I don’t like cranky women. Yesterday morning at the Orange County airport as Philip and I traveled to Oregon, the TSA officer – a woman – was really cranky as she scolded us for being in the wrong check-in line. It was 6 am and I hadn’t had enough coffee. I’d gotten a meager amount of sleep the night before. And here we were getting scolded by a young, pretty, but oh so cranky TSA officer. I found myself getting cranky in response to her crankiness!
As Philip and I navigated to the proper check-in line, I realized two things. First, the TSA presence at the airport was on alert due to this being Memorial Day with heightened safety risks. The young, pretty, but oh so cranky TSA officer was just doing her job which today didn’t include being nice or friendly. Second, I observed in myself that had the officer been a male, it probably would have bothered me to a lesser degree.
Well, as one who intentionally avoids gender bias, I admit to having a bias against cranky women. Now let me be clear – I don’t like anyone being cranky regardless of gender or age or circumstances, but it bothers me more when women are cranky. Could this be an old left-over of being stung by a mother who was too often cranky? Or could it be something deeper, like a recognition that women are made in God’s image to be something different from cranky? Could it be a cranky woman is a denial of her created design?
Not to get too theological here, but a short sprint into Proverbs 31 boosts my point. I don’t often teach on the Proverbs 31 woman. Poor gal. She’s gotten way too much press in sermons designed by men to help women fall in line. Among a lot of Christian women, she’s a sore spot. She’s way too perfect for our taste! But to make my point, I’m willing to spotlight one of her “perfect” characteristics.
Proverbs 31, verse 26 says in part, “The teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Did you see it? Kindness is on her tongue. This perfect woman portrayed in Proverbs 31 has kindness, not crankiness, on her tongue. She speaks, even teaches, with kindness. I have no problem believing that God designed women to BE kind and to SPEAK kind. I have no problem believing that kindness is a part of our created nature as women. When we are being kind, when we are speaking kindly, we are more closely aligned with our created nature.
Yes, I am sure men are created to be kind as well, but I’m thinking about women today.
Philip and I had just returned from leading a women’s retreat for 100 women from Rock Harbor Church in Mission Viejo, California. It was a wonderful time of teaching, worship and a great sense of the Presence of God among us. Most of the women were from the millennial generation and I had to ponder why in the world they would want to listen to a 63-year old lady Anglican priest. Here is the conclusion I came to: They needed teaching delivered with extraordinary kindness.
As I taught, their faces told me this was true. I could have great Biblical knowledge to impart. I could teach with great power. I could demonstrate the Spirit’s supernatural gifts. But if I did not speak with kindness, they would have walked away lacking.
Of course, it is because of the Spirit of God living within us, that we can opt out of crankiness. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness …” (Galatians 5:22-23) Christ within us urges us toward kindness. And when we choose kindness, especially when tempted to be cranky, we are more fully human and more fully female. A woman is perhaps never more attractive than when she is being kind and when she is speaking with kindness on her tongue.
Later on the plane as the people in the row behind me were too loud and raucous and with a child kicking the back of my seat, I was tempted to be cranky. But I chose kindness instead. It was a good choice.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.