My good friend, author* Cindy Burrell, who blogs at Hurtbylove.com, has just posted what I consider to be an important and overlooked aspect of men/women relationships in this era of, as she puts it, “man-hating”. Her much-needed message is this: don’t forget there are still good men.
While genuine grievances against abusers, men or women, must be addressed, it seems too often, in this age of identity politics, that genuine victim groups are used for political gain and the rhetoric shifts quickly to black-and-white thinking where a certain group is viewed as potentially all bad whether due to political affiliation, religion, skin color–or, in this case, gender.
Once cynicism like that begins to erode a culture it is far too easy to forget that such broad-brush politics are fallacious, let alone very destructive.
In all the political hoopla, it is easy to forget that though there is much evil in the world and there will always be groups that are more powerful and more able to exploit other groups, not everybody of the former group is guilty-as-promoted.
I believe Cindy’s message is very timely–and sorely needed just now.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
A few months after separating from my husband, I was hired by a prominent government official to be his receptionist and personal assistant. In that role, I was responsible for greeting those who came to meet with him, people from all walks of life. Still reeling from the effects of the abuse and dealing with my husband’s ongoing harassment, in my mind’s eye every man who walked in the door was automatically presumed to be an enemy – a self-serving, conniving jerk. As far as greeting those who came to meet with my boss, I knew how to be cordial while remaining thoroughly entrenched in my cynical mindset toward the opposite sex.
It was on a particularly lovely spring day, as a girlfriend and I were enjoying lunch at an outdoor café, that I casually tossed out what had become my steely presumption.
“I’ve decided that all men are scum,” I casually announced.
Wholly unaffected by my assertion, my girlfriend glanced up at me between bites of her salad and gently inquired, “What about your sons?”
Her words hit me like a freight train.
In that moment I realized that I had to be wrong! I would never have considered that either of my boys would treat others the way their father had chosen to treat us. My tiny window of experience could not possibly represent the universe of men; men created in the image of God. Since the dawn of creation, men had been rescuers and leaders, loving fathers, guardians and mentors, honorable identities for which my sons were surely destined. My God and Savior, the Lover of My Soul served as my surest example of exceptional manhood.
I saw how desperately I needed to detox from all of the garbage and lies that my former husband had indoctrinated me to accept – that his twisted kind of masculinity was the real thing and all men were just like him. It was a turning point that fueled a powerful determination to relearn how to discern between what was toxic and what was true.
Another friend kindly recommended a counselor, and I called and made an appointment. Sitting across from my new counselor in his rather small office, I introduced myself to “Matt” who wasted no time, asking, “What can I do for you?”
“I have decided that all men are scum,” I flatly responded.
Matt let out a disarming laugh. “I guess I know where I stand,” he said with a grin. “Alright. Let’s get started.”
I met with Matt every other week for at least two years. He was a compassionate listener who validated my experience and gave me permission to grieve a 20-year marriage that had gone terribly wrong. He also helped me to identify falsehoods I had accepted as truth and patiently walked with me as I endeavored to move past my past. It was also refreshing to discover that I could actually trust someone like Matt – a man, after all – with my deepest, darkest wounds and fears, a man who was genuinely caring and forthcoming – not at all the scummy type I might have anticipated.
Simultaneously, God had placed me in a perfect position at work to see gracious, godly manhood from another perspective. The man who employed me was altogether personable, professional and genuine. He cared about his work and everyone who walked in the door, and it showed.
And above all, he adored his wife. He made it clear that anytime she called or came by the office, he was to be interrupted regardless. She was always his top priority. To see them together, it was abundantly apparent that those two people, who had been together for many, many years and raised four equally amazing children to adulthood, were still very much in love. Witnessing their relationship was truly inspiring – and healing.
With these complementary forces at work, and after months of deep, emotional purging and re-learning, I came to understand that, while some men are truly self-serving and dangerous, many, many others are caring, responsible, selfless individuals who exhibit genuine respect to those around them. It was not too long after that period of intense healing and personal growth that I met the man who is now my husband. He is my protector, my confidant, my best friend, and the love of my life.
I know there are many women who are so deeply wounded, fearful and jaded that they have sworn off men forever. I remember how that felt. For those of you in that boat, I can only encourage you to remove yourself from the toxic environment in which you have been immersed. Take whatever time is necessary to detox and let those raw emotional wounds heal.
Some man-haters reading this are heartily committed to their cynicism. I understand how you feel. Others would prefer not to live the rest of their lives behind the thick walls they have built to protect their hearts, but for the time-being, they need to stay where they are, and that’s okay. Among both camps are those who are secretly hoping that someone will come along and prove them wrong – that they too might come to see that there are men who are altogether worthy of our respect – and love.
Dear reader, regardless of where you find yourself at this moment, I pray that you would simply refuse to give your abuser the ultimate victory – power and control over your life for the rest of your life.
As tempted as I was to believe that all men are like my former husband was, I know now that there are some truly good and faithful men out there who may be looking for a woman…
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis
(* The healing process should never be rushed. Please make sure you feel strong, healthy and whole before you consider entertaining the possibility of another relationship. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to walk away from any relationship that feels off-kilter or unsafe.)
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*Here is a list of Cindy’s books and other related books she recommends for domestic abuse survivors.