Do you ever have one of those conversations that you wish you could have witty comebacks? I don’t always know what to say to people. Sometimes, it something as simple as someone misheard me or misunderstood me. Fairly easy, but yet still sometimes awkward to correct. However, there are times when I have no idea what to say in response to what someone else has just stated. I would love to have a witty response or quick comeback, but some days I would just take a simple response. Or seriously, any type of response at all.
One day, I was having a conversation about women in leadership with another woman. She was nice, but did not believe women should be in any type of leadership. Now, I understand that there are a variety of views about women in leadership, and try to be kind and respectful when I disagree with someone. This woman was very adamant against having women in leadership especially leadership over men. It’s her opinion, and I did ask what she does with the example of women like Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). She had apparently not heard of Phoebe before and switched the subject to the coming hard times Christians will face. That made me feel smart for a brief moment. Because I actually had a response!
Then she moved back to the topic of women in leadership and basically that the leadership question didn’t matter because “a woman’s place is to be at home multiplying babies.”
Wait, what? My first thought was, Did I just hear that right?
Now, really, I do have many questions for this woman. Where do single women fit into this worldview? I’m single and can’t be at home multiplying babies. Does she or anyone who holds this worldview believe my life has no value unless I’m married and having children? Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 does say that people should stay single like he is. Not sure what this woman would do with this passage. It doesn’t seem to fit in with her worldview. Additionally, what about people who have fertility issues and can’t have children? Would people with this belief have room in their lives for those couples? What about the couples who feel like God is calling them to do work that would make it hard to have children, thus choosing to remain childless in order to fulfill God’s calling?
But of course, none of these semi-intelligent sounding questions came to mind right then. Oh no, nothing came to mind at all. I was so surprised by what she had said that I stood there without saying a word. Thankfully, she was busy doing other things while she was talking to me so maybe, just maybe, she didn’t see my mouth hanging open and the stunned expression on my face.
I did the only thing I could when I was too surprised to speak. I let her finish rattling on about whatever else she was saying while I recovered some semblance of normalcy (I hope). Then I politely wished her a good day and walked away. Clearly not the quick-witted response that might prompt a deeper discussion. Nope, I was still stunned by what she had said. I couldn’t believe someone I had just met about 5 or 10 minutes ago would share that with me. It was one of those times where I wish I would have had a response. But all of my semi-intelligent sounding questions came after I had walked away.
Anyone else been there? I had so many questions and responses afterwards. But absolutely nothing in the moment. And yes, my few seconds of feeling smart because I had a response earlier were completely gone. My feelings took me on a crazy rollercoaster from feeling smart to basically dumb in a few short seconds.
Realistically, I don’t know that she would have been open to a discussion. She seemed extremely set in her particular beliefs about where women should be and women in leadership. However, even though I didn’t have a response, I need to learn that a quick-witted (or in this case—any) response is not the most important aspect of interacting with someone. Did I treat her with dignity and respect even though I disagreed with her and didn’t know what to say? Showing the love of Christ is more important than having an answer.
What about you? How do you treat people with respect and show Christ’s love even when you disagree with them or don’t know what to say?
Rachel Roen enjoys learning, traveling, and spending time with friends. She recently completed her master’s degree in strategic leadership and is looking forward to the next adventure God has in store.