Tag Archives: empathy

We Kill the Weak

My recent blog post War on Children produced a conversation. Here is an excerpt from one of the commenters:

“There is no “human being” until full bilateral synchronization [of the brain]. Please understand that. Please get that straight in your head. A human being can die. Before week 28 nothing can “die.” Period. So, if you want to use language like “kill” and “murder” then you must tell me, and everyone reading this, how you can kill something that cannot die…”

The author of this position then asked repeatedly, “Tell me, how can you kill something that cannot die?” as his trump.

So the arguments are:

A fetus is not alive until 28 weeks gestational age. (It is not a human being either?)

Before “brain synchronization”, it is not living, therefore it is not something which can die.

That baby in your belly moved because it was nothing more than “electrical impulses firing, causing movement… like firing shocks through a [dead] frog’s leg.”

This blogger equated death (the cessation of life in a previously living being) with the early stages of human development. No distinction was recognized even though a fetus meets every criteria for life and humanity. Blogger also would not define the terms of the discussion, particularly regarding whether the critical question was the fetus’ life/non-life, humanity/non-humanity, or sentience/ non-sentience.

Incomplete brain development = not living yet OR not human yet = we can dispose of it and it’s a morally neutral act.

20-weeks-human-fetus3 20 week fetus

What is this position really? What are all positions which pinpoint some arbitrary criteria which allows functional human adults to excuse the termination of millions of unborn human beings?

It is discrimination imposed upon some human beings based on their incomplete development.  It is a defense of legal termination based on inability, temporary handicap, or the incomplete growth process.

It is disqualifying still-developing children for life, even though if they were left to grow (not killed), they would become fully able.

Making termination of human fetuses legal up to a certain point in their development is exactly this.

In other words, we are killing the defenseless because they are defenseless.

Abortion culture sometimes uses pre-viability as a boundary for guilt-free termination A moving goalpost if there ever was one; and since it moves as science advances, it cannot have ever been an ethically-based position.

Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 case legalizing abortion, made fetal viability an important legal concept. The Supreme Court ruled that states cannot put the interests of a fetus ahead of the interests of the pregnant woman until the fetus is “viable.” ~ Slate

But why was viability ever the benchmark anyway?

While the unborn are weakest, while they are the most defenseless and vulnerable, while they need the most nurture…that is when we allow them to be eliminated. This is the opposite of Christian ethics, or even human ethics.

We are meant to protect most exactly those who need protection most.

In God’s design, babies are helpless for at least one good reason. Their dependency is supposed to elicit an instinctual response in adults, particularly females and more particularly mothers…for protectiveness and for the desire to nurture. It’s built into us.

We were designed to be the protectors of those helpless lives. Carrying those tiny lives within our bodies is supposed elicit obvious and intuitive impulses to protect. This is not altruism; it is not extraordinary but natural.

What we see now is a whole culture of  females denying those impulses to nurture, calling those impulses oppressive and disturbed. In favor of lateral peer dependence, they will purposely make themselves cool calculators who are just fine with ending the lives of the weakest of human beings.

Our culture has chosen a position which favors self-serving and arbitrary criteria for inclusion, and death as the default for those who fail to qualify. We kill the weak.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ridicule

It’s so refreshing to hear a woman spontaneously praise her husband. That’s because it’s extremely rare. Even those women who genuinely admire their husbands feel a bit embarrassed to speak up. It’s just so counter-cultural.

I’m supposed to be a bit disapproving about some aspect of my husband’s behavior, and I’m expected to share it with a laugh or a roll of my eyes. Otherwise I’m a vapid Stepford Wife.

Our culture is saturated with this attitude. It’s even parroted in our churches. You don’t need me to rehash the many ways we belittle men in our world. Did you manage to miss the Facebook memes today about the superior intelligence of wives, or was it about the selfish stupidity of husbands? That new joke? I’m still laughing.

Actually we’ve been working on the humiliation of men for a long, long time, and the origin is infinitely more unsavory. The first set of judgments from Eden predicts that the besetting sin of womankind will be to resent the place of mankind, and particularly her own mate. To lord it over him, to choose to live in a state of conflict with him.

One of the ugliest things I have seen is a wife who ridicules her husband in front of others and passes it off as a joke. But it’s such a good joke, every single time, am I right?

Is it ever pretty when someone makes herself look good by making someone else look bad? The one-upsmanship can take many forms. It is easy for us women to manipulate before we realize what we’re doing. Do you know why it’s easy? No resistance. Because, usually, he is gracious about it. Because when you are using your power over your husband to manipulate him, you are counting on him to treat you with grace. How does it feel to use your husband’s own kindness against him?
Then there’s the compulsion, like a habit, to put him down. Sometimes it’s subtle. You may put down something he cares about, remotely, as if it’s not a personal insult. I guarantee that he knows he’s been slighted.

And then there’s the outright ridicule. It’s always so funny when a woman points out that the one person in her life whom she had the option to choose is an idiot. But I don’t understand how that makes him look bad.

A woman who makes jokes at the expense of her husband, or who eye-rolls or smirks while he’s talking, is missing something very fundamental about being in a marriage. More so if she believes she is part of a union comprised of herself, her husband, and Christ.

Ridicule is contempt. It’s betrayal. It’s embarrassing to everyone present. It puts her to shame far more than him. I don’t know what response she receives from her man, but others who hear her jibes are inwardly wincing. The person who is looking unfavorable is not the husband.

We women forget how much power we possess.

We possess the power to cultivate or to poison our own sexual relationship. How emotionally close to your husband would you feel if he made it clear to all your friends that he was embarrassed by you? Would you be able to be trusting, without barriers? It’s hard to really trust someone who hurts you. That’s rather important in sexual intimacy.

We possess the power to make or break a home.” The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1. This is exactly what a ridiculing wife is doing to her husband, her children, herself. How you value and respect your husband, or how you don’t, will become a heritage that your heirs will build upon.

We have the power to make or break our society. Ladies, we set the tone, we drive the future. We rock the cradle; we teach the next generation more important things than potty-training, manners, math and reading. We teach them how to navigate and cultivate relationships, how to navigate adulthood in a hostile environment, how to become responsible adults.

Whether to love or hate. Whether to take or give. Whether to value or dismiss. Whether to respect or humiliate. Whether to build or destroy. Whether to serve or use.

We have all the power we dare to exert. We have power we never use. I have no patience with the supposed oppression of women in modern first-world western society. I think we’re afraid of the responsibility if we should dare to righteously use all the power God has given us.

If you want to re-orient your attitude, it might be best to study up on what a man was designed to be. I suggest going to the resource written by the One who invented men.

Once you’ve gained some understanding of what a man is, you may not need my suggestions. But here they are anyway:

Encourage him to be a man. If he knows you support him in being who God means him to be, you will receive the true man God wants for you—and you will be amazed at who he is and what he can do. Your children for generations will be blessed.
And because he is a fallible human being, he will need your support in reaching for who he is meant to be. We all need encouragement for the task to become more than we are.

He has been given talents by God. Be careful not to criticize something which is an expression of his gifts. Heaven forbid that you should belittle how God has gifted him. But you are supernaturally gifted with the gifts of the Spirit, so you can do this.

Treat his thoughts and opinions with seriousness and respect. Don’t only do this only outwardly.

Most importantly, encourage him to lead by respecting his decisions. Give him deference and trust. I sometimes wonder why women have chosen to be in relationships with men who they are unable to respect.

The best men I know are also the most graceful, meaning they treat others with grace. ( Grace= treating someone with more kindness than is deserved or necessary). They are not petty, as we women are apt to be. They humbly return kindnesses for slights. Do not abuse this awesome grace or take it for granted.

Why do we fear ceding too much power to our husbands? Do we try to live down to the canards that a husband “behaves” so as not to risk his wife’s petty wrath?

Your husband will not dismiss your wisdom, your opinions, your convictions, your feelings or your intuitions because he already loves you for those very things. He will value and respect your views and will be guided by your intelligence and your convictions. You need not fear submitting to a loving husband who knows your worth.

You can trust his “final-word” because he is basing his decisions upon your guidance added to his own. And GOD has given him his own portion of wisdom. In trusting him with final authority, you are trusting God.

What kind of a husband do you want? Do you want a man who is afraid to irritate you? Do you want one who obeys you? One who slowly learns to adapt to your spoken criticism, who learns to be what you say about him?
Or do you want a MAN—a man who feels free to become all that God intends him to be?
A man who respects the power structure. He answers to God, not to you. He knows who he is. A man who does what is right regardless of the reactions of the people around him is strong, admirable and noble. You can see by now that you are putting down more than your husband.

Always be the kindest person in his life. Who else if not you? A marriage can endure against many threats. But no relationship can survive unkindness.
The vital importance of simple kindness cannot be underestimated. Just be kind—it’s so easy to know when you are and when you are not being kind. Be kind to him at all times. Be kind when he deserves it and when he doesn’t. Be kind when it’s not necessary. There is no downside; you will receive a better relationship and more love in return, and you will have become a kinder person. You lose nothing; you gain a lot.

If you still find yourself truly being embarrassed by your husband’s behavior, if you think one day that he is actually being foolish, then take a look in a mirror.
You are the one person in the world who has chosen, of your own free will, to be identified with this foolish man. You have stood before witnesses to declare your willingness to be one with him. You picked him.
Then have a laugh on yourself.

The User: A Primer

Have you ever been used? Can you spot a user?

The user is a clever creature who uses your good nature in order to get you to do what he wants when you might choose not to do the same if asked honestly.

It is beyond my expertise to attribute these behaviors to mental conditions or to personality types. This person could be acting on the impulse of any of several pathologies, or none. Our purpose is, first, to recognize the user; and second, to avoid being a user.

You thought I was going to tell you how to avoid being used.

As a follower of Christ, I probably ought to be ashamed of my perspective about this.  I’ll be transparent with you:  I haven’t figured out how to deal with people like this yet. But I do believe that in order to intentionally love all people as we are called to do, we must begin with realistic assessment.

Here is my handy Red Flags and Characteristics of the User Guide:

He imposes his will on other people.

While imposing, he seems all the while like an innocent snowflake.  Seeming not to impose is essential to his method. He wants what he wants, and will get it.

She expects you to conform to her plans. She may lie or manipulate to get you to go along.

The user may have several different personas handy. He dons and discards personalities intuitively and seamlessly according to situation.

The user will drop your name if he thinks the connection is to his advantage. Your name is used as an endorsement of his character or social standing. Accept the compliment but beware.

To some users, the victim card is indispensable. Beware: this is a desperate user.

The user seems to lack an adequate amount of respect for other human beings.

While he seeks to have control over the situation, the important factor is not the control itself, but to get what he wants. Well, some users like the control too.

How to Get Used

How do you get used? Some of us, the saying goes, have signs on our backs. We tend to find ourselves in this situation over and over. This person is able to value other human beings based on how well they serve his desires. Most people expect others to relate to them at face value.

You, the used, do not recognize what’s happening until it’s too late. This is because the situation looks so innocuous at first…who could object? But after you’ve made the commitment, the conditions change.
You agree to do X and after third parties are included you find that by agreeing to X, you must also do Y, Z, A, B, and C. You agree to drive someone to a party and find out as you go out the door that you’re picking up three people on the way who can’t go if you don’t. You must host the party with the flu because several guests have nowhere else to go on a holiday.  It’s inconvenient for the user to do it. You’ve been supportive and friendly only to find you’ve been drafted onto one side of a family war.

And here is the real genius of the user. This person will anticipate your attempts to do as you had planned, and even your attempts to resist her control. You will be unwilling to anticipate her manipulation as too cynical. She is way ahead of you. You will find that, before you suspect anything, you have been maneuvered into a position, and the only escape open to you is to be a big fat jerk.

In order to not be used, you will have to make a big fuss and insist on not giving an old man Christmas dinner, or some such awful thing. You want to stand your ground. But here’s your choice at that point: be petty, or be used.

She will be cool as a cucumber and ask what you’re excited about.

So, unwilling to be petty, you retreat, and get used. The real pro user will use you even while you know you’re being used, and they know you know you’re being used, and you can’t do a thing about it. No matter your defenses, you will end up playing  on his terms.

And it’s a real pro who will manage to make you feel used even while you are doing a good thing which you would gladly have done anyway.

 

Don’t Be a User

At this point, I ought to say that many users don’t know they’re users. They’ve been living this way all their lives. It’s as natural to them as breathing and it works. They just think they’re unusually charming.

Here’s the bad news. You might have creeping userism. Don’t be a user. Here’s why.

1. It is un-Christlike to be a user. If you are a professing Christian of any kind, this should matter.

Phil 2: 3-8: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Matthew 20:28:…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 6: 38: For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

John 12:49: For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak.

2. The people you love will not be able to trust you. This is important. The people you love may be guarded with you because they are looking out for the next time you try to take advantage. It will create distance in your relationships.

3. You are training yourself to be selfish. The longer you go along with your user habits, the harder it will be to change. Start fighting it now!

4. You will never really be happy this way. You are designing a life defined by dissatisfaction. Otherwise why would you be trying to change things? Instead, decide to live a life marked by contentment. It takes a lot of energy to control other people; it’s stressful. Go easy on yourself.

 

How Not to Be a User

1. Have respect for other human beings. Everyone’s time is as valuable as yours. Everyone’s efforts are as costly as yours are to you. Value other people’s time, energy and hospitality.

2. Don’t impose your will on others. Don’t include someone in your plans without his prior consent.

3. Ask for the help that you want or need. Understand that you are asking and not demanding. Understand that the askee is entirely free to say “no.” There should be no negative repercussions for his choice to opt out; he is a human with free will and self-determination.

4. Ask for what you honestly want. The askee has the right to know all details that pertain to her participation, so that she can make a truly informed decision. There must be no surprises.

5. Neither emotional manipulation or social pressure should ever be used in order to get another person to do as you wish. This includes hinting, pouting and stories of victimhood.

6. Live honestly. Portray yourself as best you can as you really are.

7. Respect relationship statuses. A breakup is a breakup. You lose all rights to your ex. Call someone else for a ride, emotionally lean on someone else.
Also, honor your family as your family; don’t invent new parents/brothers/sisters out of friends and acquaintances because your real ones have been used up.

8. Learn to be humble. In humility you will appreciate the value of other people.

9. Be selfless. Look for ways to do things for other people in ways that don’t benefit you.

10. Develop an appreciation for the kindness of other people. It feels good when you understand that others have been helpful and caring to you out of the kindness of their hearts.

 

How to Avoid Being Used

Alas. Don’t be useful. Let me know if you figure it out.

New Mercies

There is nothing really new or special about a morning. After you’ve been around awhile, spent a few sleepless nights, or pulled a few all-nighters, you realize that morning follows night without a break, and that time is continuous. There’s no barrier between the old day and the new.

But God says otherwise.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.      Lamentations 3: 22-23

What a relief to read a verse such as this when we are distressed. At the close of a day, when we lie down to sleep, we can put that day away. We can rest, and in the morning we can have a new chance to start over. Another chance to renew, repent, re-do, reconcile, resolve, and be refreshed.

Put this into perspective. Realize that God is holy, and that we certainly are not. In spite of all that we did yesterday, God gives us a new day in which to receive his mercies.

If God can allow us to start fresh each day, can’t we offer the same chances for resolution and forgiveness to those in our lives? Our mercies and compassions ought to be available every morning too.

Put it into perspective again. Here is Matthew 18: 23-35:

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Can I really hold a grudge against someone in my life? Can I hold something over his head when God has utterly put away all of my cruel and self-serving hours? If our holy God can offer us new mercies and compassions every morning, how can we who are sinful withhold mercies from those in our lives?

His mercies are new every morning. Are ours?

The Humiliation of Getting into a Boat

This passage from Mark 6 demonstrates the everyday mundane but also the awesomely sublime qualities of Jesus’ love:

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out,  because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,  for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. ~ Mark 6

There are many remarkable things about this account.  But I am struck by this: why didn’t he keep walking and meet them on the other side? Jesus, walking across the sea as though about to pass them, gets into the boat with his disciples.

He was already walking across that lake with no problem. But he decided to get into that boat and join his friends in getting across the slow way, the hard way, the way we get across a lake.

He is the Creator of the wind and the waves, buoyancy, water displacement, gravity, as well as the fragility of our human bodies.

He is called: King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Prince of Peace; The Word of Life; Alpha and Omega; True God; Author and Perfecter of Our Faith; and The Way, The Truth, and The Life. But he chose to share in this difficult experience with his disciples, his dear friends.

Just as he who is God submitted to being born a helpless baby to a poor family.  As he submitted to a life of humility and trial.  He came to be one of us, and to experience the tragedy, the difficulty, the futility, the poverty, the sadness, just as we do.

Rome’s emperor was Caesar Augustus (The Grand, The Majestic) and held the civilized world in Rome’s powerful grip. Say what you will about the accomplishments of Ancient Rome; there was certainly a cost to their ambition.

Jesus chose to be passive in the midst of  this culture. He chose the place. He chose the moment in history. He chose the instrument, Rome. He let them kill him.

It was the most humiliating death available at the hands of one of the most aggressively brutal and perverse worldly authorities possible.

And so Jesus getting into a boat is no small thing. He came here to get into the boat with us.

 

Artist: Tintoretto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Respect

It’s often repeated, but I think this one is true.

Women need love; men need respect.

No one can deny that both men and women need love and respect. But there is a difference between the awesome design intrinsic to being a man, in contrast to the beautiful design intrinsic to being a woman.

     At his core, a man has a basic need to be valued by being respected for who he is.

     At her core, a woman has a basic need to be valued by being loved for who she is.

What a woman feels is her most basic and essential need is love—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

protective,

lifelong

love.

 

What a man finds to be his most essential and basic need is respect—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

supportive,

lifelong

respect.

 

Maybe love and respect are slightly different perspectives on the same thing. Isn’t love respect? Isn’t respect love?

Can you truly love without respecting? Can you truly respect without loving?

You may have noticed that there was a one-word difference in the list of qualities. I said men need supportive respect; women need protective love.  Women need to be protected. Men need to be supported. Here is one place where the designed differences manifest differently.

A man and a woman in a marriage or in a relationship headed for marriage, complement each other.

When she supports him by respecting him, hoping all things for him, she is the missing element he needs to be a truly noble man. He can so much more easily lead when the one to whom he has been vulnerable shows confidence in him.

He values her mind and insight more than anyone in the world…she knows him better than anyone in the world…and she trusts in his judgment and decisions. That trust is powerful.

If he loves her, he protects her. Protectiveness is a beautiful and noble expression of love which does not depend upon the weakness of the protected. The impulse to protect is an expression of tender care. It is an expression of the high value placed upon its object.

Why do any of us need anything; why aren’t we self-contained?

An honest godly man knows he’s fallible. His default identification is self-doubt. That’s why he needs supportive respect from the person he trusts most. It’s objective confirmation that he is ready to lead; that he is a good leader.

We are designed with those lacks. We are made to need what our mate brings to the relationship. As human beings we need to need. It humbles us; it compels us to reach out to others and build deep relationships. It awakens us to our need for God.

And we are all fallible, not lovable, and we know it. We women doubt our value–we doubt our worthiness to be loved, until someone loves us in such a way that we believe it. A woman believes it because she has been vulnerable to him and he knows who she really is, and still loves her. He protects her not only physically; he places high value on her whole being.

Can a marriage survive without mutual respect? Can a marriage survive without mutual love?

As I have said in Submission is Good, the definition of survival is not the tenacious unwillingness to let the spouse go when you’re living in a train wreck. Unwillingness to divorce does not win the successful marriage prize.

What I mean by survival is thriving… both spouses benefitting each other, intentionally supporting and caring, cultivating and growing the relationship.

Have you ever seen a successful marriage with only one partner who loves? Or with only one partner who respects? I never have. A relationship  thrives on mutual love and respect.

 

Let’s Try Kindness

 

How about if we try kindness? I see way too much of short-tempers and touchiness. I see too many relationships which ought to be, and could be, heaven on earth, but which fall far short.  I have to watch while one, or both, hurt the other one seeming not to feel any empathy for the pain caused. People taking for granted that they’re going to be treated well while taking for granted the human gift that’s been given to them.

People who just give the other person a world of hurt when they could be enjoying a mutually loving and caring relationship. Offered happiness and unconditional love, we choose our personal agenda. I wonder what could we be thinking?

It’s hard to watch people lower the bar on their own relationship, as though the offender will benefit in any way. If the bar is lowered, it’s going to be lowered for both of you. Or do you mistake forbearance and patience for a lack of feelings? Do you actually think that your partner will take what you dish out, and persevere in holding up his side of the kindness burden alone, forever?  You must think an awful lot of him; in fact, you must think he’s not even human.  Because any human being is going to get enough of being treated selfishly one day. He will then have three choices: he can decide to diminish so much that he’ll let you pummel him into a doormat whom you won’t respect, or he will decide not to take your crap anymore, and give it back to you. Or he’ll decide that someone else will actually respect him and treat him as though he’s loved.

You say it’s because you can’t respect him? That says nothing whatsoever about him. It only says something about you.

If you can’t respect someone who consistently treats you with kindness, sympathy, patience and hopeful attention, in the face of irritation, selfishness of feelings, and dismissal, and does not return anger for anger…you just aren’t able to respect.

And you are missing the obvious:  God has given you an unbelievable gift, one which you ought to treasure, and you are ungrateful.

What if, instead of looking for irritation, putting our personal agendas before other people’s feelings, and imposing on the other person’s patience and love, we decide to be considerate? Just plain polite (even if we don’t actually feel happy about it)?  Seek not to hurt them at cost to ourselves? How about if instead of serving our own childish temporary feelings, we decide to serve the people God has chosen to be our companions in life, as we are called to do?

What would we lose?

How about if the law in our houses, from now on, is kindness? What if we adopt a standard that even some non-believers who never set foot in a church are able to pull off?

What if we put kindness and love (verb) first, and make it the going expectation here?

Because love is a shelter against most troubles in life, but no relationship can withstand consistent unkindness.