Militant Virtue, a few questions entertained

Yesterday’s post on militant virtue inspired a lot of discussion, and rather than tag on a bunch of comments of my own, I thought I’d just follow up with another post.

First of all was a concern that I expressed the need for positive virtue, but then basically described it all as defensive. A couple things on this. First, there are a great many things that a young woman can and should do to be proactive about these things. They vary, however, very widely with her circumstances. There is no way to lay out a set of rules like “stop hanging out by the pop machine and looking needy,” although that would probably be good advice in some situations. Second, defensive responses do not feel like negative space when you use them. In other words, in actual practice it feels more like lobbing a water balloon into someone’s face. It isn’t invisible.

Another reason that I did not lay out specific responses is because these sorts of things vary widely by personality as well. My sister and I grew up in the same community, with exactly the same amount of protection and security. Still, we respond quite differently when push comes to shove. Back when she was in seventh grade (I was in third), there was a boy in her class who would call her to fuss and be pitiful about various things, mostly girls. She was aggravated no end by him, and dinner table conversations were had about handling the situation. My Dad coached her on what to do. Soon enough, the boy called again. Bekah was out, and I answered. He got tedious instantly.  “But where is she? Rachel, how do you not know?? When will she be back?”

Having already had my fill of him vicariously, I rather pithily said, “Matt, life is too short to talk to wimpy guys.” He was scandalized. “Rachel! I am going to tell your Dad that you said that!!” I was ready for that one. “He won’t mind, he is the one who said it.” And then I hung up. Now, say what you will about my methods (Matt did), I was four years his junior and felt fine about calling him a wimp and hanging up on him. Bekah was also actively on the defense with him, but it did not look the same.

Another set of concerns was about Christian young men who have been brought up to honor women and employ certain sets of manners to do so. First of all – I have never in my life refused a man opening the door for me, and always reply with a  cheerful “Thanks!” However, part of my great comfort with this arrangement is that it allows me to blow right past him and not have any follow-up conversation. It is polite and kind in the most basic non-imposing sense. If the same man tried to help me push my grocery cart to my car,  I would say, “No thanks, I’m fine.” No matter how selfless his motivations, he has intruded into my space, and if he doesn’t scoot along, he might get kicked in the ankle. I did say in my original post that sometimes these sorts of things are caused by “cultural differences.” That is where I would place these. I don’t want any man to cherish me who is not my husband or immediate family members. If some guy feels that the most basic of Christian manners is to give me a back rub because I look tired, I am saying nothing about his essential motives when I tell him to back off.

Another small point: Women are not to be honored and esteemed, no more than men are to be respected and submitted to. There are specific men that I respect and honor, and there are specific men who can cherish and protect me. As a group, Christian men and women are not in wedlock to each other. There was a bad woman in Proverbs also, as you will all recall. There are a lot of men that you had better not let protect you. Under this heading would also fall the concept of just treating the young men like your brothers. I would say that the position of brother in the literal, familial sense is WAY too close for your average Christian boy. Just ask anyone to tell the story of  “He was just like a brother to me…,” and it will almost always end with “until…”  You can certainly have male friends, but it will never last unless there is a solid distance maintained consistently. A real brother will be in the role of counselor, aggravator, friend, companion, and protector. General boys at church should certainly not have the same kind of access.

Someone also referred to making our young women paranoid about the sexual intentions of the young men. This may be a personal pet peeve, but I will share it nonetheless. When young girls get this way (“I would never wear this shirt, because doubtless I would stumble all the men at church”)  the problem is not really with her perception of the sexuality of the men. Her problem is all revolving around her own sexuality. She doesn’t need to worry about the interior of the heads of the boys, because she could do a lot more profitable work by looking into her own. For the most part, girls get caught up in that sort of worry as a cover for how much they enjoy it. They like the idea of the boys being consumed in lust if they see their bra strap, and thus they spend a lot of time fussing to the other girls and women about what might happen and how much it upsets them.

Probably the biggest factor in “militant virtue” is to take responsibility for yourself. Just because you got a ride to the party and are embarrassed to ask about being taken home does not excuse your presence at it. Just because that boy started the conversation about nudity in art does not mean you should be there to hear it. Just because you weren’t sure what to do about it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have done it. This brings us back full circle to the first point. By and large the proactive things you should do are connected to the situations you don’t know how to get out of. Back it up a few steps and notice how you got there. Either come up with an effective response, or come up with a way to stay out of it in the first place.

Lastly, in terms of everyone being tired of hearing the same old “guard your hearts (you pitiful little girls).”  Instead of being the receiver of the advice, you should give it a whirl as a councilor. The reason these things are said over, and over, and over is because there are older women meeting with girls and kleenex boxes over, and over, and over. The council has not, for the most part, been heeded. When the episodes of unnecessary broken heart syndrome stop, so will, I imagine, the advice.

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25 thoughts on “Militant Virtue, a few questions entertained

  1. Haha. “When the episodes of unnecessary broken heart syndrome stop, so will, I imagine, the advice.” Nice follow up post Rach!

  2. I’ve loved both of these posts. Thank you. Our cultural acceptance that young ladies and young men can be just “best friends” drives me crazy.

  3. I appreciate how you ladies tackle subtle things. These last couple posts have dealt with sneaky little situations that I know in my own head yet don’t know if I could ‘splain it all with words to someone else. You guys give me great tools! I can’t imagine anyone ever clarifying these nuances better than a Wilson gal! I’m blessed by your ministry, thanks for taking the time!

  4. Again – phenomenal. So few people put words to the silent conversations in our hearts and to the responsibility of the heart. LOVE. Thank you!

  5. Oh my goodness – right on Rachel!! PTL for your gift to express things in writing that we all find difficult putting into words. I loved the first article, and the follow up response is awesome. I very much wish I had had the Godly council of a woman like you growing up! I was definitely the girl that thought every smile from a guy was an advance…I was pretty desperate for some attention, and had my heart broken plenty. I ended up marrying my high school (senior year) sweetheart. The work God has done in our lives these past years is glorious! My husband is the associate pastor (youth) at our church…I will definitely be passing this along. Thanks again :)

  6. Um…I love this.
    I think maybe even more than the initial post.
    Especially appreciated the commentary on how there is not a-group-marital-respect-cherish-between-all-men-and-all-women established by Scripture.
    I was confused about that for a long time and only really understood it after reading your dad’s Reforming Marriage.

    What I love about your writing (and your dad’s as well)…is that it’s not easily box-up-able. I think that was what also was so refreshing about this post and the previous one.

  7. It seems like concepts such as boundaries, have taken a bad turn, and become negative concepts in our culture today. I do primarily put blame for this on the Church. As I believe it is her job to lead the way in teaching the goodness of these practiced truths.

    Boundaries do separate, but they also protect. “No!” may make one person feel bad, while it guards another at the same time. But it isn’t natural in our culture. We aren’t practiced at hearing no, so we are easily offended when we do, which causes us to be timid to use the word.

    One might think it is unrelated, but I think the source of our problem is the Church. Not to lay blame, but to see why this is such a problem. The Church is too busy with tolerance and acceptance. Shouting, “Peace, peace!” Where really, there is no such thing.

    I don’t think it’s a shock that we don’t know how to protect ourselves, or that we don’t embody what different relationships ought to look like. Or that there should even be a difference between blood brother and spiritual brother.

    The Church has put down her sword in just about every way. She won’t fight anymore. Or, if she does, it is usually over something petty.
    So we, her children, are weak and petty. And we have become diluted, and forgotten that fighting is a part of protecting and nurturing. If we won’t fight off the fools, then we are letting them in to be with us.

    We need to get back to having a fighting mentality. We need to build up our back bones and flabby muscles. Maybe then, when the pastor’s daughter kicks us in our heels, we will be less likely to whine, and more likely to say “Thanks for the reminder.”

    Here, I’ll start. Thank you Rachel for the reminder.

  8. Once again, the Femina ladies have blessed me immensely. I so wish I had heard Rachel’s militant virtues talk as a young woman, and these words of wisdom are so helpful and timely as we raise our two teenage sons.

    My oldest just wondered whose blog I was reading, so I told him, and said “I can’t wait to hang out with these women!” To which he replied (curious, as we live in Virginia) “When?” “In the new earth, of course!”

    Praise God for the community of believers expanded through technology!!

  9. Thanks for these posts! I am FLOORED by how you articulated this issue! I had no guidance from my parents on how to handle boys and by the grace of God married my first boyfriend. I have not had to deal with much of this for a long time, but I need to permanently bookmark these posts for when my girls invariably face those moments with their male acquaintances. Thank you again for your insight and wisdom–I just pray I can rearticulate this with wisdom 10 years from now or so!

  10. Thank you.

    One point…

    “By and large the proactive things you should do are connected to the situations you don’t know how to get out of. Back it up a few steps and notice how you got there. Either come up with an effective response, or come up with a way to stay out of it in the first place.”

    …is really for all of life and all of us, now isn’t it? Well put.

    Christ’s blessings on you.

  11. These last two posts have some of the best advice for common sense guidelines between the sexes that i have ever seen. And common sense is almost always the most difficult thing to explain to someone who lacks it (usually by no fault of their own). Thanks, Lizzie!

  12. Yes. Yes. Yes! Thank you for this follow up! I get so frustrated with young girls playing into guys whims and fire hydrant stunts always with the excuse “I didn’t want to be rude” or the whole “he is just like a brother”. It’s almost all a cover up for enjoying the attention and getting affirmation in a place where they shouldn’t. I also LOVED the part about not allowing other men to cherish you, because that’s your husbands place. Great post! THank you!

  13. Thank you for these two posts.

    Mrs Jankovic, I have a question. I absolutely agree with your last paragraph–older ladies are constantly telling us girls to guard our hearts, and that’s because there’s a real problem. But it seems like all the advice I ever hear about guarding one’s heart is about guarding it from wimps, cowards, rebels, and bullies. I can guard my heart against those guys just fine. But what if a young man is none of those things? What if he really is worth marrying? I’ve heard people say, “Don’t be too easily impressed,” but what if he actually is impressive?

  14. Can I second SJR’s question?

    Because I know with many of my teenage friends and myself, we know how to guard against the wimpy guys, what no one really tells us is how to guard against guys who are truly impressive. And that impressiveness isn’t our too lax standard but our family or church saying, this young man is impressive. When marriage isn’t an option yet how do you deal with those guys?

  15. Thank you so much for these posts! I follow this blog consistently eventhough you write mostly for married women (I am 19 and not married), and I love your posts – I wish you would write more often to us younger girls as well. We crave this kind of advice from wiser women.

  16. I laughed out loud…for a while…at how you handled the situation with Matt. My husband speaks the truth bluntly as well so I can see such situations taking place in our future :) Great post. Thank you for all the great truth and insight!

  17. I second the question: When is the book coming out??

    I also laughed out loud, and startled my little sister, over the Matt part.

  18. Great article and very helpful advice! Only one thing…. in the last paragraph it’s counselor and counsel, not councillor/council.

  19. Thank you for these articles! They have been very helpful in articulating things I have been feeling but unable to explain verbally to someone who is struggling in this area. I may just send her here. :)

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