Sexual harassment has been a hot topic lately – sadly. While clearly too many men in America are objectifying and harassing women, a lot of the Catholic/Christian guys are, I am assuming, feeling pretty good about themselves…and that is understandable. We’re not Weintstein right? Perhaps, though, we shouldn’t get too comfortable with the fact that we are “doing better” than guys like that. While we can be grateful, we have to remember that Weinstein and other such perverts are not standard by which we are judged – that standard is Jesus Christ. (It would also be wise to recall the words of St. Paul – there but by the grace of God go I.)
I think a lot of good men are doing well not (outwardly) objectifying women and are demonstrating a high level of respect. The problem that exists when the bar is set so low is that we think being above the bar is good enough. While our relating with women might be far from sexually harassing them, is it the right standard?
I want to challenge you to raise the bar higher, much higher. Here are some proposals in response to things that we likely do all the time and yet place us on the cusp of the inappropriate, especially if we are dating or married.
- Touching – We shouldn’t be touching women in any significant way, anywhere. If you have to hug, shoot for the one arm sideways hug. Old school etiquette used to teach that a woman was the one who engaged any contact, even a handshake. Not a bad way to go.
- Engaging in conversations consistently that get very deep and very personal. This is one where most guys get in trouble, especially married men. Intimacy develops when emotions and thoughts are shared on a regular basis and with a level of vulnerability. We’re not just bodies, so other “touching” moments matter too. A bond starts to form, and we are naïve to think otherwise. This activity puts us in a place of risk. It becomes too easy to fill a void in our life with this (or these) relationship(s). If we are married, this becomes the path to an affair. If we are single, we have to be aware that just being friends and having intimate conversations aren’t usually compatible for long. If we are a married man, having friendships with women needs to have serious limitations like:
- Settings: the one-on-one interactions, if personal in nature, shouldn’t be in private, like over a meal or at a bar or coffee shop.
- Context: this is especially important for the conversation – what are we discussing? How private is it? Would we say it differently if our spouse was present and if so why? How intimate is the topic?
- Frequency: If we find ourselves doing this with ANY kind of regularity, we probably need to stop immediately.
- Flirting “harmlessly” with the same girls, all the time. I don’t think commentary is needed, for single or married guys. What is needed is some self-awareness.
Dating is hard. Marriage is hard. Especially if we tend to follow our emotions like so many in our day and age do. Divorce is rampant. Affairs are far too common. I think, as men, if we call ourselves to a higher standard, let’s make that standard actually high – as opposed to just higher than the scum. Let’s not give the devil a chance to mess with our heads, emotions and wounds. Let’s be disciplined. Let’s honor the women in our lives by living by a higher standard – in all things.