it, masculinity. So I have to ask: what is masculinity? What does it mean to be a man? How do we raise sons who would rather do anything than hurt a woman?
Society is failing our girls and that failure starts with our failure to raise up boys, men, who know how to talk about their feelings, who know patience, who are wiling to get help when confronted with demons, who see women as both strong and beautiful, more than worthy of respect.
I don’t have answers for you, only more questions. At the very least, I feel like someone has to continue to consistently ask them until there are answers and then action.
A friend told me a story, after I shared mine. He’s (obviously) a man, a husband, and a father who I have always respected. He couldn’t remember where he read it so I can’t source it (the internet, yo. It is a bottomless pit.) Here is what he sent me: the author (of this story) was at a friend’s house and the friend’s son pushed over the friend’s daughter while they were playing with each other. After the author consoled his daughter, the author’s friend took his son aside and said, “What’s the most important thing about being a man?” and the son, as he had presumably been taught, responded sheepishly, “Be kind and gentle.”
Can you imagine what type of world we would inhabit if that’s what it meant to be a man?
So there are these great organizations teaching girls all the red flags and how to stay out of bad situations and self esteem, and I think that is fantastic. Really. But let me say for the record, I was taught all of that too. And still it happened to me. Or I let it. It gets confusing. When love (or what we think is love) enters the picture things become muddy and distorted.
So instead I am asking this question:
The men I’ve known and watched wield power emotionally, physically, sexually look like the rest of of the men out there. But the last words anyone would use to describe those men would be gentle or kind. If we lived in a world where that was the height of masculinity, maybe those men would put down their weapon. Maybe they would never pick it up in the first place. Because they–lacking gentleness and kindness–would be the weaklings. Their need for power and control would be their shame–not ours.
Gentleness and kindness.
I’ll tell you one thing–the men I know who I respect, who respect me, who love me well as a sister, who I watched marry my friends and father their kids, the men I’ve never feared or felt unsafe with, those men have gentleness and kindness in abundance (Ironically, these are some of the more “traditionally masculine” men I know…)
So while there are still so many questions, I feel like there are two answers: gentleness and kindness. Those are qualities I can rest my head against. So maybe we start there.
Let’s be Frank…Check out Jenni’s blog!