Monday, December 1, 2008

A Culture of Healthy Relationships

The Marvalus View hipped me to an article on which touted the openly affectionate and romantic image of Barack and Michelle Obama as the poster for healthy black relationships. With 70% of African American women living without a spouse, according to the article, the Obamas personify the image of black love that everyone is looking for and may inspire more love, including even possibly a baby boom.

I agree that there is a strong need for counter-cultural public images that portray black mothers as more than baby mamas and black men as other than knuckleheads, ruffnecks, or gangstas. In addition, I also feel that "you can't be what you don't see" and without knowing what a healthy relationship looks like makes it that much more difficult to achieve. However, we must understand that it is one thing to want what Barack and Michelle have but it is another thing to obtain what they have.

When we look at the President-elect and his wife, we see an apparently healthy relationship but we don't see the things beneath the surface that contribute to the relationship. Their healthy image is thus foundational only, and before we launch a "Take Back the Family, Love & Commitment" crusade there are at least two other issues that lie at the core and are indispensable in attaining a culture of healthy relationships.

First, the power of love starts within yourself. So a healthy relationship is impossible if both parties have not first learned to LOVE THEMSELVES or feels unloved or in need of love.

We see too many parents and even the church being overly critical and using putdowns or psychological abuse to control behavior. These mental games are linked to poor self-esteem, selfishness, love addictions, and even depression. Those moms who have been victims of putdown tactics sometimes even overcompensate by being totally uncritical of their own children, leaving them unequipped with the social skills to deal with their deficiencies when confronted by their peers or others in authority, so that they feel like rejects or failures. Men, who have internalized their unemployment, underemployment, or other insecurities resulting from the American post-slavery syndrome of self-hate will also need to have these demons exorcised in pursuit of a healthy relationship. But equally requisite and essential:

A healthy relationship requires MUTUAL RESPECT.

At the core of many of our relationship problems lies a struggle for control over our lives and attempts to control the lives of each other causing us to act against one another in unhealthy ways. Until we contemporize our definitions of manhood and womanhood or masculinity and femininity in order to see oppression of women in its true sense, we will fail to achieve healthy relationships.

Sadly to say, the church in its ancient patriarchal views has helped to negatively impact our relationships. The oppression of women may be the oldest injustice in human history. Yet this ancient, low societal view of women colored some of the compositions of the biblical writers and we have taken the controlling attitudes toward women that shaped the text as mandates rather than the opinions of the writers that the texts themselves and sound hermeneutics state them to be. Women are not scapegoats for all male failure and inability to handle responsibility. Women have more value than their ability to bear children. But you would think differently based upon the interpretation many have of the bible.

These views will have to give way to those that see men and women as being interdependent, mutually supportive, caring and respectful or a culture of healthy relationships will be unattainable.

He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27

also see Ephphatha:Parents are Bad


MilesPerHour said...

I read your post 3 times to find one thing that stood out for me to comment on. I cannot say how much I agree with you more. And although you start it off by talking about black love and black relationships, it certainly can apply to us all.

I have written a number of posts on the subject of love myself since I started blogging a couple months ago. What I have noticed is that it certainly is a subject that seems to draw more comments than others.

You have beautifully put your thoughts on healthy relationships, love and the bible behind it down in words. The truth rings throughout it.
I appreciated being able to read it.

Hagar's Daughter said...

Great post. Black folks have our share of craziness and dysfunction, but there are many married black couples who love each other and who are IN love with each other. We are here.

Mista Jaycee said...

Good Article!
Very insightful especially for us Brothas trying to be good husbands! Dig?

Revvy Rev said...

I Dig You, Mista Jaycee! I'm tryin' to do my best to be a good one.

@Miles, thanks for slowin' down and stopping by. I checked you out ..."what women want, what men want"...relationships are very complex and sometimes controversial.

@HD. For sure there are those of us who love and are IN love, it's just that the media loves drama. That's who usually gets the hype and not those models of civility.

Regina said...

great post and very timely. single parenting, and divorce is running rampant in today's society. I love the fact that the first couple are the new face of "family"!
There is a lack of love and solid relationships in the world. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Hi Pastor,

Thanks for this post.

I have always loved that photo of Barack flirting with his wife!

I don't know if "everyone is looking for" a love relationship though. Some people are happy and fulfilled as unmarried persons and are happy to have love in their lives in many forms... although not in a romantic form.

I think that it is important for those of you who are in solid marriages to teach others how you fostered what you have. For some, marriage dynamics are deemed too personal to discuss.

I think that some people ARE interested in knowing just how marriages endure.

It is so true that people need to see healthy and fulfilling relationships to help conceptualize them.

You said:
Until we contemporize our definitions of manhood and womanhood or masculinity and femininity in order to see oppression of women in its true sense, we will fail to achieve healthy relationships.

Pastor, how do we contemporize our definitions?

I am a Gen-Xer and I think I am progressive...but I still feel that my view of my role in marriage is still somewhat "traditional". I expect men to step up and be in charge and to take control and to desire to be the leaders...

It bothers me to see hen-pecked men who sit back looking for domineering women to give them all the answers and to provide direction for them.

If I got married, I would not change the part of the vows to "love, honor AND OBEY".

Some Christian women talk about their desire to please and obey God but they will scoff at the notion of obeying the life partner God chose for them? How do they fall in love with a man they don't trust enough to take direction from? I am baffled by that.

My father taught me early in life that in a marriage, a woman obeying a man who is responsible, moral, and is committed to my self-actualization IS NOT a weakness.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Revvy Rev said...


let me use your own word "life-partner" because it is the operative term. "Partnership" denotes mutual status, a colleague - so to speak - as opposed to the person you obey, who is thus your master and you are either a subject, subordinate, or a slave.

The traditional stereotypical images of manhood and womanhood were developed in the context of slavery and oppression and therefore hamper our relationships today.

To designate a woman as having equal status with a man and requiring mutual respect is actually a higher construct. What else but a slave, whether a man or woman, as you say, will "sit back looking for someone to give them all the answers and to provide direction for them?"

I am secure enough in my manhood that I want a woman who has her own mind and enough going for herself that she does not need me to bark out orders for every move she makes.

The main point is that healthy relationships must be mutually supportive and respectful and guided by interdependence and not by domination, stifling, or by controlling the other. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Hi Pastor,

Thank you so much for your perspective.

I meet many women who are fixated on this "we're equals!" mantra. Yes, women are equals. Sometimes, though, it is okay to recognize that we are not. I don't see that some women are willing to do that.

Because my father was (still is!) a take-charge type of man, I became comfortable with the safety of knowing someone would guide me and would handle things. This doesn't mean, though, that I can not or do not want to think for myself or make my own decisions.

Ultimately, I feel more at-ease in the presence of men who will take-charge. I don't want to be "bossed around" but I want to be guided and corrected when it is needed.

I would expect that my husband would view me as an equal...but I would hope that he would not hesitate to put his foot down and set the course when it was needed.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Revvy Rev said...

Rev. Lisa,

I understand where you are coming from. One partner may be vocal and the other more reticent. One may like to move quickly and the other proceeds more patiently.

These are complimentary traits and are needed for balance, which is a great dynamic in a relationship. (I wonder what would have happened if Pilate had listened to his wife concerning Jesus?)

I just wanted to put the emphasis on "relationship" rather than trying to fit things into predetermined roles.

You are very thoughtful and inspirational. You also keep me on my toes. Keep on with the great work you and the Lord are doing!

Lynn said...

Lisa, you said: "Yes, women are equals. Sometimes, though, it is okay to recognize that we are not."

I really don't understand what you mean by that statement. I understand what follows and respect your view.

My grandfather set the standard in our family as to what "leadership" is. Many times I overheard my grandparents discussing family business (glad I didn't get caught or I would have been in trouble - lol) and I would hear my grandmother defer to him, but there were times when he would ask my grandmother what did she think the best plan was.

Anyway, back to my initial question, when is a woman not equal? I do understand that there are areas that both partners are limited. Healthy, strong relationships have partners who complement each other.

Blog Queen said...

They are a beautiful couple

Marvalus said...

All I can say to this post is "Amen!"

Somebodies Friend said...

Good post, lots to think about.