My best friend Nicole is my real-life super hero.
My real-life super hero endured sexual abuse from a close family member for most of her childhood.
Nicole and I became friends as teenagers, not terribly long after her abuser had chosen to take his own life. She was only 14.
Over the years I have watched Nicole bravely and tirelessly travel the globe and speak words of love and encouragement to a stagnant sea of hurting girls. She swims out to them repeatedly and beckons them to shore with her message of hope and healing.
Nicole’s “One Voice” began a ripple effect that has over time slowly gained momentum and grown into unstoppable ocean waves. Waves that are crashing hard against a land of slumberers, splashing, and jolting them awake into our culture’s reality.
It overwhelms me as these broken hearts roll in, one after the other, flooding in past me and around me, filled with the energy, empowered, and called forward to share their devastating story. I’m praising God for their courage, wave after wave, voice after voice.
But as I picture these girls as waves in my mind’s eye, I would ask for you to give me the grace to picture me, as well as the millions of women with similar stories to me, planted deep in the waters, standing like that robed woman of the sea, with our arm raised high, holding our torch to the sky, offering our story of hope to an upcoming generation.
Because, just like these girls who are finally finding their voice, I too, feel like I am hushed at times from my voice being heard.
Our culture is not encouraging the voices of hope. It’s not breeding peace. Instead it is rapidly becoming a devourer of all things hopeless, an encourager of lives filled with fear, a lover of despair.
Stop! Wake up! There is good all around you!
I need my girls to know this. I feel an urgency to instill in them the knowledge that good men are absolutely everywhere; a sudden surge of responsibility comes over me that I just can’t seem to shake. Believe me I’ve tried. I feel a responsibility not only to my girls, but to your girls, and to all those standing in between. Despite what the media, and Hollywood, and a growing number of everyday women are teaching them.
If there is room for women to stand tall and share their story of abuse, then there must be room allowed for me to stand tall and shout my message of hope. I’m not trying to take anything away from the women sharing their stories of abuse. I’m behind them 100% plus. Hear my heart.
Before we completely ingrain in our children’s minds the generalization that all men are pigs, idiots, and abusers, let’s stop and think about how damaging our words are for this coming generation. There are so many fantastic, hard-working, loving, encouraging, sympathetic, wonderful men out there. I’ve had the privilege of knowing many.
Sure, I 100% agree that it’s an understatement that women have been treated poorly and unfairly in many circumstances by a large number of men. But, even though that’s the case, we cannot group all men as a whole into one definitive box. There must be a better response. Just because I receive spam in my email does not mean that it would make sense for me to throw my computer in the dumpster; and although I hate the analogy, we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water, ladies.
A couple of weeks ago I went to listen to my mentor speak at a local church. Her message was all about connection; about how we all need one another in order to fulfill the plan that God has laid out for each one of us. She made the point that so many women are adopting the idea that they “don’t need men”, and men, in return are believing and accepting the lie that women don’t need them either.
She apologized to the men in the audience for our culture’s eagerness to demoralize and emasculate their identity. She pointed out how you can’t even turn the television on anymore without the popular sitcoms making men out to look like idiots, buffoons. She spoke life into the men in the room and told them that we needed them. That they are leaders. Strong Warriors for God.
Later she told me she watched as tears filled the eyes of the men in the crowd with each word she spoke.
Her words cut through my heart like a knife. She was absolutely correct, and I immediately felt a stirring in my spirit to speak out, to share my story, because the men I’ve known in my life don’t deserve the kind of treatment they’re receiving.
My girls need to know amazing men surround them, and to not buy the lies that “all men are stupid”, “men suck”, “you don’t need men”, etc.
It’s a slow fade. Little by little we are like cooked lobsters who don’t notice the water around us is being boiled, and honestly, it’s getting a little too hot for me lately. We need to dramatically and swiftly change directions and lift these growing men up!
I did not want to write this post. I fought with God about it pretty hard. I told a number of my girlfriends, on more than one occasion that I didn’t at all want to write this. I felt annoyed that God kept putting it on my heart. He can be relentless.
After sharing my heart with my friends, every single one of them encouraged me to move forward. They emphasized that women everywhere need to hear there is hope in this world. That there are good men out there. To encourage girls to keep looking until you find them. To write the post.
Not what I wanted to hear.
As I was sitting in church, telling God I was not going to write this post because it wasn’t going to be well received, that I didn’t want to hear the negative comments about men…didn’t feel like fighting any women…didn’t think my voice mattered anyway. After all, who is going to take the time to read my story? Waste of my time. And if people did decide to read it, they would probably go on to think I was stupid on countless levels for writing it.
Just as all of these thoughts were pouring out from my heart, our church worship team then proceeded to play the song “You Make Me Brave” on repeat for what seemed like a half an hour. Nice. The words hit me like a fleet of arrows. “You make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore into the waves. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.”
He makes me brave. He has given me a voice. My story does matter. It’s important. Because if a girl like me can live a blessed, happy, sweet life, then that means other girls have too, and it means millions of little girls in this world have the hope of living the same blessed life.
If girls like me don’t stand up and share our story of men’s goodness and love, their respect, honor and self-control, who is going to? Definitely not the media. Definitely not Hollywood. Our little girl’s minds are being shaped and formed to believe these lies that are surrounding them. The more our little ladies hear the generalizations that “men abuse”, “men suck”, “men are stupid”, “you don’t need a man”, etc., the more it becomes truth to them. They are being programmed.
And not only are we persuading our little gals, we’re also teaching our little guys to believe that they’re destined to be bad, and to treat women poorly as well. They are learning they are predetermined to have no self-control; that they’re incapable of keeping their hands to themselves. They’re hearing it all. And it’s utter crapola. If these boys continue to be fed the propaganda that is being spewed out about them repetitiously, without a countering voice yelling back in the opposite direction, why would they want to try to be good when nobody is believing in them anyway? If positive voices don’t start speaking out, what boys are going to believe being “well-behaved” is possible? Give them hope! Build their confidence. Speak life. Teach. Teach. Teach.
Give them permission to boldly open doors, teach them self-control is possible (and necessary), that it’s beautiful and blessed to wait for their wives. Teach them they are strong men of character, full of respect, capable of much love, hard workers, and moral leaders. As the old saying goes, we are what we eat. Feed your boys well, women. Nourish their souls.
I truly believe our words have the potential to change the world. One of my favorite quotes was said by Mother Teresa, and it challenges me every time I hear it: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Isn’t that beautiful? So profound. So how can we love our family to the utmost? Well, if we want to love our kids to the best of our ability, then we must put our husbands ahead of our children. That seems really contradictory, doesn’t it? But it’s the absolute truth.
My parents were so good at this. I knew their relationship came first, and my siblings and I came second. My mom and dad dated each other regularly, went on vacations without any children (as well as vacations with children), started businesses together. They invested in each other. They were best friends, and so in love. Soul mates. And even though I knew I was second, deep down I loved it. I was thankful for our family’s culture. I knew my parents were living life the way it was designed to be lived. I always knew my dad loved me, but I was confident he loved my mom more. And that made me feel safe. Secure. Loved. It was a good plan.
I can still picture myself sitting at the kitchen countertop, eating my bowl of Cheerios every morning before school, and watching my dad grab my mom up into his arms, pull her close to him, and kiss her goodbye for the day. Most of the time I thought it was so incredibly sweet, and I would love to watch them smooch. But- sometimes my dad would get so lost in the moment, and so wrapped up in my mom (literally) that he would completely forget I was sitting there (probably more like he didn’t care I was sitting there), and every once in awhile I would have to start saying, shouting his name in order to get him to take a breath. I would start quietly at first, “Dad”, and then sometimes have to get more aggressive, “Dad! DAD!!” and smack the countertop with my hand to remind him I was still sitting there and cut him off before it went too far. I didn’t want to see anything I couldn’t unsee if you know what I mean.
My mom respected my dad. And my dad, in turn, loved my mom very well. I am so thankful for their example of a strong, healthy marriage.
I was recently talking to another friend about the topic of this post (the sixth friend, actually. And it was actually more like kicking, stomping, and pouting about writing it than talking to her about it. You’re truly getting the idea of how much I didn’t want to write this at this point, no?). She agreed the words needed to be said and pointed out that she had just read a book about the differences between men and women (can it be confined to one book?!?). She went on to explain that men must have and feel respect from women in order to be capable of giving and showing love. Women, on the other hand, can’t show respect unless they feel loved. Interesting. So which comes first? The chicken or the egg? I say we lay an egg, ladies.
Don’t feel like you should have to be the one to make the first move?
Perhaps a change in perspective would be helpful.
I was eating lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and she was telling me about a video that had recently gone viral online. The video was taken just about an hour away from my home, and in it, a male police officer was having a confrontation with a female on the side of the road. The videographer captured the officer speaking to the woman for a few moments, and then, the unthinkable happened: He hit her.
Now, the person videoing this footage was standing inside a building, looking out the window, far from the confrontation. From a perspective that would only allow for the sight of the swing. What the camera didn’t capture, and couldn’t get from it’s perspective, was the fact that the woman had her hands firmly clasped around the man’s “area”- squeezing, pulling, clawing, digging her fingernails in.
Though the damage done to the man was so severe he was taken to the hospital, people viewing the video were still outraged. It went all over social media. Police brutality they cried! Sadly, the people outraged over the sight didn’t have all the facts. Their perspective was dead wrong.
They needed to move down from the high rise and get right beside the man to see the pain on his face, to hear his pleas for the woman to take her hands off of him. To hear him warning. Warning. Warning…
Perspective is so vitally important when evaluating a situation, and I think it’s missing so greatly in our world today. We quickly jump to conclusions about a situation before being handed all of the pieces of the puzzle. Before being able to make a judgment call, you have to look at both sides.
Take three of my most memorable confrontations with males for example:
Situation #1 involved me in a college classroom, head down, face flat in a puddle of drool while my professor pointed me out, made fun of me, and referred to me as a “slacker” in front of my classmates. My friend explained to me what had happened after class and I was beyond mortified. Outraged. My first response was to get angry and think, “How dare he! What right does he have? He doesn’t even know me! What a jerk!”.
But, if I were to look at it from his perspective, I’m sure he sees it a completely different way. What he sees is a kid who doesn’t care enough about her education to stay awake for an hour. He sees a girl who doesn’t have enough integrity and respect to keep her eyes open long enough to listen to an entire lesson and learn. So, who is right?
Situation #2 begins with me waiting tables at an Applebee’s, also while in college (and maybe played into me slobbering on my desk in situation #1). I sat down a steak in front of a man, served the rest of the guests at the table, and walked away. When I came back to the table, my guest was hangry. So so mad. He began yelling a string of sentences at me, one of which being, “How am I supposed to eat my f*&%ing steak without my f@#$ing silverware?!?”
Uhhhhhh. I had some suggestions for him. None of which would’ve gone over very well.
I didn’t say a word. Turned on my heel, and headed for a manager.
My perspective: the obvious. What an idiot. Out of control. Jerk. Get a clue. Just ask nicely for your silverware, sir.
His perspective: I have no idea. I think alcohol may have played a small role in part of it. But, who knows. Maybe he was tired of being disrespected. Maybe he felt like nobody ever saw him. Like nobody cared. Maybe he was tired of the umpteenth person in this world not being able to do their job. Maybe he really was just a little hangry and all he wanted to do was eat a good meal with his friends in peace after a hard day’s work. But, I’m sure he had a perspective. Right, wrong, or indifferent.
Situation #3: I’m on a walk with my girlfriends, while pushing our babies in strollers. There were so many of us that we decided the road would be a better place for us to walk than the sidewalk. Well, we could have never guessed what was about to happen next. Here comes an 80-year-old man cruising down this back street, and as he drew closer to us, we saw he was holding up his arm to show us something. It was his middle finger. It was a looooong, drawn out middle finger too, by the way. He was M-A-D that he had to go three feet out of his way! He started showing us his middle finger through his front windshield, and as he passed, rotated his shoulders and arm, finger a blazin, so we could get a clear view the whole while he passed. We got the point. I can still see it. My girlfriends and I got a big kick out of his spunk. As I write this, it still gets me to giggling.
Our perspective: Why in the world is he getting so upset that a bunch of girls are walking their babies a little too far into the road? A back road nonetheless. A road that maybe one car goes down every 10 minutes. Slow down old man, take it easy! Just swerve a little bit into the center of the road and it will be fine. There are zero cars on this road.
His perspective: Why can’t these young girls just get over on the sidewalk and use it like it is intended to be used? Don’t they have any respect for drivers? Why must they spread out into the street and put me and other cars, their babies and themselves in danger?
So, who is right? I bet 6 of you would say one way, and a half dozen would say the other.
Some of you would look at all three of those situations and say, “Yeah. Laura messed up on every single one of those situations. She deserved what she got. She screwed up. Who couldn’t see that?”
Well, if you asked me that question right after each of those situations, I would say, “me”. I couldn’t see that.
After every single one of those situations, I was deeply hurt, offended, and taken a back. I could only see my perspective. I was blinded to the other side.
But, if I detach myself from the situation, change my perspective, and make it not about me, I could see how the men in each situation could be provoked by my behavior. They may not have responded in the best, most responsible ways, but maybe I should show grace and forgive them for the way that they responded to me, the way I wish they would have given me grace in response to my offense to them.
Wouldn’t it be a beautiful sight if we could slow down a little bit in this crazy life and process each situation that upsets us from a different vantage point? If we could change our perspective to see it from the opposite person’s eyes?
Changing our perspective to see things the way others see them is so critical in understanding each other. That may seem like such an obvious, simple statement. But, it’s not always easy.
I remember many years ago I was having a “disagreement” with my husband and I was rattling off statement after statement, point after point; I was really getting after my argument. I was determined to be right and I wanted desperately for him to be persuaded. He just stood there. Staring at me. Not saying a word. The more he didn’t talk, the more I did, and the angrier and more irritated I became.
Didn’t he have a thought? Didn’t he care enough to talk to me and share his feelings? I had had enough of his silence. So, I finally took a breath and asked him…”Why aren’t you talking? Don’t you have any thoughts?!?”
He just looked at me calmly and said, “Honey, if I were to say all the things that came to my mind, we would be divorced.”
Well now! Forget the police officer…how was that for a smack back into reality?
At first I was greatly offended, but after thinking about it (and throwing an emotional temper tantrum), and changing my perspective, I felt loved. I DO act crazy sometimes. And instead of him telling me how crazy I am acting, he chooses to stand there quietly. Don’t get me wrong, he calls me out on plenty of things. His point is, he loves me enough to wait. He sometimes needs time to process his thoughts, to think about how to frame his words so he doesn’t upset me further. To evaluate the situation. To pray about his answer. He is full of self-control and loaded with love for me. Him standing there quietly does not translate into him being an idiot. He is one of the most intelligent men I know. Him standing there quietly equals love.
I have learned from him over the years to process my thoughts before sharing every single idea as it spontaneously flies into my head. And, after living with him enough years, I have come to the realization that for every one of his faults, I’m pretty sure I have ten more. But, he shows me grace, I show him respect, and he shows me love.
My husband, like many husbands, is all for me. He roots for me. He asks me my thoughts on situations. He wants to do life with me. He values me. Just like God intended for Adam and Eve to be in the garden together, hand in hand, side by side.
But, I feel like our culture is missing that these days.
We tend, as a culture, to veer from one side of the tracks to the other, and back over to the original side again, instead of simply staying the course. Men, for many years, have treated women poorly and unfairly in our nation’s history, and now, in our current day, women are gaining tremendous power and authority in our culture, and swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction. Women are now shouting from the rooftops that men “deserve” all they have coming to them. They deserve to “pay” for all the sins “they” have committed over time. They deserve the pain they are experiencing. Men deserve to suffer! And many women are taking whatever measure necessary to see this “punishment” take place.
Degrading men in order to put women on top isn’t right. It’s the same to me as school bullying. Making a man look like an idiot in order for a woman to look smart is the equivalent of tripping someone in the next lane to win the race.
I want women to run the race that they’re supposed to run–full go, eyes focused on the finish line, not worried about who is in the next lane. I want each woman to earn her medal fair and square without taking the time to turn to her right and shin slide the man in the adjacent lane with her spikes. Nonsense ladies.
We’re meant to run this race together, men and women.
We can be awesome and amazing females without undermining the integrity of the males running beside us. Lift your head up, stretch your legs out, and run the dang thing.
Women are strong and courageous, capable of changing the world. Be like Mother Teresa, go home, and love the crap out of your family. And in case you’ve forgotten, your man is your family too. And he’s very necessary.
Change your perspective. Renew your mind. Look for the good.
I hand-painted this image of a man and a woman on a 20×20 canvas, and I would like to give it away to one of my readers. These signs look adorable in the bathroom (I have one in mine). It is made to look like an old sign, so if the “vintage look” is your thing, please enter the fun! If “vintage” isn’t your look, you can still enter the contest, and feel free to give it away.
In order to be entered in the giveaway, simply comment in the box below (on THIS blog post, NOT on Facebook, because I can’t see all of the comments on Facebook) this post with the words, “I will look for the good”, -OR- “I will speak life” -OR- “I will change my perspective”. -OR- “I will renew my mind”. I will have my girls choose a random winner by the end of the week. I will even pay to have it shipped, so anyone can enter. I just want to know that ladies feel challenged to speak life and look for the good. I encourage you to start a ripple effect with your words and actions.
*****UPDATE****** Gloria won the giveaway. If you want to stay up-to-date on future giveaways, sign up for our newsletter. Thank you to everyone who participated.
Thanks so much for reading.
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