Too Much? — A Deeper Story

I am privileged to write each month at A Deeper Story. This month’s story comes from a seminary classroom experience a very long time ago. But somehow the issue lingers. See what you think:


As I remember, it was somewhere between two and four in the afternoon, on a Monday. A lovely spring day, temperate California weather, a low simmer of chatter and anticipation in our small seminary classroom.

There were about 20 of us taking a course on Conflict Resolution, from a moderately well-known professor who had written on the topic and had always seemed to me to be kind and soft-spoken. Maybe that’s why his response startled me so.

We were divided into pairs and given a scenario to act out, to role-play. My partner was a nice young man, whom I did not know, and we were assigned the following:

You are a married couple shopping for furniture for your home. When you arrive at the store, the wife discovers that the husband has already purchased furniture without telling her about it. How does the discussion unfold between you?

There was no advance notice, no conversation between us ahead of time. “Just plunge in,” the teacher said. “Act it out.”

So I did.

I stated my disappointment clearly, firmly, with a moderately low level of emotion, at least to my ears. And to the ears of every other woman in the class, I later discovered.

As soon as I finished speaking, this well-respected professor very carefully and deliberately crossed his legs and placed his hands in his lap, as if to protect himself, and said, “Wow, Diana. Way to challenge his manhood!”

To say I was stunned would be a severe understatement.  I am a large person, this I know. I am a strong person. This I also know. I am also moderately articulate and quick on my feet. I expressed my disappointment with the ‘husband’ clearly, but not harshly.

Yet to this man, whose specialty was conflict, I was overbearing, aggressive, out for the kill — just plain too much. I was embarrassed to the point of humiliation. In addition, I was really, really confused.

If a woman states her case plainly, is she aggressive? Is she emasculating? Is she crossing some kind of invisible line in the sand? If the roles had been reversed, if the ‘husband’ had spoken similarly to the ‘wife,’ would that have elicited the same response?

Please join me over at ADS to continue this conversation. . .


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  1. wow, that is interesting. it would be easy to say that was then….this is now. But yes, it lingers. For me the issue is learning to claim my space in a healthy way. my way of being has been to defer or detach….always the good girl, always watching out for others.

    I is becoming clear to me how/where this started, but the understanding doesn’t always change the pattern, does it! so I guess that’s why the weekly group therapy good for me. In fact, mycounselor tells me that is precisely why i am here! Each.Week!!!! Back.for.more!

    I am now in a church where we have an ordained woman pastor…and I forget until I am in the company of “old thinking” which happened recently. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been.

    thanks for writing this. I am determined to keep doing my work, knowing that i will still run into that kind of thinking, and with the work I am doing, be able to still be healthy for me. it feels like a tall order!

    I wish i lived in California and could come meet you on your ocean bluff, sip coffee from cup and watch the ocean with you. maybe in heaven we can sit by the ocean…do you think there will be one? will there be coffee? 🙂 not sure why it matters about coffee…i drink decaf and my Brother in law says decaf is like dehydrated water! but the warmth feels good in the hands, don’t you think?

    lovely day to you…cjh

    • I’m a tea drinker, myself, Carol. :>) But yes, this is one of the reasons you are in group therapy – and good for you for hanging in there with it. Learning to find our voice and use it is so important!

  2. Gwen Acres says

    In grade one my teacher told me I was bossy. I was trying to organize the line of students in the cloak room. Ancient times. But I think something significant happened because of that remark. Up to that point I think I thought I was OK. Sometimes it does not take much to plant the ” You are not OK” seed.

    • I hear you, Gwen. Careless remarks from adults can be more damaging than we know – I’ve experienced that on both ends of the deal!