Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Protecting and Loving Our Brothers in Christ

 I am SO encouraged by the wonderful people that I have met on G+. I cannot tell you how many times I come across a true gem like this! A few friends and I were having a talk about how to build up brothers in Christ, while still maintaining a proper emotional distance.

I asked +Kathleen Grace if I could use her words of encouragement for my (sadly under used and forgotten) Blog. And she said yes! The following is her comment on our topical discussion. I like to pretend that I'm a journalist, and this is my interview of Miss Grace about modesty, and protecting our brothers. ;)

This photo provided by Fresh Modesty Blog
"It can be tricky to find that balance, can't it?

In the last six months, due to circumstances beyond my control, I've had to work very closely with a young man who, though he is much like a brother to me, is not a blood relation.  As a result, we've had to talk about this kind of thing - about boundaries, avoiding tempting one another, etc.  I've learned a lot from that, from observing others with that kind of thing in mind, and so on.  When you have this at the front of your mind for six months, you learn a lot.

I'm seeing more and more that one of the ways we can best encourage guys is to not make their lives harder.  We have the ability to make life very difficult for our brothers in Christ if we do not use caution.  Or maybe it would be better to say that one of the best things we can do is avoid discouraging them.  They may not always notice, but when they do, they definitely appreciate it and are encouraged that their sisters are actively seeking to protect them.

One thing to not do is excessively compliment them.  We girls want to be loved.  Guys want to be respected and affirmed by those around them.  Especially by their father, and by young women.  Just as it can be a stumbling block for us if a guy seems too caring, it can be a stumbling block for them if a girl is too "respecting".  There's nothing wrong with respecting young men, or with them knowing that you respect them, just as there's nothing wrong with them loving us as their sisters in Christ, or with us knowing that they do.  But verbally affirming them too often can be a temptation for them.  As my friend put it, it can be hard when all the girls are going wild over something he's done, and there's maybe a guy or two who likes it, too.  I mentioned fathers - there's an even greater danger for them here if their father is not providing that affirmation, and if they don't have real sisters who are doing it.

One of the most powerful ways we can encourage our brothers is simply to dress modestly.  That's a battle that never ends for them.  If you haven't yet, you should read my friend Shelby's post about it here:
Read the comments from the guys, too (especially the first one from Andrew R), and the posts written by guys that she's linked.  It's not just that we protect them from being tempted to sin in their thoughts about us while they're around us.  Seeing or remembering a girl whose dress reminds them of the importance of purity strengthens them against those temptations.  When we dress modestly, we don't just protect them in our presence.  We arm them for the fight when they are away from us.  You may not think of it, but that guy ten yards away down the aisle in the store?  Your dress may just have called his mind back to what is right, just as he was about to give in to the temptation.  Your friend who just saw those supermarket checkout magazines (I hate those things!)?  Maybe something reminded him of you, even though you're miles away.  And he has a reminder (even if an imperfect one) of what wholesome, Biblical womanhood should be to redirect his thoughts to what is pure.  I can't say it for all guys, but I know there are those out there who do this - when they are tempted, or they feel discouraged by the constant assault, they turn their minds to other girls.  To girls who, though imperfect, reflect Christ to them.  When a guy has that image in his mind, the contrast with the world's corrupted version of womanhood makes the latter very unattractive by comparison.  Your dress and actions can either strengthen or weaken that defense.

Another way that we can encourage our brothers is to have boundaries, and clearly communicate them.  Most often, if a girl seems comfortable with where things are, a guy will go along with it, even if his conscience isn't quite easy about it.  Most guy-girl friendships (once it goes beyond acquaintance) are going to end up at the lines the girl lays down.  Many of them will try to be careful, but if we don't let them know where the lines are, then they're likely to feel a bit like they're walking blindfolded through a minefield.  Once you let him know where the boundaries are, then he has a responsibility to respect those (and if a guy doesn't respect your boundaries, then get out of the friendship).  But once they understand that there are boundaries, and know where they are, that frees them to be friends with you, without worrying that they're about to step on a mine.

But one of the best ways you can encourage them is simply to be an example.  Follow Christ in your actions.  Love them as your brothers, and act that love in your dress and manners.  When they see us growing in Christ and whole-heartedly seeking to follow Him, then it encourages them, and challenges them to do the same.  We girls have more influence over our brothers than we really understand - let's use it well."

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