Whenever the entire family got together to celebrate holidays someone would inevitably mention the matriarch we all lived under. The women in the family predetermined my childhood activities and there were so few men that no one argued for alternate experiences.
In Cub Scouts I was labeled a “mama’s boy” and by the time I entered Boy Scouts the words, “Mama’s little cherry tart,” rang in my ears weekly. The repetitive degradation limited my dialogue with guys, but thankfully the women in my life supplied an ample amount of conversation for a young boy.
Not only did I learn to be a good listener, but I also got pretty good at jumping back and forth between non-linear simultaneous banter. My dad’s ability to carrying a conversation exceeded that of most men too, especially when filled with his unending list of stories that captivated everyone in the room. I’m not sure if our skills developed to help us survive living within the matriarch or we were hardwired to communicate from birth.
By the time I received my drivers license, I realized that few men were able to chat for any length of time. I unconsciously developed more female than male friendships. This was probably due to my comfort level conversing with women, but also because I understood that the more people shared, the more fascinating their life story.
Finding a good conversationalist was like discovering a hidden treasure filled with heartfelt pieces of gold. As trust developed through a series of chats, the information shared became more profound and admirable. The level of vulnerability increased and the waves of delight and amazement for the person’s life achievements commanded respect. Meeting a man or a woman capable of carrying on a vulnerable conversation inspired my life and blessed me with great intangible wealth.
But a few days ago, I read a Focus on the Family article that if heeded takes away that treasure. The words were a warning to married men about conversing with women. The thought of not having in depth chats with women to placate someone’s fears was absurd.
The article referenced the “Billy Graham’s Rules” and suggested all men need to follow it to protect their marriages. But the piece wasn’t clear that the rules, actually called the “Modesto Manifesto,” were put together by a group of guys wanting to protect their ministries from any appearance of controversy. It had little to do with their wives.
Vice President Pence’s choice to never be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his wife was also mentioned. Based on what I’ve read about Pence, he is a man of integrity and does not yield to what he knows is wrong. Surely his wife knows of his integrity too, so why does he avoid being in a room with another woman? Is it because he doesn’t trust himself or women?
Being a man of good character and integrity should give you access to conversations with women, not force you to sever the possibility from life. I’ve learned more from women in my life than I have from men. I can’t even begin to comprehend how little knowledge I would’ve amassed using the alleged protection rule.
Integrity to me means that I will live my life in the same way in public and behind closed doors. I will endeavor to be honest at all times, sustain my moral principles through example, and live uprightly according to godly standards, not man’s. I will also live a holistic life and not present a divided self. I will be a creative person in public and in private.
As for being goofy, since it’s a side effect of my imagination, I will choose when to reveal it and to whom. After all, few people would want me to act goofy at a funeral. But, in keeping with integrity, I have no problem with people learning that I can be down right goofy. Or, as my kids put it—Weird.
So if I were married, I would hope my relationship with my wife reveals who I am. I’d want her to see into the deepest part of my soul where life long trust is built. With that kind of access to my heart, I believe she would trust my integrity and our marriage. This state of partnership would then allow for conversations with anyone I meet.
Now, this is not to say that I’m not careful. I am. I’d be a fool to continue an in depth conversation with any person, man or woman, which does not live by similar standards. If a person is trying to win or persuade me away from what I know is true and right, then I immediately lose respect for them and see no need to continue the conversation. I politely walk away.
A few years after my divorce, I remember meeting a woman that was super hot and equally as sweet. My integrity told me to walk away, not because she wasn’t of value, she was, but there was something about her that stopped me from being me. I had to continue living an integrated life based on the principles that I adhere to and her presentation was hindering my moral success internally. Left unchecked, it could eventually dampen my morals externally.
I do not want to be a moral failure. Nor do I want to cut out the riches in my life because some men were fearful they might do wrong without a pact. I do not make fear-based decisions. I do not answer to how an organization, author or a group of men think I should live. I answer to only one person—the creator and protector of my soul.
As admirable and simple as your answer is, I’ve many first hand experiences to the contrary. I don’t assume either VP Pence or Billy Graham as the ones who might be tempted if alone with a woman, nor do I think their wives would doubt their integrity, but in todays environment especially, there are just too many sheep in wolves clothing. And when one thinks they are “safe” isn’t that the prime time for a failure? I think you do need hedges.
I too too had more friends of the opposite sex, for different reasons than you listed, but over time, it was revealing how many of them eventually crossed the line. It was such a disappointment to lose what I had mistakenly thought was a good friendship. And of course, I felt I was to blame. Sad, and in retrospect, not worth the loss, or investment of time in so many people who did not have a tight enough grasp on integrity and honesty.
You are right about sheep in wolves clothing in this day and age. Setting up healthy boundaries is indeed a good idea for everyone. And, I believe it’s up to each person to decide what that looks like for him or her.
I’m sorry you felt blame for ending a friendship that went awry. Walking away from a person you’ve invested in is by far one of the hardest decisions we make in relationships. Unfortunately some people stumble and others purposely cross the line out of selfish ambition. In either case, we have to decide if the offense is forgivable so the friendship can be restored, or if the relationship must be severed in order to maintain our own integrity.