How to Command Respect

queen victoria

I always wondered why teachers thought yelling was an effective way of communicating anything. Yes, clearly, the screaming is supposed to put the living fear of God into those fourth-grade souls, but…it doesn’t. It just looks lame.

Kids will sort of look around at their fellow offenders, who are invisibly shrugging their shoulders and signaling, “Sorry she’s freaking out at you, man. Stay chill.”

Yelling never makes you look good. It makes you look like you lost your marbles. Yet teachers, parents, and angry girlfriends continue to use their raised voices and bloodshot eyes like the ultimate weapon.

The same thing goes for online altercations, too. Someone comes barging into the comments section, blasting accusations and f-bombs, while everyone else wonders, “Should I tell her she’s making herself look like an idiot?”

Good-natured people with a sarcastic bent will often try to deescalate the situation with humor, ad hominems, or a professional, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Those are nice gestures, but they can end up being bullying themselves or just plain ineffective.

As someone prone to using emotion as power and coming across as nothing but lame, I was happy to discover the secret of winning arguments and commanding children’s respect: a look of withering boredom.

In Tools for Teaching, Fred Jones argues that the most effective, intimidating response to shenanigans is a look of withering boredom. Kids goofing off in the corner? Stop dead in your tracks, turn slowly, and look at them with withering boredom. “Aw, teacher, we weren’t doing anything.” Continue the look of withering boredom. “You don’t have to be so mean about it,” they mumble. Continue looking witheringly bored. It’s so uncomfortable that kids will feel compelled to sit back in their seats and start working.

And don’t say anything, Jones warns. If you talk back, you lose. Period.

Think about it. The DMV worker who says nothing and just looks at you, completely unfazed — is she not intimidating? Does she not make you want to disappear into the face of the earth? There’s no arguing with someone who’s just staring at you with a look of withering boredom. It’s the ultimate argument-winner.

Queen Victoria mastered this look — zero expression, with no hint of humor or anger:

As the story goes, someone at the royal dinner table told a slightly off-color joke. Since Queen Victoria had little patience for such humor, she looked impassively at the would-be-comedian as the table fell silent. Then she coldly stated to the offending guest the immortal words, “*We* are not amused.”

— Tools for Teaching

This is how classy women come out on top.

I think back to some obnoxious people I’ve encountered and how I handled those situations. I thought blazing forth my vast array of emotions would impress them, knock them out, put the fear of God and myself into them. I thought my tears were powerful, my anger potent, and my sarcastic responses zinging.

Nope. I just looked silly. I played right into their hands and felt victimized. It’s like all those awkward, ineffective moments in The Bachelorette when the good guys tried to gang up on Chad, and Chad just stared at them with utter boredom. Chad’s got this withering boredom look down.

You can’t beat a bully by being vulnerable.

I’ve been working on my look of withering boredom for those few people in my life who say not-so-cool things about me, others, and the things I’m passionate about. (I practice on Erich, but I end up bursting out laughing and ruining the argument before I can perfect it.) I’m better online — the “delete” button is my look of withering boredom. And of course, I’m trying this out in my kindergarten classroom this fall.

Do you naturally command respect? Tell us your secrets!

// How to sound smart and how to sound understanding


The Best Decision I Made All Summer

social media

I hate getting to the end of the day feeling like I accomplished nothing except scrolling through Facebook, pinning a few things to Pinterest, and binge watching YouTube. Even answering an email or writing a blog post feels more productive than checking social media.

Mindless social media absorption sounds like the perfect way to spend an evening after going to class and writing a thesis all day, but I graduated. I get the summer off. I can live now. I can do whatever I want to with endless free time.

Why on earth do I spend it stuck in front of a screen reading inflammatory online comments and not-so-funny memes?

But I just can’t convince myself to get rid of my Facebook account, that most notorious timesucker. I just can’t do it. All of my friends and family live in other states and other cities. I love seeing their photos, reading their updates, and sharing my own. Plus, I get all my breaking news on Facebook. (Remember that time when your Facebook feed was 90% Black Lives Matter and Pokemon Go? If anything else newsworthy happened during that time, I’ll never know.)

I made a smaller change with a huge impact: I deleted all my social media apps off my phone. All of them. No more instant access to Facebook or YouTube. I had to use the torturous mobile versions or get onto Facebook via my computer.

This made mindless social media usage mindful. I couldn’t just scroll through Facebook when I was bored or had thirty awkward seconds to kill. I had to be intentional about it. And apparently, I’m lazy enough that the extra effort to type in the URL deterred me from checking social media at an every-waking-moment rate.

Now I hardly touch my phone except to answer texts and calls. What a novel idea!

I did the same thing with my computer too. I log out of Facebook, adding a two-step checkpoint of entering my email and password every time I want to mindlessly hop online. And then, for extra measure, I turn off my computer. That’s another five minutes to contemplate my social media obsession. (My computer is like me in the morning: slow and cranky.) And I can’t kill the time by looking at Facebook on my phone, either.

Obsession: 0. Intentionality: SCORE.

How do you combat your social media addiction?

// Now that you’ve freed yourself from Facebook, enjoy your dinner time and go out and get dirty!

Stop an Argument in Five Seconds


The little stress monster inside of me loves to come out and play while Erich and I are driving. I don’t get road rage. I am a benevolent and good-humored driver. But when Erich gets in the passenger seat, all hell breaks loose.

“You were supposed to turn left.

“I did turn left.”

“The other left.”

“You’re twenty-two-years-old and you still don’t know left from right?”

“I’m not the one going back to kindergarten.”

“You know, I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“I’m not giving you any tone.”

YesYou are. Stop talking to me like that.”

“No, don’t turn there — great, now we’re going the opposite direction.”

“Hello? Can you please stop treating me like a kid?”

“Fine, do your own thing. You never listen to me.”

You don’t even know your left from your right.

Ad nauseam, car ride ruined.

I think, one, we both hate being in the car; two, it’s blistering hot and our air conditioning broke; and three, we’re new to the city, and we’re tired of getting lost going to places full of strangers and expenses. A missed turn triggers all of the sweaty exhaustion in both of us.

We’ve instituted preventative measures: purposing out loud to not argue during the entire car trip, sometimes by invoking the deity to aid our self-control efforts, and celebrating every five minutes we don’t argue. “I can’t believe we’re not arguing yet! High five, husband!”

And things are better now, even though we still don’t have air conditioning.

But when the heat and the exhaustion wears our self-control thin, we’ve found another quick, easy trick to stop our bickering cold: call a time-out.

Erich and I are both kind, loving people willing to be humble and apologetic. We’re also stubborn and proud and aware that our particular ideas are best and our particular motivations our pure, especially compared to the other spouse’s.

We feed off each other. If I keep responding like a jerk, Erich’s responses get shorter and snarkier. We’ll create an infinite loop of escalating sarcastic jabs until I storm off into the bathroom and realize how idiotic and unimpressive my response was. It’s hard to be humble and vulnerable in such a dog-eat-dog argument.

But if someone calls a truce, the tension snaps: “Look, let’s just stop right here. Let’s stop arguing, let’s change our tones, and let’s forget this happened, okay?”

It’s an invitation to be humble on one, two, three, go. Nobody’s being the goody-two-shoes. Nobody feels one-upped. Nobody has to even apologize. Both of us, at the same time, get a free pass to change our tones, attitudes, and words without negative repercussions.

And soon after the other person accepts the truce with a sullen, “Fine,” we’re overflowing with guilt, apologies, and sane conversation about the little thing that started up the whole dumb argument in the first place.

It takes five seconds, tops, to say, “Let’s just stop right here and forget the whole thing happened.” It takes five seconds to create an easy space for humility. We all want to be humble. We just don’t want to obey a self-righteous demand to be humble. We want the assurance that our loved one won’t continue to hate our guts if we do get vulnerable and apologetic. And, frankly, we want to see our loved one as equally apologetic and humble as we. “Let’s just stop right here and forget the whole thing” is the invitation that accommodates all of those things.

Even on the worst of car rides, we haven’t rejected that invitation yet. High five, husband!

Do you have any other advice for stopping an argument dead in its tracks?

// More on avoiding arguments and de-stressing

Would You Meditate?


Everyone tells you to meditate. All the women’s magazines, all the pamphlets in the student health office, all the self-help books — meditate, meditate, meditate. It’ll relieve stress and make you happy! (Not that I constantly Google “how to de-stress” or anything….)

I didn’t follow everyone’s advice because I’m a skeptic, because it was faddish, and because it seemed far too Eastern mystic and far less Western Christian.

I finally broke down this summer. The anxiety and depression that hit me in my late-teen years came back with a vengeance during senior year. Then I got married. Then I moved to the middle-of-nowhere. Then a monster took over my emotions, and I said, did, and felt things that made me want to crawl in a hole and die. I felt completely trapped by my emotional outbursts and the resulting insomnia, relationship problems, and spiritual angst.

I wanted to get a grip on myself. I wanted to cultivate peace and stillness, both for my mental health and for my spiritual growth. Mother Teresa said,

The fruit of silence is prayer;
The fruit of prayer is faith;
The fruit of faith is love;
The fruit of love is service;
The fruit of service is peace.

— Where There Is Love, There Is God

All my favorite Christian saints agreed. I just never could quiet my mind enough to meditate on Scripture.

With those goals in mind, I decided to swallow my skepticism about mumbo jumbo heathen self-help and give guided mindfulness meditation a try — and I love it.

It’s not weird or heathen or even spiritual. It trains my mind to slow down, focus on one thing at a time, and reconnect with my body. It feels like cognitive behavior therapy, for me the most effective treatment of my depression and anxiety. I use an app called Breathe that recommends a guided mindfulness meditation depending on my mood.

It got lots of moods, let me tell you. Angry? Remember that the person who hurt you desires the same goals as you do. Depressed? Try a full body scan that relaxes even my insomnia to sleep. Sobbing uncontrollably? Listen to a calm voice tell you that you have the power to make choices for the better.

I felt empowered knowing there was something I could do when my emotions paralyzed me. Whenever I felt the anxiety or depression roll through, I popped in my earbuds, closed my eyes, focused on my breath, and got busy centering my mind on things that were true and good. From there, it was easier to transition into meaningful prayer.

Turns out, mindfulness meditation, the practice of experiencing the moment, helps me even when my eyes are open and my emotions clear — paying attention in church, falling asleep, even sex. Anything that requires a fully-engaged mind, mindfulness meditation helps.

So here’s one more voice telling you to give mindfulness meditation a try. Would you do it?

// De-stress some more and practice your new self-control

Short Cuts

I need your advice. I’m facing the age-old question for women with fast-growing hair: to cut or not to cut?

Unemployment and bridesmaid duties end in August, meaning I can’t toss my hair up in my signature ugly bun and I don’t need to braid, twist, or curl my hair into a fancy updo. I don’t do anything with my stick-straight hair, so I need a dry-and-go cut. I need to look nice, and I need to look nice by 7 AM every single weekday morning.

If I owned a curling wand, cared enough, and thought I wouldn’t give myself second-degree burns, I’d wear this style all day, every day:


But since I don’t own a curling wand, care enough, and would give myself second-degree burns, I tend to gravitate toward this cut, every time:


But, I’ve been secretly coveting Janelle Putrich’s hair ever since I discovered her photography blog:

It violates most of my rules: no choppy layers (makes my medium hair look thinner), no short hair (makes my round face chubbier), and no short hair again because I like to put my hair up in ponytails. Still, I couldn’t resist just looking at Pinterest’s ideas:

You only live once, right? And it’ll grow back, yes? And kindergartners don’t care that much if their teacher has crazy hair…yeah?

Tell me your thoughts on short hair vs. long hair. I’ve never gone this short before!

// A home decor style I love, and a great summer read

Portraits of Janelle: Rachel Wakefield

Gender-Neutral Pronouns: He, She, or They?


A friendly grammar war broke out on my personal Facebook page over this delightful video. The Baltimore Sun’s John E. McIntyre argues that “they” has always been acceptable as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in the English language. I was sold the moment he said Jane Austen used “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. Who am I to quibble with literary genius?

In all lighthearted serious, my inner grammar nazi and my egalitarian always wrestled with the singular gender-neutral pronoun. My Rod and Staff grammar books hammered home the importance of using a singular pronoun when referring to “somebody/one” and “everybody/one,” which served me well for the grammar section of the SAT. It drives me nuts when people fail to acknowledge that “somebody/one” and “everybody/one” are singular. 

At the same time, I lament that English lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun. It makes discreet gossiping impossible for a die-hard grammarian. I can’t go around saying, “So she or he was telling me his or her significant other did such and such, and I told him or her to do this thing, which of course he or she ignored.” That’s neither discreet gossip nor discreet grammar. Errnt. Fail, English language. Big time fail.

(I refuse to acknowledge “one” as a viable possibility: “If one wants to write well, one must never use something as pretentious as the pronoun ‘one.'”)

And then there’s the whole issue of gender equality in the third person singular gender-neutral pronoun. I don’t tend to read too much into an author who uses “he” as the singular gender-neutral pronoun of choice (unless the author makes a sexist comment — then he or she gets no mercy). I grew up reading older books, so this seems the most natural singular gender-neutral pronoun to me. But now that I’m older and aware of the issues and implications surrounding that little pronoun, it’s hard to view “he” as gender-neutral anymore, even without ascribing patriarchal motivations to the author who uses it.

I appreciate authors who use “she” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. It still seems like a deliberately politically correct move, but I like the symbolism of enabling either “he” or “she” to represent all of humanity.

Then there are authors like me, who try to use both “he” and “she” as the gender-neutral singular pronoun in the same work. That becomes a psychological nightmare: Why did I pick “he” for this sentence? Why did I pick “she”? Am I being overly sensitive? Have I become that PC feminist everyone hates? Why would the English language betray me like this?! 

I’ve seen some interesting stylistic patterns particular authors adopt to arbitrate this insanity. Some will use “she” exclusively when referring to a child or infant, and “he” when referring to an adult. (I wonder if they thought through those implications.) Relationship authors get it easy: they use “he” in the husband/boyfriend sections, and “she” in the wife/girlfriend sections. I tend to use “she” as the not-so-gender-neutral singular pronoun, both because I am a woman and I write for a primarily female audience.

Frankly, if it came down to it, I’d rather use “he” than “he or she.” “He” is stylistically pleasing. “He or she” tries too hard. I respect an author who uses “he or she” up until the third or fourth time he or she uses it. Then I just get annoyed. (Side note: I don’t feel any leniency toward writers past the twentieth century who use “man” or “mankind.” There’s a gender-neutral, gender-inclusive term for that, and it’s humanity. Use it.)

After listening to John McIntyre’s arguments and reading the debate on my personal Facebook page, I’m going to stick to these general rules: pray the academic community accepts “they” as a third person gender-neutral singular pronoun, use “she” in essays and social media, “he or she” in academic writing, and “they” in gossip and speech.

Jane Austen would approve…of my pronoun uses. Probably not my gossip. Sorry, Jane.

What do you use: he, she, or they? Any other grammar pet peeves?

// Don’t get too hung up on the little things, and de-stress from the world’s atrocious grammar

This Week’s Violence

My heart and tears go out to the families and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, Officer Brent Thompson, Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Sgt. Michael Smith, and Officer Michael Krol. I mourn for the black community and the police community. I cannot imagine the fear, pain, and discouragement they must feel, as their hopes of reconciling black and blue have exploded into the worst sort of violence. Grant them peace, O Lord.

I don’t have much to say other than I am confused and worried by the social media responses to these tragedies. I cringe whenever I see a white person post a tribute to or an article on the Dallas police officers’ murders but fail to mention Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s. One Facebook post rounded up all the tragedies of the week that broke the poster’s heart, but apparently brutal shootings by police didn’t bother the OP as much. (I haven’t seen any of my minority friends post anything.)

I am confused why white people share and like posts, without comment, about how white people get shot even more than black people. How is this a good thing? Instead of discriminatory police officers, we have indiscriminately violent police officers? It relieves you that that all of us should look out for our lives at the next traffic stop? Or is it relieving to believe the black community is lying and we can turn a deaf ear to injustices we will never face?

I am tired of white people misunderstanding and mischaracterizing the Black Lives Matter movement because they refuse to acknowledge systemic abuse and racism. It always astonishes me that advocates of total depravity and the impending evil days are so unwilling to acknowledge evil and abuse in themselves, in their communities, and in their heroes.

I am at a loss on how to lament both authority figures abusing their power to kill innocent people and a fearful, sick man killing innocent authority figures. I don’t how to explain, to myself or anyone else, that while there is no justification for killing police officers, there are explanations why this happened. But then, even giving an explanation seems to justify evil and make it less than it is.

It hits home for me because I live in a minority community. This fall, I’m teaching mostly black and Hispanic students. I have to teach them a unit on how policemen are our friends, and I wonder if that’s true for them, as minorities. (Bob Jones University didn’t write their K5 curriculum for minority students, as evidenced by the painstaking efforts to label all non-white characters by their proper ethnicity so that “students will be exposed to diversity.”) I wonder if that simplistic view on racism and abuse of authority could someday cost their lives. The last thing I want to do is swoop in as a benevolent white person, brushing away their concerns and reality with a smile and a “Jesus loves you!”

I think I’ll just stick with listening and lamenting, for now.

Letting Little Things Slide


Even though Erich and I spent practically every day together for the past three years, living together and making a home together brought out many unexpected quirks.

He gets hot faster than I do (meaning I spend lots of afternoons wrapped in an afghan while the AC blasts away). He leaves the lights on unnecessarily. He splurges on ice cream and root beer after we’ve gone over our weekly grocery budget. He hates making phone calls and driving. And he leaves the toilet seat up.

I like shopping at Walmart. I put dishes into the dish drainer the wrong way. I make unrealistic budgets. I park poorly. And I put my feet up on everything — Erich, the desk, the couch, sometimes even the kitchen table when I’m nestled against the chair back, lost in thought and honey bunches of oats. (It’s a leftover trait from my homeschooled days. Never sat at a desk. When I did, I sat cross-legged.)

On one thing we are agreed: we never make the bed. We are a quirky pair.

My husband’s professor, married over thirty years, pulled us aside and gave us her marriage advice that she gave to every engaged chemistry student: “Let the little things slide,” she told us. “Unless it causes harm to you or something else, just let it go.”

That stuck with me and governs whether or not I make things a big deal with Erich.

I think it’s necessary, when making a home and a life together, to hold one another to better ways of doing things and to break bad habits if and only if it causes harm to yourself, your spouse, or something else. Otherwise, living together becomes a constant passive aggressive annoyance: “Do you have to put your feet up?” he’ll say. “Can you please just let me make my own decisions about my feet?” I’ll retort.

We’re adults. We ought to get a say in how we conduct our lives in our own home, instead of feeling like we’re still in public, following arbitrary rules like keeping your shoes on. But when two adults who ought to get a say in how they conduct their lives in their own home clash on arbitrary rules, something needs to give. Hence the rule: Unless it causes harm to me, him, or something else, I let it slide.

Take the classic toilet seat example. Growing up with all boys and then living with all boys in dorms and off-campus housing, Erich leaves the toilet seat up. Maybe for some women this causes mental harm (and, I’ll admit, I fell into the toilet a couple times because I forgot to check whether the seat was down), but for the most part, it doesn’t bother me. I let him know once or twice to put it down if it passes his mind, but if he forgets, I just put it down myself and don’t mention it.

On the other hand, leaving lights on is a big no-no. We’re on a small budget and pay our electricity ourselves, so we’re light nazis. (Just realized I left the kitchen light on. Be right back.) When I walk past the bathroom and see the light on, I’ll call out, “Babe, did you realize you left the bathroom light on again?” It’s not nagging, because we both agreed to train ourselves to turn off all unused lights.

We’re going to lovingly harp on each other about our forgetfulness because our financial security is at stake. And if we save on the electricity bill, I’ll feel better about buying root beer and ice cream.

We Got an Apartment!


On the last day of our honeymoon, Erich and I found out that we were approved to move into our apartment!

It’s been a whirlwind of packing, unloading, and hauling things up too many steps. The living room and bedroom are a cluttered mess, with bags full of Goodwill donations and random papers littered everywhere, but the kitchen and bathroom look decent. I should probably take the tags off the bath towels now that we’ve used them.

We’re using winter clothes totes and mismatched throw pillows as our reading nook and a collapsible Walmart table as our desk. Our loveseat has pale pink cushions. And the unification of Erich’s stuff (like the huge painting of a Japanese attack on an American battleship — why, babe?!) with my stuff (happy colors and eye-popping prints) has been…jarring. Our home is a work in progress, to be sure.

I’d show you a picture, but really, it’s a disaster. Photographing it will make me feel guilty about how much time I spent answering messages instead of picking up my junk. (Adult life, here I come.)

I’ve been without internet until yesterday, so I apologize for not publishing your comments in a timely manner, and hope you enjoyed all the scheduled content publishing without my supervision!

We’re headed out for Erich’s first job interview and to drop off all my personal identification in order to officially change my last name. (Still some mixed feelings — I don’t mind taking on Erich’s last name, but I hate erasing my last name from the public records. I’ve made up my mind, however, so I bit the bullet and filled out all the paperwork. Finally memorized my social security number too — look at me go!)

We’ll spend the weekend conserving the air conditioning and cleaning up the rest of our apartment. What are your plans?

// My new apartment isn’t quite like my dream apartments (here and here).

Understanding Complementarian Women: Against Angry Feminist Rhetoric

always learning

There’s quite the egalitarian outcry against Always Learning‘s Facebook posts, particularly this one. I’m equally appalled by the Facebook posts and the vicious and/or ignorant ad hominem attacks against the author. Even some of the more tempered rebuttals failed to understand the extreme complementarian position the author takes.

This ignorance frustrates me to no end, because angry feminist rhetoric is probably the biggest reason complementarians refuse to consider any alternative interpretations of Scripture or ways of viewing the world. In my days as a stay-at-home daughter blogger, I don’t recall ever getting constructive, reasoned comments rebutting my patriarchal views (with one big exception — and she ended up uprooting my patriarchal views, God bless her). My only experience with non-complementarians was a message board dedicated to tearing apart conservative Christians — me included.

I get the anger. These Facebook posts and these beliefs in general anger me. I get the bizarreness of these beliefs — even though, as an ex-complementarian who once promoted these beliefs, my incredulity is overlaid with horror and grief at my own ignorance and false teaching.

But I’m not angry because somebody’s wrong on the internet. I’m angry because people buy into these oppressive, Biblically illiterate teachings and suffer because of it — and some egalitarians are leaving unhelpful comments, at best, and inflammatory turn-offs at worst.

Consider this interchange:

Our family has recently started this journey, where my husband is our provider & I stay at home. I am also learning to submit to his decisions regarding our family. This is not easy people. Not by a long shot. I have my own battles, I still get angry, just the other night we had a discussion about a family topic, husband flat out said no & for me to be submitting, I had to accept that. Yes I was angry, yes it hurt & yes I had a cry about it. Does it stop me loving him, or doing what I do every single day? No. I think the reason why being a stay-at-home wife isn’t looked upon favourably is because society has taken it’s value away & it isn’t seen as being worthy of our attention. I feel like a champion when my home is beautiful, the washing is done & I have enough time to sit down & do some of my hobbies before the kids get home & I have our afternoon routine to start. Why would I want to change that for an office, wearing someone else’s uniform, answering endless telephones, obnoxious customers and snarky colleagues……….

Crying over big decisions she was not allowed to make, her husband flat out telling her “No” and, “Be submissive to me”? Not okay by any stretch of the imagination. This is a prime example of complementarianism gone very, very wrong — a dangerous position for a woman’s soul and potentially her emotional and physical safety, depending on the husband.

The Christian egalitarian community had a great opportunity to affirm her desire to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker who submits to her husband while pointing her to a healthier mindset of mutual submission and respect, individual value, and self-worth.

And to be fair, some tried: “What if I told you that you can be a stay at home mom and not be that ridiculously ignored and pushed over?”

But then, some didn’t: “You know what century it is, right? You’re also aware you’re an adult, not a child, correct?” “That’s pathetic.” “I hope he doesn’t get violent or threatening with you. Honestly you described an abusive relationship.”

The OP was not persuaded. She was offended:

ok so everyone who commented on this thinking I didn’t know my worth or was a pushover, or heaven above thought my husband was in anyway abusive. STOP right there. I am more woman then I have ever been. I am the leader when it comes to this home. Most of the rules laid down in this home are mine. 90% of the ‘family discussions’ held in this house, go in my favour, because my husband see’s the wisdom of my council. I make daily decisions that affect our family. My husband would lie down in dirt & let me walk on him if I asked. If my husband ever laid a finger on me or our boys in aggression, I would walk away! I do not even tolerate aggression in my boys. None of you knew what ‘family matter’ we were discussing, I kept it private, because it’s none of your business. So how can you comment on my submission to him regarding it? What’s the best way to keep a husband, by making him want to come home, If I was a nagging harpy, and made him come home & do chores after his work day would he really want to? Don’t get me wrong, there are chores I refuse to do, like the car maintenance, lawns & some house maintenance. That’s not my job in my eyes. But do I have a slaves life? Not by a long shot.

he does make the decisions. I just put my 2 cents in all the time. At the end, he makes the choice on what we are going to do. If it goes in my favour, yahoo, if not, then I have to to accept. The ones I don’t consult him on are what groceries I buy, what we are having for dinner, where I go thought the day. If I decide to go down to a cafe for lunch with my toddler, then I go. Do I ring him and ask permission. Stoke me dead before I do.

Our home wasn’t always like this. I did work full time when I was younger. I was an employee in a resort. I ended up being at work 90% of my waking hours. Barely saw my husband, let alone my kids. How was our home back then? On the brink of divorce, the kids didn’t respect me, or the rules, there was fighting & then some. I was the dictator wife back then. It was my way or there’s the door. No one wanted to be around me.

I think all of you hung up on ‘submission’ have not been taught the biblical understanding of submission & are automatically thinking in terms of it being a negative implication. Lacey Nicole Buchanan we both know the proper answer for that & if your asking me to say that I am wrong after all. Sorry. My role is not limited to housework people. I use my free time to volunteer with elderly, teach in the community garden & just plain be nice. I don’t need to ‘have a paying job’ to contribute to society.

These responses are typical and cover most of the core beliefs of extreme complementarianism. (Note: Many complementarians are horrified by extreme complementarianism, and it isn’t fair to lump them all together. For the purpose of this post, “complementarianism” refers to extreme complementarianism.) From this example, egalitarians can learn the do’s and don’t’s of engaging in constructive conversation with complementarian women.

DON’T assume she has no say or authority. Complementarianism still gives lip service to women’s full equality and value, after all — separate but equal. To egalitarians, “no say” means “no final say” in a decision-making process. To them, “no say” would mean a husband never takes his wife’s opinions into consideration, which violates their Biblical mandate of husbands loving their wives. Because complementarian women stick to their defined roles, they do not consciously desire any more authority, and in fact, may enjoy that their husbands make the hard decisions and do the dirty work for the family. They take great pride and joy in being the queens of their homes and are often given free-reign over homemaking matters.

DON’T assume she did not choose this life. All the complementarian women I know willingly and eagerly chose the complementarian lifestyle for various reasons: it fits their quieter, more submissive personalities; it fits their husbands’ more assertive, leader-like personalities; it seems Biblical; it affirms their desire to be stay-at-home moms, wives, and homemakers; and it seems like a better alternative than secular feminism. In fact, some complementarian women will manipulate or pressure their husbands into fitting the mold of a complementarian “head of the household.”

DO affirm her desire to be a stay-at-home wife, mother, and homemaker. Complementarians are often unaware that Biblical egalitarianism exists, and believe there are only two options: secular feminism or complementarianism. They feel that secular feminism threatens femininity and looks down on their desire to be wives, mothers, and homemakers. Failing to validate and encourage those values is an immediate turnoff and offense. In their mind, it puts you squarely in the secular feminist camp.

DON’T assume there is no value in complementarian teaching. Complementarian women will often point to how complementarian teaching saved their marriages and strengthened their sense of self and their relationship with God. Since so many women embrace the complementarian lifestyle, there must be some strong draw for each woman. Find out what that is.

DON’T assume she’s questioning things deep down. Many complementarian women, even in the most extreme cases, feel content with their lives and see nothing wrong with their beliefs. Even if she is questioning, she might not be conscious of it. Calling out complementarianism as disgusting, wrong, unjust — any moral judgment — will rarely be considered as anything but persecution. Complementarians do not evaluate beliefs based on their goodness; they evaluate them based on their “Biblical correctness.” They do not know how to evaluate their beliefs in light of morality, justice, and sexism, so don’t ask them to.

DON’T assume her husband is abusive. Complementarianism entraps men just as much women. Good, conscientious men follow along with complementarian beliefs because they believe it’s right, true, and Biblical, while still loving and serving their wives.

DON’T suggest her husband is abusive. Complementarian women are charged with upholding their husbands’ name, and will backpedal on any complaints about their husbands’ actions when cornered with an accusation of abuse. Plus, many women in general, regardless of gender equality beliefs, are unaware of what constitutes abuse and will not recognize it. An accusation of abuse is offensive and an immediate shutdown to the conversation.

DO affirm her desire to submit to her husband. I love emphasizing that Biblical egalitarianism involves the wife’s radical submission to her husband…it just involves the husband’s radical submission too! That would have blown my complementarian mind. Secular feminists don’t argue for the wife’s submission, so affirming her desire to submit to her husband introduces her to an alternative theory: Biblical egalitarianism.

DON’T assume she’s uneducated or unintelligent. Complementarian women earn degrees (or rather, have earned degrees before becoming complementarian), love learning, and are often eloquent teachers. They often care deeply about Scripture, culture, and theology.

DO ask questions. They know all the talking points. They are unable to see the injustice of a “separate but equal” stance on gender. They can’t see the limitations and abuses of their own ideology, even when it hurts them. Since they think they’re unequivocally right, they will put you on the offensive, almost always assuming that you just don’t understand them or Scripture, even if you’re a former complementarian. Complementarians are also discouraged from considering any other viewpoint. If you try advancing an egalitarian argument, no matter how solid or convincing, it will most likely fall on deaf ears. Rather than arguing, respectfully poke holes in complementarian inconsistencies. (There are plenty of them.) It feels less threatening and requires more thought to answer specific questions than to rattle off the talking points.

DO affirm her desire to uphold Scripture. Complementarians are 100% convinced Scripture supports complementarianism and nothing else. Anything else is liberal, heretical, and worldly. If they suspect you of any of those three, they will shut down. It’s important to emphasize the Biblical part of Biblical egalitarianism.

DON’T expect anything to change from your conversation. Complementarianism controls everything about a woman — her future, her wardrobe, her relationships, her sex life, her spirituality, her sense of self, and everything else. Even considering egalitarianism requires a massive overhaul of her entire life. It’s a scary, messy process fraught with much heartache and rejection.

Remember: person over ideas. Don’t drag a woman down because you want to take a pot shot at a hurtful ideology. It’s more important that she achieve wholeness than that you make your point. Seek to understand her on her own grounds, with her own terminology, and from her own perspective. While there are many similarities among extreme complementarian women, each woman has her own story and her own explanations, and she deserves a fair hearing before you even consider criticizing.

What are some ways of creating better dialogue with extreme complementarians and complementarians in general? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!