I’ve seen it before; of course, so have you. You’re scrolling through a social media sight and notice that a friend posted something about a relaxing moment in her life. Then right underneath her post, there’s a comment that generally communicates, “Wow, must be nice. Wish I had that kind of time in my life to just sit and do nothing.”
Before long the person who made the post is defending herself explaining that it’s a rare thing and she really does work hard and have a busy life, that’s why this moment is worth a post. Reading through the lines you can hear that she got the message: the blow has landed. Now she feels like she has to prove her value to the world, all because another woman’s words.
The sad thing is that we hear it all the time. Think about it: How many times have you ever heard or made a comment like this?
“Must be nice to be at home all day with the kids and not have to work.”
Or, “It must be nice to have a job to run to while somebody else raises your kids.”
Here’s one of my favorites, “Well, I could be Suzy Homemaker too if I just had your free time.”
Of course, comments like these don’t solely focus on career choices. We make comments like:
“It’s good that you’re not obsessed with how you look, it must be so nice to be able to just ‘let yourself go’ and still feel confident.”
Or “If you took as much time to make your house look presentable as you do to make yourself look presentable, I’d be worried about having the nicest house on the block. But I’m not.”
And have you ever noticed how men respond when they hear or read these types of comments?
“Dude, women are nasty. I’m so glad I’m a guy.”
At least that’s the way my brother put it when he recently saw two women in a verbal “who-has-the-hardest-life-fight”.
In that moment, I was actually a little embarrassed for my gender because he was right. Because my mind works a little differently than most peoples and song lyrics randomly pop into my head to fit appropriate situations, the only thing I could think at that moment was the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s song, “Why you gotta be so mean?”
Yet, weird or not weird, it does seem like an appropriate question.
Why do women, especially Christian women, choose to be so mean and cruel to other women?
Why do Scriptures like Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another,” seem to go out the window whenever one woman’s choice makes another woman feel inferior or insecure about her own choices?
Let’s face it ladies, we all know this isn’t the way it should be.
The truth is that rather than being agents that tear another sister down, as God’s daughters, and members of the body of Christ we are called to build one another up in love.
If we look up just a few verses in Ephesians 4, we read, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
1 Thessalonians 5:11 reads, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up”
Romans 15:2 says, “Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’” (The Message Version)
Did you see that? As Christians we are called to build each other up, encourage each other, and put the good of others above our own. Nice thought, but how can we make it a reality?
Let’s get practical and talk about how we can move past the current situation (women treating other women badly) and into God’s will for how for how we should behave in our relationships with other women. How do we stop imitating the catty and cruel ways of the world and consistently follow in the footsteps of Christ?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Stop criticizing or coveting other women’s choices and start analyzing your own.
Here’s the thing: I truly believe that at the heart of most women’s catty comments about another women’s choices is a frustration or dissatisfaction with the choices that she’s made in her own life.
James 4:1-2 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”
Jealousy---the ugly green-eyed monster rears its ugly head again.
But here’s the thing. Being jealous of another woman’s situation, doesn’t do anything to improve your own.
Truthfully, the choice to criticize or attack another woman because you are jealous of her circumstances or choices doesn’t really make you feel better. It only makes her feel worse. The only thing that is going to actually make you feel better about YOUR life is taking a good look at your situation and the choices that got you there and saying, “Is there anything I can do differently so that I can live the life I really want?”
Instead of allowing jealousy to control you, take responsibility for your choices and ask yourself, “Are the sacrifices that I’m making for my choices paying a dividend that is worth the cost?”
Don’t kid yourself---every woman makes choices. Every choice involves some form of sacrifice and cost and reward. The next time you feel the need to criticize another woman’s choices or lifestyle, first ask yourself, “Am I willing to make the sacrifices she’s made to have that lifestyle?”
Perhaps the answer will lead you to make changes in your own life. Maybe you’ll conclude that no, you aren’t willing to give up the reward you’re receiving from your choices to have her life.
No matter what answers this question lead to, the important thing is that you move past the fruitless energy of jealousy and criticism and instead put that energy into making positive choices in your own life.
2. Once you’ve made your choices, let her make her choices.
Here’s the thing: most of the things that we criticize other people for are simply none of our business. Unsolicited advice or commentary on another person’s choices is rarely appreciated.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before criticizing another woman’s choices:
---- “Is what I have to say my opinion or a Biblically-based principle?”
---- “Is my comment going to reap eternal results? Will it mean the difference of Heaven or Hell for this woman or her family? Will heeding my advice help this woman avoid years of bad consequences from poor choices or am I simply trying to get her to agree with me and validate my choices”?
---- “Am I making this comment because her choices make me feel guilty or convicted about my own, hence I’m just trying to justify my own actions?”
---- “Is there even a hint of jealousy or envy in my attitudes?”
---- “Have I established a relationship with her that helps me understand the logic behind her choices?”
---- “How would I feel if someone shared their blunt opinions on my choice in this area of life?”
Straight Talk: We all have the freedom to make our own individual choices as long as we are willing to live with the consequences that those choices bring. Once you’ve made your choices, if it isn’t a matter of Heaven or Hell and no one is in danger, let other women make their choices, too.
Quite frankly, it’s none of your business if a woman chooses to breastfeed or use formula, join a gym or exercise at home, home school her kids, send her kids to Christian school or public school, buy organic meat and vegetables or regular old ground beef, wear or not wear makeup every day, and the list could go on and on and on….
If you don’t have a relationship with another woman, it’s REALLY none of your business. Just because you are passionate about something, doesn’t everyone is. When it comes to matters of preference, just let it go and keep your opinions to yourself.
3. The Difference Between Building Up and Tearing Down
So let’s say you’ve asked yourself the above questions, and your answer lead you to the conclusion that you need to speak up. You’re sure that your motivation isn’t jealousy or envy, and you really believe that you are acting out of concern rather than criticism or competition. What should you do?
Here’s one final test to make sure that your motivation is right: Are you willing to follow the Biblical pattern for confronting someone with sin in their life? (Aren’t you glad that the Bible is so practical, giving us guidance in so many areas of life?)
So what does the Bible say?
#1 Go to them privately.
“If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)
If you are really concerned for the welfare of another person, you will be willing to talk to them privately. That means “not on social media.”
Are you willing to have the person you’re worried about come over to your house or ask them out for coffee, sit down face to face, and privately share your concerns?
Your willingness or lack of willingness to do this will help you decipher whether you’re feeling concern or just being critical.
#2 Go to them gently.
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”
Other translations replace the word “gently” with “a spirit of meekness” or “humility”.
Basically, this means you need to check your attitude before you talk to the other person.
Don’t go in anger.
Don’t go in like an expert lording your spiritual knowledge over them or go to them with an overbearing mind.
Most of all, we shouldn’t enjoy pointing out their faults, have the desire to see them punished, or have a harsh and unforgiving temper.
Instead, we need to approach someone who needs help in love, gentleness, humility, and patience, and with a readiness to forgive them and help them get back on the path to making right choices in their lives. You see, it isn’t about pointing out that they are wrong and you are right. If we are really concerned for someone else, our only goal is to help them get on the right path and prosper spiritually, emotionally, and in every area of their lives.
Perhaps that’s the key: When choosing to comment or not comment on another woman’s choice, we need to ask ourselves, “Will this comment build up the other person or tear them down? Will it encourage them or discourage them? Am I commenting to make myself feel superior at the expense of another feeling inferior or am I putting their needs above my own and speaking words of life into their situation?”
Maybe the answer to “Why you gotta be so mean?” is that when we make these negative comments we’re focusing too much on ourselves, rather than focusing on the needs and feelings of others.
Frankly, that’s just sad. It’s sad for the ones that we hurt and it’s sad for us. In the end, when the war of words is over, no one really wins. What a waste of emotional energy!
There has to be a better way---and there is.
Choose to be a woman who builds up rather than tears down.
Use your words to build up others and support them, and use your energy, your capabilities, and your choices to build up your own life rather than being jealous of others. Choose to be genuinely happy with the circumstances in your own life, and then make the choice to be genuinely happy and supportive toward the other women in your life.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)