Wednesday, February 25, 2009

P4E.100 The Difference Between Men and Women That Really Matters

This is the second of three posts on being "disconnected."

Put simply, women are more spiritually connected and relationship oriented than men. Period. Of course, you'll find the exception to the rule, here and there, but by and large this "stereotype" holds true. When women get together they talk about each other, their children, their parents, siblings and their boyfriends or husbands. In other words, relationships. Emotions. Spiritual matters.

Men are more physically/mechanically oriented than women. When I use the word "mechanically" I don't mean a propensity to understand the way machines work. I mean that we men use Boolean (true-false) logic and conditional (if-then) reasoning in our relationships. Again, you may find the rare exception in men, but that's what they are: rare exceptions.When men get together they talk about work, politics, sports, money and hobbies. We care most about what we can touch, taste, smell, hear and (especially) see. Example: Gwen calls me in tears to tell me that her horse is lame. My immediate natural response is: "How did that happen?" "Why did that have to happen?" "How bad is it?" "Well, call the vet." "I wonder how much that's going to cost me?" I have to make a conscious effort to suppress the natural response and to let her know that I truly am worried about her horse, how she's feeling about him being lame, how the horse is feeling and how I can help.

So, the difference between men and women that really matters is that women's orientation is spiritual/relational and men's is physical/mechanical. As Believers, there is one particular aspect to this that we men should take into account. That is, that God is spirit and everyone who worships Him must worship in spirit and in truth. He highly values spiritual matters. Knowing that He created men whose orientation would be physical/mechanical, He knew that we would need help. Would He be so uncomplicated as to call the help He has for us men, "help?" As in, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make for him a help..."?

A confirmation of the heightened spiritual orientation of women can be tested right now, as you read (which is sad, in a way). In your own family, while you were growing up, who would you say was the spiritual leader of your home? For the vast majority, it was "Mom." Try this: Think of all the families you know now, as an adult, from church and other related para-church ministries. In those families, how many would you identify the father/husband as the spiritual leader? The trick here is that church appearances may be deceiving. But if you ask the children of those families, you'll get a pretty consistent answer: "Mom is". Maybe even in the pastor's family!

Knowing this basic difference between men and women should really help men understand their wives. But our own predisposition hinders us from making good use of the information. In our mechanical way, we tend to think, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

My friend Jackie, puts it this way:

"I sometimes wonder about the "disconnect" and how it happens in men. For example, when women are disconnected or feel out place they (for the most part) react. They will verbally or physically act different-sometimes short or indifferent. But men on the other hand, always think everything is fine. Is this a chemical imbalance or a lack of understanding of yourself as man, or your partner? "

I said the second and third posts of this series would focus more on "what can be done about it and how to do it." The biggest hurdle we men have to overcome is to view our wives as God-given "help" and not the enemy. Especially when it comes to relationships. What I try to do (when I'm in a good place) is engage Gwen in conversations about spiritual matters. To a lot of men, this would be like praying for patience. Just looking for trouble. But, I've found it to be truly helpful.

For instance, if the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, what does that look like to Gwen? How can I display these character qualities so that she feels that I'm loving, joyful...etc. If she's the one I care about displaying these qualities to, why shouldn't I ask her how I can affect her that way? Who better to ask? Many times, to my shame, I affect her in the opposite way. More about that in the next post: "What 'the Flesh' Looks Like and What to Do About It"

Peace, Kim

(P.S.- Being a man, I have a fascination with numbers. Note that this is P4E.100. No big deal. I watch as I speed by the mile marker. It's taken a little over two years to get to P4E.100. That's about one post a week. At this rate, I'll be nearly 70 before I run out of 3-digit numbers. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

P4E.099 Disconnected Redux: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Over the next three posts, I'll try to pull 3 different ideas together in relation to being disconnected.

The first idea is that "Familiarity Breeds Contempt."
The second is "The Difference Between Men and Women That Really Matters."
The third is "What 'The Flesh' Looks Like and What to Do About It."

There's a saying that goes "Familiarity Breeds Contempt."

In the case of relationships, the word "contempt" could be replaced with "presumption." What I mean is, we take for granted that with which we are familiar. Taking relationships (especially marriage) for granted can put a husband in a very bad way. When I'm in a bad way, I liken myself to water in several ways:

- I "run downhill" and settle in a low spot.
- I seek a level, stationary state and if I find one, I'll stay there until I stagnate or evaporate.
- Like water, I can be "inert," that is, I can have a limited ability to react and I can be slow and apathetic.

What this translates to is that when I think everything's OK, it's not. I presume that as long as things aren't blowing up, I'm OK. But, the fact is that, if I am not consciously making every effort to improve and move forward in my spirit and relationships, I'm falling backwards.

It's easy for me to disconnect spiritually because I don't value my spiritual nature enough to pay it much attention. Another way of saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is that when I think I've got my relationship with my wife figured out, when I take it for granted, I naturally devalue it. This is one reason why Scripture says, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials..." The trials are put there by God so that I won't just float along thinking everything's OK.

Gwen says that many times people get hurt around horses because they let their guard down doing something they've done a million times. They've disconnected and become complacent enough to forget about the inherent danger in what they are doing...

Everybody say "Hmmmmm."

I've described something in this first part. In the next two parts I'll write more about what can be done about it and how to do it.

Peace, Kim

Next: The Difference Between Men and Women that Really Matters

Monday, February 2, 2009

P4E.098 Disconnected

It's definitely easier to write when things are going well. I feel like a hypocrite when I write during the times when things are not going well. By writing at those times I seem to imply that I'm learning something worth sharing. That's not always the case.

Last week the computer networking system went down at work. There was a little pop-up on my screen that said:


My spirit resonated with that little pop-up.

Ken Nair uses a big, 3-foot long, rubber band in a demonstration to illustrate what our spiritual awareness is like. When I'm aware, in-tune, connected, I'm like a rubber band that's stretched taut. When I'm insensitive, distracted and disconnected I'm like a rubber band with a lot of slack in it. Gwen's been pointing out that for the last six months she's felt that I've been disconnecting. I'm sure I'm not the first guy to be surprised by the fact that his wife feels he's out of touch. But, it doesn't lessen the frustration and defensiveness that I immediately felt when she told me. I naturally want to defend myself and my actions (or inactions). That's what lets me know I probably am disconnected. If I were in a better place, my first thoughts would be towards her and how and why she feels out of touch with me. As her husband, if I were fulfilling my role as spiritual leader, I would be aware, in-tune and connected.

My counselors are encouraging me to journal my emotions. I'm afraid to. When I take a hard look at who I am and what I'm feeling it's never very pretty. It's ugly and it frightens and discourages Gwen (and me!). I don't want to do it. I know I don't have to show it to anyone, but what if it's found and read? I really don't want anyone to know, or even acknowledge to myself, how ugly I can be inside. I guess all of those things point to the idea that I SHOULD journal my emotions. Part of my original motivation in writing this blog was to share with you HOW I'm making it in my marriage. To confess my shortcomings, share and rejoice in successes, jointly search for answers and stay connected. This is not an exercise in self-humiliation, but it does keep me humble.

I know that if I have "friends" who never share the difficulties in their lives and only let me in on the good things that are happening it seems like they are trying to portray that they are better than me. When they remain opaque, I feel like I know them less and less. I start to resent that there isn't a mutual exchange of confidences. Are we really "friends"? When they're more transparent, I feel like we're on mutual ground. That they can empathize with me and I with them. This connects us.

So, I'm always hoping that when you read this blog, I'm letting you know that you're not alone. I'm hoping that I'm not alone. Maybe I'm expressing some things that you feel too. No, they're not always "good" feelings or thoughts. But, at least we can share them and search for answers together.

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim