Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Man, I feel like a woman... Part 1

Reading Lesley's Blog reminded me of something that has raised it's head a few times since ordination and which I still don't feel quite settled about in my own mind - the whole issue of vulnerability - how we show it, how we should have the confidence in faith to show it - to share with the world the blindingly obvious realisation that it's OK to be human - and how it still feels to me like it's different for girls.

At my priesting I was exhorted by the Archdeacon as we prepared to process in -  "But how do you feel??  You're not showing anything!" - little did he know that I was keeping a very tight lid on the wild jumble of emotion within because I knew that once it got away from me there would be no getting it back - and I didn't want to howl like a crazy all the way through.  As it was I managed right up to the laying on of hands, and then as predicted there was no stopping the tears, for about half an hour actually (bet he wished he'd never asked).

Some of this may well have to do with pride - the kind I had educated into me at grammar school which is mostly about self-respect but can sometimes be misplaced and sometimes tip over the edge into arrogance.  The crux of the matter is though that on more than one occasion since I was ordained I have been advised to let my vulnerability show more - usually by letting go and having a good cry when someone has really upset me.  Yes, I agree that when someone has done or said something horrible it is good to be able to see that that has real consequences - that people get hurt. I also worry that the fact that this is in the back of my mind, even as the event occurs, somehow makes the tears manipulative.

To me there is essentially a difference in our current culture between your male vicar shedding a tear - like one of those God-like chaps on the 80s Athena posters, showing how truly male they are by having the confidence to be vulnerable - and a woman having a cry. People judge you as weak, and actually as somehow less professional too (I would have been mortified to have cried in my workplace before ordination too).  I still have much to learn from this...more to follow.


Fr David Cloake said...


Shall ponder this; much to ponder here!

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that it is more socially acceptable for a man to cry? I must let my dad know.

The first link on a google search for "real man" has ten traits of a real man. At number one is "strong" and the description starts with:

"A real man doesn't cry"


I think it is a universal trait and something to lament. As I said to @drbexl yesterday, too many priests/preachers want to say "look at the great life and good things I have done, they are proof that God is awesome and you can be like me". See how strong I am being, that's because God gives me miraculous strength. A much more useful thing to demonstrate or to live is "see how I messed that up, see how God redeemed that. Learn from my fail". Or even "see how real it is..."

The reality is that we can only put the lid on it for so long. We eventually get to the point where the wheels come off and we have a nervous breakdown.

I think =D

Rachel F said...

Hmm - yes you are right in some ways - but surely that's becoming a thing of the past?? And of course it depends on context - if you're having a paddy it doesn't matter what order your chromosomes come in :-) What I was getting at probably has something to do with the new man (are we supposed to call it metro-sexual, I'm not sure) thing - and I suppose very specifically relates to teaching I've had about vulnerability in our specific working context. Perhaps I am appallingly swapping one stereotype for another! Aaarrggh!

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced it is becoming a thing of the past in some circles. There is the world in which the metrosexual inhabits where it is less so, but even for people like me for whom the box *may* fit there is still a strong social stigma attached to such vulnerability. And as soon as you put me in a working men's club with miner father and a bunch of tradesmen as we play snooker, it isn't even a question.

Anonymous said...

Lots of incredibly good reading here, thanks! I was browsing on yahoo when I observed your publish, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to a lot more from you.