Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
–Colossians 3:12, ESV
In part 1 I described the feminist life script of women delaying marriage as long as possible, and the modern Christian adoption of the feminist script as not only compatible with Christianity, but God’s will. The longer a Christian woman waits to marry, the more pious she is said to be.
But even the originators of the life script have begun to see the dangers in taking the feminist ethos too far. Back in 2008 Lori Gottlieb warned of what she had personally learned the hard way; women who delay marriage too long will find themselves with a rapidly declining pool of marriage prospects. Gotlieb urged younger women to do the unthinkable, to settle! She even included the word settle in the title of her article and later book: Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough:
My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.
In fact the word settle (including variations like settling) is repeated 118 times in Gotlieb’s article. Gotlieb understood that by suggesting women settle she was broaching a great taboo of both feminism and our modern age:
Obviously, I wasn’t always an advocate of settling. In fact, it took not settling to make me realize that settling is the better option, and even though settling is a rampant phenomenon, talking about it in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable. Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment, the way a child might look at an older sibling who just informed her that Jerry’s Kids aren’t going to walk, even if you send them money. It’s not only politically incorrect to get behind settling, it’s downright un-American. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize (while our mothers, who know better, tell us not to be so picky), and the theme of holding out for true love (whatever that is—look at the divorce rate) permeates our collective mentality.
The feminist reaction to this message has been predictably chilly, but there is also a grudging acceptance of the underlying truth of it. However, modern Christian culture has identified the feminist life script as coming from God. The very unbiblical feminist obsession with women’s self esteem has become a core tenet of modern Christianity. She is a daughter of the King! Nothing is too good for her! Moreover, for a modern Christian woman settling is seen as an act of denying the power and trustworthiness of God, an act of apostasy. While the Bible teaches women that they should cultivate a quiet and gentle spirit, something beautiful to God, modern Christians teach women that God wants women to be the opposite, that they are to be sassy, big and bold, loud and proud.
Before I go any further I should note that there is a fundamental problem with Gotlieb’s thesis. She is of course right that marriage delaying women are creating ever growing and unrealistic expectations for their future husband, and that in the long run the unrealistic woman is the one who ultimately bears the brunt of this folly. But strictly speaking settling isn’t the answer. A woman who decides to marry a man whom she isn’t attracted to (because she sees him as beneath her) isn’t doing the man, her future children, or anyone else a favor. The real problem isn’t her ever growing checklist of required attributes, but the mindset that created the unrealistic list in the first place. What a woman with an unrealistic perception of her own marriage market value (MMV) needs to do is not ruin some unsuspecting man’s life, she needs to accept reality and humble herself. The more inflated the woman’s sense of self regard is, the more painful the humbling will be. Yet from here she will be able to choose and appreciate the best from her real prospects, not settle.
But a woman humbling herself goes directly against modern Christian teaching. Instead of jettisoning toxic anti-Christian feminist teaching, modern Christians are doubling down on it. After failing for decades to fall for a good man in their own league (who therefore is also interested in them), modern Christian women regularly declare that the problem is they didn’t have a high enough regard for themselves! The problem as they see it is not their own overinflated ego and decision to push good men aside to chase alpha assholes; the problem is with men for not being good enough for them. As 38 year old* never married Mandy Hale explains in Dash of Sass: ENOUGH:
“Why wasn’t I enough for him?”
I can’t tell you how many times that was the cry of my heart…all within the bounds of one relationship…because I chose for years to stand there waiting for someone to look at me and actually SEE me. To love me. To treat me like I was ENOUGH. When really, he was the one who was lacking. Lacking in depth. Lacking in character. Lacking in honesty. Lacking in integrity. I thought I wasn’t enough for him when the truth was…he wasn’t enough for me…
These men will never understand women like us. Women who love with all our heart, mind, body, and soul. Women who refuse to settle for mediocre but hold out for magical. Women who believe that love should never be average or lukewarm or just “okay” but life-changing and earth-shaking and boundary-breaking.
Women like us may stay single for awhile longer, as it takes a special man to handle everything that we are. Because to make ourselves less in order to be pleasing to a man is simply not something we are willing to do.
What is even more astounding than a 38 year old never married woman offering her own errors for marriage minded women to emulate, is the fact that such women are eagerly accepted as possessing great wisdom on the topic. The longer a woman has failed to accomplish something nearly all women accomplish, the more qualified she is seen to instruct other women on the matter!
Enter Wendy Griffith, Grand Master of not finding a husband.
From this perspective, fellow never married career woman Wendy Griffith has Hale soundly beat. While 38 year old Hale has only failed to find a husband for 20 years, 53 year old** Griffith has failed to find a husband for 35 years! At 38 Hale could in theory still manage to marry and have a child or two if she did so right away. At 53 Griffith’s reproductive years are over.
Griffith’s book, like Gotlieb’s, includes settle in the title: You Are a Prize to be Won!: Don’t Settle for Less Than God’s Best. But unlike Gotlieb, Griffith isn’t offering her own refusal to settle as a cautionary tale. She is offering it as a roadmap for all women to follow! Even worse, this is the message modern Christian leaders enthusiastically endorse. At CBN Pat Robertson introduced Griffith’s book as one that every Christian girl and single woman should read:
I’m holding in my hand a very special book. It’s a book that every young girl should have. Teenagers should have it, college students should have it, and young single women should have it. It’s called You are a prize to be won. Written by none other than the lovely Wendy Griffith, and she has had all kinds of experiences!
As Robertson notes Griffith has had all kinds of experiences. However, this experience represents decades of failure! Imagine a 65 year old man who worked in the mailroom his entire career writing a book on climbing the corporate ladder, and the full hubris of Griffith writing this book comes to light.
Like Hale, Griffith’s epiphany came when she was dumped by an alpha she was chasing. In Knowing Your True Value Moira Brown interviews Griffith for 100Huntly Street, and they both diagnose Griffith’s one that got away as running a kind of push-pull game on her. But Griffith’s takeaway was not that she should stop chasing alphas and learn to be attracted to good men. Her takeaway was that she needed to further inflate her own ego:
Brown: You know I think psychologists would refer to this as a sort of “Come here. Go away”. Do you see that in this guy?
Griffith: Well absolutely. He was hot and cold. But the thing that I learned was that when you know your value, it’s a game changer. I didn’t know my value; I didn’t know that I was a prize to be won. And when you don’t know your value, you put up with bad behavior, you settle. You settle for emotional crumbs. I thought I’m in my mid 40s, I’ve never been married. This is my last chance. And so you tell yourself, you know, you’ve got to make it work, you know you’re gonna make this work.
Brown was upset that Griffith would not have an inflated sense of self regard. Isn’t she a Christian woman? Griffith explained that God Himself had spoken to her and told her that she was a prize to be won. She even compares her self worth to what Christ said about the value of the Kingdom of Heaven!
Brown: Some of us we’re scratching our heads. She’s gorgeous, she’s got this amazing career. How could you not see your value? You’re already a daughter of the King.
Griffith: Well you know “You are a prize to be won” it was a word that God spoke to me years ago, before I was even in that relationship. I guess I hadn’t been tested on it. Because I was even preaching it to other women “You are a prize to be won” and they were getting it like “Yeah!” But until I got into that relationship and I realized that I didn’t really know my value. I didn’t know that I had that value that God talks about in His word. And if we don’t know that, if we don’t know that we’re that pearl of great price. You know, that we’re royal daughters.
Griffith goes on to explain that God hates it when women settle:
Griffith: If we don’t know that, again we’ll settle for much less. You know it breaks God’s heart when we settle. And that’s the other thing that the Lord taught me through the heartbreak was God hates compromise! He hates it when we settle, because He’s a good daddy, he wants to give his daughters – and his sons – His very best. And He’ll let us settle if we ignore all the red flags and if we keep going He’ll say ok but He desperately doesn’t want us to settle. He want’s us to hold out for His best.
You can see the whole exchange here:
I was curious if the misuse of the pearl of great price was a slip of the moment in the interview, or something Griffith truly misunderstands, so I checked to see if I could find a reference to it in the amazon preview of her book. I found it in the concluding paragraph of the preface:
My sister, God has a special word for you that will change your life. You are a royal daughter of the Most High King, a princess in the palace, a pearl of great price and beautiful beyond measure. Your greatest love, the man of your dreams and the father of your children, is out there waiting for you, because you, my sister, are a prize to be won!
Griffith dedicates the book:
To my future husband: I know you will be worth the wait!
For those who want more wisdom about marriage and finding a husband from women who have failed to marry, see also Griffith interviewing Hale. In this twofer Griffith asks Hale what a single Christian woman should focus on. This leads to Hale’s wisdom on how to have a happy marriage, which Griffith of course loves:
Hale: As long as you’re in this moment, as a single woman, loving yourself, thriving where you are at, deciding to live as big and bold and brave of a life as you can, regardless of whether you are flying solo or not.
Griffith: Now, how is being happily single a precurser to being happily taken?
Hale: I think it’s all about realizing that your self worth and your value is really based on what’s inside you and not in who is standing beside you. And I think, I’ve heard quotes that talk about, your married life can only be as successful as your single life. And so I think you really just work on as a single person becoming all the things you hope to attract in another person, you can’t go wrong.
Griffith: And Mandy I love what you said, you said “Stop looking for a hero and become your own hero.” How do you do that?
Hale: I think that, you know I’m such a fan of the fairy tales and the happily ever after, but I think that it’s kind of ingrained in us that we are supposed to be rescued from our lives and that we’re waiting for this prince charming to ride up on a white horse, and really the heart of my message is realizing that living happily ever after is all about building a life that is so wonderful that you don’t want to be rescued from it.
Griffith: Wow! Thats…
Hale: So, I think that it’s all about just creating your own happiness and allowing someone else come in and compliment that, and not to complete you. Because you are already complete, you are already all the things that what you want to be, you just have to tap into it.
You can see the exchange between Griffith and Hale here:
*In her June of 2016 post Stop Apologizing For Having High Standards, Hale wrote she was 37. HT Hank Flanders.
**Griffith’s bio at the bottom of this page says she graduated with her Bachelors degree in 1986. Assuming she was 18 when she graduated high school and only took 4 years to get her Bachelors that would put her at 53 today. This estimate is corroborated by her statement here that she was in her mid 40s in 2012. Update: See this podcast for confirmation.