One of the sad things I recognize more and more is that my view of women has been poisoned from my own traditions and from culture at large. It took me a while to see how distorted my ideas of women were. I’ve had to unlearn so much gross misogyny.
For example: I was rewatching a romantic comedy from a decade ago, and the male lead stops the woman from leaving, grabbing her arm and totally blocking her. The male lead “wins the girl” who has no life or mind of her own, and all he has to do is be mopey and constantly pine after her. He also violently terrorizes his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. The movie should have been called “I Swear I’m a Nice Guy: Black Mirror Edition.”
It’s all supposed to be cute and heroic. It’s nauseating. And I wonder how much I’ve taken my cue from these “romantic” gestures that are only aggressive, territorial, and bullying.
The Christian world hasn’t been kind to women, either. The church is called to be the most loving place on the face of the earth. It isn’t. Not even close.
I can’t blame all these external things. I know it’s on us. It’s on me. I don’t have an adequate apology. I’m not attempting false humility. I can only say I’m sorry a million times for how I’ve viewed women. I’m thankful for my wife who is gracious. I’m thankful for people who speak up at a cost. I ask for forgiveness.
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God, forgive me for when I lack empathy,
when I jump to making talking points out of tragedy,
when I forget the pain of community and family,
when my voice is louder than theirs.
If you want any hope of change, freedom, progress, recovery, and growth: you’ll need to confront yourself, too.
The quickest way to not grow is to surround yourself with yes-men, run from rebuke, only read self-affirming bias, and unfollow all disagreement.
I don’t mean we listen to every opinion. Especially not online. I don’t mean we call each other out over the smallest infraction. I mean getting with the one friend who has tears in their eyes, voice shaking, who knows that friendship isn’t all giggles and games, who can say, “You’re better than this.” I still run from it all the time. Hearing the hard stuff is excruciating. But as hard as it is, to admit “I was wrong, I’m sorry, I’m learning, please forgive me and show me” is not the end of the world. It hurts, but not more than the pain of staying ignorant in our ego.
I hope too that we can make space for those who admit they’re wrong and apologize and ask to be further schooled. I hope we can start and finish with grace. Trust and honesty and confession only happens in spaces where we won’t be met with cringing, but embrace.
“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
“May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
“May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.
“And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
— A Franciscan blessing
I fell for the romanticized, destructive idea in both church culture and pop culture that we must constantly “love and forgive and give away,” a sort of martyr-hero syndrome that guilts us into perpetual generosity.
I spent too many years consumed by the “sacrificial radical love” model of Christianity, which required that I pour out more than I had—but it only scooped out my guts and left me bitter and resentful and exhausted.
To love must include truth, wisdom, and boundaries. Sometimes it means distance. It means knowing when to rest and recharge and to embrace our limits. It always means to have grace for yourself, too.
And to love is not enabling, pampering, coddling, or letting someone off the hook—or it wouldn’t really be love at all. There’s a way to help others that really hurts them because it only feeds into their harmful patterns.
For those who have been abused or traumatized: Forgiveness doesn’t mean friendship. No one should ever be rushed into forgiveness, not for the sake of “getting right with God.” Not for trying to look like the “bigger person” or “because it’s the right thing to do.” We need to recognize patterns of unrepentant abuse and gaslighting and manipulative language that will only guilt-trip back into a vicious cycle. We can never mindlessly open the door again on an abusive relationship. You have the right to say “no.”
God does redeem the evil, yes, but God is for the victims, for the abused, for the survivors, too. God is for the exile, the foreigner, the despised, the despondent who crossed the Red Sea. God is for you.