This letter begins with the wonderful story of a man who took my heart, stretched it, patted it into a good form, and placed it gently back inside my chest. I met him through a mutual friend who thought he was cute and creative and a possible match for me. We hung out a few times (that’s what you do in your twenties) and then he turned to me one day and said casually, “You know we’re just going to be friends right?”
“Oh, okay. Why is that?” I wondered.
He went on to explain our different religious perspectives and opinions on sex outside of marriage, and said simply, “So, the last category is friendship. Are you okay with that?”
I paused and then nodded. He was right. I didn’t know how things would end, but I could see also that marriage bells were not in our future. And I loved that he had just told me straight out, without apology, but with gentleness and affirmation. He didn’t suddenly stop calling me and then ignoring my calls to him. He didn’t try to take advantage of me one more time to test his virility. He didn’t argue with me, try to win me over to his side of the fence. He just respectfully explained what he was thinking and checked in with me to see how it was impacting my heart.
We went on to be friends for a while, and when he started dating someone seriously, I was still invited to his college graduation with several of his other friends. I went, and had a great time.
That happened many years ago but I will never ever forget it. He is rare among men. A jewel even. Because since then, I have been shocked and awed by the way men, especially those who claim to love Jesus, have treated me and my sisters. It’s as if their understanding of godliness does not apply to how they see women who benefit them not.
If they feel oohy goohy and in love with you, it’s great. But if they’ve decided they don’t love you…watch yourself! You could be talking to them one day and the next find you have been put on ice. You may ask them what happened and get a cold silence in return. Your hurt and confused feelings, rejected heart, and feminine value are of no importance to them.
Some of these men will go peacefully into pulpits to preach the word after mistreating their sisters the night before. They will engage in other forms of service to God and not give a second thought to the women around them they have treated with little regard. I’m not even addressing outright abuse in this letter, though that is a worthwhile subject to discuss. I’m simply talking about the small, subtle ways Christian men discount and devalue women, especially the single women, in their midst.
When Jesus said “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done it unto me” could be applied right here. It is revealed in how you date, talk to, ignore, discount, break promises to, walk away from, encourage, discourage, attend to, develop, critique, criticize, and preach to women you see as offering no personal benefit to you or your life. These women still have intrinsic value even if they are unattractive to you, misinformed about a subject you feel strongly about, struggling with their femininity, outspoken and opinionated, wounded from childhood and acting out, confident and successful (and intimidating), demanding and asking lots of questions, or just quietly being themselves, and more. They have the right to be treated with the same gentleness, long-suffering, tenderness, understanding, patience, responsiveness, and love that you would give anyone else that you are ministering to—which should be everyone.
I have seen too many women including myself experience the shock of being treated as though we have big muscles to lift the dead weight of harsh criticism, or a heart so stony it can deflect the arrows of sudden abandonment and rejection without explanation. I have listened to my sisters tell stories of confusing dating scenarios with men they thought would treat them differently than those who don’t claim to love God, only to find they were treated even worse. So I’m simply asking you, my brothers in Christ, to leave your gifts on the altar, and if you can, make things right with your sisters.
We applaud you, admire you, pray for you, and want to learn how to affirm you better, so can you help us do that? Are you willing to reach out to us as well? It can be a simple phone call, an email, a skype conversation, offering sincere apologies to change the game and model the love of Christ in how you relate to your sisters. We know your hearts are good, and we believe that this is simply a blind spot amidst all that goodness. May light and awareness break forth. We thank you ahead of time.
Your worthy and valuable sisters in Christ.