Well-Behaved Women Won’t Change the World

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After writing for SheLoves magazine for eight straight years, this is my last regular post. It has truly been a joy to be part of this amazing organization of strong, passionate women! While I know it’s time to transition out and make room for new voices, I will always remain connected to the people and heartbeat of SheLoves; it’s been so good for my soul.

I wanted to end with this—a re-dux of one of my all-time favorite posts from many years ago. It’s my heart for all of us: that we’d be women who would stir the pot, rock the boat, ruffle feathers, and do all we can do to change the world, the church, our neighborhoods, our families, and the systems we move and live in.

And Shelovelys, one thing I’m sure of: Well-behaved women won’t change the world.

You all didn’t know me years ago, but if you looked up the definition of “Christian Good Girl,” my picture could be right next to it. I was so good at being good. Even though I was not raised in a Christian home, when I turned my life over to Jesus, I found that all my people-pleasing, peace-keeping, good-girl skills I learned in an alcoholic home, worked perfectly in the spiritual realm as well.

As a Christian wife and mother, I did what I did best—play nice, give people what they wanted, put my needs last and say all the right things to keep things running smoothly.

I earned all kinds of praise in the churches I was in for my good-girl-ness. “Kathy’s so nice. Kathy’s such a team player. Kathy’s so easy to get along with.”

None of these things were hard for me to do.

They were like reflexes, a natural and immediate instinct to assess the situation, and then adjust to keep the peace and maintain whatever status quo needed to be maintained.

Over the years, though, as I started to do some personal healing work and begin to look at the unhealthy patterns in my life, something profound began to shift. I started to tell the truth about my own story. I started to not worry so much about what people thought. I started to advocate for others who couldn’t use their voices yet. I started to disagree. I started to use my voice and stir the pot about change in the church. I started to work on changes in my marriage to move toward greater equality together.

I started to worry more about pleasing God than pleasing man.

And guess what happened?

People didn’t like it. “This isn’t the Kathy we know and love and we aren’t quite sure what to do with her now.”

But once my voice and passion got stronger, I knew there was no turning back, and I’d have to pay more of a cost than silence. My soul had started to come alive, and I could never let it die again. I couldn’t go back to being “good” enough, submissive enough, grateful-to-receive-anything-I-got-from-them enough, to move in that system anymore.

When I lost a job at a mega-church as an adult ministry pastor over 13 years ago because of my refusal to behave, I was told “the grass it not greener out there” and “you will never find somewhere you are more valued as a woman than here.”

It scared me for a moment, but since then I’ve learned that was a big fat lie. As difficult as that season was for me personally, professionally, and spiritually, it helped me learn the most important lesson of my life as a leader:

Well-behaved women won’t change the world, the church, or just about anything.

We just won’t.

Systems are used to women being well-behaved, and when we keep the wheels spinning for them, yes, those systems will keep working, growing, moving. We will do good and honorable work that matters.

But we won’t change things.

We won’t inspire anything new.

The dreams we have for what could be, will never come true.

Change comes through disruption. Through shake-ups, rumblings, discomfort. Through dismantling the status quo. Through making people uncomfortable and challenged.

Yeah, well-behaved women will not change the world.

Everyone’s beginning to feel it—#timesup is real.

But I want to acknowledge that living into this new way will feel scary.

We will have to risk our pride, our reputations and “being liked” to stand up for what God is stirring in our hearts.

We will have to listen to the call to lead, even when others don’t think we can or should.

We will have to refuse to squelch our gifts and begin to unleash them without asking for permission first.

We will have to passionately follow Jesus, not systems-made-in-Jesus’-name-that-do-not-reflect-his-image.

We will have to bravely use our voices, power, and any influence we have to inspire others to be brave, too.

We will have to live with failure, being misunderstood, feeling far too vulnerable, and moments of doubting ourselves and longing to go back to Egypt, because at least we knew what it was like there.

After all these years, it is still sometimes hard for me to not be the good-girl. I miss the safety, the praise, the security, even if it was false. Some days I wish I could make nice, because I’d fit in better.

But the Kingdom of God was never about easy.

It was never about comfort.

It was never about maintaining the status-quo.

The Kingdom of God was never about playing nice.

And it certainly isn’t well-behaved.

SheLovelys, in every part of my soul my hope is that in the months and years to come you keep misbehaving. Keep stirring the pot, ruffling feathers, playing whatever part you are called to play—no matter how small or big it may seem—in changing the world.

We need your misbehavior.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver. A trained spiritual director, speaker, and advocate, she also blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Faith Shift and Down We Go—Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus. A mom of 5 young adults and teens, she is married to Jose and lives in Arvada, Colorado.
Kathy Escobar

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