Thursday, June 10, 2010

13 ways to discourage a younger woman

I've been reading the truly excellent book Intimate Issues by Linda Durrow and Lorraine Pintus. If you're a woman and you're married, it should be on your reading list! I'd like to review it someday, but in the meantime, here's a post inspired by this book.

Here's a story from Linda Durrow and Lorraine Pintus's Intimate Issues:

I (Linda) walked away from the Bible study feeling ridiculed and put down. I had been married five years and was teaching about the priorities of a woman's life. That morning I had made the statement that our relationship with our husbands should continue to grow in every area, including the sexual. An older woman laughed and condescendingly quipped, "Linda, you're young and naive. Just wait until you've been married twenty years. Sex gets old - you'll see."
Ouch! This story got me thinking about how easily we can discourage younger women. Here's 13 statements you can use to discourage a younger woman. Please add your own ideas!

1. "You think toddlers are hard. Just wait till they're teenagers!"
(or, "You've got a good relationship with your daughter now, but wait till she's older!")

2. "It's really annoying, but my husband expects sex at least once a week. The older I get, the less I enjoy it."

3. "If you follow this program, your babies will sleep through the night. All my babies slept through the night."

4. "I've been struggling with the same sin for 20 years. I never change."

5. "Life just keeps getting harder. Your body stops working. Relationships break down. Your parents and then your friends get sick and die. Your best years are behind you."

6. "It's great that you're trying to exercise (or trying not to gossip, or trying to be more patient, or ... ), but I bet you'll give it up in a month or two."

7. "No-one ever reads the Bible or prays when they have young kids. I didn't." (or, "I read the Bible and prayed every day when I had young kids. You just have to be organised.")

8. "No man ever really listens."

9. "Godly women get up early / keep up to date with their laundry / decorate their tables every night / fill the blank ........... ."

10. "I don't know why I bother. The women in this church just aren't ministry-minded."

11. "You husband ... [insert critical comment here] / My husband ... [insert whining comment here]."

12. "Now your kids are all at school, when are you going back to work? What are you going to do with all your spare time?"

13. "I work full-time. I keep my home and family running smoothly. I lead the women's Bible study. I evangelise my neighbours. I ... "

Any other ideas - perhaps something you've said to a younger woman, or an older woman has said to you?

image is from russelljsmith at flickr


Danielle said...

Hi Jean, here are some of the things said to me that I found really discouraging!

14) "You must have been really young when you had your kids. What made you choose to do that?"
15) "There must be something wrong with your son/daughter if they keep having tantrums like that. My kids never did THAT!"
16) "It's a shame you can't breastfeed. My wife did and she has a really great bond with our girls."

Eek! We can be very hurtful without meaning to. It's good to remember that our teeth and lips are there to guard our tongues.

Keep up the great blogging :)


Katie said...

Marriage is a LOT harder than you think it is. (Said at a bridal shower)

- True, but is that the best way to encourage a young bride?

Sarah said...

I find it's the women who are about 5-10 years older than myself who are usually more discouraging than 'old' women (70+). One of my most discouraging experiences ever was being a part of a women's Bible study where I was the only woman under 30. The majority of the group used to make snide comments that I was a little kid and if I disagreed with their views on a passage, I'd get the 'look'.

I quite honestly don't see why women (myself included) look at another woman and first see a potential rival instead of a potential friend.

Thanks for that post, Jean. Lots to think about how we can encourage rather than tear down.

Jean said...

Thanks for the great suggestions! Danielle and Katie, you made me giggle! These things sound so ridiculous when you write them down. But the truth is, as you say Danielle, we can all "be very hurtful without meaning to". I often catch myself saying something about the last stage I was in, then wishing I could take it back.

I agree, Sarah, it's often when we're in the next stage (about 5 or 10 years on) that we say these things. I think it's because we feel like we've got the "badge" for the last stage of life (and have forgotten how hard it one was!), and have moved into the next "club" so are tempted to exclude those who don't belong to it yet, but we haven't lived long enough to get perspective on it all.

Jean said...

And Danielle, you reminded me of some more: "You look awfully young to be getting married!", and "I could never cope with that many kids!".

Plain Ol' Vanilla said...


I'm fairly new to your blog and have to say how much I love your thoughts. Thank you for this post. I'm an older woman to several youngers (especially my own three dds!) and I desire to a 'cheerleader' to them, faithful to the Word and offer hope to the weary. And oh, I do remember how weary those days can be!

When my oldest dd was engaged two years ago, several older Christian women told me how "hard" it would be for me to have my dd move so far away. Yes, I knew it would be hard. Sadly, the thing that no one ever said to me was, "It will be hard, but God will give you grace. And I'll be praying for you!"

I learned from those ladies' discouraging words, that Godly encouragement doesn't mean avoiding the truth but always gives hope in the midst of it---"God is able and He will provide and I will pray along with you".

Oh may our words be bathed with grace and encouragement and hope.

In Christ,


Amanda said...

Heres one 'its important to look your best for your husband'


This was a great post, thank you. I've had the 'teenagers are worse' comment thrown at me many times. I really hate it.

Jean said...

"I learned from those ladies' discouraging words, that Godly encouragement doesn't mean avoiding the truth but always gives hope in the midst of it---"God is able and He will provide and I will pray along with you".

Absolutely. I've been planning a blog post on exactly this point soon. You'll see why - assuming I get it written! :)

Sarah said...

Your post strongly reminded me of this post I did last year

Sarah B said...

Some of these comments are clearly hurtful, but I think sometimes we need not be so sensitive. eg, when our children are at school we do have more time....I think we need to be encouraged to make good use of our time. (I had a number of thoughts to many of the statements made) Perhaps we can work at modelling godliness and respond in love to those older women that are clearly unhappy in their marriages or pray for those struggling with difficult teens??? What do you think Jean??

Jean said...

Thanks, Sarah, for the link - I'll take a look!

Sarah B - hi! Nice to hear from you! Good questions as always!!

Yes, sometimes we can be too sensitive. And yes, certainly we should love and care for older women who are struggling! I guess I was trying to encourage us to think about when we say these things, not how to respond when someone says them to us. And I'd hope, as you say, that we feel able to encourage, challenge and even rebuke younger women when it's needed!

I think you can say many of these things in a more helpful way. So you can talk about how things can get tough as you get older - but also how God has been faithful to you during these times and brought much good out of them. You can talk about how a woman will have more time when her kids are in school (although I must admit the women I know have less extra time than they expected!) - but not put her under subtle pressure to go out and get a job unless that's helpful for her family. You can talk about how helpful it may be to your husband to keep on top of the washing and cleaning(!) - but in an encouraging way which acknowledges differences in how we run our homes and marriages. You can talk about your struggles to change - but not just "dump" your frustration, but talk also about the hope that the gospel gives you. You can talk about your difficulties with teenagers or marriage - but encourage a younger woman by telling her how you have struggled to be godly in your situation, and how you've seen God at work.

In other words, it's the negativism of many of these statements which bothers me. It's possible to be honest and real but at the same time acknowledge God's goodness and hope and call to a godly life. What it comes down to (as always) is "speaking the truth in love" - making sure that what we say is motivated by the good of the other person, not just venting or getting things off our chests or honesty for the sake of honesty. Something I am definitely still learning!

What do you think?

Love Jean.

Sarah said...

Understanding where the comments are coming from is a very good point ie. maybe the older woman is discontent or jealous of young women, or her husband pays her little attention. It's hard not to get our backs up when we hear blatant negativity which shatters our hopes, but somehow I know God will enable us to respond with grace and love, even when I think people are being negative nannies.

I forgot to add before...I've been married for just over two years now and the most discouraging comments I've received are 'the romance will fade' and 'wait til you have kids'. I appreciate people being real and honest, but there is a line, and are the motives to lovingly prepare someone for the next stage, or to kill off others' joy because joy is lacking in their own lives?

Danielle said...

I totally agree with framing things in a positive way, Jean. I really needed to read this post today, because it's challenging me to look at those times when I justify my blurting or "sharing" for the sake of "honesty".

On the flip side, I've been thinking about those times when I felt really encouraged. One of the standouts was a woman who said "I love the way you talk to your kids".

I agree that we (well, I) can be oversensitive, but we're also encouraged in the Bible to lift one another up -- not cut our neighbours down to size.

Lots to chew over!

Anonymous said...

Sarah B hear, having trouble with the account.
hear, hear, I do agree....just stirring the pot.
All the kids at school issue is pertinent for me at the moment, b/c my youngest is at kinder and I am observing many others make choices about their futures and wondering where I will be this time next year. I believe that unless we structure certain 'activities of service' into our schedule it is very quickly 3pm and time to get the kids from school.....
Also, any reminders that we can give to younger single women about the rigours of married life are timely, Hen's Night or many fairytale stories have we deluded ourselves with? I should probably stop now!

Jean said...

On that, anonymous ... one of the most encouraging things I've had said to me is that we shouldn't expect marriage to solve all our problems - it brings enough of its own! Also I hope that people will challenge me about how I use my time. So realism and honesty can be good things. We don't want to be glibly positive - any more than we want to be callously negative! I guess, again, the main thing is whether we speak out of love and with real concern for the other person - or whether we speak out of malice, envy, discontent, and unkindness. All too often I choose the latter option!

Jean said...

Sarah, "I appreciate people being real and honest, but there is a line, and are the motives to lovingly prepare someone for the next stage, or to kill off others' joy because joy is lacking in their own lives?" It's so easy to slip into the second, isn't it? We need to be so careful how we speak! Prepare people for what will be hard - but also give them hope that God will be at work in them, and that much good will come out of it.

Jean said...

p.s. one of the hardest things of all is knowing how to say hard things to a younger woman in a loving way. There's a matter for another post!

mattnbec said...

One of the most discouraging things I ever had said to me was when I mentioned to an older lady who was a pastor's wife that I was thinking about doing some further theological education. Her response was to say something along the lines of "the best speakers at womens' conferences and what not are ones who were older [ie older than than me] and had lots of experience. Theological study is fine for the men, but it's better to leave it to them". The implication was clearly that I was young and foolish to think about how I might prepare for future service. Only old women can be wise (and only age will make me wise). I was very discouraged

jennifer said...

I think one of the problems is our tendency to want to be quick to give advice, or to assume that other people will experience life in the same way we have, without really listening to the other person.

For eg. with the lady who was told how hard she would find it when her daughter(?) moved away. Wouldn't it be better to give her the opportunity if she wants it to share this for herself, rather than telling her how she will feel. I think we also need to try to first empathise with the person, and then move on to an encouragement about how God will be with her.

And some of these comments that are made with confidence may not be true for everyone (ie the wait til you have teenagers). I think if we take the time to listen first we will be in a much better position to say an appropriate word of encouragement.

Emily said...

One of the reasons I know that it's normal to find parenting teenagers is difficult is because of the comments made to me when I had toddlers! Now I have teenagers not toddlers I understand, though I hated, hated, hated the comments at the time.

Something I work hard at is assuring mothers they are the best mother for their children, that no mother is perfect, we all do some things well and some things not so well. Wouldn't it be boring if we had nothing to work on?

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I have had one wonderful woman say to me, "I love the teenage years." I cling to that!!