Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mentioning The Unmentionables

Yesterday I read something that brought to mind a topic that’s come up in my reading several times over the last few months. I really didn't have any intention of writing about it myself but something about it just really stuck with me and so here we are.

Once upon a time among the faithful Christian community, there were certain topics that were best left discussed in private. For men and women both, there are certain very personal, and very private issues that they might have, that are best only discussed with and receive wise counsel for, with other men, or other women, in a private setting and never within mixed company. What I refer to here is probably obvious but in case you are wondering - I'm specifically referring to relationship issues, and intimacy issues.
a homeschool grandma?

While I am in fact a homeschool mom (I'm also a homeschool grandma too... so whatever imagery that conjures up for you is probably not even close to what I'm really like), and would defintely be considered a "prude" by some people's standards (and have in fact been told that I am one), I think I'm pretty well balanced when it comes to this topic.

I recall about 10 years ago, sitting in a Christian chat room when a woman came in and wanted to know if a pastor was present for her to have a private discussion with. She was having marital problems, didn't have a church, and wanted some advice. A completely understandable request, but one filled with potential danger zones. There were in fact a few pastors present and not one of them spoke up. Instead, several women spoke up and offered to discuss things with her privately. She adamantly refused - she wanted a pastor - a man - to discuss her problems with. Eventually she fired off a string of unkind words and left the chat room in a huff, when she didn't get what she wanted. For those of you who use Christian chats, that might have a familiar ring to it. It happens ALL the time.

The advice she received in the chat that day is something I still find to be solid advice and I'll repeat it here:

• A man or a woman's marital problems are private and should be KEPT private. When made a matter of public discussion you might receive all kinds of advice ranging from really good, to really awful and you open yourself up to sitting in the counsel of fools or worse, taking their advice. Never a smart idea.

• If you're a woman with questions, seek out a sister talk to - not a man. The same obviously applies to a man: seek out a brother. I'll be as blunt as I usually am with things like this - if you are married, you have no business whatsoever discussing your intimiate life with another person of the opposite sex. Now obviously if you and your spouse are together, and discussing things face to face with your pastor, that's a different matter. I'm not referring to that scenario though.

• Speaking to the ladies here only: you need to remember that the best of men, are still men at best. You have a duty and an obligation before the Lord to avoid giving your brothers any reason to have any kinds of thoughts about you that would not be pleasing to the Lord. Having personal conversations with them, in private, about private and intimate things, is a danger zone that you have no business being in. DONT go there, no matter how "understanding and compassionate" he might be.

On more than one occasion I have seen public discussions of very private matters, that just make me cringe. Some of the things that people confess in a public, internet setting are so embarassing (for them) that you just wish you could help them take their words back and think very carefully before they type the next sentence. It's not that some of the things they admit to aren't real, or aren't real problems or difficulties that they might have, it's more a matter of TMI - too much information - that has no place being discussed in mixed company or in public.

It's not as if these things should never be discussed - they should. If there are things that aren't working the way they should, they need to be discussed with the right people - at the right place - to help you sort things out. The key here is the who, when, and where.

For whatever reason we no longer live in the day when intimate topics remain private discussions, and it quite literally blows me away sometimes the things men and women of faith write about online - knowing full well that they're writing to a mixed audience and even some in that audience that might be struggling with a weakness in the very area that they're writing about. While in some cases this can be a good thing and the readers might find themselves blessed and in a better place of understanding than before they read, that isn't always the case at all.

There was once a time that this would have been something you might only read on discussion forums, or discuss in a live chat room. I think it warrants a strong reminder for bloggers as well. For me it's a matter of discernment, propriety and responsibility not only to and for those reading, but more importantly: before the Lord.

If that makes me a prude, then that makes me a prude. I'll stick by my position on this topic and continue to encourage others to keep their unmentionables private, where they ought to be.