Lessons from 1,000 Women

Last fall, I fell in love with sexist jokes. I said them well, and I said them frequently. Whether I was in the deli or chapel on my college campus, I didn’t mind asking girls, “Why are you wearing a watch? There’s a clock on the oven.” I mean, to me, sexist jokes can be hilarious. That is why I told them. Do I hate women? By all means no. In fact, my mother is a woman, and I love her dearly. It seemed that girls found my jokes hilarious as well. They laughed. How could I suspect anything was wrong?

Most likely some of you think that I only put down women in order to increase my own masculinity. Please, don’t think that. To prove that I am quite confident in my manhood, let me share one of my more vulnerable memories. The summer before last fall, I read Captivating by Staci Eldredge two or three times, and I liked it.

Recently, I attended my first women’s conference—the Assemblies of God 2006 Women’s Ministries Conference (Jewels for the Master). My friend Benjamin and I received an invitation to lead worship for it, so we went. When Ben and I arrived with the praise and worship team, we were among approximately 1,000 women who attended the event.

The preachers encouraged us that we all are precious jewels to God, the Master Jeweler. At the conference, I started noticing women differently. Men’s conferences usually center on lust, pride and identity, but the women focused on different subjects. The women felt weary, tired, unsupported, ugly and beyond repair, and that is why the conference was called “Jewels for the Master.”

In a time when these women, and the women in my everyday life, were hurting and needing encouragement, I attacked them. Instead of lifting my sisters up, I attacked their femininity.

Most guys, including me, will agree that sexist jokes are hilarious. And for a long time, I had no idea what kind of impact it made on girls. The girls laughed, but I recognized that some of the girls I told these jokes to started shrinking back. Only two or three girls tried to defend themselves or joke back. I started to feel bad. Making fun of a girl who doesn’t defend herself is about as fulfilling as tickling people who don’t laugh. Then I found out that some of the girls began to believe the substance of the jokes.

Because it seemed to them that I strongly believed that women were greatly inferior to men, they actually believed it too. This came as a shock to me, because the reason I thought sexist jokes were so hilarious is because they were ridiculous and completely absurd. The girls didn’t see it that way. All they saw was a me (and a bunch of guys) repeating the same jokes with the same message—girls are inferior, stupid and beyond repair. These are the same thoughts from which the women at the conference wanted freedom.

While playing bass at the conference, I saw God change these women’s lives. He refreshed them and spoke into their hearts. Hundreds of women sprawled around the altar and cried out that God might make them feel beautiful again. Watching those ladies regain their confidence made me wonder how I was affecting them. These women needed to hear that they were beautiful. They need to know that: “The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!” (Zechariah 9:16-17, TNIV).

And they heard it and were refreshed.

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I never want to see a woman shrink back in pain at a stupid joke again. It hurts me to know that I played a role in those women crying at the altar. Though I didn’t know the women at the conference, I caused the same kind of pain in my own circles of friends. Ephesians 5 encourages wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives. I want to love women. When men love women and sincerely encourage them, I believe it has a different kind of power even than when women encourage other women.

My friend Joe gave me a powerful example of this principle. Last summer, he led a missions training course for his youth group, and he asked each member to individually climb a rock wall. One girl, unable to climb the wall, started to weep. Joe walked up to her, looked her in the eyes and told her all the good, inspiring and strong things he had seen in her that weekend. He said that he believed in her. After this, she got on the wall and made it all the way to the top. After that, she told Joe that she only made it to the top because he believed in her. At that point, they both cried. He had no idea how powerful his words were and realized it came down to the principle of men offering encouragement to women.

What a great example of the power men have to encourage women. Instead of making fun of the differences between men and women, I want to inspire them to be better women. Now, I’ll often stop a girl and say, “I am not hitting on you. I think you are [fill in the blank (beautiful, smart, funny, etc.)] Rock on.” If you notice how smart, timely, industrious or captivating she is, comment on that. It’s simple, but our words are surprisingly refreshing. Try it out, and women will respect you for it. I should know—I spent a weekend with 1,000 women after all.

How do you turn a pig into a respectable man? Send him to a women’s conference.

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