Working on our weaknesses

Letting our gifts take their natural course while deliberately working on our weaknesses has been a theme of mine for while. In casting about today for some old writing to recycle (I spend the day working on websites and would like to go read now!) I came across this comment I made on a friend’s 2011 Facebook post. The discussion was about differences between men and women, but the point is more general that that.

Perhaps we need to distinguish between qualities we tend to have as men or women, and shaping those tendencies in a virtuous manner. I think on balance men tend to be born less soft-hearted than women. It could be that the path to godliness will require men to cultivate certain kinds of soft-heartedness, while women will need to toughen up in certain ways.

I have both the skills and the natural inclination to destroy my rhetorical opponents, and I used to employ them freely. At some point I understood that vanquishing someone who disagreed with me is hardly the same as persuading them, and in fact works against it.

It took awhile before I could put a higher value on edifying a brother than on exhibiting my superior knowledge. It took even longer to be able to act on that. I had to learn to shut up, listen, think more highly of my brother than myself, figure out the one thing I could say that might move his thinking forward, say it as kindly and irenically as possible, and leave him to think it over. A lot of natural inclinations needed to be choked back before I could do that!

This made my manner in discussions much softer, but not nearly as soft as it could be. In fact, I read what many women have to say online but rarely chime in because even though I’ve smoothed many of the rough edges off my writing, what’s left is still what a man has to say, written in a non-womanly manner, and it usually breaks the flow of discussion among women because it is jarring. I’ve joked with Cindy Rollins that whenever I comment on her blog I feel like a "thread killer", because mine is often the last comment in the thread. But I think the real reason is that my comments by their nature just break the mood.

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One thought on “Working on our weaknesses

  1. Rick,
    I have read your comments on Cindy’s blog and I never thought you were a thread killer. I always thought your comments were insightful and brought something that no one else had mentioned and you were usually the only man to comment outside of Cindy’s husband, Tim occasionally adding a comment.
    I was thinking about this yesterday in two different ways. One is how infrequently men and women seem to read and comment on the same blogs. I say blogs because articles like news or biblical issues(the more controversial the better) do often receive comments from both men and women. But blogs where the writer is either a man or a woman tend to have readers and commentators that are almost exclusively of the same gender as the writer. Why is this?
    I like to read posts by both men and women. I may at times feel more intimated to comment on a man’s post, but not if he responds or interacts with comments in a way that shows he takes them seriously even if he must correct something I’ve said. But I don’t find that men always know how to do that. Years ago, when my husband and participated on a theology forum, I picked a username that was 2Tim2:15 so as to protect that I was a woman. It worked. I only revealed my gender to people who corresponded with me in a private message. At some point, another woman who was respected by all mentioned how many women were on the forum to another member. He was genuinely surprised at myself and others who were on there as women and he didn’t realize it. My husband and I are still friends with him on FB today even though we haven’t met in real life. All that to say is that sometimes women like myself want to do like you want to do as a man, walk among the other tribe without leaving too much of a wake. :)
    The second thing I was thinking about in relationship to this men and women is I remember when being very happily surprised and pleased when I read that George Grant liked the Jan Karon Mitford series. In my previous literary experience, I never had encountered men who read and enjoyed the same fiction as women, outside of those classic writers like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and George Eliot. And I remember thinking “Bravo, Jan Karon”. If I ever wrote a book, I would be so pleased if men enjoyed reading it as much as women.
    Anyways, I’ve written a short epistle on your blog post, and it is only because I have the advantage. I have read your blog on and off over the years and thus when I see your name on a blog or FB post, I know who you are and where you are coming from. I even gleefully ordered discounted books when you had your store closing sale. Thanks for that. :)

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