Monday, August 27, 2007

The grey zone of indifference

As we grow, learn, discuss, and interact with other women, I think we must be cautious about two things. One is legalism and applying cookie-cutter standards and norms that have nothing to do with God, faith, morality and anything that matters on a global scale. An example of this is rejecting someone because he or she doesn't dress in exactly the same way you do. Here's a ridiculous but true illustration: I know women who feel they should always wear stockings, even during the summer, and won't let their daughters associate with girls who don't wear stockings (even if they are otherwise modest and good girls overall).

I'm convinced, however, that we should also beware of the other end of the scale: hyper-tolerance, up to the point when we are afraid to form and voice our opinions, in case they might hurt someone. When we seek God in something we need to decide, we must make sure our conviction is rooted in what He commands, and once we do, we can boldly stand up for it.

There are many areas in which ambivalence is acceptable ("I feel more comfortable while wearing stockings during the summer, but this is only my personal decision"). Some things, however, are not up to discussion. How can we say, "I would never have an abortion because I know it's wrong, but I feel I can't impose my morals on anyone"? If I believe abortion is murder, it's very plain and simple, and there's no room for any 'but', 'if' or 'maybe'. If I believe the best thing for a baby is to be raised by his mother at home, and not to be shipped off to daycare, how can you expect me to say something different the next moment? Because it might ruffle someone's feathers?

Please understand that I'm not saying this because I think we should be judgmental towards those who think differently. Even if we know for sure that someone is doing something wrong, it doesn't mean we should point an accusing finger and make them feel bad about themselves. My bottom line is that we shouldn't be afraid to have strong convictions. Otherwise, we might find ourselves in a dangerous grey zone, where everything is allowed, nothing is right, nothing is wrong, and everyone are living their own 'genuine truth'.

I'm not saying there can't be different variations and solutions, for each unique family. We are all different, and as long as we fulfill our basic requirements and duties and God-given roles, there's an entire world for being creative and finding whatever fits us and our families better. The danger comes when we do the opposite: make a plan, and then try to tailor our faith accordingly, discarding anything that doesn't play along, and justifying it by saying that 'this is our own truth'.

The grey zone of indifference is dangerous in its subtle sneakiness. I know I don't want to go there.

28 comments:

Kathleen said...

Anna,

What a great post! It's easy to judge people who don't share our standards, isn't it? But like you said, "we must not be afraid to hold strong convictions." How do we do both?

Have a wonderful day! I'm off to bed!! (It's still Sunday night here--isn't that funny?)

Kathleen

Anna S said...

Hi Kathleen; you are right, balancing this isn't easy *at all*.

PS: I just emailed you... didn't think of any specific recipes, but feel free to browse the 'kitchen' section here. I hope to try and add more new recipes soon!

Kyla said...

I have had to learn to express my convictions in a loving manner recently. It is such a hard balance to find, sharing your convictions while still showing God's grace and mercy!!

I have found that when I can back my convictions with scripture I feel more confident about sharing them.

Bonnie said...

Wow, I was just discussing this issue with a friend yesterday! She was saying how she admires that I always say what I think, and she would like to do the same, but finds it hard not to just go along with everyone.
I personally find it very irritating when people agree with something when you know they don't agree with that issue/topic! I guess that's because I don't like agreeing with something for the sake of peace! :-P I enjoy a good debate...
Great post Anna!

Shannon said...

Hi Anna,

I am in 100% agreement with your article on hypertolerance. Our culture is so politically correct that if we dare speak what is on our hearts and mind, we're subject to accusations of being prejudiced, etc.

I wanted to ask you where you are able to find hosiery that is comfortable and breathable in the hot months, warm in the winter. I also was hoping you could share where you get your beautiful skirts. You always look nice!

As for stockings, for myself, it depends on the length of the skirt. As for a mother not allowing her girls to associate with non-stocking girls, that is rather bogus! Modesty is more than outer appearances, as you well know.

I am really in a dilemma as far as footwear. Do you wear tennis shoes out when walking a lot? They should make a shoe that is feminine but with outstanding athletic support. I have shoes that are feminine but so uncomfortable that they throw my back out! So now I am back wearing my canvas Tommy Hilfigers with skirts! Kind of funky but at least my hip does not hurt.

Thanks for commenting on my blog Anna. It is very nice of you! Take Care!

Ron and Ginny said...

Oh, how I HATE when I hear someone say how strongly they feel about something and then turn right around and just as strongly deny their conviction to someone else because the other person doesn't agree with them. I know someone who does it so much it makes my head spin and she doesn't believe for a second that she does it. :-( Oh, well. I suppose it is my job to watch myself, not her... My problem is being too rigid and forceful in my opinions. I need to learn to be more loving. :-) Thanks for the good post.

PandaBean said...

Amen! So many people don't seem to realize that God and His teachings are black and white, there are no shades of grey with Him. Because we are human, He will make some allowances, but He asks that we become better than that. This is one big reason why I love being Catholic, all the issues have been resolved for hundreds of years, including artifitial (sp) birth control and sterilization, so I can simply turn to Church writtings and teachings (not always the local priest, they are human too!) and find the answer that has been taught since Christ was here.

Okay, off my podium! :D

God Bless!

Michelle Potter said...

Anna, I love the way you are able to express your strong convictions lovingly. I have a hard time with that, especially online, because words I meant lovingly still sound angry. (And sometimes, as you saw, I GET angry.) You are doing a great job, though. :)

Tracy said...

This is very tricky. I am by nature, outspoken. I'm not afraid to tell you what I think. However, no matter how delicately I try to voice my opinion, some are still ofeended. Offended that I didn't say what they wanted to hear. IF you have strong convictions, be prepared to be ostracized, no matter how lovingly you express them.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes...sometimes it's like walking a razor thin line. And disagreeing with friends, people we like & respect, is always harder than standing against those we have no real connection with. It can be a real exercise in self-control, that's for sure!!

Brenda

Lily said...

One thing that I do when faced with a difficult situation is to pray a little prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance. "Come Holy Spirit, Come" has never failed me. In that moment when you are looking for a charitable way to express your convictions, educate someone, etc., begging the Holy Spirit to guide you will suddenly provide the phrasing you've never thought to use before. That's my tip of the day :-)

AnneK said...

Dang it, you beat me to this post. I was mentally writing one on walking the line between judgment and mercy. Our ladies bible study was doing a study on that yesterday and since then I was composing a post. You said it very well!

USAincognito said...

People know where I stand on certain issues; yet I always make it clear that despite my convictions on certain issues, I am always eager to hear their point of view and would love to learn more about why they believe a certain way.
I think that if we remain open to hearing what other's think/believe while still having our own convictions that this is a healthy balance.
There are some issues I choose not to have a stand on as I personally believe it is not a black/white issue that will affect a person's final outcome in life and I could care less what a person does with those issues (like clothing, type of church, music, movies, dancing, work outside the home vs. staying at home, etc.).
Having an open mind, I think, is key. Yet also knowing where you stand on certain important issues (God, abortion, sex, etc.) is also key.

Marianne said...

Hi Anna,

This op-ed was in the Chicago Tribune today and I think it's an extension of your discussion. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-dads_thinkaug26,0,5697254.story

You may need a login. If so, it's free.

RMC said...

I have this issue even with non-religious ideas. D and I have decided to go the very "natural" route with our children: midwife, breastfeeding, delayed vaccinations, homeschooling, etc. Over and over again we are "running into" our own mothers, who keep picking apart everything (and taking many of our choices as criticism of their own mothering choices). We are not trying to start a family fight, so we're trying not to be too black-and-white with them ("I'd rather be home with the children" rather than "We believe children are better off at home with their mom"), but when we're that passive, our mothers just keep trampling us. It is SO HARD to figure out how to preserve the family peace while still holding to our ideals. I feel like I'm lying when D's mom is trying to justify her working when D was a small child, and I am just nodding passively so as not to start a fight.

What's so difficult is that, normally, I have *no problem* voicing my opinions and sticking by them, generally without being confrontational/rude. But I want so much for our extended family to continue in the relative harmony it has been since our wedding, and in addition to that our mothers are unbelievable sensitive (all I have to do is mention being a SAHM and my mother will launch into a 15-minute justification of how I turned out "just fine," at least family babysat me instead of daycare, at least she bought me whatever I wanted once we crawled out of poverty, etc, etc).

I really look up to any of you who are able to strike a good balance between passivity and assertion, especially with those close to you.

Kelly said...

Great post Anna,
There are areas that aren't worth fighting over. And there are areas that are, such as basic core beliefs. Beyond the basics there is room for many ways of doing things.
I always try to live my life making sure that I don't hide my beliefs on anything. Friends know that if you ask my opinion you will get it!
I do enjoy hearing everyone else's opinion on things, especially the non basic things. I love learning why they do what they do and why thy think it's important for them. I would never disassociate myself from someone over non basic beliefs and honestly I have had and do have friends of many opposing belief systems as well.
Kelly

Katy-Anne said...

Hi Anna! I agree with you. Sometimes it can be difficult though. I'll give two examples. Our family personally believes that girls ought never to wear pants, only skirts and dresses, and we believe that God did not design for a woman to cut her hair. If someone asks me what I believe, I'll tell them. However, most of my friends don't of course believe those things, although some do. I still hang out with them and for the most part I never mention my beliefs at all. Sometimes they ask, and I'll tell them. I hang out with ladies all the time that wear pants, or have short hair etc. But sometimes just by the way I live it offends them and they get all upset and call me judgmental and rude...even though I have NEVER SAID A WORD to them about what I believe and why. It's just the fact that I do it that's offensive.

Gothelittle Rose said...

On the subject of stockings and comfy ladylike shoes, perhaps I shouldn't say anything. :) Ok, fine, here goes...

I don't wear stockings, ever. Oh, I will on the rare occasion when I have to look really nice. But instead I wear bicycle shorts (or bloomers, when I have them) under my skirts (which are all ankle-length or below anyways) and socks in colder weather.

And shoes? In the summertime I wear shoes when I have to. I'll walk in the yard barefoot, drive barefoot, and when I visit friends or family, just about the first thing I do is take off my shoes. When I was pregnant during the summertime, I'd go barefoot to church, too. For when I'm actually wearing shoes, though, I have a nice-looking pair of leather closed-in sandals from Walmart, Earth Shoes brand. If you don't care what you spend for a ladylike, comfortable shoe, that is what I'd recommend.

I agree 100% on the openminded, but not so much that your brains fall out. :) We have so much choice! So much that God has put within the "ok to do" range. That's something I really love about Christianity.

Mimi said...

good post Anna, you are doing very well expressing your convictions without insulting anyone

Autumn said...

Anna,
This is a touchy subject for most people, but I am glad that you wrote about it. It was very thought provoking!

Kathleen said...

Katy-Anne, isn't it amazing how we can offend people just by being who we are and living our our convictions? That's an area where we definitely need to be be fearless in having convictions!

Christian Homekeeper said...

Anna, WOW.....I just posted about legalism and then I came to your blog just now and saw that topic in your post lol. Coincidence I guess. Anyway, I'm not sure I entirely understand your post in its entirety.

I do believe what you said about the dangerous grey zone and how we should not be afraid to have strong convictions, which is exactly something I'm not afraid of lol.

Jess said...

Hi Anna,
Another interesting post!

I would have to disagree with the other commenter that expressed that everything is black and white with God. There are many gray areas in faith- else, Romans 14 wouldn't be necessary. One brother sees something as forbidden, the other feels free to do it, and yet even in that, neither is sinning as long as the stronger brother (who, in the Romans 14 examples given, is the one with freedom rather than rules) doesn't offend his "weaker brother".

There are many gray areas, which is why the Body of Christ is so diverse and lovely. We need to be firm on the black and white things that are clearly spelled out as such by God, and we should be confident in the things that we ourselves are living out. But in the gray areas, grace is the order of the day! :)

Blessings,
Jess

Anna S said...

Jess,

Certainly, we don't want our convictions to turn into spiteful legalism; however, I'm concerned about when the issues that truly are black and white, are turned into grey, so that anyone can do as they wish in the name of 'personal freedom'.

Jess said...

Oh, I understand your post and agree. My issue is not with your post, nor with your comment here, but rather, I take issue with the simplicity of this statement from another commenter:

So many people don't seem to realize that God and His teachings are black and white, there are no shades of grey with Him.

That is simply not true. But your post is full of truth! Thanks for your thoughts here, just wanted to share mine.
Jess

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I think you're right that you have to state your opinions clearly and firmly sometimes.

I do think some things with God are black and white (murder is wrong, rape is wrong, sex outside of marriage is wrong, abstinence without fasting within marriage is wrong), while other things are grey (should you wear stockings in the summertime, should a woman work outside the home, should we eat meat or be vegetarians, should women wear headcoverings, etc.).

Some things are a matter of personal conviction and are part of a dialogue between an individual and the Lord, and we should be careful, in those cases, not to impose our own personal convictions as God's law. We shouldn't call sin that which God doesn't call sin. We must be very careful about that, because to do so is to add to the Word of God, and that's a serious sin in itself.

So yes, absolutely, state your opinions. State them boldly, proudly, with conviction. But do realize that others who genuinely disagree with you aren't necessarily sinning in their disagreement.

It's a careful line you have to tread between putting forth your convictions while simultaneously not condemning those who don't share them. I think we have to give each other the benefit of the doubt here, and I think you do an absolutely wonderful job of it.

God bless you, Anna!

Buffy said...

I think we should hold ourselves to high standards, but we should not expect everyone else to hold themselves to our standards.

Karen said...

Another great post! I think St. Augustine summed it up best when he said "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity."

Hmm...I think the nylons thing would fall under the category of non-essentials! When I first heard there was a college in Florida that required the girls to wear nylons even in the hot months, I thought that was abusive to women!