Priorities

Well, I’m sorry about not having a post up yesterday. I’m sorry to say that insomnia got the better of me on Thursday night and I spent most of Friday a little loopy. Then we had some guests with us yesterday (Alayna’s baby shower is tomorrow… the baby is almost here, which is both exciting and terrifying), and so I generally have had a lot of distractions lately. I don’t say any of this as an excuse (honestly I don’t think I need one), but simply to explain why there was no post yesterday and to introduce my point here: it’s easy to lose focus of where our priorities should be.

I’ve done this many times in my life. Honestly, when I first started this blog my priorities were very out of whack. In the beginning I wanted this blog to be very successful (and given how many followers we have I think there has been some success involved), and because of that I was extremely focused towards attaining that goal. For the first year I wrote all of the posts for the blog myself, a post a day for a year is a lot for anyone to write (and if you’ve ever tried you know what I mean). After that I started bringing some other writers on board, but I was draconian about timely posting. I almost lost a friend over whether or not she published her posts on time.

I had certain standards, and standards, or so I told myself, are a good thing. I had been told that consistency is very important for bringing in reader, and I stuck to that and focused on consistently providing material of an accessible, but also high quality. I wanted to make sure that everyone who wrote for me had the same focus. This is where my priorities were off-target. At the time, especially in the particular situation I’m thinking of, I should have considered my friend’s feelings and what this particular person was dealing with at the time. I didn’t. All I focused on was that posts weren’t going up when they ‘needed’ to, and that was simply unacceptable.

At that time this blog was one of the few good things going on in my life. Academically I had hit what seemed to be a dead end. I applied to a number of programs, only to be rejected by all of them, and I had struggled to find a teaching job, only to then struggle to make enough money at the teaching job I did find to pay basic bills. Romantically, I had one short and painful relationship after another, and was shot down by most of the women I asked out in between them. Financially I had a mountain of debt that I didn’t see any realistic way of paying off. Spiritually I was in the driest point of my relationship with God since I converted, and while that didn’t last for more than six months, they were an extremely difficult six months.

When I started this blog, I thought it would be my ticket out of all of that (God had different plans), and I approached it as one might approach a life-changing career goal. However, since that time I have seem some (limited) success in my teaching job, I have started and finished a second master’s degree, gotten married, been accepted into two Ph.D. programs (still deciding which one), and Alayna and I are expecting our first child.

I say all of this to say that priorities are important. When I first started this blog I put an inordinately high priority on it, and was willing to sacrifice friendships for it. However, I think that in the past few years God has done a good job of refocusing my priorities. We’ve missed more that we did early on, and there is less focus on originality, quality, images, and timing. Things about the blog that used to be hard and fast rules have become only suggestions.

Other pursuits (school and family mostly) have taken precedence for me, and most importantly, I’ve learned to have a softer touch when others miss things, and learned to let some of them go myself. Four years ago I never would have allowed myself to miss a post. In thinking about all of this, I keep coming back to priorities. I treated this blog as though it was something that it can never be: a meaning for life.

Have you done the same with anything? I have said here before, and I still believe, that writing is good for us. It is important, healthy, and ultimately beneficial both for ourselves and for others. Some of you will probably make a career out of writing fiction, others probably won’t even though you want to, and some of you haven’t even considered it as a possibility. However, do you ever give your writing (however important it is) an inappropriate place in your life? It’s something worth thinking about.

Guarding a Man’s Heart

Some of you may not be familiar with this phrase, but ‘guard her heart’ is commonly used in the south, especially in Christian communities.  Though it is a misnomer, as it is impossible to truly ‘guard’ a person’s heart (life is pains and trials and this can never be escaped) the sentiment is good.  A better turn of phrase would perhaps be to ‘tend the heart’, or ‘care for the heart’.  However, whatever wording is used the meaning remains the same: to treat a woman’s heart carefully, to tend it well, to care for her and love her deeply, to know her and ensure that she feels known, appreciated, and loved.  What disturbs me is that this phrase is only ever applied to women.

Men, at least in the conservative Christian community, are repeatedly told to guard the hearts of women, to care for the women in their lives, to tend them well, to defend them, and to avoid hurting them whenever possible, and these are things that they should do.  However, it seems that women do not get the same message.  Many women appear to believe that their role is to be pursued, to be wanted, to be loved, adored, and taken care of.  Like the women of Victorian England they are told to, ‘lie there and think of the queen’.  I am not one to attribute malice where ignorance is a sufficient explanation, and so I say this: women, it is your responsibility to care for the men in your lives, just as it is their responsibility to care for you.

And do you love them in return? Remember, love is an action, not an emotion.

You want to be treated well.  You want to be loved.  You want be pursued.  You want to be told that you are beautiful, that you are important, special, worthwhile.  You want to not only be told these things, but to feel them.  You want a man to treat you like a queen.  Do you really think that men don’t want these things as well? Don’t need these things as well? Every man from 15 to 95 wants to be told that he is handsome, that he is skilled at what he does, that he is a worthwhile person.  Ladies, your job is not to be pursued, but to pursue in return.

Not only this, but just as it is a man’s job to protect you from the fickleness of his own emotions, to ensure that you feel loved and cared for, even when he does not feel like loving or caring for you, it is your job to do the same.  The men in your life long to know that you view them highly, that you admire and respect them, that you care for them and desire to please them.  In short, they want to know that they are important to you, and that you are not only willing, but eager to fill their needs.

Open any book on marriage (and this is a slight exaggeration as I have not read every book on marriage), and you will find that women want to be loved and men want to be respected.  That women long for intimacy and men long for sex, and to a degree this is true.  However, while the trappings might be different, the underlying desires are the same.  All of us want to be loved well, treated well, to know that we are important to the ones that we love, and so few of us are willing to actually give that in return.  No two people will receive these feelings in quite the same way, but everyone wants to feel them.  By this I mean that we all recognize love in different forms: one man wants to be told that he is worthy, skilled, and important; another cares nothing for words, but wants to be served; another is happy to take care of himself, but treasures tokens of affection; and another recognizes love through physical intimacy (the book The Five Love Languages covers this well, and I suggest everyone read it).

How well do you love your significant other?

The job of each of us, male and female alike, is to learn the specific needs to the people we love (and this applies to spouses, friends, siblings, and children), and to do our best to fill those needs.  However, from conversations with a few female friends, I have begun to realize that men are taught this, but women often are not.  So, at the request of one of those friends, I am asking each of you who read this (men and women) guard and treasure the hearts of the people in your lives.  Care for them well, put them before yourself, and show them your love and affection every day.  Stop being afraid, stop being consumed with your own problems, stop thinking nothing of those around you, and take up their burdens.  That’s what friends are for.

In your relationships, your marriages, or your romantic entanglements, do not be flippant and careless with the hearts of others, but treat them with love, respect, and dignity.  Do not hate those who have hurt you, and do not hurt others in the same way, but treasure them instead.  Learn the needs of your significant other, and love them well.  Be amicable with all, and take up your own responsibilities to those who you pursue, and by whom you are pursued.  In short, be concerned for others.