Monday, July 14, 2014

Strong Women and "Ladies"

I've noticed a disturbing trend with some women of late. It seems that many women have confused what it means to be a strong woman versus just being a strong-willed woman who acts like a b*#@h. 

I'm seeing more and more posts on facebook that brag about and encourage boorish behavior from women, all in the name of being seen as strong and independent. Sadly, what most of those posts come across as are actually crass, obnoxious or even uneducated. Since when did boasting about being a b*#@h become a mark of honor? In whose mind is it really something to be admired and emulated?

I think that there needs to be some clarification about what it means to be a strong woman. Obviously, these are just my opinions, but if Christ is our example, I don't see how we can go wrong by looking to Him for an example of what it means to be strong.

1) A strong woman uses tact and civility in her associations with others. Being strong doesn't mean being rude or mean. A strong woman can stand her ground and stand up for herself without demeaning the other person. She can be firm with family, friends, waitresses, customer service reps, and all others without resorting to name calling, yelling or cussing. If we go to Jesus for the example, He was never rude to the pharisees or others he disagreed with. He said what He had to say but didn't engage in verbal sparring and never answered accusations with rudeness. 

2) A strong woman is strong enough to listen to criticism from others and make changes when necessary. This doesn't mean that she changes who she is or how she acts based on other people's desires. It does mean that when she receives criticism she stops to consider whether or not she might actually be at fault, and is woman enough to apologize and change the behavior if necessary. Again, if we go to Jesus for our example, He was always humble and willing to listen. Being perfect, He had no need to change, but He still listened to accusations from his detractors and showed the proper way to respond.

3) A strong woman puts other people's needs ahead of her own. I know, this one sounds totally counter-intuitive. It seems like a strong person would be the one who goes after what they want no matter the expense to others, but it's actually the other way around. A strong woman takes others' feelings and needs into consideration and then determines her course of action. It takes more strength to deny yourself something for the good of someone else than it does to plow ahead and take what you want no matter the cost to others. Jesus' entire life showed strength, and in His atonement we see the greatest strength ever- He gave His life for us. 

4) A strong woman stands up for what is right, and especially stands up in defense of those who are weak or defenseless. A weak-willed woman will worry more about what other people will think and about the consequences to herself when she considers whether or not to stand up for what's right. A strong woman will stand up for what is right regardless of the cost to herself. She worries more about taking a stand to fight against wrong or about standing up for someone who can't defend themselves. Jesus gave us the perfect example- He was the ultimate champion of the underdog. His mission focused on those who were sick, weak, disabled, or condemned. 

5) A strong woman takes responsibility for her own choices. There is no need to look back and blame everyone in her past for how her life is today because a strong woman recognizes that everyone makes mistakes, hurts are part of life, and it's ultimately up to her to decide who she is going to be. Obviously there are some abuses that continue to affect our lives years after the fact, but a strong woman faces the past with a willingness to work through it and let it go. It doesn't take much strength to continue harboring grudges and holding on to anger. No, the real strength comes in being able to forgive and move on. Just ask any survivor. And again, Jesus was the ultimate example of this. It didn't matter how much He was persecuted, how many people turned against Him, what abuse He suffered at their hands (even crucifixion!) He still continued teaching and exemplifying forgiveness.

We need to take the time and effort to learn what strength really is so that we can teach our sons and daughters. It's not an over-inflated sense of ego or the ability to tell others off, it's not in the attitude of "accept me just the way I am or f*** you", and it's not churlish behavior that puts self above all else. It's not just being able to take care of your self, but also being able to care about others. Strength is self-denial and delayed gratification, it's being responsible and mature, and the most glaring example of strength is often the one who can respond calmly with care when they have every reason to retaliate. 

You want to know how I learned what a strong woman is? Through the many incredible examples of strong women in my life. I've known friends who have struggled with depression, serious illness, the death of loved ones, tragic past abuse, and many other more "common" daily trials. Watching how each of the strong women I know faced these challenges taught me that true strength comes from something more than what we have in ourselves. True strength comes from God. Only when we tap into His love, power and strength do we begin to experience true strength in ourselves. 

Normally, I would end an already long post like this here, but the other connection I've seen with women who are busy bragging about what a strong b*#@h they are, is that they often in the same breath try to label themselves as "ladies." To me, this is incomprehensible. How do you claim to be a lady (definition: a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken) while immodestly bragging about what a b*#@h you are?? To me, a lady is exactly what the definition says she is. There's no room there for rudeness, vulgar language, or a focus on things that are degrading or ignorant. Now, if you're going by the general acceptance of the term "lady" (definition: any woman; female) then I guess you've got as much right as any other woman on this planet to use that appellation. But if what you're trying to imply is that you are refined, polite, and well-spoken...then at least make an attempt to act like that before claiming that honor. I can't and won't generally claim to be a lady because I am often too unrefined and impolite to qualify, but it doesn't mean that I don't recognize, admire, and want to emulate one when I meet her. A true lady is a pleasure to be around.

I can only hope that I'm making strides down the path to becoming not only a strong woman but a lady also. I think our world needs a lot more of both. 


swedemom said...

Thank you. I love how you have put this. I agree with you. I definitely want to be the kind of strong woman you describe is classy and well-mannered.

Papa D said...

Yes, there are times when you aren't that traditional definition of "lady" - but you are one of the strongest women I have met, ever. You are a wonderful, inspiring, complex example of the "virtuous woman" described in Proverbs 31 - which is not surprising, since, at its root, "virtuous" means "strong".

Mama D said...

Love this! Thanks for being an example of a truly strong and wonderful woman! (And yes, at times you are a lady.)