“Can you believe he said that to me?!” Laci’s outraged voice shook. I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear, weighing out the appropriate response, but before I could say anything she rushed on.
“And he says that I expect him to be a mind reader. That I’m not communicating with him. ME!? I’m not communicating!” My friend stopped to get her breath, and then tossed out another venomous comment. “Sarah, men just aren’t worth this!”
I winced. I’ve known Laci for practically half of my life. I’ve met every boyfriend she’s ever had and I watched her short-lived marriage go up in flames. And because I love her, I know that I have to tell her the truth whenever I can.
I walked to the kitchen window and looked out at the dusky evening sky and tried to gather my strength. I almost wished I hadn’t answered the phone.
“Well, Laci, I really sort of agree with him.”
The silence was complete. I could feel her anger simmering through the phone lines, but I knew I had to finish this.
“Honey, how many times have you gotten mad at John and given him the silent treatment?” She didn’t answer; I already knew the answer anyway. I couldn’t even hear her breathing, but I knew she was still there.
“And when he finally asks you what’s wrong, you always say ‘nothing.’ That’s not communicating; that’s expecting him to be a mind reader.”
The silence continued. I’d made my point, but I wasn’t sure it was received.
Later, as I thought over the conversation, I realized that lately a lot of my girlfriends were complaining about men. But it seemed to me that a whole lot of their complaints weren’t all that justified. My first line of defense had been to tell my girlfriends to stop complaining about men. But then, I realized that what the ladies really needed was to hear the truth. They need to hear someone defend the men. And I guess I’ll be that someone.
The women that have been complaining to me lately believe that men fall into two basic categories: Lecherous Jerks and Loveable Idiots. I’ll be very real: for the first twenty-two years of my life, I would have completely agreed with that analysis. I’d grown up surrounded by boys that fell into the first category; had been friends with several that fell into the second category. I don’t suppose it helped that one of my Dad’s pastor buddies spent my entire adolescence telling me that “all men are evil.”
By the time I was twenty-two, I was limping out of a wretched three-year relationship and engagement. Because God is God and He knew what I needed, He didn’t send women to pick me up and dust me off. He sent two men to be my friends. He didn’t send them to date me or marry me, but to start to change my ideas of what men were supposed to be like. And because God’s strategy was brilliant, it worked. Slowly. But it worked.
Three and a half years ago I became the secretary and bookkeeper for more than twenty ministries. One of those ministries is boys’ ministries. Because ninety-eight percent of those leaders are men, I found myself all of a sudden surrounded by men. I was hesitant to put myself wholeheartedly into that ministry. I figured that I would immerse myself in the other ministries and that my boss (also a man) could pick up my slack in that area.
What I didn’t count on was that those men were so incredibly welcoming and accepting of me. They took me in, put me to work, and showed me more respect than I had ever experienced. I gained a posse of big brothers and favorite uncles (see the picture above) that care about me and value me. They readily dole out hugs, advice, nicknames, and teasing. (And try to marry me off to guys with names like Skunkcatcher… Thanks again, Luther, but NO.) And they’re equally okay with my laughter and my tears. They let me be myself whether I’m wearing makeup and heels or overalls and boots. It has healed me and changed my heart and mind.
All of this is why when my girlfriends began to tell me how horrible men are, my hackles raised. Because now, I know that it’s not true. We can’t judge all men by the actions of a few, just like we can’t judge all women by the actions of a few. All men aren’t evil. They aren’t all jerks. They aren’t all idiots. All of the good ones aren’t taken. There are some men that you can trust. They aren’t all just looking for one thing. And they aren’t, as one girlfriend jokingly said, “Like a good dog that you just pat on the head and talk sweet to, to get them to eat out of your hand.”
Now, I suppose if I’m going to step out on a limb and defend men, I might as well go all the way out there… In talking with my girlfriends, I came to the realization that many of the ladies’ problems with men don’t have anything to do with the men. They come from ladies who are looking for completion or validation or healing from a man who doesn’t have it to give—and none of them do—only God can give that.
And I guess that brings me to the bottom line. People are imperfect and they are going to fail us. That’s why we should look to God for the important things in life. But at the same time, God does give us the right people at the right times in our lives. And when God gives us those people, then there’s no need for accusation or frustration. That’s where we find healing and brotherhood and real fellowship.