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a personal hello from lauren + your update on the good women project

dear friends,

would you take a moment with me for an imagination exercise? (my favorite.)

close your eyes – go back in time to last summer. walk around your bedroom, look across your countertops, thumb through your journals, think over your to-do list, remember the joy and struggle and growing pains you felt. think about the way you perceived yourself, your body, your closet, your abilities and lack there of. how you perceived your significant other or the fact that there was not one to be had. listen to the old voices, feel the old feelings. feel the old fears, the old highs, the old hopes and the old dreams.

dig for the questions you were asking yourself and focus – now – on all the answers you’ve found in the past year. the answers you sought in desperation or in apathy and have been answered by the grace of your resilient soul, by human beings around you, the divinely inspired, or simply by the gift of time.

breathe deeply as you walk forward through the year — every season, until this very moment.

here you sit. deep breath, feel it from your lovely neck down to your sexy butt.

here you sit in newness – in Moreness – in a different sort of wholeness, with a different set of questions and answers you are seeking. here you sit, grateful for the answers and community you found and grateful for the unanswered questions and friends you let go of, realizing they were not what you truly wanted or needed.

growth is beautiful. progress is our gift. aging is a miracle.

and there is an art to noticing it.

as time moves forwards, propelling us into our future selves, the world around us moves at different paces: places we call home become far off as they move too slowly, slowly, slowly for us. friends move ahead as we realize i am not there yet. we choose and leave people, places, things, beliefs — we are souls in motion colliding with a universe in motion, attaching and detaching ourselves to what is beautiful and true and releasing what is no longer ours when the time comes.

it is beautiful. it is a gift. it is a miracle. it stretches us, comforts us, expands us.

the good women project has been a gift to me.

a beautiful miracle that stretched, comforted, and expanded (did you know?) tens of thousands of women across the world – including my small self as i moved from city to city, singleness to relationship to marriage, family to family, home to home in the past three years.

a year ago, however, my heart said no. halt. stop. red flags raised, warning bells rang, and confusion reigned for a few months as i struggled to understand the glorious community of women that had been created and my place in it. my place no longer felt safe, true, or authentic to me – and as someone who has ended many chapters in her life abruptly and deathly afraid to do harm to others from a religiously-oriented platform, i chose to end a chapter swiftly and flee to safety.

(also worth saying that i’ve learned to listen when my heart screams — it knows things before my mind does, and it protects me.)

my exit from the good women project was never explained, in part because i still do not consider myself to have exited nor has there been the decision to end it permanently. so many women in this community are my home, my friends, and a manifestation everything i have desired for my life. i am still so passionate about the space i set out to create, and i have never let go of that dream.

i want to pen this letter in raw honesty: my departure was exactly what i needed, and this year has proven to be a re-birth into true-er things. the sudden halt of the GWP, though, was unfair to each of you, left many feeling alone, and i want to offer a sincere apology to you. i buckled under the projected weight of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ — a catchphrase i no longer agree with. i choose instead: “influence of any kind demands great humility.”

i am a facilitator, not a teacher. i create space for recovery, the sacred, and where women feel such safety that they can suspend their disbelief long enough to feel what their heart is demanding to be felt. for others to join them there.

the space created at good women project, i believe, was done so very successfully by the passion and partnership of hundreds of amazing women around the world. the Achilles’ heel of large numbers, however, is the expectation for the facilitator(s) to become the teacher(s).

i have said it a thousand times and i will say it until the cows come home (one day i’ll have ‘em): platforms and pedestals be damned.

to continue my honesty: i still do not have clarity on the future of the good women project. i am confident that it will return, but the time is not yet. perhaps soon, but not quite yet.

what now?

several of you know i grew up in a very conservative, fundamentalist home where words like happiness, passion, self, heart, and desire were not allowed to be used. that happiness is shallow, that the heart is deceitful, that desire is selfish and flesh-ly. (you can explore more of that here: learning how to desire.)

i and many other women within the GWP have shared the effect that these beliefs in their extreme had on us: depression, denial of pain, fear of sex (even in marriage), fear of being beautiful, anxiety, difficulty being honest in friendships, not knowing what career to pursue because we never thought of ourselves, gaining or losing drastic amounts of weight, not knowing or trusting in the importance of self care, remaining in dysfunctional or even abusive relationships, and so much more.

a large portion of the good women project has been dedicated to learning to know ourselves and to not fear who we are. this pursuit has always been in conjunction with my own pursuit of spiritual and self recovery. you were a gift to me. thank you.

one of the greatest lessons i’ve learned in my pursuit of recovery is that there is much good and much health in many places we are unaccustomed to visiting:

other cultures, other spiritual practices (HELLO. meditation = prayer = meditation = i’ve been meditating my whole life and was terrified of it?), yoga teachers, self help books, secular therapists, strangers on the street, fictional novels, science, and even occasionally in woo-woo new age-y insights.

fear enters when we believe we are not in control of our own decisions, beliefs, and body. fear is natural when your subconscious does not trust that you can change your mind, walk away, or choose differently at any moment. in my experience, most of us have lived lives where we felt utterly out of control for many years at a time.

which brings me to the most recent powerful experience i have walked through in my pursuit of spiritual and self recovery that i am really excited to share…

…pretty much like little kid level excited: the desire map.

the book is half theory and half workbook, and it is a series of questions and insights that help you dig through the english language to discover what feelings you desire over others, and then to integrate them into your daily life.

different people use it for different things, but my metamorphosis took place in the process of searching for what i desired, searching to know myself, searching for i wanted to feel. digging through what i was most grateful for, and what really wasn’t working. it’s always the search.

when i first began, it felt dangerous. but feelings can’t guide us. but feelings change. but emotions are not to be trusted. but we want bad things. but self = selfish.* it triggered every fear i was raised to possess.

i thought making my desires + feelings a priority for a month would take me to a dangerous place, but it turns out that it brought me home.

i’m getting naked here by doing this, but i will share mine: i desire to be rooted. (in community, in self, in my marriage, in my home.) i desire to be wild. (my free self, my true self, my innocent-self-awed-by-nature self, my push-the-envelope and be magically sensual and sexy). i desire to be electric. (a person who moves, changes, pursues, reflects light). i desire ease. (grace first. trust that i will be led home. trust that i have already arrived. ease i feel when i eat well, exercise, love others. ease when i let go of anxiety + practice gratitude). i desire to be generative. (creative, a gardener, a grow-er, a nurturer, someone who expands).

not one of my desires led me astray, and after answering a hundred questions in the desire map workbook that no one had ever asked me about myself, i am more light. more free. more lauren. joyful, healthy, secure.

for now, my space has transitioned to leading women through the desire map through book clubs, workshops, and hopefully soon, one-on-one coaching.

the last honesty-bullet: i have been worried to share in THIS space what i have been pursuing in my personal space (my own blog, my website, twitter, my daily life) because of the waves of misunderstanding, disappointment, and accusations that i received during the two years of facilitating the GWP.

it is difficult to share – but here we all are, in our piles of “i know this, i don’t know that, and maybe we’ll never know this.” here we are in our experiments, our unanswered questions, and some fairy dust, rocketship answers we’ve just received in the depths of our soul.

to end, because this is forever already — GWP will return one day, and everything will remain online, so it can continue to be shared by you. when the time is right and the clarity for next steps appears, you will be the first to know.

i wish all of you the absolute BEST BEST BEST until i see you in this particular space again, and if you’d like to join me on my personal journey, feel free to add yourself to my little email list here (you can choose what you wanna get updates on, or just the GWP) or if you’re in LA, attend my desire map workshop next month. maybe i’ll do a virtual workshop soon or host an in-person workshop in some other big yummy cities in 2015. <3

thank you for reading the letters of my heart. stay true, stay raw, and stay the course of becoming More.

FOREVER LOVE.

- lauren xo

 

ps. a few relief thoughts:

definition of selfish: a lack of consideration for others.
NOT: a consideration for yourself.

second thought…

if you are a christian who adheres to traditional christian theology, the only place you have to fear is the place that promises you the salvation of your eternal soul through a person/practice other than jesus christ.

weight off your shoulders, women. be free.


< < < only in case you are extra interested. :) I've written about The Desire Map a bit on my blog if you want to go dig around. The first post I wrote was Learning How To Desire, and I also wrote on discovering that my emotional vocabulary was stunted. Here are some soul awakenings that came from the process and my most recent blog post announcing that I am hosting one of the first workshops ever in partnership with Danielle LaPorte. : )

a note on spiritual recovery:

recovery is an area of great depth and width. some of us are familiar with “post traumatic spiritual disorder,” which is a variation of traditional Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), developed by enduring emotional or physical abuse that was justified by spiritual or religious reasons by the inflictor, church, family, organization, etc. abuse is a polarizing word because it evokes such extreme visuals, and spiritual recovery to many simply means the intentional journey of pursuing new, healthy spiritual practices and purifying our beliefs from cultural/religious standards that have done us harm or caused us pain. spiritual recovery carries a different meaning for many people, and also is (in my opinion) a very important part of everyone’s life, despite their religious upbringing. if spiritual abuse is a new term for you and you suspect you may have endured it, do some googling and learn a bit more about it. find a community. there are several amazing groups out there.

 

 

When We Marry The Wrong Person: Love and Divorce.

Editor’s Note: When I came up with the idea for Good Women Project when I was 23, this is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to read. This is all the ‘stuff’ about love and dating and marriage and divorce that we don’t get to see unless we live it, or unless someone bares their soul and lets us into their inside life. Today’s story is by Tracy Wells. She blogs at theroadtobeautiful.com and tweets at @roadtobeautiful. – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Love is enough… Love conquers all…

My young heart took these statements into my marriage and lugged them around for 22 years. I knew before I ever said, “I do” that God was saying, “Don’t.” But I married anyway, and I paid a heavy price.

The first four years of marriage were blissful, and then it started. The cycle was always the same – he would accuse, I would cry, I would reason, we would talk, he would apologize – I’m so sorry. I know you’ve never cheated on me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me – and I would forgive. Over and over for 18 years my husband accused me of having multiple affairs. With every painful accusation, every cutting look, through each hellish argument I told myself, it will be okay because we love each other. I didn’t see that things weren’t even close to being okay.

I soon understood why God had said, “Don’t.”

I still remember the first accusation; I was shocked, blindsided, dumbfounded. I didn’t even know how to react. An affair?! Me?! I had never even had any offers or an inappropriate conversation with another man. I was never unfaithful, but that didn’t matter. My husband was my accuser. He was the source of my pain and my comfort. He was my best friend and my worst enemy.

Bad was mingled with good, hurt intertwined with love.

Years went by, our children came and grew and life seemed normal. But normal in my marriage wasn’t normal at all. My husband never laid a hand on me, but I was terrified of him. His words and eyes cut me deeper and did more damage than his fists ever could have. Physical wounds would have healed much sooner than the gaping cuts my heart walked around with. Maybe if he could have seen that I was battered and bleeding inside, he wouldn’t have repeatedly demanded that I “just get over it.”

Even when things were great between us, I was acutely aware that it all could go south in a heartbeat. I walked on eggshells all day, every day. The ache in my heart was constant. I cried more than I care to remember. All I had ever wanted out of life was to be married and have kids. I used to think, I guess I got my wish, but this is not what I had in mind.

On the outside, my marriage looked fine.

My kids were happy, and I was smiling. I wanted to be okay, so I acted like I was okay. Only God knew I was going through hell. No one at church knew, not even my family. I was completely isolated. I was a genius at covering up my pain. Survival mode said, “Preserve the marriage; protect the kids,” and I did.

I was then and am now deeply in love with Jesus. I love my kids dearly. They’re so great, and I love being a mom. I loved being married in spite of the junk. I was happy in spite of living in fear every day. I was full of joy and yet hopelessly sad. I didn’t want a divorce, I only wanted my husband to stop treating me so terribly. I wanted him to trust me. I wanted him to believe in me. To see into my heart and know that I truly loved him. To know that all my heart was for my family.

I was desperate for him to know, once and for all, that the affairs he imagined in his mind never happened, and that his suspicions were unwarranted. I wanted him to stop taking back his apology with the next accusation. I wanted him to be the good man that I knew he could be.

I told myself the same things that I’m sure most do, “But we’re Christians. If I pray enough, hope enough, believe enough…I know God can fix this. Divorce is not the plan!

And divorce is never the plan.

I know that God can fix a troubled marriage and that nothing is too hard for Him. I know He is the Great Physician and healer of all hurt. I know of His life-changing power. This knowledge kept me going, gave me hope and kept me sane. God will not, however, force someone to change.

I remember the day this realization hit me like a truck. If a person isn’t willing to change, change will not happen. No matter how much I prayed for God to change my husband, to change me, or how much I tried to adapt to this ever-changing/always-the-same situation, it was never enough. I told myself, If my words, expressions and actions are just right, he won’t suspect me of having an affair. If I just try to be the perfect wife, maybe then he will see that I really do love him. But no matter what I did, nothing changed. It never dawned on me that I was in an abusive relationship. My every move was controlled, and I didn’t even realize it.

The abuse escalated during the last three years of the marriage. The accusations became more disgusting, more harsh and more frequent. His words and eyes grew more violent. No one has ever looked at me or spoken to me with more contempt than my husband. My husband – the one who promised before God to cherish and protect me. The one who should know me better than anyone. How could he hate me so much one minute and love me so much the next?

I prayed repeatedly, How much of this do I have to take?! When will things change?! Each time I heard God softly tell me to stay. To this day I don’t know why, but I knew I couldn’t leave him. God didn’t remove me from the situation when I would have chosen, but He sustained me. He was so faithful to hold me and wipe my tears. Every. Time. Never. Failing.

And then one day, out of the blue, God said, “It’s time.”

I didn’t have to ask, “Time for what?” He didn’t have to tell me twice. I knew exactly what He meant, and I ran. I ran and didn’t look back. Some may argue that God would never tell a person to leave a marriage, but I have no doubt that had I stayed, the abuse would have become physical. I believe God rescued me that day.

I literally felt like I had been let out of a cage. I felt so free and yet so afraid! The thought of being a single mom kind of terrified me, and I was so concerned about my kids. Accusations continued to fly, and no matter what I did to protect my children and their ears, they were not to be immune from the lies. But a full year before the day of my escape, God had spoken to me very clearly. He said, “Don’t worry about your kids; I’ve got them. I love them more than you do.” Little did I know then how much those words would impact my life. I have clutched them so tightly, and they have brought me great peace.

I would love to tell you that my husband changed. I would love to tell you that we worked things out and my marriage was saved. But that is not the case. I learned some hard lessons when I disobeyed God all those years ago when I married him.

I learned that love does not conquer all. I learned that love is not enough.

Love does not always ‘fix.’

I said earlier that no matter what I did, nothing changed. That’s not entirely true. I changed.

God took my disobedience and exchanged it for priceless truth. He taught me how to run to Him, and every time He met me with strength and wisdom that I did not possess on my own. I learned how to pray and trust on an entirely different level. I learned that real worship doesn’t just happen on a warm and fuzzy Sunday morning. Real worship happens when you remain faithful in the trenches day after day even though your life is falling apart around you. I learned what it means to be truly happy despite your circumstances.

Real joy comes from God alone and cannot be taken from you when life gets hard. Little by little, year after year, through stubborn determination, I learned. I learned what real love is. You see, the truth is, I did have a love affair. I fell so desperately in love with God during those awful years, and that is how I survived. I had no one else to turn to. God was all I had, and I learned that He is all I need.

I learned that His love conquers all, and that His love is enough.

I disobeyed God and walked willingly into a situation with an outcome I could never have foreseen. But God, in His grace and mercy, didn’t abandon me. He followed me. He took my hand and walked with me on my journey, even though it was not His plan. He protected me and comforted me.

He never once said, “I told you so.”

He never once – not one time – left my side. He has never condemned me. He is gentle in His correction and passionate in His love for me.

I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4)

I am not advocating divorce. I hope that is not what you take from my story. I want to impress upon you the unconditional love of a God who passionately pursues us. A God who redeems all of our mistakes. A God who runs after us into our storm with an umbrella and an anchor. He is our refuge and our strength (Psalm 46:1). God is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer (Psalm 18:2). He will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) even in our disobedience.

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)

Three years have passed since God brought me out of that situation. He has taken me on a journey of healing that has been so amazing. I no longer live in fear or feel the incredible pain that was my constant companion for nearly my entire adult life. He has put my heart back together, replacing the missing pieces with pieces of His own heart. He has wiped away my regrets and my shame along with my tears. He is my perfect husband who knows me better than anyone. He cherishes me and protects me, and I am precious to Him. He speaks only words of life, and if I could see His eyes, I know they would be filled, not with hatred or contempt, but with great love. He is the forever faithful love of my life. I know this today more than ever before.

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I hope that you feel the love of God today and every day no matter where you are in life or what you are going through. In gain and lack, in peace and turmoil, in hope and despair, God is a good God. He loves you unconditionally. This is my prayer for you always.

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your heart as you trust in Him. That your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

My Mother Committed Suicide: Thoughts On Grief

Editor’s Note: Today’s brave post is by Kalie Wolfinger. She writes at www.kaliedub.com and you can see her lovely photography at kaliedubphotography. I’ve just realized we’ve spoken little about grief here, so if you have words to share, please feel free to link to them in our comments so we can carry each other through these things. Much love. – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Has a friend ever left a cute piece of clothing at your house and you intentionally don’t tell them they forgot it? I’ve done it. My favorite black sweater was left in my car during the madness of my wedding week and I have no idea whose it is, but I didn’t bother asking either.

In 2008, halfway through my sophomore year of college, 4 days before Christmas, my mom took her own life.

After months of struggling with pre-menopausal hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and a variety of medications it came to a peak. This moment changed everything for me. I’ve spent years dancing around how to talk, write, and think about it; not for myself, but because of how it affects others.

I second guess everything I say for the slight chance it might offend my dad…or my brother..or my sister. I don’t want to share about the grace and lessons on joy I have seen through these circumstances out of fear that I will hurt someone close to me. It’s incredibly painful to voice that there was some redemption and grace out of such a horrific situation.

About a month after my mom died, a close friend lent me a book by Jerry Sittser called A Grace Disguised.

Grief is a tormenting rollercoaster. A rollercoaster in the dark leading wherever it pleases without any indication of the next twist and turn.

I pinpoint this book as an upswing in my rollercoaster of grief. It pulled me along and brought glimpses of clarity and peace through my journey.

The book more or less outlines the journey of grief after the loss of the author’s mother, wife, and daughter in the same car crash. Although it specifically hits home for me as it talks about death, Sittser also points out that all loss is loss and inevitably occurs in all of our lives. Terminal illness, disability, divorce, rape, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, chronic unemployment, crushing disappointment, mental illness, and death. He talks about how we want to quantify and compare loss and suffering, but “Each loss stands on its own and inflicts a unique kind of pain. What makes each loss so catastrophic is its devastating, cumulative, and irreversible nature.”

As I was reading the book the second time around this quote pulled on my heart strings different than the first time:

“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”

Everyone has something. Some covered up aspect of your past or present that’s a lot easier not to deal with or not allow yourself to think about. It’s easier to ignore the deep, dark fragments of life rather than allow yourself to process, experience the full range of emotions, and heal. I don’t think this decision is usually made consciously, but subconsciously as a defense mechanism.

We have to CHOOSE to plunge into the darkness and do the dirty work, but in the end being transformed by our suffering gives us a small glimpse of grace.

I am coming up on four years since my mom’s death and my own glimpses of grace have turned into days, windows, and floodings of grace.

As the carpet was ripped out from under me was when I truly learned the meaning of joy; joy that is not dependent on any circumstance or situation, but solely on the grace of Jesus Christ and the hope found in Him, that whatever you are going through right now…this isn’t it. This isn’t the end of your story.

There is so much more than what we see. Committing to do the work and run into the darkness takes courage. It requires a trust that believes somewhere in the darkness God will show up; that we won’t journey through the tunnel alone. It trusts that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

A Letter To All The Teenage Girls: You’re Awesome And This Is Why.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by yours truly! I have something very close to my heart that I wanted to share with you today. So here it is. If you do want to follow my personal blog or twitter, they are laurennicolelove.com/blog and @laurendubinsky! xoxo – lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Dear teenage girl:

I want to take a minute to write down some words for you, because I feel like it’s really important that someone says these things.

In the grown up world, “teenage girls” are kind of a lame stereotype, and I want to say that I’m sorry. You seem to be a demographic that is written off as silly, fickle, short-sighted, simplistic, shallow, and desperate. No one seems to respect you very much.

I often hear men (and even women) refer to you in an offhanded manner as if you’re the easiest group to manipulate, to sell to, to convince of things, to understand, and to predict.

This makes me incredibly sad because half of planet earth has been a teenage girl at some point, or currently is one, or will soon be one. And the other half? The other half either has or will desire you.

To joke about and put down “the teenage girls” is to put ourselves down. Somewhere along the way, we’ve either been one, or we’ve wanted nothing more than to love and kiss one.

There is no way to talk poorly of teenage girls without talking poorly about ourselves, and hurting those around us.

I wish I could make everybody stop it, but I can’t. But what I can do is write what I know to be true about teenage girls.

I know that we are more passionate than any other group of people I’ve ever found.

I know that we are capable of great depths of insight, able to give and receive wisdom.

I know that we are extremely joyful, and also have an impressive understanding of grief – which gives birth to one of the Universe’s most glorious things: Empathy.

I know that we are intelligent, and that learning is easy for us.

I know that we are capable of autonomous, individual opinions and decisions.

I know that we create better art than pretty much anyone else.

I know that the words we write are more true to our souls at this age than at any other age; that honesty comes naturally to us.

I know that we carry a great burden of being both adult and child at the same time, which gives us a view of the world that no one else has.

I know that we see beauty where no one else sees it, which is possibly the most honorable attribute a person can have.

I know that we have the innate resilience to overcome family trauma and dysfunction, and that at any given moment, every single teenage girl is wrestling through intimate struggles caused by someone in her family – and yet she rises to be present at work, at school, at play.

I know that our capacity for hope, for love, for art, for creativity, and for Becoming Better and More is unstoppable.

I know that we aren’t “exactly like” all the other teenage girls we know, because we are all fantastically unique, and that’s also why we love one another so much and can produce such awesome things.

I know that our bullshit detector is solid.

I know that we know when glamour starts and when it stops, and that even though it may look otherwise, we don’t give it more credit than it deserves.

I know that we aren’t crazy, and that we actually balance logic and emotion pretty well.

And I also know that we are capable of just as much positive change, beneficial passion, and enthusiastic love as any other male or female human being around us.

I wish I could tell you that the world will suddenly have a better opinion on teenage girls tomorrow when you wake up, but they probably won’t. I’m not terribly worried about it though, because I know what most people don’t: We are stupid amounts of strong, and already have years of experience to sticking to our guns when siblings, acquaintances, teachers, students, parents, relatives, and the majority of mass media are at our backs.

So, a love, a kiss, and a lot of badass glitter to each and every one of you. Carry on with your magnificent life. You deserve respect and admiration, and you’ve got mine.

Love,

A 25 year old girl who still feels like a teenager

10 Lies We Believe About Interacting With The Opposite Sex

Editor’s Note: Today’s kickbutt post is by Courtney Gabrielson, a senior at Davidson College. She tweets at @cogabrielson and blogs at cogabrielson.wordpress.com. With that, HERE IS THE AWESOME. – Lauren

Truth: I am nearly 22 years old. I have never had a boyfriend – serious or otherwise – and have only been on two casual dates, one of which was my high school prom. For a long time I thought it was my problem. I seemed too awkward, too fat, too incapable and uninteresting. So I dieted, learned how to ask people questions, did a lot of social things that felt risky and uncomfortable so as to strengthen my latent relational muscle.

And nothing happened. Still. Nothing’s happened. And perhaps it continues to be my problem. Perhaps, being a member of Generation MTV, brought up with Disney and Barbie’s Dreamhouse, I am a dysfunctional customer of a culture that sold me a hyper-romantic myth of what relationships look like: sex sex sex or Kleinfelds. I do watch a lot of movies.

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve done my research. I’m convinced there is a big glob of lies that stand between women and men, keeping us from truly understanding one another, and messing up what should be relatively simple interactions.

I think that there is something wrong about the fact that girls feel guilty for wanting to be asked to formals; that come Friday night the same ladies are left lonely; that the majority of conversations women have with men are driven and instigated by those women; that at college breakfasts after church, the genders part much like the Red Sea.

It’s dumb and I hate it, and I think we need to get real. So, I want to take a few moments of your time, patient reader, to break down the lies I see from my perspective. Here I go.

Lie #1: “Let’s get lunch” = “let’s reproduce one day!”

I dislike the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” in much the same way that I abhor the phrase “intentional dating.” Their continual use in Christian culture has programmed everyone to think all women want is marriage, and that until mens’ desires finally catch up, there is absolutely no point in interacting with women beyond a casual, “how are you?”

The collateral damage of this lie has been staggering. I feel as though I am surrounded by guys that are, for the most part, scared of having mature, one-on-one conversations with other women. In the same vein, I feel as though I am surrounded by girls (myself included) who are constantly fighting a battle against discontentment and self-consciousness, wondering when it’ll be their turn to feel noticed. (And since it hasn’t happened yet, what’s wrong with us?!)

Furthermore, the sexual tension that pervades even the simplest campus ministry meeting is a pungent and thick as smoke. I can’t help but think that these problems wouldn’t be problems if we were okay with casual mingling.

Gentlemen, it’s what girls want to do. Hang out! Go to the movies. Dance at the Court. Laugh over chicken parm at Commons. Get pretty for you because frankly we think you’re cute! Ultimately, we just want to get to know you beyond the fact that you’re a Christian and a male. Contrary to popular belief, as much as we may want to get married eventually, no one is really truly biting at the bit to do it now. After all, we have to get into grad school and write a thesis and do everything else that we do. When we say “let’s get lunch,” that’s really all we mean.

Lie #2: Just because us ladies are slightly more assertive these days, it must mean that we want to be treated like robots.

Go my gender. We can vote, we can have jobs, we can be President. Yaaaaaaaay us. Why does this scare you? A lot of us still believe that women are programmed to be pursued by men [translated: We like when you initiate things]. The ball is in your court! We can be patient, but take note: we won’t wait forever. “Mario Kart” will not be going anywhere, but this girl and many others like her will if you don’t speak up. With words.

Lie #3: Being friendly equals “leading us on.” Therefore, in the interest of protecting us from thinking you want to pursue us romantically, acknowledge us as little as possible.

It’s sweet that you’re trying to guard our hearts. Really. But much like we can’t own your libido when we dress, you can’t own our emotions when you engage us in conversation. So, engage us in conversation. I don’t get why guys think it’s okay to be rude and standoffish during social occasions. It sucks to be ignored! Pleasantries are pleasant! Say hello when we’re standing three feet away from you; chat about the weather, ask about classes, work, whatever – we’re friends, so let’s act like it. Believe it or not, we are not 12 year-old-girls at a 6th grade dance; if you acknowledge us in public, we will not be writing our first names with y’all’s surnames in Hello Kitty journals after recess.

Lie #4: Dates mean high costs and expectations.

Do I have standards for a guy? Yes. But if we’re just getting to know each other, I’m not expecting an all-expense trip to Santorini here, nor Pride and Prejudice theatrics. Let’s just chat! Laugh. I might even split the check. If conversation makes you nervous, let’s ease into it by going to a movie. No. Pressure.

Lie #5: It’s okay that we don’t socialize or interact with the opposite sex, because my spouse will fall out of the sky.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I have struggled for a long time with a false sense of introvertism (is this a word?). But God got my attention. How? Because He reminded me with that I cannot love Him well in a vacuum.

Do I believe that God has someone planned for me? Yes. But do I believe that the TV will turn on by itself? Nope. I have to get up and turn it on. In the same vein, I’ve got to meet Jesus [and people] halfway! I need to develop the characteristics of the woman who will one day be a good wife. And how do I do that? By meeting people, interacting with people, serving people. I’ve got to leave my dorm room occasionally. When Jesus said, “go out and make disciples of all men,” he didn’t indicate that we were to Facebook stalk them into submission, but instead to go out. One cannot say “I’m focusing on my relationship with Christ right now!” and then go into a hole. We are a social creations, of whom God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

This means that the sexes will have to mingle if we are to be a functioning, vibrant, Jesus-centered community. We might as well enjoy each others’ company! Does that mean that we are to serial-date and turn into some absurd lady killer or Scarlett woman? Nah. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Conversely, I think a lot of us are waiting for it to rain when God’s saying, “I invented hoses for a reason!” Check out Acts 1:11: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” We are constantly called to action, to do things that make us uncomfortable so that we grow.

Lie #6: My decision to ignore the opposite sex doesn’t hurt anyone.

False. Do you know how many crying-conversations I’ve been a part of because of the passivity and indecision of Christian men?

This is best evidenced by a conversation I had about dating with a guy friend of mine. I discussed how a lot of girls are frustrated with the disinterest of the great guys around them, and they are caught in a spiral of self-doubt. Guy doesn’t ask me out, there’s something wrong with me, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not skanky enough, I need to change, or be more aggressive. This is coming from girls who love Jesus and are otherwise incredibly confident. This was/is me! My friend was astonished that the non-initiative of Christian men was causing a loss of confidence in these awesome girls, which sucks, because men SEE the loss of confidence, and then don’t like it!

Lie #7: Women just want romance and have a minimal sex drive.

We are sexual creatures and have sexual desires. All of us. While I acknowledge that men may be wired in different ways, it’s frustrating and disillusioning to suppose that guys are alone in the fight against lust, fantasies, the objectification of the opposite sex, and pure thoughts on the beach. I and many women like me experience these things, too.

Lie #8: I don’t need to interact with real women, because porn is more interesting, or safer. I don’t have to try, and there are no strings attached.

I would wager that if men and women spent more time interacting in a low-pressure environment with the opposite sex, the desire to rely on pornography as a source of relief would decrease. Is it a scientific fact? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. But from my perspective, it seems as though we’re getting more and more uncomfortable with each other while the percentage of pornography users in the Church grows. This problem is an essay for another day, but essentially, porn is crippling men and women, stunting their relational abilities while placing incredible pressures on the opposite sex.

Lie #9: Non-Christian girls have a more low-key approach to relationships, so it’s a good idea to pursue them instead of the Christian crazies who want to marry me after the first date.

No. No no no. This one makes me mad. Why? Because I’ve lived it. I’ve faced the judgment of high-and-mighty brothers in Christ, who made me feel like crap because my evangelistic strategies were not as militant as theirs, because I liked to wear bikinis in the summer, and because I thought their concepts of submission were delusional. Yet the girls they dated were the girls we “good Christian girls” were to never act like. Double standard?

This is not a judgment call on any women, nor is it saying I am a saint. It’s just a call for consistency between words and actions of Christian guys.

Lie #10: Submission is a divine right that all men receive from their ladies, either girlfriends or wife.

Submission is a good thing. But when Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands in Ephesians 5, he states that men are supposed to love their wives as Jesus loved everyone. That’s incredible love!

I will most certainly submit to my husband – I’ll make him sandwiches everyday for the rest of his life if it’ll make him happy – but this will be after he’s proven to me he tries to love me unconditionally. If not? Well, then have a nice day. I won’t be marrying you and we won’t have any issues.

Some people see this verse as a mandate used to justify misogyny in all types of male-female relationships. Submission should never be used as tool for enslavement. Paul uses states submission is for “husbands and wives.” Not boyfriends and girlfriends. Not friends. It comes with marriage.

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Guys: The awesome girls around you are sick and tired of this relational confusion. We want to be your friends! We want to get to know you! We want to spend time with you! Zetus lepidus, we want to encourage you! Show us how to do this. Meet us halfway. Stop being scared or indecisive or lazy or whatever it is that is holding you back from being the men we know you are capable of being.

Let’s smash the metaphorical Horcrux (he he he) and work together to achieve this goal. Ignoring us, putting off figuring out your issues, acting as though we’ll go away and re-appear when you want a wife isn’t getting anyone anywhere. May I make a suggestion for a good first step? Ask us out to lunch and we can discuss, maybe, how we can best encourage each other over some mac ‘n cheese.

xoxo,
Courtney