Friday, August 28, 2009

Gentling Influences: Part 1

My brother will often have me accompany him to social events for which I have no other reason for going than the fact that my brother will be there. Usually he has a reason for bringing me, sometimes because he wants me to be friends with his friends, but more often because my presence with him would prevent some sort of awkwardness from occurring. The other day was just such an occasion, and I went with him to have dinner at his friends’ house. If it weren’t for my brother, I would not have gone that night, and as it was, I spent the evening trying not to look as uncomfortable as I felt. On the way home, I told Tris that if I had known how superfluous I was going to be, I would not have gone. Tris answered and said that he was glad I was there, because my very presence had a “gentling influence” on the conversation, keeping it from turning in directions it ought not to go. Suddenly, I was very glad I had gone.

That got me to thinking, though. How does one accomplish such a thing? It seems to me that there are several factors that make one a gentling influence, the first of which is the matter of dress. Do I look gentle? --I certainly don’t mean that we ought to be merely ornamental, or to seek to seem weak and fragile, but there is a gentling effect that comes from the presence of a modest, feminine girl or lady.

One time as I was on the bus, a man across from me began a conversation with the heavily-tattooed man in the next seat. As their conversation progressed, it became apparent that the tatooed man had a rather entertaining way of phrasing things, and was very friendly. Before long, he had most of the passengers listening to a description of the tattooing process. In the course of the conversation, this colorful man used some colorful language. I continued to stare out my window, (very carefully giving no indication that I had even heard him swear) and he kept on with his story. When we came to his stop, he stood and began to say goodbye to all his new friends. On the way out of the bus, he stopped in front of me and said, “Sorry about the swearing.”

There were many other women on the bus, and even a few children, but he only apologized to me. I believe it was because I was (sadly) the only wholesomely and femininely dressed woman on the bus. The presence of a lady who looked like a lady had enough of a gentling influence on this man to make him think twice about the language he used in front of me –enough to make him apologize.

The way women dress has a definite effect on the way they are treated. I know this from personal experience, because I used to dress in a very different way than I do now. –But that’s another post for another day. The point is, if I don’t look like a lady, I can’t expect to be treated like one, and thus am not likely to be the gentling influence God created me to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Emotions

I have been thinking about the way I make decisions. There are a few pretty important matters that I need to get settled this next week or so, and while I was thinking about these upcoming decisions, my thoughts turned to the process of decision-making. So many times when I need to make a decision, especially if I don’t have much time to decide, I am tempted to rely on what I feel, rather than figuring out what I know. I suppose it is partly a product of intellectual laziness; I don’t want to take the time to think and determine the facts of the matter, so I go by feelings, which take less effort to determine.

Yet emotions are not necessarily a viable means for making decisions. The Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all else...” (Jeremiah 17:9) and I know from personal experience that emotions can easily be misleading or even false. While the Holy Spirit sometimes uses emotions to speak to us or guide us, it is important to be very careful to make sure that the “leading” we feel lines up with God’s word. I have been tricked by my emotions enough times that I am somewhat distrustful of them now. One way I have found to discern between mere emotional “fluff” and the leading of the Holy Spirit is to pray and ask God to make His leading more clear, to confirm that what I feel is truly His leading. –And He always does!

Emotions are indeed tricky things. So often, it is not what one feels that is most important; it is how one responds to those feelings that truly matters. Today was the first day of a piano camp I am teaching, and I noticed that so many of the problems my students had stemmed from the students being so preoccupied with the things other students were doing, that they ended up doing something worse. It’s important even for adults to remember that we are not responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for the way we react to them.