Great Things Come To Those Who Act (unless you’re a woman)
“Good things come to those who wait but GREAT THINGS COME to those who act.” When I saw Michael Hyatt post this on Facebook last night, I almost fist-pumped over the truth of it. YES. I’m a take-action kind of woman. When you know something needs to be done, do it. (Unless you just don’t see it anymore, which happens to me with housework on an hourly basis.) Waiting is very difficult for me. I am guessing that you, like me, can think of at least one situation right now in which you know someone needs to take action but can’t or won’t. So everyone is stuck, waiting. It’s almost like grief for me to watch opportunities melt away and moments leave.
But Michael’s statements also trigger inner turmoil for me. While I completely agree with him, I don’t get to play by these rules. Despite vigorous assertions that the church and the world supports women and sees them as equal and valuable, the truth is that rules like this only apply to men. When I am proactive (that’s what this is about, right, being proactive, not reactive?), I get my head patted, my hand slapped, or horror of horrors, called a “feminist.” (As if that’s a bad word. Of course I’m a feminist. Your point?) Other women have endured FAR worse treatment for taking action or speaking out.
Women are expected to ask for, and wait for, permission before they act. We don’t get to be proactive.
Don’t get me wrong. I think a waiting, passive posture is appropriate in some instances. For example, when your supervisor or employer has stipulated they must approve certain actions before you take them. Other times, it’s considerate to run something by another if taking action affects them in a significant way. I don’t just make plans to attend a conference that would help my writing business without checking with my husband. It isn’t exactly for his permission, but I make sure that our schedules mesh and that we’ve covered all our bases. And sometimes, when things don’t work out, I have to wait.
But as a woman, especially in the church, I don’t hear encouragement to be proactive the way Michael describes. Sure, I’m encouraged to vacuum and launder and cook, but I’m not encouraged to take the kind of decisive, see-a-snake-kill-it action (to use a phrase my dad likes) that Michael is talking about here. The instruction I hear is wait, sit back, submit, and be quiet. Even when I see things going awry, people making bad decisions, or necessary actions left undone. Even when I can tell that I’m on a train headed over a cliff. Even when the person I’m waiting on is screwing it up big time. Women are expected go along for the ride, to hang on, and wait.
This doesn’t make any sense.
If I’m really an equal – intelligent, thoughtful, skilled, experienced – if you really believe that I have something valuable to contribute, why do you encourage me to remain quiet and passive? Shouldn’t you actively seek my input and encourage my action? Shouldn’t you be concerned and given pause if I call something into question? Shouldn’t you take it seriously if I urge action or point out something that’s been overlooked? Don’t you need each person to carry their weight?
I’m fortunate to have a husband who does value me as an equal. We’re still working out what it actually looks like for both of us to put the other’s needs first, but we’re both trying. But even within our marriage, I am still pressured from the church to zip my lip and sit on my hands.
“Great things come to those who act.” Yes, they do. But until I’m allowed to play by that rule, I will have to modify it this way: “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.”