On Not Being Catty About It

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Dear Darla,

I told you in my last letter that guys are pretty straightforward. This is not to say that there are no complicated men, for there are, but taking one thing with another, guys are less complex than women. It can take a women some adjusting to get used to this, because underneath each simple action he takes or simple word he utters, she suspects deeper forces at work. Consequently, men can be hard for women to understand because they represent an alien thought form.

But women can be hard for women to understand as well, and this is for the old-fashioned reason—the complexity. Some of the complexity that women exhibit is easy for other women to follow because it is their native language. They see and understanding what is happening. But some of a woman’s complexity is as hard for another woman to follow as it is difficult for the men to follow. It is a masked complexity.

This usually happens when sin gets into the picture, and the sin I am talking about is usually the sin of envy or striving. When it breaks out in a circle of women who are friends, classmates, roommates, or acquaintances, it comes out in the form of cattiness. Now the Bible doesn’t really talk about cattiness, but it does talk about envy.
“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: But envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers” (Romans 1:29).
Envy is no good, and it frequently comes out in the form of cattiness. And cattiness is a sin that makes everyone wonder afterwards, “Where did that come from?”

Now I want you recognize that I am going to be generalizing again. No doubt you will able to think of exceptions to what I am about to say—I certainly can. But nevertheless, the exceptions should not prevent you from using these generalization to navigate some complex situations. There is safety to be found in these generalizations.

You might be wondering—when you wrote and asked about relationships with guys—why I have veered off and am talking about relationships with your friends and roommates. The reason is this. There is something about girls you will have to understand if you want to know about guys. And that is the fact that the other girls are really interested in your interest in guys. And there are landmines there.

Guys are competitive, and will compete over anything. This can get tedious for the sisters, but one advantage it has is that they are accustomed to competing. They compete over who can throw the rock farthest into the river, they compete about who got to church first, they compete about whose birthday came first in the year, and so on. Guys compete, and they are pretty good at taking it all in stride. They all know the rules.

The girls are not competitive in the same way. They don’t turn everything into a competition. “Ha ha! I finished my book first!” Girls are not ready to compete at the drop of a hat . . . unless they are competing over a guy . . . or guys. When it comes to the guys, everything tends to reduce to a competition. Hair, clothes, make-up, jewelry, and so on. Women are very competitive when it comes to masculine attention. Sometimes we think that women are not competitive because their lives are one great big competition.

You can see this unfolding when a new guy shows up in your community. There is a tendency with the women, some openly and some more discretely, to start posting up under the basket. This first reaction is a carnal one—nothing spiritual about it. But the thing that is carnal is not that you want to make a good first impression on the new guy. That by itself is fine. The problem is what happens when you are doing it in a crowd, and the thing has become competitive. The problem is identified in the desire to start throwing elbows.

This is worth isolating. If you were a rancher’s daughter out on a remote spread in the hinterlands of Montana, and a friend of your brother from college came to visit, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with you trying to look nice for the visitor. I am not talking about trying to look attractive when it is lawful and right for you to want to be attractive. I will get to that in my next letter. For the present, I am talking about collisions with the other sisters. I am especially talking about inexplicable collisions with the other sisters. I am talking about the dynamics of envy.

Envy is a sin that must be mortified, and for women the sin is much more likely to arise when you envy another woman’s success with a guy, or with the guys, or when you are peeved at her transparent attempts to be catty with you.

This is a sin that is sinful right on the surface, but it is also a sin that rests upon a deep doctrinal foundation. Let’s start with that foundation, and then move on to what it means to mortify the sin of envious striving.

God has laid out a purpose and plan for your life. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to do (Eph. 2:10). The good works He has prepared for you include your children, and their names, and their father’s name. And when it comes to such things, God never double books. This means that this guy, whoever he is, cannot be the Lord’s will for more than one of you—and maybe he is the Lord’s will for less than one of you. No one has decretal dibbles.

Now if you are not right for him, then he most certainly is not right for you. It is never a perfect match in one direction, and a mismatch in the other. When mismatched couples marry, and it does happen, the result is a trial for both of them, and not just one of them.

The exhortation therefore is to trust God. If you are invited to be a bridesmaid in yet another stupid wedding, you need to rest in Him, trust Him, rely on Him. Now I am talking to you this way because I am in the highest degree confident that you are going to be married in the foreseeable future. But there are women who very much want to be married, and no one suitable has approached them, and they are getting on in years. That is for a separate letter also.

Right now I am talking about a cluster of girls who are all going to get married. Now if they all get married, it is going to happen in a particular order. Somebody is going to be first, and somebody is going to be last. If you are settled on the doctrinal point, getting married to the right man is far more important than getting married first, or early in the line-up. But if you have given way to envy and striving, it is going to be possible to start making poor decisions.

Now there are some girls who are pretty steady, and I rank you among them, and they are not prone to the sin of competing with the other girls over the guys. But this by itself won’t keep you out of snarls. Suppose that there is a girl in your circles who is prone to envy. She identified herself in this way when you went out and bought a cute blouse, and two days later she came home with the same one. This was not an accident.

So suppose this guy shows up, and you are not interested. Nevertheless, she starts competing like crazy with you. This is when the inexplicable cattiness enters. She starts making snide comments and odd comparisons. As soon as you figure out what is going on, there will be a temptation to think, “You know, I don’t really want to compete with her over him, but if I were to do so, I would win, darn it.” That is the sinful part. That is the part that must be mortified.

Your uncle,