Assertiveness or Courage

I can’t say that I read a lot of blogs. I don’t actually read any religiously. However, I do read occasional posts from a variety of relatively random authors. A lot of the posts I do read then to be about dating and relationships (big surprise there), and I never quite know what to make of them. Everyone has an opinion. Period. Everyone has an opinion. Some people say one thing and some people say something completely different, and someone else says a third thing that has nothing to do with the other two. For instance, some people say that ‘a real man is assertive and he goes for what he wants’, other people say ‘a real man understands that no means no and he knows when to leave things alone’. I’m three-quarters of the way through a series of posts on what it means to be a ‘real’ man, and you may have noticed that I have said nothing about assertiveness or aggressiveness. This is because I am convinced that it doesn’t matter.

We often confuse assertiveness with courage, and they are not the same thing. When I finally get around to writing a post on character’s involvement in manhood (and I will), I’m going to point out that courage is one of the characteristics a man has. A man does not run from what scares him. He doesn’t hide in the corner, he doesn’t beg someone else to do it for him. However, this doesn’t mean that he is ‘assertive’ necessarily. Assertiveness is often essentially selfish. Today I read a post that said: ‘A real man knows what he wants and he goes for it’. This is a good example of assertiveness. However, this example also only takes into account the emotions and desires of the man himself.

A man is not free from fear, nor is he above fear. At the moment I have set the goal to have my application to Southeastern submitted by the end of the month. This is utterly and completely terrifying to me. I honestly can’t express how frightened I am. Simply in filling out the main application I almost broke down three separate times, overwhelmed by fear and doubt. I was convinced that I would be rejected, and that even if I wasn’t rejected that I’d fail miserably, and that even if I didn’t fail miserably that it wouldn’t matter in the long run. This process is more than uncomfortable. It is more than frightening. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that I can do it again. However, I’m going to.

However, this does not mean that a man (that I) simply ‘know what I want and go for it’. Assertiveness on it’s own is not a good quality. War is assertive, rape is assertive, burglary is assertive, in fact there are many assertive actions that are fundamentally bad. A man can be assertive when it is necessary. He is not bound by fear and cowardice. However, a man is also respectful. Rudyard Kipling’s poem If here also has an excellent passage that is very helpful:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools

And see the things you gave your life to broken

And stoop, and build’em up with worn out tools

And also:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss

One of the most important aspects of real manhood is the willingness to persevere. This is not an insane, reckless optimism that simply says ‘it’ll work, it’ll work, it’ll work’. This is not a pestering or stalkish nature that says ‘maybe if I just ask her one more time’. A man knows when to stop, when to let well enough alone, and when to walk away (and when to run :P). However, a man holds within himself the enduring will to keep going. A man does not give up on the things that are truly important, but at the same time he lets those things that are not important fall to the wayside.

A man is wise and courageous. He may be assertive when it is needed, but he is also able to tell when assertiveness is not needed. That’s something I’m still working on.

Waiting…

In his poem If Rudyard Kipling expresses what makes a man. The poem as a while is incredibly powerful, and his opening lines are deeply evocative, especially the line ‘If you can wait and not be tired by waiting’. This is something that I’ve never been particularly good at. I’m an impatient man, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships, and this is something that has caused me many problems, especially since I tend to fall for women who aren’t really ready for a relationship. This year has been all about waiting. It started in the spring when God put returning to school on my heart, but told me to wait until the fall to apply… for the next fall. I would have been perfectly happy to put in an application last spring and be starting now, but that wasn’t the plan. Although, considering that it took me a full month to actually fill out the application in the first place (I started it September 1st and finished it September 30th… haven’t put it in yet), it isn’t really surprising that God told me to wait. He’s also had me in a time of enforced singleness, my own choice up through about June, and after that… well, you’ve all read about my cringe inducing romantic escapades. Today I found out that the young lady to whom I sent flowers (go read a few posts back) simply isn’t ready for a relationship. She didn’t tell me this herself (though I have a feeling she’s recognized my interest, though I haven’t formally acknowledged it and don’t plan to for a while), but a friend of hers told me. I had kind of figured it out for myself though. She’s seemed completely neutral to my approaches so far, blundering as they may be. She hasn’t discouraged me in any way, but she hasn’t encouraged me either. I take this to mean that she has some interest, but doesn’t actually want to be pursued at the moment. So, I’m back to waiting.

Of course, in my prayers, God has been confirming this for some time. Every time that I’ve prayed about this woman God has told me ‘just love her well’. Of course, I want him to tell me ‘yes, she’s the one for you’ or ‘she’s going to fall hard for you’ or ‘you’re already in her heart’, but what he tells me instead is ‘just love her well’. So, this is exactly what I plan to do. I am going to love her as well as I possibly can, and trust God with whatever the outcome might be. At the moment I am coming to terms with the idea that it is very possible that nothing will ever happen, and that this is alright. My job, my only job, is to be her friend and make her smile as much as I can. At the moment I’m actually pursuing other women, although this is (at least in part) to keep myself from pursuing her. I know myself, and I know that if I ‘wait’ for her then I won’t be waiting at all, I’ll be pushing. I don’t honestly expect anything to happen with any of the other women that I’m talking to, but if something does I’m certainly not opposed to it.

I’ve asked her roommate to help keep me accountable in this as well. Hopefully she’ll be able to keep me in line and to keep me from doing anything stupid. However, I suppose we’ll see what happens. Today I was asked to briefly describe my ideal woman by one of the other women I’m talking to. The following was my response:

My ideal woman? Honestly I’m not sure I believe in ideal people at this point. She would have to be spiritually and emotionally mature; confident and strong, but vulnerable and actively wanting to submit; desiring to love, support, and cherish me as thoroughly as I will her; willing to initiate things (I don’t mean ask me out or propose here, but once I’ve made the first step she would have to be willing and able to pursue me); intelligent and nerdy (capable of holding her own in conversation); kind; gentle; beautiful (this includes physical appearance, but I think that beautiful refers to the entire person, not just looks); caring for others and someone who will sharpen me spiritually; and probably has a fairly good income and benefits (my career path, unfortunately, is not the most lucrative) though this last would really just be a nice plus if it was the case.

Honestly, I think this is a solid description of the core of what I’m looking for. I’m just not convinced that she exists… We’ll see though. I know that God has a plan, and I trust that he’ll bring the right woman into my life at the right time. I just wish that time was right now.