I came to the realization in a recent conversation with a friend over coffee that our perceptions of little steps might very well vary based on gender. Let me explain.
I talked about guys putting a little more intentional effort into caring for the ladies they are surrounded by. He talked about the ladies being a little less skeptical and guarded, being willing to trust a little more. I agree that a lot of ladies tend to automatically hide behind walls, waiting till the guy in question proves himself worthy of their trust. I’m a master of this art. In fact, it is almost second nature to me. It is not something I am proud of, but it is not completely unfounded. Here’s why:
Think about the statistics: 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and college age women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted. Now compare this to 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted. If you are a guy – because turns out, there are guys who read my blog – think about this when next you’re in a room full of women. Chances are, a good number of them are carrying wounds and fighting battles that are deeper than you know.
I admit to being skittish, to being guarded and defensive, to being closed off at times, to making you work harder to get to know me. But it is because my wounds go deeper than you know.
Now there are many women who – praise the Lord – have never experienced assault. But the wounds from neglect or abandonment or passivity or inaction can go just as deep. Sometimes, they go deeper. And there are women who have experienced nothing but love and care and protection from the men in their lives – please appreciate those men out loud. That’s a thought I’ll come back to later on.
This is why I think it’s hard to see and appreciate the little steps of trust and vulnerability: My guy friends are all good people, seeking to live out good lives. I don’t believe that they are men who would intentionally lay a harmful hand on a woman. Yet the good men forget that there are indeed terrible men out there who have violated innocence and purity and beauty. We don’t forget. So when we go out to coffee with you, that’s trusting you a little. When we let you into our spaces, when we don’t physically distance ourselves from you, when we can have a serious conversation with you, when we let you see us distraught, when we let you hug us – all those are baby steps toward trust. Maybe we’re not immediately throwing our life stories at you, and maybe it takes us longer than most to be comfortable around you. And maybe it takes us even longer to be completely honest with you. And maybe we immediately question your motives when you’re nice to us. But aren’t we worth the pursuit, the wait, the fight? We are trying, our hearts just move a little slower than yours.
In the same vein, I believe that as women, we don’t verbally affirm our men as much as we should. We most likely tell our girl friends about the wonderful thing he did or said today, or how he stood up for us. But we never tell the men when they’re doing a good job so they don’t know that we notice or appreciate it. They don’t know that weeks later, we’re still smiling about that singular act of warmth and kindness. This is something I want to try and be better at. I still ask for intentionality and concern, but I want to better at letting them know when they wow me with a sentence, or text message, or phone call, or action. Everyone wants to know when they’re doing a good job; our men aren’t any different. We should be just as quick to affirm as we are to point out their flaws.
All that to say, both genders are taking baby steps towards intentionality and vulnerability. Maybe if we step out from under our insurmountable mountains of expectations and live in the reality of our broken world, we might be able to see that we are all taking those small steps everyday.
So men, be patient with us. We are broken and fragile and relearning trust. And women, let’s be patient with them, because just as they can’t always see the little steps we’re taking, we can’t always see theirs. But maybe trust is partly choosing to believe in the things we can’t always see?