Sunday, January 29, 2012

Helpmeets, helpmates and introvert burnout

It's been a rough week as an introvert.

We've had visitors at work, which means non-stop interraction...I'm talking from breakfast to lunch to dinner eaten with 27 other people...14 hour days with no alone time on top of presenting, presentations and discussions. I came home Friday feeling traumatized. Too beaten to even sleep. I seriously felt like I'd been assaulted at some internal level. I skipped the gym, fearing additional injury to a back that had been brutalized with 10 hrs of sitting and looked forward to a weekend of isolation...then it hit me Saturday night. Church. I felt panicked. The idea of bringing myself to talk and say hello again just felt like too much to handle. I prayed and mustered up the courage to go, which I'm glad I did, because it gave me perspective on the whole situation. The world of the corporate is really a modern day Charybdis from which I'm generally and thankfully sheltered. I forget sometimes how it can be. One week down, one week to go.

So yeah...the term "helpmeet"...never heard it until reading the comments of some of Mark Gungor's enthusiasts. It sounded a lot like "help mate", which I haven't really heard since the days in the church I was raised in., and honestly, it makes zero sense as a term unto itself. I've been meaning to get into researching the issue of gender equality in Christian marriage, so I had to do some digging.

From what I can see, it looks like it starts with a misunderstanding of the definition of the word "meet". In the phrase "a help meet for Adam", "meet" most likely takes on its second definition (English) which is equal to "fitting" or "proper", so you instead have "a help fitting for Adam". Makes much more sense.

That said, there's a lot of debate around what that word "help" was translated from and whether it even connotes a subservient position. You have the word "help", taken from the Hebrew "ezer"  which can translate to "aid", "protector" or even "defender", followed by "neged" which can mean "in front of" or "parallel to" or a few other things. Having studied four languages in my life, I'm well aware of where debates over translation can go and this one has some decent legs online (Google "ezer kenegdo). I'm not going to make an argument either way on a language I don't come close to understanding.

...I'm not 100% opposed to the idea of the man being head of household, and that's mostly because I'm a strong believer in the concept of servant leadership...a direct result of my business studies, work experience and most importantly because  of the example set by Jesus (you know...the guy who washed his disciples feet?). I've never been one to equate "leadership" with "dictatorship". Servant leadership is a concept developed by Robert Greenleaf and is summed up well here...

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."
"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?"

Greenleaf's book was required reading in a management symposium I took and I think everyone...yes, everyone, not just potential leaders, should read this. As a friend of mine says quite frequently "everyone's leading someone". On top of that though, you learn how to recognize those who are leading or want to lead to assuage and acquire. It's a good way to decide who's worth following.

The VP I work under now has been one of the best leadership experiences I've run across in my work life. I respect him and genuinely know he's on my side and will defend and protect my best interests (which he has consulted me on) when necessary. He's given guidance when he had insight and asked my opinion when he knew I had more experience in an area. I've been frank and open with him about my personality, concerns and fears and have been met with acceptance. He seldom tells me what to do...I say seldom, because I'm sure he has, but I don't remember ever actually being given an order...and I think that's because once a level of respect and trust has been established, his final say no longer feels like force.

Everyone in a household should be submitting to someone..children to parents, wife to husband and God, and husband to God and family. I'm always wary of any church, book, or, person that emphasizes the "help mate"/"head of household" teachings to the exclusion of a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church. That emphasis, I believe reflects a bias that I have yet to see supported by actual Biblical teachings, and not just cultural extrapolations from ancient civilizations. While I don't think the Bible is totally clear on whether so called 50/50 marriages are the way to go, it is, I believe, quite clear, that all out domination is not the intended model. 

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