Advice for Fawning Young Women11:47 AM
This post inspired by "Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the Church." <<< Check it out.
Find a spiritual leader. And don't compromise. That's the advice every good Christian girl received since perhaps infancy about the ideal guy to look for -- not that we do the buying , of course, but you know, just in the window-shopping way of looking. "Go to Bible college," a pastor's wife once told me. "That's where you find them."
I bought this philosophy -- the best husband material led the Bible studies, functioned as the visible leaders, prayed passionate prayers during the worship session, preached a Sunday night sermon and had every single eligible young woman secretly or openly pining for them. I fell into said pining more times than I like to admit (though my exposure to young, passionate male leaders was sadly few and far between for my tastes -- not enough to find one actually eligible enough for me to hope). I attended the Bible college lectures and rubbed shoulders with the godly young men of my generation. I went to a conservative school with a thriving Christian ministry populated by bright leaders. I befriended many a guy who, back in his homeschool days, was the most popular, pined-after leader. In short, I know how to recognize the aforementioned husband material. I know some of them personally (maybe even crushed on a few -- such is the sad state of living to be married).
And I've concluded that my general feeling toward this population of young men is unimpressed. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate and admire their leadership skill, their speaking talents, their well-turned words, their passion for changing the world for Jesus. But I wouldn't want to marry one.
Here's why. From my observation, those possessed with great leadership potential, passion and "spiritual prowess" are sorely lacking in personal stability, humility, sensitivity and lay-down-your-life love. (This goes for girls too, so I'm speaking from painfully personal experience.) Those who want to change the world rarely start with themselves: they're too busy criticizing the government, posting lengthy Facebook statuses, and judging others who fail to conform to their own standard. They're used to receiving attention, being the best, getting fawned over and appearing first in everything -- even if they wouldn't claim to. They aren't the ones who consistently pray for you (unless you appear in their followers group they lead, in which case, their sense of duty compels them to include you) or want to get to know you as a person or care about your feelings and thoughts -- not when they have an agenda to push, a busy life to live, or a severe disagreement with you. They're more authoritarian and less sacrificial. They think their wisdom and experience and position as a leader excuses anything they say to you, always assuming their words are helpful since they spoke it. They're liable to make "spiritual" excuses instead of assuming personal responsibility: for instance, "I think we need to take some time away from each other to really pray about our relationship" instead of being up front and honest: "I'm having doubts about our relationship. Let's sit down and talk about them and see if we can work them out." Since they have a whole pool of adoring girlfriend-wannabes, they know they don't have to settle for anything: they want the most perfect girl who matches and complements them exactly without fear of toppling their ego or opinion or requiring them to lay down their lives too much.
I mixed up true leadership with this sort of surface-only leadership peddled by most of conservative Christianity. My experiences with visible leader types in visible leader positions often left me hurt and feeling less-than. One young leader I got to know accepted all my fawning, help and encouragement without a single thank you, then turned around and questioned my salvation. Where most girls saw many visible leaders as valiant, bold and respectable, I found them arrogant and insufferable -- both on and off the stage. The head honchos of the Christian ministry at my school rarely included anyone outside their circle or struck up a conversation with a shy freshman. My leader-type friends were startlingly insecure, thoughtless, self-absorbed, opinionated, angry and poor with the opposite sex. Everyone sacrificed for them to keep them afloat; rarely did they return the favor.
As a leader type, I exhibited and still exhibit many of these traits -- I don't pretend that I am immune or above that sort of insensitivity and sin. I just want to throw it out there that our female perception of "leader" might be skewed. I'm fairly typical in my ego complex, insecurity and opinionated spirit, but during my moments of infatuation, I failed to see my imperfections manifested in these allegedly perfect spiritual leaders. Deep down, I think we all want a leader of character who loves deeply and sacrifices at a moment's notice, yet our fascination with these visible leaders blinds us to the obvious incongruity between our definition of leader and the choices presented to us.
Especially for passionate female leaders -- be sensitive to the fact that sharing many of the same problems inherent in being a leader will be a problem. I found it frustrating when I had to be the support to so many of the guys I looked up to. I would have gone crazy if I dated a guy who shared the insecurities that go along with being a visible leader with big dreams that often don't happen in the real world.
Also, be careful that your expectations and standards for a "leader" aren't primarily ego-stroking. I realized that my desire for such a "godly young leader" was really a desire for the prestige of getting one of those sought-after young men. Winning the top prize, so to speak. I wanted a guy who was visibly awesome so that I too could look visibly awesome. People would applaud me for having the standards and wisdom to find a man so visionary. Even though I was vaguely aware that most leaders had ego complexes like I did, I didn't want to compromise on my ideal man -- not because of personal conviction but because I feared the opinions of others. What would they think if the bright and passionate Bailey fell in love with a quieter, behind-the-scenes guy? They would think I'm compromising. They would think I'm an unsubmissive usurper. They would think I'm going off emotions instead of wisdom.
Honestly, I feel like I'd be compromising more by dating a "visionary" type than a behind-the-scenes type because I respect a man secure enough in himself and his ministry that he doesn't need recognition and accolades to truly feel like a helpful member of society. In my experience, the quieter, background men who weren't student presidents and aren't likely to be the next President of the United States are far more capable of exhibiting Christ-like love and leadership. They care about individuals. They listen instead of preach. They sacrifice time to further others' agendas. They're more interested in rejoicing in the life they've been given than fretting about the things they think should change. They're the ones who don't need a million girls fawning over them to feel secure because they're a one-woman man. These men will hold you when you cry, cover for your faults instead of use them in their next blog post, feel energized and excited by your ideas and plans instead of threatened, and cause less drama in your relationship because they didn't come into it with a list of expectations disguised as uncompromising standards.
They too possess faults just like anyone else, of course. And sometimes you'll come across a mix between a leader and a background man. In any case, the point is not stigmatizing a certain "type" of person: just a caution to avoid the heartache I did and understand that real leadership means submission and humility, and true love means sacrifice. Find a guy who understands that too -- whether or not he leads his church's youth group.