In the last two months, the country has heard about and read a lot of apology statements from famous men accused of inappropriate behavior towards women. This provides some in the faith community an opportunity to finger point and shake their head towards high profile politicians and actors. But before we cast the first stone we should be mindful of our own sin.
Having been in ministry for over thirty-years and much of that with men, I was not surprised to hear these stories and realized this is just the tip of the iceberg. I pause to be quick with my judgments due to the fact that my own history reminds me of how in my fallen state I am capable of similar acts.
Matthew 7:3-5 tells us about paying attention to “planks” in our own eyes. This is a good reminder to remain vigilant about what lives deep within our heart.
For years I minimized my own dishonoring of women through the belief that I was just being compassionate and caring. Underneath that façade was a hunger to gain their attention and affection. It was a misuse of power and seduction to convince them to trust me and to like me. Fortunately, nothing ever happened physically but it was born out of a deep brokenness within me.
Feeding off the vulnerabilities of another is unfortunately too prevalent in the ministry world and has brought many a good leader down. To remain aware that our hearts can be divided and influenced by unmet emotional and physical needs is key to remaining clear in our relationships with women. I speak not only to paid and lay leaders but all men that follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The model of masculinity that I grew up with was my stepfather and he was dominating, controlling towards women and emotionally shut down. His view of women was broken and unhealthy along with the culture I grew up in that saw women as baby making, dinner preparing, and house cleaning maids.
Most men who I have ministered to did not have good role models in their lives when it comes to how to treat a woman well. I believe many want to do what is right and honoring yet lacked the guides to teach them well. So their examples are found on television, YouTube, Netflix and the culture that they grew up in. The cultural depiction of what a man is proved flawed and the results are false expressions of masculinity.
Left with false notions of what is masculine and feeling the pressure to prove it to other men we seek it through our sexual prowess. Men who don’t know how to meaningfully engage with a woman attempt to use their power to control them. We are misdirected in our search for our masculinity identity.
As men, we do not want to address the ways in which we have dishonored women. That would mean no longer lusting after them, no longer going online and spending countless hours searching for the perfect one to fantasize about and no longer attempting to seduce them with our clever and witty words. Thus we remain quiet about the subject of dishonoring women.
Where does one look for healthy models of men honoring women? Jesus wonderfully models for us the standard on how women are to be honored for their beauty and their unique gifting. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus honoring women and advocating for them in different life situations.
Nudged by God the Holy Spirit to reexamine my view and treatment of women His guiding search lamp revealed my error. He revealed to me the subtle ways and obvious ways I was dishonoring women. Convicted by God the Holy Spirit, I confessed this sin to another brother taking my first step towards the healing of my unhealthy view of women. Repentant, I invited Jesus into my heart and asked Him to give me His heart to love women well.
Let me mention just so you understand it took many encounters with God to reveal to me the lack of honor and respect I failed to extend towards women throughout the years. There were many I felt led to contact and make amends with.
During this process of inner healing, I recalled a memory from my childhood that deeply affected my view of women. My stepfather instigated wrestling matches between my older sister and me. She being bigger and stronger almost always pinned me down to the floor. He would then cackle, “You let a girl beat you!” Helpless, I remember thinking to myself, “No woman will ever control me like that again.” This vow created a barrier within me that kept most women at arm’s length. It served to keep me from having to deal with more pain in my relationships with women. This vow and the power associated with it had to be renounced and I also had to repent of judgments I had made towards all women. It was amazing how my heart opened towards women once I broke that vow.
The cultural attitudes toward women in Jesus’ day were regrettable. Women were treated as second-class citizens. Jesus restored value to women and treated them with honor and respect. He extended hope and help to women that had bad reputations that other’s looked down upon.