Reader request: having a gentle and quiet spirit

              Today I am addressing a question from one of my readers, Theresa, on how to conduct oneself as a “quiet and gentle spirit.” The phrase “quiet and gentle spirit” is taken from I Peter 3, an epistle from one of Jesus’s disciples turned apostle, Peter, to the early Christians. It is important to look at context when defining a biblical phrase, so I’ve included verses 1-6 below:

              “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:1-6, ESV). [emphasis mine]

              So we can see from the passage above that the admonishment for a woman to have a gentle and quiet spirit is in the context of a wife interacting with her husband. Beyond a blanket mandate that a woman submit to her husband, Peter is advising Christian women on how they can influence their unbelieving husbands to become followers of Christ. He wisely puts emphasis on her heart attitude rather than external moves to convince her husband of the change God has made in her life. He is not advising against a woman’s wearing hair braids, precious metals/jewelry, or certain clothing, as I have heard this passage preached out of context, but instead he is giving those particular examples as what she should not do in an attempt to convince her husband to become a Christian as she is. Truly, I have heard of women who became believers and used their newfound faith to bring about many external changes into their lives, often dragging unwilling and confused husbands alongside them. Though following Jesus does bring noticeable differences in one’s lifestyle, Peter is reminding women here that converting their husbands cannot and should not be done through external lifestyle changes, either hers or her attempts to change him.

              Perhaps you already knew the context of your phrase in the question, Theresa, but I’m sharing it for the benefit of all the readers. Also, I don’t know most of my readers’ experience regarding the “one believing spouse, one unbelieving spouse” situation. Some of what I have heard is from preaching and most is anecdotal (not personal). But it seems in my experience the most common thing for a believing wife to do is to annoy, badger, insult, or attempt to force her husband to participate in her religious practices with her, sometimes very “sweetly” and “nicely.” And usually she has what I’m sure are the sincerest intentions, but in the end she does not abide by the Scripture’s instruction to be a character example and instead relies on taking actions to evoke change. And it nearly always leads to resent and conflict, from what I’ve heard.

              So how does a Christian wife influence her unbelieving husband to possibly win him to Christ? According to the apostle Peter, by “be[ing] subject to [their] husbands,” having “respectful and pure conduct,” and adorning her “heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” That’s it. No nagging him or telling him everything he’s doing wrong, no making comments about how much better she is. No shaming him for not attending church with her. No arguing about how to raise the kids. Even if he was to hand down a mandate that she absolutely could not speak of her religious faith in the house or in front of the children at all, which I have never heard of actually happening, there are ways to display the goodness (and God-ness) in her heart by her behavior. So this actually gets to the crux of your question, Theresa: ways a woman can display that gentle and quiet spirit.

              The spirit shines through in all of one’s interactions so having a quiet and gentle spirit will influence every aspect of behavior from speech to body language to facial expression. It manifests itself in a sweet smile, a soft touch, respectful eye contact, straight posture, quiet and unhurried breathing, flowing movements. It is as if a river of tranquility flows through her body. The quiet and gentle spirited woman will not humph or grump, roll eyes, speak sharply or shrilly, handle roughly, slump over or breathe heavily. More importantly, she will not treat her husband harshly or unkindly. She will not pick a fight nor return antagonistic behavior. She will respect his opinions and viewpoints, showing kindness indiscriminately. And I truly believe that such strong character may indeed make a difference for Christ where forced church attendance may not.

              On a side note, dear readers, if any of you are of the Christian faith or any other faith and are considering marriage, I strongly advise you to pick someone of your own faith if you think it will be an issue for you to have an unbelieving spouse. I had this friend in high school with whom I have lost contact. She was raised Christian but lived according to society’s normal standards for awhile. She lived with a man and then married him, but after two years they got divorced. The last time I saw her the divorce came up and I expressed sadness for her. She replied, “Oh, K. wasn’t a Christian, and I kept asking and asking him to become one, but after two years he didn’t, so I divorced him.” It left me flabbergasted! Truly, if my friend had felt that differences in faith might ever become an issue in their married life, she should not have ever entered the marriage in the first place. I believe that Peter’s passage is likely speaking to women in marriages where both were originally unbelievers and the women became Christians after they were married. So that’s different than willingly entering an interfaith marriage. Another anecdote: I had an acquaintance from church when I was a teenager, a Christian woman who fell in love with a Muslim man. He assured her that the differences in faith would be no issue and treated her with the utmost respect and love before marriage, but as soon as they were married he began abusing her (emotionally and mentally) and refused to consummate the marriage and allow her to have children until she converted to Islam. After two years of hell she was finally able to divorce and escape the situation. I am not trying to be judgmental; if you’re in a respectful interfaith marriage I applaud you and I do not like to ever give opinions on whether anyone should divorce. But again, if you are unmarried and you feel strongly about your faith I would encourage you to talk to a potential spouse about it before marrying. It may save you both, and any future children, a lot of heartache.

              Thank you for your question, Theresa, and thank you for reading the well bred woman in progress!


Refined speech

              One of the hallmarks of a well bred woman is her refined speech. It is one of the foremost identifiers of a woman’s character as even the slightest interaction with someone usually involves talking. I am developing certain habits of speech that I believe contribute to my goal of becoming a well bred woman. Please note that I don’t speak a certain way because I think I’m better than another. I have heard since childhood that I must think I’m better than other people because of this way or that way that I acted. And it is true that I was once more judgmental than I hope I am now. However, I’ve trained myself to stop assuming what others are thinking, and I appreciate the same in turn. The following examples of how I pursue refined speech may be taken as inspiration or confirmation for your own journey as a well bred woman in progress.

              Let’s begin with what refined speech is not: it isn’t a list of little known “fancy” words that you should add to your vocabulary to appear more sophisticated. In the South, we referred to such a fake show as being high-falutin’ (high fuh-LOO-tin’), and truthfully, adding more high-falutin’ words to your vocabulary doesn’t do much more than make you look, well, high-falutin’. Truly refined speech focuses on tactful subtractions and substitutions in one’s words.

              The first category I subtract from my speech is vulgarity, include all words having to do with cursing, swearing, coarseness, or so-called nice or Christian curse words. I am not going to type them here but a quick google search of “Christian curse words” covers the gamut of what I don’t feel comfortable saying (if you must know!).

              This is the part where I feel like it’s hard not to cross into “I’m better than you” territory. All I’m trying to say is that you just don’t have to curse or swear. When I was in college I picked up many bad habits including using curse words. When I got back home around my church and family, I found myself biting my tongue a lot, not realizing how pervasive my little slips had become. When I got married I quit the vulgarity cold turkey, and although I have occasionally allowed myself to speak inappropriately over the last 9 years, I know I don’t have to. I never had to. I always had the tools, as does every woman, to express myself without stooping to vulgarity. There is strength, albeit a quiet one, in having consistent morals that one abides by, even in the circumstances that everyone else would be cursing in. That reminds me of my first natural childbirth eight years ago. My midwife was coaching me through the last painful pushes and she kept telling me how well I was doing. (I was terrified!) She said, “Most people would be swearing by now” and I answered “But–I–don’t–swear!!” And she said, “Well, most people who don’t swear would be swearing by now!”

              If you are unwilling to give up strong language, perhaps you feel you would be defenseless or powerless without your strong words. In my experience women who tend to use vulgarity sparsely but in extreme circumstances do so in the effort to react to the most extreme situation with equal extremity. However, this is still vulgarity, and although many people do appreciate your not sprinkling your speech with the “f” word like rain in a spring garden, when you do say it, you still said it. You went there, and you used harsh, unrefined speech. I feel sad for women who feel like they have to pull out the occasional curse word to really make a point. You don’t. The people who respect you and take your words seriously will respect your refined speech and your restraint in strongly expressing yourself–and there are plenty of creative ways to make a point that don’t involve four letter words and offensive epitaphs.

              Another category I completely avoid are euphemisms for God and Jesus. A euphemism is a more pleasant way of wording a harsher word or phrase, for example saying “passed away” instead of “died.” But in the case of saying God’s name carelessly, any lesser form (“g-sh,” “gee,” etc.) aren’t okay with me. This traces back to my firm Christian upbringing in childhood, but as an adult I still agree with the mindset behind this speech standard.

              Another area I desire to limit is the use of slang words. Of course I can’t think of any examples right now! I use some slang such as “mom,” “dad,” and “kids,” but most often I try to use standard words rather than substandard words. This is the area I think I need the most work in currently.

              Additionally, I am learning to avoid remarks that malign people groups, that is, ethnic groups or religions. Unfortunately growing up in the South I learned some phrases used by people close to me that I didn’t realize were racist at the time. I am not talking about offensive words for people groups (not giving examples) but rather phrases that ended up being racist due to the judgmental, haughty, narrow mindset behind them. For example: “(skin color) neighborhood”; “all (country of origin) are illegals”; “what did you expect from a _(skin color)_ person?” One needn’t look far on the web these days to find oneself criticized by those on the anti-racist bandwagon, and that’s a good thing. Racism needs to be eradicated forever in the US, and it starts with each individual’s speech and actions including mine. As a young child without much exposure to the world and living in an area of predominately one skin color, I honestly believed my authority figures when they made general statements about people’s religious practices or ethnic groups. While thinking critically about other people’s religion is fine, as it’s a personal choice that should involve mental exertion as well as moral justification, general presuppositions based on fear and rumor are not fine. And who can choose which family they were born into? Judging someone for that makes the least sense of all. I began realizing in college that people are just people. What distinguishes us is our character; it’s all we have, and it’s the thing that is most under our control if we choose to control it.

              Besides subtracting the categories of vulgarity, using God’s name in vain, slang, and maligning speech, I am learning to make substitutions in my quest for refined speech. The first area I have really focused on since having children is substituting kindness for callousness or carelessness. We say so much. We give directions, answer questions, place an order, explain ourselves. We have to ask questions and seek directions or explanations. And all of those times that we speak, there are often times that our phrasing, by taking care, can come out kindly instead of unkindly or just plain carelessly. Situations in which to be especially mindful include taking care not to tell someone else how to do their job, taking care not to assume one knows how someone else feels, taking care to offer appreciation for others’ actions and respect for others’ positions, and taking care not to bring up topics one knows are painful for the listener, such as the loss of a child, or an excessive focus on one’s own happiness in an area where the listener has experienced loss.

              The other category I am attempting to substitute is restraint for wordiness. Wordy: using or containing many and usually too many words. Perhaps my readers are chuckling now; my blog posts are usually very long and wordy. But, to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, if you only knew how many words I edited out of my 2nd and 3rd readings before publishing, you’d give me some credit! I have also had several people over the years, including my husband, reprimand me for talking too much. I am starting to see that truly, people do take you more seriously when you speak less because that gives your words more value. As a caveat, the reason my blog posts are long is that my goal is to over-analyze topics that I find interesting. I realize that the post lengths limit the amount of readership I will likely achieve, but gaining readers isn’t the goal of this blog. Still, I edit for clarity.

              So what about women who don’t practice any or all of the above characteristics of refined speech? Should we stop our ears and shun them? If you’re thinking that’s what I’m thinking, then maybe this is the first post you’ve read on this blog. I hope to have made it clear over the last few years that I hate judging and am not trying to. I also don’t mean to be condescending. A woman may not possess refined speech simply because she doesn’t know better, or she may have never thought how her speech sounds to other people or affects their perception of her (which perception isn’t ours to control, yet…it still happens). Saying a curse word or choosing carelessness over kindness doesn’t indicate a completely bad character. I believe that refined speech comes from an inward gracious, positive character. So for the woman who may speak roughly out of ignorance or inattentiveness, but who has a good heart and seeks good character, I hope the above examples of ways to pursue refinement in one’s speech may help her in her goal. I know I’ve mentioned it in other posts here, but the best transition from an average woman to a well bred woman is from the inside out, not the outside in. Start with pursuit of good character, such as love, courage, and kindness, and refined speech may follow if you wish it!

What is your stereotype?

               Have you ever wondered if a well bred woman is, or has to be, a certain stereotype? The point of this blog is to discuss manners, mores, etiquette, and general keys for living a fulfilling, drama free, empathetic life. To be honest, the main point of it all is my musings on the kind of character needed to maintain and build the best life possible. But what kind of person could be well bred? Based on several of my previous articles, you may have already thought that this blog is keyed toward, or could only apply to, someone if they are:

Stay at home or work from home
Middle class

               But nothing could be further from the truth. Those are all external factors, and my blog focuses on character.

               Character is something to be had by everyone. No matter what the external factors of their life is. Most external factors we have very little control over, while character development is what can and should be nurtured. I had a few thoughts today about our society’s obsession with stereotypes. It used to be that a stereotype was what others assigned to a person. Today, with the increase of personalization online and the drive to fit into niche groups, the discussion on many introspective blogs has turned to stereotypes. “What stereotype am I, or what do I want to become? Am I appearing as a certain stereotype that I’d rather not be? Oh no, what should I do?”

               Truly, there is nothing you can do, because a stereotype is not a t-shirt or a name tag or even an inner characteristic that can be cultivated. A stereotype is a box that other people put you in, based on their perceptions of your choices, lifestyle, and worth. And a sensible person knows that unless people know her intimately, they do not have enough information to make accurate assumptions about her in the form of a stereotype. Using a stereotype to determine one’s style or niche in the world is like using a car’s paint color and rim style to determine what kind of oil it needs. External factors do not denote internal ones, and if there is any lesson we should have taken away from the age of the Internet it is that one. So the constant time spent worrying about what group to fit into or out of or avoid based on stereotype and the efforts made to change one’s stereotype to others is futile because you can never change another’s perceptions if their mind is made up. Also, it is best not to let the opinions of others dictate our actions because we each only get one life and we should take full responsibility for the choices and preferences therein instead of doing things because we fear how others might think.

               For many years I have struggled with not wanting someone else to put me in a box. Not to be “that person,” “that woman,” “that mother,” “that customer.” We all dislike the judging, the jumping to conclusions, the fact that men seem to always get better customer service than women, whites better than minorities, etc. We don’t like to be treated like we’re dumb, or smart, or rich, or poor when the person doing so has no clue about us and our lives. But I have concluded it simply isn’t worth trying to project a certain stereotype. After all, that is not determined by us. It will always be what another decides. The only way to fight it is for us to not project stereotypes onto others. If everyone did that, society would win.

P.S. …I may be easing up on my no contractions habit on the blog…I’m afraid I was starting to sound like a robot, and that’s one stereotype I definitely wish to avoid 😉

Attitude of a well bred woman: education and finances

               What sets a well bred woman apart from an average one?  To answer that question, one must examine both internal and external differences.  Internally, a woman’s character is the foundation vital to her development.  Beyond this, I believe one of the main differences between a well bred woman and an average one is both her educational level and her socioeconomic status.  Consider the following terms and phrases:

Owns one or two department store credit cards
Buys groceries orn credit cards
Drives a beater car that is always in the shop
Has a newer used car purchased on credit
Graduated high school
Graduated college or technical school
College dropout
Reads paperback novels
Reads biographies and nonfiction
Watches drama and classic movies
Watches reality TV
Enrolls in classes and educational endeavors
Makes light of what she learned in school
Lives paycheck to paycheck
Puts money aside to save regularly
Buys plenty of inexpensive things
Buys fewer high quality things
Pays rent
Pays mortgage
Works a regular job
Is a stay at home wife or daughter

               What pictures come to mind?  Probably many of these terms apply to you or someone you know.  Would it surprise you to know that there is not an answer key of sorts, whereby a woman is or is not refined and genteel based on which aspects apply to her?  Also, many of the phrases that seem to denote opposite choices in a matter, such as reading material, are not mutually exclusive and could both apply to any given person.  Being well bred goes beyond externals;  it comes from within;  it can apply at any age and dollar mark.  One does not have to be rich, and there is no dollar amount of net worth at which being well bred automatically starts.

               Then what is the point in analyzing one’s economic and educational choices?  In my opinion, it is the attitude behind them that sets a well bred woman apart from an average one. Along my way in life, I have adopted some general mindsets that I believe are in line with the elegant, poised, peaceful mindset of a well bred woman:

Money and education are each a means, not an end.

Money and education are tools, not security blankets.

Money and education both enable a person to experience pleasure, care for and love others, beautify her environment, nourish the afflicted, and leave the world a better place.

Neither the amount of money nor the amount of education one has should be a source of stress.  If one finds oneself stressed because of either her financial or educational situation, one should take steps to change the situation, such as working more, working less, getting a new job or career, opening savings or insurance accounts, finishing or choosing not to finish her education, studying something she enjoys for the pure joy of it, etc.

Having money and / or education should not create social barriers, thereby isolating people.  Instead, possessing such should enable people to draw together through having greater means to affect and influence each other.

And, most importantly, having a solid moral foundation is vital for using one’s finances and educational achievements to achieve the greatest good in the world.

               In conclusion, a well bred woman thinks about what has led her to make the financial and educational choices she has.  Here are some examples of ways that attitude distinguishes between an average woman of status quo and an excellent woman of fine character:

 Completes the minimum required education because someone made her, and / or
 Attends college out of compulsion or because it is the “thing to do,” and / or
 Acquires education in order to get a job that she thinks will be “easy” or pay well for minimal effort, instead of

 Having a passion for learning or for the future that her education is shaping, and / or
 Applying her knowledge to internal aspects of life in order to create wisdom, and / or
 Seeing education as an opportunity instead of a chore.

 Has a job in order to pay the bills, and / or
 Works at a job because it is easy, peer-recommended, or comfortable, and / or
 Depends on a man financially instead of

 Working to create wealth, stability, comfort, and happiness, and /or
 Choosing a job or career based on dreams, abilities, passions, and noble aspirations and / or
 Doing her part, whether by earning money or fruitfully managing a household, to better the lives of her and her husband or significant other, if applicable

               Readers, what are your thoughts?  What kind of attitudes do you embrace when considering one particular financial endeavor over another, or whether or not to pursue higher education?

Keep growing

Upon knowledge, build wisdom.

Upon wisdom, build experience.

Upon experience, build your reputation.

Upon your reputation, build your dreams.

Upon your dreams, build memories.

Upon the memories you both have and leave behind, build a legacy.

               To what end is the pursuit of higher knowledge, the relentless quest for education and mental equipping that drives a person along her search for greater self-awareness?  It ought to be because everything one knows becomes the basis for her life, its purpose and experiences.  Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is empty;   learn how to use that knowledge for good, and you have begun developing wisdom, an essential life skill.  The experiences that lead to making wise choices add up to define who you are as a person, and that image is what will propel you through the life of your choosing.   It is so very trite, but bears repeating:   do not let life happen to you, rather (you) happen to life.

The importance of good habits

               A well-bred woman has a desire to conduct herself properly and treat others politely throughout the seasons and years.  She nobly clings to her ideal standards and convictions even when it may seem to make little difference in the moment.   So many people act selfishly and thoughtlessly here in the land of the free that it can be tempting to return sarcasm for a snide remark, excessive umbrage over a hurtful remark, cold aloofness for foolishness, or tailgating for being cut off in traffic!   However, I prefer to think of life as an ever changing garden tended by each precious woman who puts her hand forth to create beauty, order, and fruitful abundance.  In doing so, I realize that each moment matters, and while no one is perfect, one should pay attention to the habits, formed by daily acts, that will eventually lead to either personal growth or personal inhibition.

               A habit is both a giant and small endeavor.   It is big because if one succeeds at forming a years-spanning good habit, it is truly a momentous task!  Yet a habit can only be formed and maintained by the continual decision, though small, to stay with a particular resolution or method.   For example, a woman may have decided that in order to look more feminine, she will always leave the house with at least a little makeup on, hair fixed instead of just thrown in a pony tail, and shoes other than gym shoes or sneakers.   She may have been implementing these new choices for several weeks or months, but then one day she is terribly worn out, behind schedule, and frazzled.   Since she is clean and well groomed, she may decide to skip the makeup that day (or find that in her haste she simply forgot it).   Exceptions are normal and I would not consider that to be breaking a habit or starting a new one.   But, it does become easier each time an exception is made to make another and another and another.   If this particular woman does not begin making the time to tend to herself in the manner that she had determined she wanted to and continues to let her standards slip, the habit of always looking a little dressy when going out will soon fade away.   It is the tiny steps each day–those extra 45 seconds to apply mascara, the minute or two of thought that goes into choosing a becoming hairstyle other than a pony tail, and the effort, hardly more in this case, to grab a serviceable pair of flats, sandals, or boots instead of sports shoes–that create the bigger, overall picture of a woman looking pulled together and stylish every day of the week.

               Thinking about a habit only in terms of how easy it is to break simply by letting the tiny, daily steps slide can be depressing.   To look at the other side of the matter, imagine the fortress of stability that could eventually be built by choosing a small action each day or each time one is in a certain situation.   For example, a woman may feel stressed out by her short temper and her inability to take a step back and let things roll off instead of letting everything bother her.   She may find herself constantly getting irritated with others;   whether or not the others “deserved” her irritation is not the point, as a classy, well-bred woman controls her temper and emotions and avoids harboring petty feelings and anxiety, especially over the actions of others whom she does not control.   When faced with this defect in her personality, she may feel very overwhelmed at the thought of changing into a calm, peaceful, serene, happy person who takes everything in stride and is not easily ruffled.   So instead of choosing to completely overhaul her entire self, she may decide to try reacting differently in just a few situations, for example, when confronted by just one of the people who set her on edge.   Or she may try to respond properly one day a week, or just whenever the thought that she needs to change occurs to her.   But each time she is able to stay focused and calm, and laugh off or ignore the triggering behavior of others instead of letting it get to her, she makes it that much easier to react properly again in the future.

               If you cannot change everything, change something.   Think of each small decision, each daily victory, as a tiny seed planted in a garden, or a drop of nourishing water or sunbeam;  over time and with the nurture of further correct decisions, your attitude or project or relationship or goal will blossom into a beautiful bloom of success.   You reap what you sow.

Considering others: not wasting time

               Considering the feelings of others is of utmost importance to a well-bred woman and is one of her primary characteristics. It may, in fact, be the hallmark of her very existence. Many women can become well-mannered, well-educated, or well-endowed with abilities and resources, but few choose to consciously consider others within the context of everything they do.

               A well-bred woman lives her life carefully and conscientiously. She considers each decision before making it and weighs the ramifications of her actions upon not only herself but also those around her. One area for consideration involves how she chooses to spend her time. If she is careless, a woman may draw friends with good intentions into her chronic shortcomings, such as an inability to stay focused, spend time well, or finish a job. How a woman chooses to spend her time directly affects others, especially well-meaning friends who just want to be there and support another woman no matter what. The more trusting and faithful a friend is, the more likely she is to feel hurt or let down when she finds that her time, trust, advice, and presence have been misused.

               I think American women often feel obligated to be the perfect friend. We want to be there all the time, solve every problem, be the heroine, and save our friend! We patiently put up with all her flaws. Too often we may end up hurt or disappointed when our efforts go unnoticed or do not bring about the end we had desired, as in the case of someone who may have their own chronic time-wasting issue to work out. Of course, since nobody is perfect, swearing off friendship forever while becoming highly judgmental and mistrustful of others would not be characteristic of a well-bred, thoughtful woman. However, with a little practice in recognizing issues and sticking to her boundaries, a woman can control the amount of time, energy, and effort she puts into each friendship, thereby maintaining most of them without feeling used. A well-bred woman will gracefully cut back excessive emotional and physical involvement in a relationship while making everyone as happy as possible.

               What types of personal shortcomings in a woman might cause her friends to feel as though she is taking advantage of them? Areas in which she wastes her own time can often overflow into a friend’s life, causing the friend to waste time, too. Some examples include daydreaming, gossiping, fruitless planning, creating castles in the sky, envying others, wishing without doing, browsing the internet, looking at pictures or articles of other people’s lives endlessly, reading frivolous material, and constantly gaming or texting. In short, these personal shortcomings occur when good activities such as imagination, conversation, and relaxation are made futile through overuse, thereby not producing results to make life better.

               When deciding to engage in any activity, a woman should measure its worthiness by asking these questions: Is this worth my time? Does this further my life’s purpose? Does this line up with my principles? Does this involve the use of another’s time, emotions, or insight and knowledge? If so, is this worth involving that other person? It is important that consideration for others who may be drawn into the activity be part of a well-bred woman’s decision.

               A tendency to excessive daydreaming or future planning, for example, may lead a woman to unwittingly steal her friends’ time, emotions, advice, knowledge, or insight. If she never acts on anything, this woman’s friends may begin withdrawing or becoming aloof if they feel their interactions with her are not worth their investments into her.

               At this point, I could discuss the situation at hand from two perspectives: that of the person who draws others into her time-wasting feats or that of the friend who got caught up in another’s fruitless activities. Though I originally intended to do both, I feel more prepared to discuss it from the latter point of view. As to the former, her cure will come via asking the questions to consider before engaging in any activity that involves others and through the constant mantra of considering others in everything she does.

               My blog’s title was inspired by my looking back over the last decade and noting the lessons that women I have known have learned about life’s purpose, friendships, manners, and responsibility. Today’s subject reminds me of a woman who got caught up twice in a friend’s philandering of her time, emotions, knowledge, and advice.

               Once there was a young woman whose family had recently joined a new church. They were quickly drawn in by another family, who often invited them over for dinner or talked to them for hours after services. The young woman noticed that this family seemed to not have any other close friends in the church, even though they had been attending for over a year, but she naively concluded that certain people do not always click with others and that her family must really click with this family. But one day, she realized they did not mesh as well as she had thought. The young woman was a busy housewife and mother of small children. Her new-found friend had older children who were self-sufficient and attending school. This friend spent one to two hours each day talking on the phone to the young woman, who was grateful at first for adult interaction during her long, lonely days. Unfortunately, not only did the phone calls become longer and longer, the discussion content became more and more negative as the friend vented all her criticism and disappointment with her life, her past, and specifically the church they both attended. The young woman felt like she was sucked into a time stealing and negative thought creating vortex. She was not assertive enough to curtail the conversation’s length or content after having already answered the phone, so she began not taking her friend’s calls. She tried stretching out their calls to every other day, then twice a week. As the calls continued to be long and unfruitful, she finally decided to limit interaction with this woman to church only. She dutifully explained to her new friend that she would no longer be available for phone calls, noticing that her friend ignored her. At about the same time, her family missed one Sunday’s attendance due to out of town guests and the next week’s due to illness. In that time, her so-called friend and some other church members began gossiping furiously that her family was leaving the church, and she was surprised to receive several angry phone calls from many members expressing their dismay over her family’s alleged decision to leave the church. Of course, the young woman’s friend called, too, but trying to stick to her new goal of church-interaction only, she felt unfit to take the calls. This led to the friend showing up unannounced at the young woman’s house one morning. As this story has gone on long, to sum up the young woman did not handle the situation well but let things escalate, and lost her friendship while eventually having to seek a new church family due to the large-scale gossip that had sprung up around her. Upon reflection, the young woman realized that she ought not have gotten too close to new friend so quickly before fully realizing her character, and that she should have curtailed her involvement in her friend’s time-wasting chatter as soon as she was aware of the problem. She firmly believed that in the future, a friendship need not be sacrificed if she were to respond promptly and properly to such a situation again.

               A few years later, the young woman again found herself devoting much time, effort, and thought to a friendship in which another woman sought advice and collaboration. As she loved to advise and solve problems, the young woman eagerly invested hours of time helping her friend plan, troubleshoot, and tweak. After a couple of months, however, the young woman realized that she had been taking her friend’s plans more seriously than the friend was. What the young woman regarded as serious questions and ideas, such as asking others to make commitments to responsibility and time, were apparently not so very serious to the friend making the plans. When the young woman realized that all her investment had been for naught, she felt let down for a day. Then she realized that all was not lost because the friendship was still there, and that though differing levels of maturity and worldly wisdom had caused her and her friend to see things differently, she need not throw away the friendship by attempting to force her point of view upon her friend and certainly not by cutting off communication. She quietly but gradually eased up on her involvement in the fairy-tale project and made sure above all that her words were always positive and encouraging to her friend. Through the wise diplomacy of a thoughtful woman, the young woman managed to continue to meet her friend’s emotional needs by letting her know how much she valued and appreciated her without making the friend feel guilty about the young woman’s own decision to become over-involved. The two women remain friends, and as far as I know there are no hard feelings between them.

               The well-bred woman will be ever changing, growing, adapting, and taking life’s lessons to apply to the future; she will always be a work in progress. Above all, she will always consider the feelings of others because kindness and thoughtfulness undergird her character.