When you’ve lived a fake reality for most of your life, honesty feels scary and wrong. Let me assure you, it is scary but it is not wrong. Grace lives here.
By and large the female leadership in evangelical circles encourage women to be complete fakers. The church has focused so much on teaching women to “not be a nag” or a “dripping faucet” that what we have actually kept them from is having an opinion or being real people. This has caused and is continuing to cause serious damage to relationships in christendom. Pick up just about any popular book written for women (usually a disgusting shade of pink) at your local “Christian” bookstore and you’ll see what I mean.
Elizabeth George writes: “saying nothing is a giant step towards submission! All we have to do to give a positive response is to keep our mouth closed and say nothing! It took me some time, but I finally realized my mouth doesn’t always have to be moving. I don’t always have to express my opinions.” She goes on, “After I had pretty well mastered saying nothing in phase one, I graduated to phase two and started to respond in one positive word. I chose the word, “Sure!” (and that’s with an exclamation mark behind it and melody in my voice.) …. Once you’ve begun to respond positively to the small things, you’ll quickly find it becoming easier and even natural to respond positively to larger and larger issues — like car purchases, job changes, and household moves.” (Elizabeth George, A Woman After God’s Own Heart, pg 73)
From here she launches into a story about her husband, Jim, calling and asking her if she would like to move to Singapore. She claims that without hesitation, she just blurted out “sure!” No discussion, or moment to pause and think if that’s what she would actually like to do — if it’s the best situation for her, for him, or for their family. She just trained herself to say “yes” to her husband no matter what the consequences of that decision might be. In doing so, she reveals a belief that if her husband presents a situation, it is God’s will for her life, and he does not need her input. She uses extreme examples of “nagging” to support the need to silence one’s opinions.
I remember watching videos of Elizabeth George in bible study classes. She taught us to stuff down our opinions and feelings and to respond in a way that denies them altogether. She taught us to train our voices and our facial expressions to follow those forced responses. She said that by doing this we were “Women after God’s own heart”. Mrs. George is teaching women that our phony responses externally are what keeps the men happy and what matters most to God. This teaches women to be robotronic shells and it teaches men to accept an illusion — an illusion of themselves, where they are never wrong about anything, and an illusion of their wives — that they are always happy with all of his actions. The wife is rewarded for her fake compliance with sham gifts or compliments masquerading as love. She can’t accept them on any real level simply because she knows it’s based on a lie to begin with. Neither of these people are free to love one another on any real level because neither of them are being real on any level.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love……Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4: 15-16, 25
Spend five seconds reading the teachings of Jesus and you’ll see that what Liz is teaching you is contrary to His words. Man looks at the outside, God sees the heart. Your external fakery does not fool God, it is not pleasing to him, it is not being a woman after his own heart, nor is it what He has ever asked of you. Furthermore, this isn’t healthy to your relationships. Not bringing truth to light allows it to fester in darkness. This is where bitterness grows in leaps and bounds. This is where communication is broken down. This is where marriages die, very slowly, like a silent gangrene just festering beneath the mirage because no one is free to be real or honest with each other. I’m probably demonizing Elizabeth George here and that’s really not my intention. Instead, my goal is to point out the thing that is making so many marriages ill. We are faking our way through life and many of us don’t even see it until something drastic happens that jolts us out of hypersleep. Unfortunately, it is usually in the wake of the already crumbled marriage.
To just smile and nod at men mindlessly, is not at all what God intended for us. God created us to be a helper to man. What God is saying by creating you is that you are a gracious necessity for man. (That includes general community, not just marriage). We were not created to simply pander to him but to open our mouths and actually help them figure things out and walk with them through life. Woman is not being helpful to man if she’s just blindly going along with everything he says without giving him any food for thought. She’s not helping him if she refuses to share with him the stirrings in her own heart. A woman is no help to man by becoming a mute or worse, a liar. And yes, make no mistake here, what Mrs. George is asking you to be is a liar.
Here’s a news flash for evangelicals: It is okay to disagree. Yes, an honest conversation could go completely sideways, especially as you start giving honesty a try for the first time. Given that the discussion is between two sinful people, it is likely that a fight could ensue. Guess what? There is forgiveness for that too. That’s where grace comes in and meets us in our failure — both husband and wife can come as failures before the cross and receive as equal beggars. The worst thing that could happen in your marriage isn’t that you argue. There is something far worse than an argument — it’s never arguing. Never arguing does not mean that you’ve mastered communication and that you’ve arrived as gracious people. It means that you’ve ceased to be in an honest relationship because with honesty eventually comes disagreement.
It’s baffling when I look back over the years that my husband and I were taught to be good liars using “grace” as the premise. “Rushing to be the first to seek forgiveness” usually means avoiding the deep, hard conversations because we’ve put an illusion of “forgiveness” (being amicable) on a pedestal and made true reconciliation, (which means facing the hard truths) completely avoidable. Being gracious is not keeping how you feel to yourself or shoving it down to avoid conflict. Being gracious is delivering the truth in love even if it’s in opposition to the other party. Being gracious includes saying some of the most difficult things, through tears even, because you know just how crushing that truth is to the person you care dearly for. You say it because if you don’t say it, part of you dies…and your relationship right along with it. You say it so that you both can deal with the issues and keep going forward, together.
How do you start being honest when you’ve focused your entire marriage on just “getting along”? The only thing that will free two professional liars into a life of honesty is the gospel. Continue to saturate yourself in the truth that whatever this person has to say to you — you are actually worse than that. And you know what? Christ died for the ungodly which means He loves the ugliest version of you. Now because all of the love and acceptance that you need is already secured in Christ, you don’t have to depend on a phony version of yourself to secure love and acceptance from this person. You can listen to what is said of you, own it, and confess failure which is the starting point for grace and truth to build an honest relationship. You are also now free to meet this person’s true self with grace as one who also fails and is loved anyway.
“There is beauty in truth, even if it’s painful. Those who lie, twist life so that it looks tasty to the lazy, brilliant to the ignorant, and powerful to the weak. But lies only strengthen our defects. They don’t teach anything, help anything, fix anything or cure anything. Nor do they develop one’s character, one’s mind, one’s heart or one’s soul.” – Jose N. Harris