CTNAHM: Michael Compliments Himself—by Complimenting Debi

By Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need A Help Meet, pp. 165—167

After what I’m calling the Great Internet Blackout ’14 (turns out backhoes and cables don’t mix…you’d think the phone/internet/tv people would have realized this prior to digging), I’m back with another review. Because I’ve been away for awhile, I’m treating all of you lucky readers to an extra-long section! Don’t you feel blessed to be able to read more of Michael’s inspiring words?

WrinkleA wrinkled garment is an unused garment. It has been placed on the shelf and left unattended. It was valued enough to keep but not valued enough to wear. Most wives come into their marriage wrinkled, and most stay wrinkled through their entire life.

Wait a tick. Aren’t women supposed to come into marriage unused? Or does Michael mean another definition of unused? Do sexual sins only apply to the “Spots” section? And who is Michael to insinuate that most women aren’t valued? Then again, look at his culture. Women are valued-as breeding stock and housemaids. So perhaps I do agree with his assessment, after all.

Does he mean their talents are unused? Or does he mean their fathers didn’t direct them in the right way? Ugh. His next book should be a dictionary, so people know what he means when he uses words to mean peculiar things.

One wrinkled lady writes:

Mr. Pearl,

I’ve heard foolish men making comments about their wives’ weight, features, appearance, cooking, etc. Don’t they realize when they are doing that, they are cutting off their own arms? When my husband comments on my beauty, I feel like a flower opening up and blooming. I flourish like a healthy blossom receiving all the optimum nutrients and growing conditions. Men should know they get what they grow.

Debra

Does anyone else think this letter HAS to be made up? It has the same tone, and the same writing style as Michael’s book. Who writes that they feel like a flower blooming? Who feels like a flower blooming? When my husband tells me I’m beautiful, it makes me happy-no prose necessary!

And while I agree that husbands (or anyone in a relationship) shouldn’t be so quick to criticize, I disagree slightly with men getting what they grow. It’s true that how one person treats another has an effect on self-esteem, but I think what’s sitting wrong with me is that flowers have no choice. If the external conditions are right, flowers flourish. But there’s no way for a flower to say “I need more water” or “Put me in the sun!”. Likewise, there is no room in PearlWorld for a wife to say “It really hurts me when you tell me I’m fat and unattractive. Instead of criticizing my appearance, offer to go on walks with me.” There’s no way for a flower to pull up it’s roots and move somewhere else if it’s not getting the nourishment it needs.

Again I print the text so your understanding will be rooted in what God says. My job is to explain the sense of it that you might understand what you read (Nehemiah 8:8).

Ephesians 5:25-27

25-Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26-That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27-That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Nehemiah 8:8 actually is talking about GOD translating his scripture so that the people understand it. Not the first time Michael feels fit to take over God’s job (see sanctification). And ugh, I am so tired of the Ephesians verses.

My wife came into marriage somewhat wrinkled. She had many talents and gifts that were never developed. I think she was also a little blemished. She lacked confidence in any public setting where she felt outclassed. Like me, she was raised in a very rural environment in the Deep South. Her experiences never took her far from home or from her roots, and she lacked confidence in many areas. In the early years of our marriage, it aggravated me to see her crumble in social settings.

I’m not entirely sure how Debi grew up, but if her upbringing was anything like the culture she currently lives in, then it’s no wonder she lacked confidence and crumbled in social settings! From what I understand, kids—especially girls—are sheltered to keep them safe and pure. There’s very little talking with anyone that isn’t family, and very little room to explore talents because there is always so much to do around the house. So to call one’s wife out because she wasn’t confident—in a culture that doesn’t really allow for confidence—seems kind of rude.

I had been an evangelist since I was seventeen and had traveled extensively, meeting people of every class. I had also attended a nationally acclaimed art academy and then went on to get my BS degree in another college. I had seen enough to know that ever man, regardless of station, is frail and limited in scope, so no one intimidated me. But I watched her distort the truth in public to avoid conflict. I observed her getting run over intellectually by people who though more of themselves and less of her. I had much more faith in her than she did in herself.

Hehehe. Michael got a degree in BS. It shows, Michael, it shows.

Sorry. I’m in a snarky mood today, I guess. I just can’t get over how arrogant Michael is! Nobody intimidated him because everyone is flawed. (I may be reading too much into it, but I see a big “EXCEPT ME” in that sentence.) And I can also see Michael running over his wife with “logic” and “intellectualism”, because he’s made it clear that marriage is a pissing contest. So even though he says he had more faith in her than she did herself, I have a hard time believing it, because of all the other digs he makes about her.

She had the opposite problem from most women today. She had been raised in a very conservative Independent Baptist home and church, coming to marriage expecting to obey and serve. And she did. Except for those occasions where she suddenly blew up, she was the perfect servant.

Yes, because it is the hope of all married women everywhere that they are viewed as the perfect servants. If my husband ever complimented me on my servitude (which he wouldn’t, because-let’s be honest-I’m not servile at all-I’d be super upset! I’d yell “Is that the only thing I’m good for??” Maybe that’s what Michael means by Debi blowing up.) Oh, and speaking of digs at Debi…

Several years passed with little progress in her self-confidence. It was three years before we had our first child.

Does Michael think these things are correlated? I don’t even see how the length of time to conceive is even relevant to this narrative.  Wait. Yes I can. In the Mormonism I grew up in, it was almost expected that women get knocked up on their honeymoon. I can’t say that’s been everyone’s experience, but that seemed to be the expectation. Almost as soon as the couple is married, EVERYONE asks “So when are you going to start your family?” So I can see how 3 years would be tough on Debi. Because of course it’s the woman’s fault.

When Rebekah was about four years old and Deb was teaching her to read and write, she observed that Rebekah seemed to see and write letters backward. So she called Memphis State University and asked to speak to a child development professor. Amazingly, a man returned her call. When she described the problem, he told her it was dyslexia. “Dis-what-e-ah?” He suggested a book, so off to the library Deb went and found several books on reading disabilities. Concerned for our daughter, she devoured the information and then launched her own program. She had me make a small box to hold sand and then guided Rebekah as she wrote with her fingers in the sand.

Honestly, that’s awesome. It would take a great deal of patience to teach a child who sees words differently than the parent. I’m really glad that Debi found out what was going on and figured out solutions to help Rebekah learn.

Over the next two years, she became an expert on dyslexia. She spent many hours in the library reading and studying many things. My part in all this was to encourage her, to assure her that she could do it, that she was capable; and sometimes I had to babysit or build sand boxes or whatever else her latest experiment called for.

Again, I’m impressed at Debi. It takes a lot of dedication to spend hours at the library, on top of familial responsibilities. I’m even surprised that Michael would lower himself as to do women’s work like babysitting.

She didn’t stop with a study of dyslexia; she followed her imagination down many paths and wanted to try everything. Homeschooling became a laboratory of discovery. I remember spending two days making a beautiful tofu press that got used twice. I helped her capture swarms of wild bees and built hives for them. She became a student of everything, reading an average of four to five books a week, but she still lacked public confidence, often yielding her superior knowledge to a more dominant woman. It aggravated me even more to know that she was the master but allowed herself to be treated with condescension.

Clearly Debi is a Visionary…or whatever Visionary women are called. Ugh! I’m getting irritated that EVERY paragraph has to have something about Michael. “I did this” or “I said that”. I get that this is a book for men, but can’t he just let his wife have some credit for the things she accomplished? Sure, he supported her, but she’s the one that ACTUALLY did these things!

Oh, and I noticed that “public confidence” doesn’t apply to talking to men. Just dominant women. I wonder how Michael would respond to Debi calling out a man that was condescending to her. I guess kind of like she did in the honeymoon story. Except that man was Michael, so the blow up was unacceptable. So I guess it doesn’t count.

As more children came along and her homeschool class grew, she created her own curriculum. In trying to relate to the children the recent history of the civil rights movement under Dr. Martin Luther King, she searched for a children’s book but found none, so she wrote her own, even drawing the pictures and coloring them. The kids loved it, and others who read it though it was wonderful.

Dr. Martin Luther King, JR. Seriously, it’s not that hard to remember the Junior. All that aside, it’s pretty neat that Debi wrote her own children’s book. She even illustrated it—and her husband went art school!

Seeing an opportunity for her to develop her talents, I encouraged her to attend a night course on writing and publishing. I kept the kids and she came home excited, telling me all the fascinating things she was learning. So I told her she should publish her book “Listen to My Dream”. She drew the characters and I painted them. We went to a local printer to get guidance on sizes and methods. We published 5,000 copies and I encouraged her to fly to Atlanta and meet with the King Foundation.

Again, Debi does all the work, and Michael is taking the credit. He’s saying “I encouraged her” like it was some heroic effort on his part. Props for him that he listened to what she was interested in, but can’t he just say “My wife is freaking awesome. I’m a lucky man!” without having to pat himself on the back every paragraph because he’s the one that “molded” her into awesomeness?

Over the next year she traveled alone and met with many people including lawyers, heads of large denominations and chain stores, and the King Foundation. The first 5,000 books sold quickly and we reprinted. The public school system ordered books for every fifth grade teacher, and the public libraries began to carry her book. We spent our meager savings promoting it, and just when she was negotiating an order for 1,000,000 books, the King Foundation shut us down, demanding an exorbitant percentage.

I’m surprised he let her travel alone. And meet with men? (I’m assuming they’re men because they were lawyers and heads of denominations). Though it’s really snazzy that public libraries began to carry her book. I’m really curious about this book now. It’s not at my local libraries, but it IS $.51 (plus shipping) on Amazon. Has anyone read this book?

And call me crazy, but if I wrote a book, was negotiating an order for 1 million copies, and someone wanted a huge chunk of it, I’d say “Heck yes!” Take your 50%, sir. Because I’m selling a million freaking books.”

It was a heady ride. She became famous in her own right, granted in a small circle, but she earned the respect of many people in high places, and it changed her. She would never again allow herself to sit on the shelf and gather wrinkles. We were poor for the endeavor but richer in spirit. It would be years before I would sit down to write “To Train Up a Child”, but when it was finished, she knew exactly how to get it published, and when it proved to be popular in our small circle she knew how to offer it to a larger audience. The wrinkles were all worked out after 20 years of marriage and I like her even better. I have presented her to myself without spot or wrinkle or blemish.

Good for Debi! Honestly, it must have been a heady thing-getting recognition for something that you’ve done. I’m sure it was not a common occurrence in her life. I’m sure she gave credit to her husband all the time, but inside she knew that SHE did it. I’m even surprised that Michael spent his savings following his wife’s dream. But I guess when the wife’s dream is surrounded by dollar signs…

Oh! For those playing PearlBingo (which we really need to make a card for), that’s 2 additional Pearl books being promoted in this one section!

And the last 2 sentences are really unsettling. It gives off the vibe “I changed her into what I wanted, and boy am I pleased with my results!” Not, “After 20 years of marriage, we learned about and loved each other even more.” Also, I still find myself asking “What has the husband done to deserve a wife without wrinkles, spots, or blemishes?”

Today she is a tigress. She won’t back down from the Queen of England or a hostile CNN reporter. She will lecture a college professor or tell a doctor how to better treat his patients. She has been my able partner and associate in business and ministry.

Ugh. She sounds like a bossy know-it-all to me. Telling a doctor or professor how to do their jobs? Because she’s qualified how? And how is it that suddenly taking on and challenging men is OK?

I have allowed her to be my help meet and she has risen and risen and risen to the occasion. I don’t know what her limits are and she doesn’t acknowledge any. Sexy, brains, creativity, and personality—what more could a man ask for? Well…maybe a good crabbing expedition in the middle of the night.

WTF? Seriously! Michael allowed Debi to be his help meet. Really, Michael? How sweet of you. And while I’m pleased that he complimented his wife full out, he had to ruin it with yet another dig. Yes, we know you were unsatisfied with your honeymoon. Kind of how your wife is ticked at the way you take out the trash. You guys need to talk and get over these things, because they happened like 50 years ago. Move on.

What about you? Is your wife meeting her full potential? Does she have contributions to make to the church and community that have been stifled by cloistering? Some men are so insecure they do not want their wives to grow, lest they stand taller.

What about the wives that have 12 children and are living in literal poverty? How can a woman live up to her “full potential” if all of her time, resources, and energy are dedicated to providing bare necessities to a huge family? I’m amused at Micheal’s condescension of men who keep their wives down because of insecurity. Because clearly a real man builds his wife up in a way that makes him look better. Obviously it’s wrong for a woman to be able to feel proud of herself without giving a man credit.

Wives confined to diapers and dishes can grow weary and discontent, feeling they are trapped on an endless merry-go-round where every day is the same and the scenery never changes. Provide opportunity for your wife to grow as a person.

Again, this sounds like “rich people problems”. Oh, poor housewife is bored and discontent. Find her a project! Yes, it’s a good idea for a person to have at least one outlet. But sometimes it’s not feasible. I mean, this culture encourages women to stay at home and bear as many children as she can. That means living off the husband’s income, and whatever home-business the wife has. Unless the man has an amazing job, there is going to be a struggle to make ends meet. It’s just not realistic to feed and clothe 10 people on $40,000 a year (and that’s a generous salary for some families!). I suppose that’s why girls in this culture are raised to be “Mommy’s helpers”. Because there is no way for one woman to do everything without going starkers.

You cannot decide her interests. She must discover them by trying many things. When something lights her fire, she will brighten and become enthusiastic in the pursuit of it. When that happens provide the means for her to pursue her interests.

Yet again, it seems that Michael is overlooking families with no additional means. Not everyone has a savings account they can dip from to publish their wife’s book. Not everyone has the time or energy to pursue many different things. And even if they find something, not everyone has the means to continue doing it!

Like quilting for example. This is one that Mormon women seem to aspire to. It’s expensive to make a quilt! First the fabric. Good quality quilting fabric is at least $4.99/yard (here in Kansas). To make a decent sized quilt, you’re going to need yards and yards of fabric. Then batting and backing. Not to mention hours and hours of time devoted to sewing the darn thing.

I just don’t see how families with limited resources have the time, money, or energy to try a bunch of different activities and hope that one of them clicks. And though Michael says that women should decide her interest, I have no doubt that before embarking on an activity, the wife needs approval from the man.

One caution is called for. A wife’s interests and the pursuit of them should never detract from the family. She should not abandon the home to seek personal fulfillment. The family should be made better by her personal development.

Of course. If a woman gets a taste of fulfillment outside the home, she’ll turn into a cat-loving, duplex-living lesbian.

A question I have is: how was Debi’s traveling all over (alone) not detracting from her family? Sure, she was making money, but she was literally leaving the home to pursue her passion. Is it OK for Debi but not for everyone else?

Ugh. I think I’ll stick to smaller reviews in the future. My head hurts.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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