Have you ever realized something about yourself in a moment? Light shed on an attitude of mind in a sudden flash of self-awareness? I had a moment like that recently. This is not the first time this has happened to me, but I am always grateful when it does because I know it is the Holy Spirit guiding me into deeper truth. God exposes our “inner chatter”. He reveals us to ourselves, bringing in each revelation an opportunity for real growth and change.
My recent moment happened at church as I was listening to our Pastor deliver a sermon. It was an ordinary moment, listening to Randy preach like I have for many years now. Suddenly, I was filled with gratitude for his spiritual “fathering”. Father-like is how I would describe his teaching that day. Randy’s faithfulness in fathering the congregation swept over me, filling me with a tremendous sense of blessing in being one of the recipient’s of his ministry. I was able to receive what he offered like a child accepting instruction from her father. Then another feeling rushed over me. I would describe it as a sense of sadness or regret, even a little embarrassed. I suddenly could see how my attitudes about men had limited my ability to receive Randy’s teaching over the years. I was very aware of my “filters”, and how they had hindered me. I knew God was giving me a gift in what He was showing me about myself, and I was thankful for the changes in me. I am not the same girl I once was – by God’s grace. But my progress was bittersweet in this realization.
I started to contemplate my attitudes about men in the days following. Unfortunately, I know my attitudes have been formed out of actual life experience. I had no good experiences with a father until God became my Father in my early thirties. He has been healing my heart, slowing but faithfully. I have also had a few bad relationships and a failed first marriage. My husband Chris and I have been married now for sixteen years. He has truly endured the brunt of the out working of my poor attitudes. Sadly, our past plays out in present relationships. I learned a new term for this phenomenon from the book, Wounded Heart. The author, Dan Allender, refers to that person as our “abuser-surrogate”. Like a surrogate mother carries a child for another set of parents, our abuser-surrogate carries the burden of our baggage as shown through our attitudes and actions in relationship to them. But God’s grace is greater! I praise God for His redeeming grace that is powerfully at work reshaping our minds, emotions, and relationships.
The other thing I know from experience is the deceptive, insidious quality of these poor attitudes. They hide out and disguise themselves as justifiable responses to unjust life circumstances. We can spend years locked in our attitudes, thinking they are perfectly appropriate and right. But I wonder if we are aware of what we might be losing in the meantime? What it might be costing us – and our families? Below, I have identified three attitudes that hinder our relationships with men. Ask God to show you if any of them are affecting your ability to receive from the men in your life.
Cynicism: She denies the sincerity of people’s motives and actions. People are viewed with suspicion and mistrust. She may listen to the words being said, but she is always looking for the hidden meaning – the things unsaid. She has trouble taking people at face value and cannot give people the benefit of the doubt. She personalizes things that are not personal, and presumes to know the motives behind the words and actions of others. Her assessments are often inaccurate, which only serves to further isolate her and reinforce her thinking.
Competitive: She has an unspoken rivalry with the men in her life. What was meant to be a complementary relationship, that works together to most fully reflect God’s image, becomes antagonistic. She has an agenda – to prove she is worthy, competent, as good as the men. She matches wits and maneuvers in ways to further her cause, and is unable to see how this attitude is limiting her. In fact, attempts to point out this truth are viewed as manipulative tactics to weaken or deceive her.
Controlling: She uses her emotions to manipulate the men in her life. She will escalate, and even go to extremes, when necessary to maintain control. She believes this way is the only “safe” way to ensure she is not harmed or taken advantage of. Her controlling ways are rooted in deep wounds from the past. She fears men, and believes she must operate this way for her own protection and good.
It is easy to see how these three attitudes operate together, feeding and reinforcing one another. It is also easy to see how they interfere and limit our relationships with the men in our lives (and people in general). I am sorry if my descriptions are brutally honest and painful to read. I am even more troubled because I know these attitudes are often formed out of real harm done to women by the men in their lives. My purpose is not to cause you additional pain, or for you to shrink in a sense of condemnation if you see theses attitudes in play in your life right now.
Just as God showed me, He desires for you to see – really see in truth. Not through the filters that are automatically there as part of these attitudes, but to see His grace working powerfully inside of you, and in your current relationships. To see what you are missing in all He has planned for you – in healing, blessing, and redeeming your relationships with the men He has placed in your life. Take this as an opportunity to evaluate your attitudes about men before God. This is important because your attitudes about men also affect your attitude and relationship with God – Your Heavenly Father. If you struggle with trust, control, or a heart divided after its own interests, you are missing out on intimacy with Your Father.
God is a Good Father who is faithful to heal and restore our hearts from the damage of broken, neglectful, or abusive relationships. There are good men left. Look around you. Who are the men in your life right now? Who has God blessed you with? Are you able to receive from them? Try to see these men as God sees them; to receive the blessings God has planned to come through them in your life. Don’t let Satan rob you of the blessing and benefit of their ministries. There is beauty in opening yourself to trust again. And there is freedom found in His amazing grace.
PS. I could write the same thing to the men about their attitudes toward women. There are certainly as many wrong attitudes toward women by men. But we are not the Holy Spirit. We can trust that God is faithful to root them out; to heal and restore them as well. Women: it is not our job to point out their flaws, overcompensate for their lack, or prove something to them about our womanhood. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). We need God’s grace to treat one another with the respect, dignity, and honor God expects.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).