Thursday, August 21, 2014

Not All Beasts Are Beastly

In today's world it seems like we assume the world around us is cruel, is prejudiced, or bad in some way. I think there's less bad and more good than we give people credit for.

Today's our anniversary. Krista and I have been married for 5 years now, and we've known each other for 6. We're not celebrating today, because with a nephew living with us and a house we're trying to close on before we're obligated to vacate our apartment, time is in high demand.

No worries -- Krista's gift was a plane ticket to join me on my October business trip to LA where we'll stay late and soak in the West Coast.

Our anniversary causes me to reflect on the past, in concert with the present: I'm just finishing off 'A Year Of Biblical Womanhood' by Rachel Held Evans, and then there's the conversation and buzz that has begun to die off from the excommunication of the 'Ordain Women' founder, a Mormon woman who believes that the responsibility to officiate in priesthood ordinances and hold priesthood offices should belong to both genders.

When I met Krista, she wasn't sure she'd ever be married, and she was fine with that and felt no inordinate pressure to go one way or the other. I wouldn't deny that this pressure exists in the culture of the Mormon Church, but Krista at least was unfazed by it. (Herein lies one of many huge differences between Krista and other women.) Working on her Master's in Library Science, she thought she would move back to the East Coast and be a librarian.

She never mentioned getting a few cats, but I assume that would have happened along the way.

Here was a zero drama girl I could get behind. Quick to smile and laugh, reasonable and measured approach to divisive issues, long brown hair and a love of books -- I was sold. I guess Krista saw something in me that she liked too, and we started our long walk together.

When Krista and I started dating, we began to get comments that bothered me. Much like Beauty and the Beast, Krista is beautiful, demure, soft-spoken, agreeable and accomodating -- I, on the other hand, am big, loud, aggressively enthusiastic and love problem solving. I had been told by society that this was a pretty normal difference between genders, so I didn't think much about it and neither did Krista. I knew, as I'd always been told, that I would need to quiet down, ask, and listen more to make sure I wasn't stepping on her toes or overstepping my bounds. She knew she would have to be assertive with me and communicate clearly when something bothered her. We did these things, and we fell in love. Acting as yin and yang, our personalities matched well.

On more than one occasion, a rash of breakups would hit our friends and in the midst of so many new singles Krista would ask me 'Are we going to break up too?' and I would boisterously laugh at what seemed like a ridiculous notion to me and declare 'No, you and I are together for the long haul.' She would look at me and smile, letting my confidence lift her out of her tendency to worry.
On one dark evening shortly after we married, I was taken by a fit of depression. Whatever had seized my spirit felt like it was destroying me on the inside, and I laid on the bed sobbing uncontrollably, unable to identify the source of my sadness or how to solve my problem. My wife came and sat beside me, put her arms around me and sang to me soft hymns and sweet songs. Her voice was angelic, and her softness was just what I needed, and I was comforted.

Now Krista and I aren't the type to cause trouble or voice anger. She is soft spoken in nature, and I was raised in Canada, where the jokes about being polite are funny because they're true. We often laugh at the idea of raising our voices or arguing with each other, because there's a very regular progression of what happens when either of us gets upset: One gets upset, the other gets upset, then the first gets sad because they upset the other, then the other gets sad because they made the first sad, then we're both sad, so we cheer each other up. It never fails.

This tendency to not disturb or contradict others caused us to generally keep quiet and not talk out against a sentiment that it seemed like a lot of people shared, including family, that we found deeply offensive and disturbing:

Krista was a shrinking violet and I was an insensitive brute.

Because of her humble nature and my extroversion, some individuals who had 'studied the issues' and wanted to 'represent the downtrodden' placed us into bins they had constructed from their studies. In conversations that make relationships with some individuals hard to this day, there were even whispers of abuse, if not physical then certainly emotional and verbal.

I took these accusations hard -- I hate people thinking ill of me, and I've tried to always express love and concern to others. I brought them up with Krista over and over, dealing with a kind of paranoia that maybe my personality made it impossible for me to treat her, the woman I loved with all my heart, the way a woman like her needed to be treated. Krista has affirmed to me many times that she feels respected, and that if she's ever been disappointed or frustrated with me it's certainly no more than she would expect to be with any person that she was planning on spending forever with, since everyone makes mistakes. I make many more than she does, so she's mostly in charge.

Of course, these people haven't seen Krista disagree with her husband in the act of it. Let me tell you, she's no shrinking violet.

So we've rolled on, a beauty and a beast, for 5 years now, having our own little miracle, Jack, and praying for many more. We've never been happier.

The whole experience has taught me many things, but one of the most important is the error in taking the injustices we see in the world and projecting them to our immediate environment.

This is not an issue of what people thought of me and Krista -- this is only an example of why to be cautious, rather than overzealous, when trying to bring 'justice' and call out the 'evils' that we are told surround us.

There are many important issues affecting the world these days, and we must be careful not to assume that the real people we know are actually the oversimplified images that we see on screens.

I sympathize with your experience with emotional abuse, but we do not have that problem.

I realize you feel like your local church leaders are misogynistic, we do not.

I am so sorry that someone has robbed you of the ability to trust, but we do.

Yes, the injustices and abuses and failures and dearth of love are large and great and wide in a world of people trying to get by, but we have put tears and sweat and conviction and conversation and hours of prayer and deep thought into making sure they are scarce in the walls of our home. We continue to do so. So do not bring them here.

In order to fight something, you must know what it is you're fighting. By taking the people all around you and making them the enemy, you're disconnecting the problem from the cause and as a result making it impossible to fight, and making yourself seem crazy, seeing bigotry, sexism, racism, and many other places where it never existed.

As I mentioned, I love solving problems. It seems to me that one of the largest problems is that we are trying to decide what the world and our and others problems are from bloggers or news broadcasts or novelists or charismatic figures. That is not how I would recommend we learn what a person's problems are.

First, you love them.

Then, you ask them.

What are your problems?