This one goes out to all my Christian friends who don’t feel like they can quite get on board with feminism, who can’t help but feel that feminism is some kind of affront to God, and that to embrace it would mean bowing just a little bit to the idols of this world. This is for all the Christians who, whenever they hear yet another woman getting on the #MeToo bandwagon and talking about sexual harassment in the workplace, they just get a little annoyed for some reason. This used to be me. But not so much anymore.
Let’s talk about it.
Christianity and Feminism have a very complex relationship. On one hand, original 1st century Christians championed the cause of women. Jesus and his followers treated women with a dignity that had not been seen before in that part of the world. They broke down all kinds of social barriers, including those between the sexes. They treated women as equals and included them fully into the community. On the other hand, over history, many Christians, or people who saw themselves as Christians, have partaken in and even invented new systems of oppressing and subjugating women. Today, I often hear (not from all Christians but from more than you might think) Christian pastors and teachers (male and female) say that feminism is a worldview that is at odds with Christianity. And whenever they say this, I have to wonder what exactly they mean.
Part of the complexity of the relationship between Christianity and feminism comes from the fact that “feminism” can mean so many different things. Feminism is a diverse system that has significant internal disagreement. Two people who call themselves feminists may not agree on peripheral or even central things. There are “sameness” feminists who want to emphasise that women can do all the things men can do, and there are “difference” feminists who want to emphasise that women and men are different and these differences should be taken into account in society. Some feminists kind of seem to hate men, at least at a glance. Most are less radical. But feminism has become so broad that we have to ask, when a preacher says that feminism is anti-Christian, what do they mean by the word, “feminism”? Often when someone villainises feminists, they attribute to feminists a set of beliefs that most feminists wouldn’t subscribe to at all. Feminism seems so hard to define, and thus even harder to have a debate about.
However, at this point in recent history there seems to be emerging into mainstream popular culture a more clearly defined version of feminism than ever. And that is thanks to the #MeToo movement. #MeToo has started a conversation that has brought feminist issues into the foreground in such a way that, from what I can tell, there has never been an easier time to tell what “mainstream” feminism is – what it believes, what it wants, and what it looks like. It isn’t extreme to the point misandry, but neither would you call it moderate, if “moderate” comes with any connotation of acquiescence. Women around the world are uniting around a clear message that is educating and changing the mindsets of many men, but also pushing the wrong buttons of many others. It is this mainstream, popular feminism exemplified in the #MeToo movement that I want to commend to Christians as something we should wholeheartedly embrace.
The Male Objection to Feminism
Leaving Christianity out of it for the moment, why do so many men find the kind of feminism behind #MeToo so objectionable? Well, every version of feminism will make two basic kinds of claim. A prescriptive claim (a claim about values – how things ought to be) and a descriptive claim (a claim about facts – how things are). At its core, feminism has always been routed in the prescriptive value judgement that women intrinsically are, and ought to be treated as, equal to men. Today there are very few people in western society who would dispute that claim. Most people who say they oppose feminism would still agree that women should be treated with equal moral worth and dignity to men. This prescriptive claim is not really where the disagreement lies. Almost everybody agrees on the way things ought to be. What nobody seems to be able to agree about is the way things are. See, in addition to making a prescriptive claim about how things should be, feminism additionally makes the descriptive claim that things are not that way. That things are not as they should be. And it is this claim – that women are currently not enjoying freedom, opportunity, or safety equal to that of men – that some of us really seem to find offensive. In fact, for the most part, it is this description of the world that differentiates the various kinds of feminism from one another. Feminisms agree that there should be gender equality, but they disagree regarding the extent to which inequality exists and the nature of that inequality. It is the versions of feminism that depict the greatest extent of inequality in the world that are seen as the most extreme and, concordantly, the most objectionable to many men.
I think it is quite clear why many men take issue with the idea that women are currently not enjoying gender equality: We take this notion as an attack on ourselves. It is as if feminism is women making an assessment of the world, and finding it lacking. Making an assessment of all the men of the world, and finding them lacking, not enough, that they haven’t done a good enough job of taking care of women, and that they are to be blamed for all of women’s problems. The poorer the feminist’s assessment of the world – the more extreme the version of feminism – the greater failure the man is claimed to be. And the #MeToo movement is precisely this – a very poor assessment of the current state of affairs. It is men getting a bad grade. It is women claiming that things are very much not okay. It is women claiming that they are the the victims of more aggression at the hand of males than we would like to think. That there are aspects of our common culture, in the workplace and in the home, that are contributing to this. It is a claim that can often be reduced to, “You know that thing that you do all the time that you think is normal and harmless? It’s actually sexist in a subtle but powerful way.”
This is why the fundamental posture of most men’s objections to feminism is one of defence: attempting to defend themselves against the attack they are perceiving. They do this with phrases like “not all men,” and with claims about a prevalence sexism against males, and other attempts to downplay the inequality that women claim to experience. Because they feel like their entire gender is being criticised they feel an inclination to say, “Hey wait a minute. Things aren’t that bad,”. The basic thesis of the common male objection to feminism is, “Everything is fine; stop complaining.” And, further, if something is not fine, they say, that’s nothing to do with men’s maleness; it’s just to do with people’s peopleness. That man didn’t hurt you because he was a man. He hurt you because he was a bad person. People do bad things to each other, and there isn’t some profound gender dynamic at play here, and it’s claiming that the problem is all men’s fault that’s really sexist. And while many men do make this argument explicitly, many more just subconsciously experience the instinct that the argument rationalises – that instinct to defend oneself against the criticism that feminism confronts us with. I know, because I used to react exactly like that; I used to find myself wanting to find holes in a woman’s argument when she’s talking about how bad things are for women, to find ways of dismissing or downplaying her experiences. After all, I was a man, and it felt like all men were being criticised.
The Christian Objection to Feminism
But then, for some reason, many Christians have adopted a very similar response to the #MeToo movement and other aspects of feminism. But rather than seeing it as just a personal grievance they have with annoying feminists, they Christianise this response, understanding themselves to be responding this way for Christian reasons. Believing themselves to object to feminism on theological grounds. And just like the secular objections to feminism, these Christian objections can come as a fleshed-out, explicit argument, but what I see more often is more of an automatic and unthinking tendency to want to push back any time a woman tries to emphasise too much how bad things are for women – for secular men it is done in defence of their gender, but for Christians it is done somehow in defence of Christian values. What Christian values could these be? Well again, it’s not because they think the Bible teaches that men and women are not equal. That’s not the argument anyone is making. There is something else that feminists are saying that some Christians perceive to go against the teachings of the Bible, and it has to do with their claim that something is wrong with the world. See, to many men, feminists appear resentful towards men. But to many Christians, feminists appear resentful towards God. I know this, because I, at least subconsciously, used to think it myself.
See, sometimes, perhaps, it seems like feminists just can’t be satisfied. No matter how much is done to help the cause of gender equality, they continue to uncover new depths of inequality that exist in the world. The way they talk about this rift between mankind and womankind is so profound, so philosophical, so entrenched in nature as if to be inescapable, as if to be an inequality that is woven into the very fabric of creation itself. It seems as though they are angry at God for the way he has made men and women. We see it in claims like Andrea Dworkin’s that all heterosexual sex is rape. Or interpretations of pregnancy as a disease, or marriage as a patriarchal system for the subjugation of women. Sometimes the claim of inequality goes so deep, a Christian might feel, that it asserts a flaw in the very design work of God, that there is something about the way he made maleness and the way he made femaleness that is fundamentally unjust and unfair. And thus it is no wonder they are never satisfied, it is no wonder that no social change ever fixes the problems they perceive. Never was there a more anti-Christian message than one accusing God of injustice in his created order. Not only do they claim that equality has not been achieved, but it’s God’s fault. Not only is there a problem with the world; there is a problem with God’s world. And of course saying that all sex is rape and pregnancy is a disease are the more extreme statements. But the existence of these extremes causes us to be suspicious of less extreme claims in the same direction. So when an actress asserts that there is something about a male film producer slapping her posterior that encourages rape, when a woman says that the entire economic world is set up for only men to succeed in, when women talk about history having been written by men and not women, when they talk about all these things that it sometimes seems like we almost can’t change, we suspect that they are angry at God for his created order.
All of this is exactly how I used to think about feminism. I wasn’t against feminism and I’m not sure that I was partaking in toxic masculinity. But I had a strong inclination somewhere deep within both my male and my Christian mind to resist all these allegations that the world was so hostile to womankind. Not only did I find it offensive to me as a man; I found it to be offensive to God. It seemed to me like the whole thing was a complaint against the way God set things up. I no longer see it that way. And I think it’s largely because I understand the Bible better. I have come to find that the Biblical depiction of the world is perfectly harmonious with the feminist claim that all is not well between the sexes.
The Bible’s Portrayal of Creation
The first and most important part of the Bible to go for this is, of course, the Biblical account of creation. We probably know that Genesis 1-3 tells a story of how God created the Earth, and in it put humans, male and female – equal in value and complementary in form – together to rule over the Earth. Then, the man and woman disobeyed God’s command and evil, sin, death and decay entered the world. “The fall” had taken place, and the world was now disordered, broken, and cursed. Because of humanity’s disobedience, the world was now not the good place God had made it to be. It is here that God has three statements addressed to each of the three culprits in this transgression – the serpent, the woman, and the man – and they are three of the most fascinating and pivotal moments in all of scripture. It is what God says to the woman that I want to highlight here:
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
– Genesis 3:16
Here God is basically saying, “Get ready. This is your life after the fall.” God is telling Eve that reality has changed now due to her and her husband’s disobedience, and it’s not going to be pretty. The first thing that strikes us is that pain in childbirth is said to be a consequence of the fall. It is part of God’s judgement on humanity. Here God shows us that he had not designed the bringing forth of new life into the world to be the terrifying, painful, deadly thing that it is. The torment of the process is part of the curse that is on this world as a result of humanity’s sin. And so, while we’re on this, when a woman resentfully refers to pregnancy as though it were some kind of disease, why would we respond to that with defensiveness? Why would we try to downplay the seriousness of the pain of childbirth as if to defend it as part of God’s design? It’s not part of God’s design. Whether pregnancy is the type of disease that ought to be “cured” by prescription of abortion is another matter, but I think the Biblical response to the woman who calls it a disease is to say, “Yes, you’re right.” Pregnancy is a horrific condition which, over the course of human history, has killed almost as many women as it has spared. And that is not how things should have been. From pregnancy God brings forth wonderful, beautiful life, but the cost is high. The cost is something quite literally deathly, and God was the first to say that. To describe childbearing as a problematic reality in the world is to present a profoundly Biblical description of things.
But it is the second half of God’s statement to Eve that I want to focus on. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” First I want to draw your attention to the word “for”. “Your desire shall be for your husband.” My Bible and some others have a footnote attached to this word, which I’m convinced is the most hilarious footnote in all of Scripture. If you look down at the footnote for the word “for” it says, “or against.” So basically, “Your desire shall be for your husband,” or, “Your desire shall be against your husband.” Pretty straightforward, right? Well it turns out that the complexity of how we translate the Hebrew sentence into English actually has to do with the word for “desire.” This Hebrew word here for desire can refer to the kind of desire a woman feels for a man (or vice versa), but it can also refer to the kind of desire a beast feels for its prey. And in fact Genesis 4:7 has a sentence that is very similar to Gen 3:16, referring to sin’s desire to rule over Cain: “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Thus there has been a long theological debate over what is meant by God’s statement that the woman’s desire will be for her husband. It could be that womankind will desire to control or usurp mankind. But perhaps it could be something less sinister about woman being somehow controlled or ruled by a sense of dependence on man. But what is unmistakable is the phrase that follows: the man will rule over the woman.
Whatever the details of it, it is clear that the Bible here is describing some kind of deep, long-lasting enmity between male and female, in which male dominates. It is predicting a world in which there will be some rift, some disharmony, some kind of conflict between the male and the female halves of humanity; a fundamentally gendered opposition that is routed in our sexedness. And it claims that, apparently, men will come out on top as the ruler. See, the fall was a fracture of our relationship with God that resulted in a fracture of our relationship with everything else. Our relationship with the creation we were supposed to rule over is broken, our relationship with our fellow human is broken, and even our relationship with our own selves. Ever since the fall humanity is at war with itself. And this manifested in so many ways, from Cain’s murder of Abel, to all the wars through human history, to all the lies and abuses and grudges and dysfunctions that we’re all too well acquainted with. It only makes sense that one of the relationships that broke is the collective relationship between man and woman. According to Genesis, a direct consequence of the fall is that, just like person and person, and just like nation and nation: male and female are not fully together on the same team. There is an “us” and a “them” between the two halves of humanity. And this is a war that has been almost completely one-sided. In this world, men rule over women. That’s not some cynical feminist slogan. It’s how the Bible describes the world. More than that, it is how the Bible critiques the world.
Why do men rule? Because of power. There is a fundamental power imbalance built into human biology. God gave men incredible strength with which to serve women. But what if men and women are no longer on the same side? In our fallen state of disharmony between the sexes, it is natural that men would instead use their strength to subdue and control women. And if the Bible’s creation narrative predicts that all through the ages there will be a constant struggle between the two genders in which a significantly more powerful gender will rule over the other, we have every reason to look at the world with the expectation of seeing gender inequality in everything. It is when we understand this that we are free to look at human history and see how for the majority of human existence women have lived under the control of men, the rape and the forcible taking of women as wives has been a standard practice in wartime, prostitution has been systematic and universal to every society, political and social power for women has been rare – men have been the ruling class and have used it to their own gain. We are free to listen to the testimonies of so many women right now, and watch as so many experiences of sexual violence and marital abuse and deeply entrenched professional exclusion and disadvantage only confirm exactly what the Bible says.
No, #notallmen subjugate women. But then, not all nations fight wars, yet when any do we say that it is because of the fracture between the nations. Not all people murder, but when they do we say that it is a symptom of the fracture between all people. Not all men go so far as to rape, intimidate, abuse, control, buy and sell women. But when they do, it is a symptom of a deep fracture in creation between male and female. Yes, it is not all men. But it is many men. And it is their maleness, as well as their victim’s femaleness, that is essential to the nature of the problem. Yes, most of us would not do these horrible things, but just like by Jesus’ reckoning we have all committed murder and adultery in our hearts, if we “moderate” men honestly examine ourselves we may find that we are not entirely innocent, that we may have committed one of these same abuses against women to some lesser degree in our heart. We may have in some way hindered women’s ability to feel safe and equal in our community. And, if we’re exceptionally daring in our honesty, we might even realise that we may have been capable of doing some of these things if we hadn’t been raised in a society that taught us not to. And yes, things in our particular society right now are much better for women than most across history. But we are dealing with a problem that goes as deep as sin itself. We will not escape it this side of Jesus’ return. To say that women have achieved full equality in western society is to say the Bible got it wrong. Gender inequality is here and it goes deep into our psyche, our culture, our language, our art. And just like poverty and injustice it will never be fully gone in this world, but we must do everything we can to wage war against it.
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
What does the Bible say about how to be men and how to be women? This is not something that I want to present a comprehensive account of. I just want to say a couple of things. Often Christians say that feminism presents a vision for womanhood and manhood that goes against Biblical teaching on the matter. And one of the main ways this comes out is a critique of Western culture that our culture is trying to tell us that men and women are exactly the same – that men and women are interchangeable, and that is part of what it means for them to be equal. And as a very broad generalisation, it seems to me that the Christians who most strongly espouse a complementarian theology of gender (complementarian meaning that the two genders play different complementary roles in the world) are often the ones who most ardently resist feminism and the claims of the #MeToo movement. But wherever you fall on the spectrum between complementarianism and egalitarianism, most Christians would agree that men and women are not interchangeable, that there is some important difference between them.
But what is the difference? Well, not to brag, but I’ve read the whole Bible, and I can tell you what the Bible doesn’t prescribe as differences between men and women. The Bible doesn’t say that men should be into contact sports and fishing and girls should be into dolls and makeup. Nothing about how men should be strong-willed and courageous and women should be compassionate and sensitive. Nothing saying that women should stay at home and men should be out working. It says nothing about women being nurturers and men being providers. It says nothing about women being emotionally driven and men being rational. And this is gonna blow your mind and someone is going to yell heresy, but I assure you I’m telling you the honest-to-God truth: The Bible never says anywhere that in a dating scenario men should initiate and pursue and women should be passive and wait to be pursued. There is nothing in the Bible anywhere that rules out girls asking guys out. Just saying. Take it or leave it.
I could go on, but I’ll stop. The point is, there is a lot that the Bible doesn’t say about masculinity and femininity. The Bible is really quite easy going when it comes to how we express our gender. A 7-year-old boy who wants to wear pink and play with dolls and talk about his feelings is doing nothing that the Bible calls “feminine.” And in its description of the ideal woman, Proverbs 31 mentions “strength” repeatedly.
And yet, men and women are clearly not interchangeable. So how does the Bible distinguish between them? Many Christians believe that the difference is in the differing roles God has assigned men and women in the family and in the Church. I don’t want to try to weigh in on that theological debate here, partly because I haven’t personally decided my stance on it. But whether you’re complementarian or egalitarian, I think there is at least one gender difference that the Bible, and our lived experience, make very clear clear. And that is the power imbalance between men and women, and the ensuing rights and responsibilities that follow. As I have said, there is inherent in creation a significant power disparity between the sexes, and that is really, really important to how we live. It is especially important to realise if you are a strong complementarian who wants to emphasise the differences between men and women but then tends to get defensive when women protest about the prevalence of sexism and sexual violence.
Here’s what I want to say: We as the Church cannot continue to insist that men and women are different without also insisting that man’s violence against women is a very special kind of wrong – a heinous and profound violation of the male-female relationship at a deep spiritual level. We cannot simultaneously criticise our culture for trying to make men and women the same, while also trying to portray all violence as the same regardless of gender. And it is not that many Christians would literally say that violence against women isn’t any worse than violence against men, but so many of us, when confronted with women making a big issue out of it, want to in some way downplay how much of an issue it is. We bring up things about domestic violence against men, and we say broad statements about how all violence is bad, because for some reason we resent the idea that this is such a big issue. But it is Christians who should be most vocal about the wickedness of men’s violence against women, who should be decrying its pervasiveness. And this is especially the case if we are to subscribe to a complementarian theology that further emphasises the difference between genders, placing men in a sort of God-ordained position of leadership or headship in their families. In the Kingdom of God, leadership is for the vulnerable. Leadership is humble service. In God’s Kingdom, those with power use it for the sake of the powerless. According to this very kind of theology, a man’s violence against a woman is not just any violence, but an abuse of power, it is the oppression of the vulnerable, it is to do harm to someone we have been entrusted with using our strength to serve. If complementarian theology should have any impact on our response to mainstream feminism and the #MeToo movement, it should be to make us more readily embracing of it. If men and women really are as different as Christians say they are, then any physical harm done by a man to a woman should be considered very serious indeed, even more serious than our culture supposes.
Walking the Streets in Their Shoes
We spend so much time combating feminism and assuming they disagree with us, when in reality the #MeToo movement is working very hard to promote the deeply Christian idea that there is an important difference between men and women that people need to acknowledge, and that difference is the imbalance of power.
A while ago I read an article, which I have unfortunately misplaced, that totally opened my eyes to this by asking us men to imagine what it would be like to be a woman walking down the street at night. To put the illustration into my own words: I am relatively tall at about 190cm, or 6ft 3in. If a shorter woman of 150cm were to walk by me on the street, from her perspective I would be 40cm, which is about 27% of her height, taller than her. Imagine if I were walking down the street at night and passed a man who was 27% of my height taller than me. He would be precisely 241.3cm – almost 8ft tall. (To put that in perspective, the tallest NBA player ever was 7ft 7in.) This man would be an intimidating sight. I may not automatically fear him, but if he showed me any sign of aggression I could not be blamed for being somewhat afraid. Now imagine that I see people like him not just once, but every day. In fact, half of the people that surround me in my day-to-day life are of this incredibly large kind, not always quite 8ft, but usually towards that size, and often much larger, and many who have trained their bodies and covered themselves in muscle. And most of them mean me no harm, but they can be unpredictable, sometimes getting aggressive towards my kind even without provocation, and when they do, they are one of the most dangerous creatures in my world. I am completely surrounded by them, completely at their mercy, and it only takes one of them to lose his temper and I could be hospitalised or killed. Their kind also run the world and wrote most of the laws, and they populate most of the police force who exist to protect me from… their kind. Also, imagine that I am sexually compatible with these large humans, and sometimes want to engage with them sexually, but I have to really trust one of these humans to do this because of the sheer physical power any one of them could exercise over me if they simply choose to.
There would be many wonderful interactions with these humans to be had, and the potential physical danger they pose to me would not always be at the forefront of my mind nor necessarily the main defining lens through which I see them, but it would be a reality that I have to deal with and take into account as part of my existence. It would be a factor I have to consider when I plan my day, when I get a taxi, when I go shopping, when I go to work. If this were my existence I would always need to be at least a little bit cautious. Any time any of them made an aggressive sounding comment or made an unwanted sexual advance on me, or even a joke relating to such things, it would not be at all irrational for me to be very uncomfortable or even fearful because I have friends and family members who have been affected by violence at the hands of these large humans and some of them have never recovered from it; I know that some of these enormous humans that I share the streets with are incredibly dangerous to my kind. For me in real life, living as a male in Sydney, this kind of caution is totally alien to me. It is something I never have to think about. It is so hard for us men to understand that this kind of cautiousness is a necessary part of life for women who live surrounded by us towering, usually friendly men.
As a side note, after hearing this perspective I’m far less judgemental of girls when they, say, get a bit apprehensive when a slightly weird guy asks them out a little too persistently. For me, when at the receiving end of unreciprocated romantic interest I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky guy; I want to give a girl the time of day and the benefit of the doubt. But when a girl is in that position, sometimes she is literally concerned for her basic personal safety. But in general, it is this kind of perspective that helped me to realise that I don’t know a thing about what it’s like to be a woman in this world ruled by very tall, strong men. When I hear women talking about being scared getting into a taxi in certain neighbourhoods, and other things like that that always sounded stupid and excessively fearful to me, that’s because it would be stupid and excessively fearful for me, a man to have that level of concern. But for women, it’s the way the world is. And they have to deal with that, every day.
It is no wonder, given this power imbalance between the two halves of humanity, that Peter tells husbands to, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel,” (1 Peter 3:7). Peter instructs husbands, in all of their interactions with their wives, to be mindful of the fact that their wives are physically weaker than them, and to allow this fact to form a part of their ethics, showing them honour because of it. This power imbalance is something the Bible talks about. The idea that it is worse for a man to hurt a woman than for a woman to hurt a man isn’t some modern secular invention that we all have to say to appease our politically correct culture. It is a deeply Biblical and Christian idea. It is time that we owned it. It is time that Christians led the way with it. Rather than being begrudgingly, resistantly dragged along by our culture into it.
A Word on Christian Virtue
As I have mentioned, this aversion or resistance to feminist critiques of society is an attitude I harboured in my mind even up until only a few years ago. And I am thankful for the people and articles and ideas that I have been exposed to that have helped me to change my thinking, to see a different perspective, and to grow my worldview. But here’s the thing: One of the things this change in thinking required of me was to learn humility. To lay down my pride and my superiority, and be willing to listen. To obey James 1:19 and be quick to hear, slow to speak. To consider myself as unlearned about things and be willing to allow people to teach me what I do not know. This is why, earlier, I said that part of the reason I no longer have this tendency to resist the claims of feminism is because I understand the Bible better. That’s only part of the reason. The other part is that, by God’s grace and kindness, I have grown in Christian virtues of humility and compassion.
It is because I used to have this resistance, this slight suspicion towards that feminist agenda, that I understand where it comes from. I’ve been on the inside of it and I know: It is defensiveness. It is pride. It is often arrogance. It is the slight, even unconscious assumption that we know better – either as men or as Christians – than these people who are telling us that there is something wrong with a world we are so comfortable in. It is a lack of compassion so severe as to hinder us from listening to someone’s plea for help because we feel criticised by their cry. These are not Christian virtues on display. These are not what Biblical masculinity looks like. As Christ followers we should be more ready than anyone else to stop, to listen, to have humble compassion for those who are telling us something is wrong, to take them seriously. On one hand, we don’t need to feel criticised by their cry. Because no one was ever saying that all men are the problem. And yet at the same time, the very Bible we seek to defend against feminism has been telling us all along that there is a problem between men and women. It has been telling us that men rule this world and, being sinners, tend to do a pretty bad job at it. When we’ve already heard the Bible’s critique of man, feminism’s critique doesn’t seem to sting or irritate. When we know that we’re all mixed up in this problem we don’t need to spend any time defending ourselves; we can just ask how we can help. Criticism doesn’t hurt the humble – it is so much easier to hear after we’re already admitted our sinfulness. That, if anything, is part of what it is to be a man.