While talking about Joe Biden recently, a female politician said, "He has to understand in the world that we're in now that people's space is important to them, and what's important is how they receive [the invasion of their space] and not necessarily how you intended it." In other words, how they FEEL about it supersedes your intentions.
Usually this discussion is almost always about believing and legitimizing a woman’s feelings and forcing a man to bear all the responsibility for her feelings no matter his intentions. Contrary to popular belief, a man can make a woman feel uncomfortable and not have bad intentions. (This is a conversation for another day and not my main point today.)
While a woman’s feelings are important and should affect a man's behavior in the future once he is informed, his current innocent intentions are equally important. Intentions and feelings are both equally significant not disparate.
Let’s turn this conversation around and talk about this from the perspective of a man’s feelings and a woman’s intentions. I’ll lay this out for you and go straight for the carotid artery. As a woman you have no intention of seducing a man or causing him to lust, but your outfit or behavior makes him feel those emotions. According to even many Christian women, we can wear whatever we want, act however we want, and we have no responsibility for that man’s feelings - those feelings are on him. We demand he “bounce his eyes”, quote a verse, learn to
deal, go home and repent, get over it, etc. Women like to say, "It is not my intention as a woman to attract your attention or to cause you to feel lust; therefore, your feelings are illegitimate and entirely your burden to bear." Well, ok everybody, if we’re going to play the game that feelings supersede intention, then we have to play by the rules when the behavior goes the opposite direction. Through my computer screen I can already hear the women screaming that they don’t want to play the game with those cards.
Here’s my point - there’s a balance here. We have to learn to extend grace to one another. We have to learn to walk alongside one another in this thing called life. Sometimes it means a woman needs to approach a man and tell him, “Putting your hand on my lower back made me really uncomfortable. I know it wasn’t your intention to harass me, but it made me feel uneasy.” He should respond with, “I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable. I will not do that again.” Now prepare yourself, because on other occasions, it may mean a man says to a woman, “Hey, I know it’s not your intention to be seductive, but your dress/behavior makes me feel uncomfortable.” (If a man ever said something like this to a woman, the sky would literally fall, lava would pour from the deep, and she would no doubt become completely unhinged. I know my sex.) Then we as women should say, “That’s fair. I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, and I will change my dress/behavior.” After each of these interactions, everyone moves on - no bitterness, no misunderstandings. This is how a healthy society interacts, and these are the correct responses in every environment – churches, dates, college campuses, workplaces, and even the internet. Instead we have no idea how to work with one another. Men harbor resentment toward women who demand men respect their feelings and their boundaries while those same women reject any kind of responsibility for a man’s feelings.
Men do not bear all the responsibility during our interactions. Women do as well. Ladies, we must do better. We must acknowledge that sometimes our clothes and a flirtatious manner stir up in men undesirable responses and that is on us. Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Is it honorable for a man to ignore a woman when she says his actions make her feel uncomfortable? Absolutely not. And is it honorable for a woman to ignore a man when he says her actions or dress encourage unacceptable feelings? Absolutely not. The feelings of both men and women are legitimate. Men and women have a responsibility to one another. Philippians 2:4 admonishes us to "not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
We have to do better, especially as Christians, behaving in such a way that we "encourage one another to love and good deeds" and we "build up one another." Men and women must be equally considerate of intentions and feelings and be willing to demonstrate humility with apologies and changed behavior – men toward women and women toward men. After all - "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Hannah R. Miller
Co-Host Christian Worldview with Tony and Hannah
660AM and 92.9FM