We Can’t Rebuild Without Knocking Down First

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Uncategorized | 84 comments

Have to Tear Down Bad Marriage Teaching to Build a Good Foundation

My big prayer, the thing that motivates everything I do online, is “how do I help people grow emotionally healthy marriages that reflect God’s kingdom?”

That’s been my aim for years, actually. But one thing that I’ve realized in the last two years is that you can’t build something healthy and strong on a faulty foundation.
Like Jesus said,
 

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.
Mark 2:22

And also,

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Matthew 7:24-27

I used to think that I could help people have healthy marriages simply by teaching what healthy was.

But that isn’t enough. You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. It doesn’t work. You can’t build something healthy on a shaky foundation.

If women believe the obligation sex message, that they must have sex if their husbands want it, then no amount of teaching about women’s sexual pleasure is going to help. Sex has become about duty and obligation where her needs are erased. Sex feels depersonalizing, and even threatening. Sex feels like it erases you as a person. When women believe this message, orgasm rates plummet, and rates of sexual pain go up. You can’t teach women how to enjoy sex unless you first deal with the obligation sex message.

If couples believe that the husband should always make the final decision, and that he deserves unconditional respect, so that her speaking up about something that she feels is disrespectful or unsubmissive, then no amount of teaching about healthy conflict resolution is going to help. They both will already be prioritizing his needs and deprioritizing hers. If she has an issue that she brings up, she will already be labelled as being in sin. You have to deal with the root problem first (and my submission series is a great place to start!).

If couples feel that keeping the marriage together no matter what is what God wants and what glorifies God, then the husband will feel like he’s in sin if he brings up issues, too. He will feel that he has to unconditionally love her and put up with anything, and he may also be afraid to rock the boat. What if he brings up something and she reacts badly? Then he will have wrecked the marriage.

If we believe that the reason men watch porn is because wives aren’t having enough sex, and if he believes that the only way to quit porn is for his wife to have sex on demand, then their sex life will become empty, shallow, and degrading. They have already changed the very nature and very definition of sex. It is no longer the biblical idea of “knowing”, or of true mutuality. It has become, in the words of Every Man’s Battle, simply a methadone fix for his addiction. No woman can be excited about sex when she is merely called methadone. How can someone be excited about being used?

And this is the problem that we face.

We cannot build something healthy until we first demolish that which is dangerous.

Keith and I bought our grandson Alexander wooden blocks for Christmas. He’s 14 months old, and he likes stacking things up.

Alex Scattering Blocks

But even better than that, he likes knocking down whatever he builds (or whatever his parents build). Knocking things down is super fun! And it’s often easier than building things up anyway.

That’s the danger that we face.

The problem is that you can’t build without knocking down; the danger is that sometimes the knocking down becomes too much fun, or becomes the sole focus. 

Please know, on a personal level, that I really, really wrestle with finding the right balance with this. I do not want to just knock down. I don’t think that’s fruitful, and that isn’t my intention.

But I also really, really want to build up that which is healthy, and we cannot do that without the knocking down.

As I shared in my post on Monday, the verse that keeps coming back to me this  year, and that will likely be my verse for 2021, is this:

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 

Ecclesiastes 3:5

God Himself says that there is a time to scatter stones. 

What does that mean exactly? It means to demolish something. There is a time to demolish that which is built, so that you can gather them together again and build again. We see this theme again and again in the Ecclesiastes 3 passage:

To everything there is a season,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to break down and a time to build,
Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

There is a time to uproot; a time to scatter; a time to tear down.

We have to deal with that which is unhealthy.

On March 2 our book The Great Sex Rescue launches. Behind the scenes, that has been our focus for the last year. Almost everything we do has been thinking about what is in that book–as we try to cast away stones, so that we can gather them up again. Identify where we have gone so wrong, so that we can rescue and build and heal.

I find it very personally difficult when so many call us out for criticizing what other authors say. I am told again and again that I am mean, that my daughter Rebecca (my co-author and frequent podcast guest) is mean; that we are out just to wreck other authors’ careers in order to advance ours.

Please know that’s not the case.

Honestly, it takes every breath of energy I have not to give up every single day. I’ll be more frank than I usually am on this blog: my husband is a physician. We do not need my income. I have a basement full of yarn that is just waiting to be knit. I have a grandson who lives around the corner who is just waiting to be played with. I absolutely adore cooking elaborate meals. I would love to retire. Just love it. I am not trying to be famous. In fact, my prayer is that this will never, ever be about me, but rather about Jesus and about these ideas. We are trying to figure out a retirement plan (don’t worry; it’s very long-term at the moment) where I can fade out but the materials can stay without them being associated with my name so much.

I had an epiphany when I was about 30 years old, that I recently shared with another young woman in a similar marriage/career situation. I said to her, “I realized when I was younger that I had an incredible gift. Our family did not need my money. So I could choose what I wanted to do. I could ask God to guide me, and I could work at what I felt was my calling, without concern for income. We could take the money that I earned and we could use it to support charities that I believed in. We could make sure that my time was being spent to further the kingdom of God. So because I have the blessing of that choice, I need to hold that blessing with deep responsibility.”

And I feel very called to do this, even though I would love to knit. And I am privileged that the money that I make from this blog can employ so many people, too.

I find it difficult, then, when people accuse us of just being mean, because I know that this is not what is going on.

I know how much Rebecca, Joanna, Keith, Connor, Tammy, even Katie and I all agonize how to do this well.

One of the first comments I saw this week after being offline for an entire week was this one, about my daughter Rebecca’s input in our podcast on unconditional respect not being a thing:

Whenever she talks about another author she always seems mad, rebuking, giving the idea every other author is a stupid person who does everything wrong. I know there are a lot of book bad teachings but she seems to have all the truth and her tone of voice let us know how smart she is while how dumb other authors and researchers are.

Please don’t tarnish a great ministry with arrogance.

Podcast Commenter

Podcast: Why Unconditional Respect Isn't a Thing

We get this sort of thing a lot–watch your tone. Be nicer. You’re being too mean. You’re arrogant.

It’s interesting, because this kind of complaint is hardly ever lobbed at men doing similar things. It’s really only lobbed at women.

In fact, in this podcast Rebecca never raised her voice or got angry. Other people told me how very NOT angry she sounded. 

You know who did get angry in that podcast, and in the one after it? My husband Keith. But no one ever criticizes his tone of voice; only Rebecca and me. That’s a little difficult, too. He’s allowed to sound angry; we’re not. And we’re told that we sound angry even when we’re quite calm.

And, in context, what Rebecca was critiquing was the study on which the book Love & Respect was based: a survey of only 400 men which asked an extremely ambiguous question which the survey consultant and the pilot study group both said was inaccurate. And they never asked women. When they did ask women, women answered the same as men–but still the study was used to say that men want respect and women want love.

Seriously, there was no way to sugar coat that. It’s not that research is on our side; it’s that we are on the side of research. There’s a big difference. 

We will try to watch our tone this year. We aren’t trying to take glee in just breaking down.

But break down we must. When women have been told they aren’t allowed to say no to sex; when instances of marital rape are recorded in Christian books without even being called rape; when women have been told they don’t need sex, don’t want sex like men do, and don’t have sex drives; when sex has been made entirely about a man’s orgasm–well, it’s hard not to get angry. And it needs to come down. In smithereens.

And then we want to build up. We want to get rid of the harmful stuff so that we can talk again about what a healthy sex life and healthy marriage look like. Our goal is that, at this time next year, we won’t have to tear down anything anymore. Our prayer is that the Christian world will see it and agree and scatter stones with us, so that we can build up again. We don’t want to keep doing this forever.

It is exhausting. It is demoralizing. 

But it is also necessary. And so, over the next few weeks, we’re going to tear down some big messages in the evangelical world about sex. I hope we can do it with some humour, because we did try to make our book humorous (and I think we succeeded). We will be a little tongue in cheek! But we may also be angry, because we are angry. It is very, very wrong.

It is time to tear down, to uproot, to scatter stones. That time will be brief, I hope, if people get the message and embrace it. And as we scatter stones, we will be simultaneously building up, painting a picture of what a Jesus centered marriage and Jesus centered sex life look like (even if it seems weird to put it that way!). That’s our aim. Please be patient with us. It’s hard to do this well, and we won’t satisfy everyone.

But it needs to be done, and we’re ready to get started!

 

Why We Can't Build a Healthy Marriage Foundation without Tearing Down Bad Teaching

I’m almost scared to hand this one over to comments now–but have at it! 🙂

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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84 Comments

  1. Laurel B

    I’m just over here cheering for you – “Go, Sheila!!! You go, TLHV team! Don’t give up – your message is valuable and needed!”
    I don’t know where my marriage would be without your blog and books. I KNOW it would not be the mutually enjoyable, very intimate marriage it is. We thank God every day for our happy relationship. Yet, I know much of my freedom in and enjoyment of sex is a direct result of the positive information I’ve received from you.
    The longer I’m married, the more I realize how many Christian wives are suffering from bad information. So I speak up where I can, and recommend your blog, and let my friends borrow my “Good Girl’s Guide” book.
    I know the online world can be extremely harsh and hateful. It would be hard to sort through the negativity. Maybe you could get some wise person to sort through the worst of it, and then if they thought there was a truly valid concern, they could bring that to you without you having to see the rude stuff?
    Just a thought.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thanks so much, Laurel! That’s so encouraging. And thank you for spreading my books around, too!
      I do have Tammy who slogs through my emails, so I don’t see a lot of the negative stuff in my emails. It’s harder in the comments, but it doesn’t get to us that much. In some ways, it’s the silence of others who have platforms that is just as discouraging as the negative comments that come through. Sometimes the silence of friends is just as bad as the taunts of enemies. The fact that others won’t speak up about this stuff is really hard, because if everybody did, then we could tear down and defeat this stuff so much more quickly. But the Christian industrial complex is strong. And I just don’t care about it. I used to be so upset that I wasn’t invited to the big conferences, but now I’m so glad, because I’m well-known simply because of the blog, and I don’t have a need to stay in anybody’s good books. That’s actually been a real blessing.

      Reply
      • Rere

        Please know that you are making a difference. Breaking down bad information is needed. At one time or another we have all believed something incorrect. This part of growing in every way.
        I have been able to see where bad doctrine and poor boundaries have only enabled destruction and stifled real growth in my own relationship.
        This information has blessed me , thank you

        Reply
      • Rachel

        Sheila, I hear you that you feel alone, that you feel like you’re the only one doing this work. I have noticed over the last 6 months that you must all be really drained and I have been praying for you. I have been trying to have some conversations about these topics (my brother is engaged so what a great chatting to speak into his life!) so I am trying to join you in speaking up. Thank you for all you do.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you, Rachel! I think in the new year we’re going to get much better about asking for help and asking for people to join our prayer team. We do need it. I think we need to start just being more open, because we all are getting drained!

          Reply
      • Bonnie

        Sheila. Your ministry is at the centre of God’s heart. One of His CHAMPIONS. You and your team. Can you imagine your ministry taking off a generation or two ago? And yet it is His heart from creation.
        And yet how many of his champions have gotten discouraged tempted to give up. From St Paul to the Corrie Ten Booms …yet they kept in the race even when full of rats sometimes.😉

        Reply
    • Amber

      Shiela, Rebecca, and the whole team at TLHV….I simply love you. I’m such a lurker here – devouring your content and excitedly telling my husband about it, praising Jesus for it, and yet I rarely comment. Two years ago, I was seven years into a marriage that was really a mirage. The confession came, and I – who thought divorce would NEVER be an option – almost left him. But your blog saved us. Your blog, honest to God Shiela, God used your blog to keep my marriage together not only for my husband and I, but our two young girls. And when it all came crashing down two years ago and my husband was told to go to some stupid “support group” at our old church that just coddled the men who had “failed again” because sexual sin was apparently inevitable and came with the male territory, and then when he sought out a new mentor at our new church and was given Every Man’s Battle to read, the very introduction to which I still remember and still makes me shake….well, then I became completely confused about this body “of Christ” to which I supposedly belonged. But God used your blog to bring me to maybe even a new faith altogether – a faith in Jesus and an understanding of how good God really is. I‘ve wanted to email so many times and thought that my story would be boringly long or that you’ve heard it all before but I guess his Spirit is just moving tonight and I feel compelled to come out of the shadows and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much, Shiela. You will never know – or I guess not until eternity together when I can hug you – how much you mean to me. And in case you are wondering, the truth you share on this blog, and the living truth that is Jesus, has truly and completely transformed our marriage. My husband learned that he could be free, and he dove headfirst into a freedom he had longed for since he was 12 years old. It is possible.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, wow, Amber. That’s so incredible. I’m actually crying right now. I’ll probably use your comment on a podcast coming up when we talk about Every Man’s Battle (I won’t use your name or any identifying details!). This is just perfect. And it shows that freedom for men is more than possible AWAY from the Every Man’s Battle framework. That’s amazing!

        Reply
      • Amber

        I was crying when I wrote my comment! Please do use it. I just read my comment and your response to my husband and he agreed that it would be an honor to have our story help others….we’ve talked a lot about that over the last two years. He would be the first to tell you that the Every Man’s Battle framework made him feel powerless, gross, and as someone who really skipped normal sexual development, completely unsure of how to view women in a God honoring way. He spent a decent chunk of time lonely, scared and confused because he thought he was in sin every time he recognized that a woman was attractive and didn’t immediately bounce his eyes away from her, even as he was trying to develop a healthy habit of, you know, viewing women as people and not objects! You cannot connect with the other half of humanity by making it your life goal to ricochet off of them like hitting a ball against a big red “danger” sign! Anyway, here comes an end to my personal rant which could be much longer. You are so wonderful for all that you do. Thank you could never express our gratitude.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s wonderful! thank you. And htank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate it!

          Reply
    • Lamide

      Laurel B,
      I wanted you to know I could have written the exact same comment about Sheila. Her writings have blessed me greatly and I’m thankful I read her book “The Good Girl’s Guide to Great sex” just weeks before we get married.
      Sheila, i hope this encourages you – you do great work and keep it up!

      Reply
    • Janet Laluk

      Sheila & co. God bless you. Love the scripture references, love the interpretation/application. Enjoying the course-just 1/3 in. Love the supporting comments and Amen to all
      the positives. I believe your doing an amazing, much needed, sacrificial work. May the Lord keep you and bless you and make His face shine upon you. Keep the armour of God on you and your team and your marriages. Thanks for taking one (many) for the team (all if us). Love you.

      Reply
  2. E

    Thank you for all your work, Sheila (and the whole team)! My husband and I have grown so much from reading your blog and listening to your podcasts. Thank you for pointing out unhealthy teaching and always pointing to Jesus. I agree that you need to root out bad stuff as well as plant good stuff, but that’s certainly not easy. Can’t wait for your new book and in the meantime I’m praying God would sustain and bless you. You guys are awesome 🙂

    Reply
  3. Active Mom

    I thank you for what you do. I think people feel threatened when you put a spot light on faulty teaching. They have been conditioned to believe that the stances that churches or Christian authors are taking are biblical. However, they aren’t! I know of other couples who slowly left the faith because they couldn’t deal with the issues you mentioned. Woman who could not raise their daughters in an environment that she is taught that his sin is her fault, her responsibility to fix and that marriage means he has complete control even to the point that there can’t be rape because he owns her. We can’t go after those lost sheep until we clean out all the wolves that are hiding among us. Keep up the good work. I am a loyal reader and happen to like it when you and Rebecca get passionate about a topic. I wouldn’t mind a little more anger coming through. It’s about time someone in the church fought boldly for women.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks so much, Active Mom! I kind of like it when Rebecca actually does go on a rant; I just thought it was funny because in that particular podcast she actually didn’t! And it was my husband who went on a major rant in the next podcast. We may set up a second podcast when the new book launches where we’re more unfiltered and see where that goes! I think we need an outlet, too. 🙂

      Reply
    • Meghan

      Aw yeah Active Mom, I love it when they get all fiery too! We need more women speaking up and letting their passion shine through.

      Reply
      • Naomi

        Where to start!
        I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said here, and I have experienced so many similar tearing-downs that were SO painful and SO incredibly necessary that needed to happen before I could hear God and gain a real understanding of what my faith is truly built on, but MAN. The growing pains are so not fun!!
        I love how you put it as tearing down SO AS TO BUILD UP. That is exactly what sets apart this blog from so many others. Many ‘Christians’ love to tear down in order to puff themselves up, and I have NEVER gotten that vibe from anything you’ve written, and it all points straight back to Christ, and the Word, and the truth of what I’ve already experienced that parallel what you’ve found in your tireless researching.
        I can absolutely say that this blog has transformed my marriage and faith and been used by God through many years to help peel away some of those horrible ‘Christian book’ teachings I grew up with.
        Since you pursue the truth above all, I have so much respect for the other topics besides sex you address, such as parenting and equality and on and on, calling readers to be like Bereans and check if what you’re saying is true to the Bible.
        So keep on the good fight, and Thank you for the years of dedicated ministry. You are making a difference!
        I can’t wait to read your book when it comes out.

        Reply
    • Kacey

      “We can’t go after those lost sheep until we clean out all the wolves that are hiding among us.” That’s a heck of a good line.

      Reply
  4. Phil

    Sheila – for what its worth – this nobody COMPLETELY SUPPORTS YOUR WORK. As you are aware I originally took issue with calling out authors – specifically without giving them a chance to correct first – Mathew 18: 15-16 but as was pointed out to me by another commenter – The time has LONG passed and that approach has been tried tirelessly by women for ions. I am sorry that you and Becca and TLHV must endure such harsh criticism which I know I have absolutely no clue how bad it is…however I am so joyed as to see how your work is helping so many – and I only observe it here in the comments – not social media – I want to tell you that a few Sundays ago I gave a lesson for Sunday School that was focused on Marriage and involved Genesis 3:16. I used a bible with commentary in it but I also used the knowledge of what I have learned here. I said what you would have said. I said what Jesus would have said. And you know what? I was totally comfortable teaching it. There wasn’t a bunch of time after but I didnt get a lot of questions or discussion and afterward my friend came up to me and said good job that was a tough lesson. Well I didnt think so I said…and then later that day my Pastor who attends our Sunday School class called me. You know what he said? He said I am watching you grow and you did a really great job with the material today because that was a tough lesson and you really did a great job. Sheila – what I did I learned here. Thats it. It was that simple. I know if you can help nobody me you have certainly helped others well beyond any scope of your own comprehension. Keep goin Sheila! Praying for you and your TLHV team. Thanks for everything you do – this cheerleader out!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Phil, that’s amazing! I’m so happy for you.
      And you’re not a nobody. I was actually thinking that if you didn’t see this post and comment I was going to email you, because I know you pray for us so faithfully and support us and I just wanted you to see it and know that we really appreciate your prayers. So it was great to see your name in the comments today and so great to hear this. But you aren’t a nobody at all. When we write stuff, we often picture you and Sarah O (who for some reason can’t comment right now but she still emails me!) and Kay and Active Mom and Lydia Purple and Nathan and so many others that I should mention but I’m forgetting right now that we know will be reading, because it feels more like a community. So we really appreciate you! Happy New Year!

      Reply
      • Meghan

        It IS a lovely community. I still think about that thread where we talked about the otter socks and smile every time I put them on. (I’m actually wearing them today!)

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Ha! I’m worried my husband’s sock is getting a little hole. Luckily I’m good at darning!

          Reply
    • Adam

      There is so much I’ve had to unlearn while working to fix and improve our marriage, a lot of it from “Christian” sources. Yeah y’all can be snarky, but it’s righteous snark. Bad ideas need to be ridiculed and torn down. We appreciate what you’re doing, and are looking forward to the book.

      Reply
  5. Kay

    Tone policing is a logical fallacy: “I can dismiss what you are saying because I don’t like how you are saying it.” It is a refusal to engage with the actual premise at hand.
    And yes, it is so often about sexism too. Men are allowed to get angry and are still considered rational, but women are not afforded that luxury.
    Well folks, I am a woman, and I **am** angry. We sound angry BECAUSE WE ARE. And blogs like this one prove that we SHOULD be angry. If you aren’t angry with and/or for us, then I fear that you don’t understand yet.
    The only way to change the status quo is for enough of us to stand up and say “No more. This stops with me.” And guess what we need to do that? We need our anger.
    Our anger is just and right in the face of these wrongs. And we will fight for a healthier faith.
    We are asking you to stand with us.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen, Kay!
      I also think that God has woven so many pieces together so that it all is coming out at this one time. In many jurisdictions, people have been away from church for 9 months. Maybe they watch on Zoom, but many are also watching other churches. I have women messaging me telling me they haven’t needed to see their therapist in months since they stopped attending women’s Bible studies! Or that now that they’re not on that committee at church, stress has plummetted.
      I really pray that people will see that some church situations are not healthy, and there is no need to go back. There is need for Christian community, but it needs to be real Christian community, not harmful stuff that claims the name of Jesus but does not manifest Him. We need to finding safe churches, healthy churches, healthy bodies of believers. I think this is the time. People see they have choices. And many of these authors who write these harmful books are really bad at social media. They’re well-known because they go to these conferences and speak at big churches. But that hasn’t been happening at all this year (there’s a reason the Love & Respect Ministries keeps asking for donations). So their voices have been silenced, but I’ve been able to keep on as usual. I think we’re going to see breakthroughs. So many great books coming out by other authors, too, on how unhealthy so much of church is. I think a big shift is happening! It almost feels like a second Reformation right now.

      Reply
      • Kay

        I once read that the church has undergone a major shift every 500 years or so. That means we are overdue. If each shift takes about 3 to 4 generations to complete, then I absolutely believe that we are in the midst on one right now, and the pandemic has only escalated the speed in which people refuse to go back to the way things were before.
        I, for one, I totally here for this Reformation.

        Reply
  6. Kay

    It sounds like you are describing what the community at large is labeling Deconstruction. It’s a whole movement in the church right now. And I know a lot of conservatives are deeply troubled by it and criticize it because it sounds so “violent.” But that isn’t actually our intent. Our intent is to tear down all of these toxic teachings so we can rebuild a healthier, more robust faith and community.
    For example, it has been super interesting to me to watch Joshua Harris deconstruct (author of I kissed Dating Goodbye). The thing about deconstruction is that there is no “final destination” for it. Some folks deconstruct to the point of deconverting; I don’t think Josh identifies as Christian anymore. But that is just one way some people deconstruct. Most of us doing it don’t want to tear it all down and then walk away. We want to stick around to build something better! If nothing else, I admire Josh’s willingness to look at the ways his books have harmed people and to apologize. That is far more than we are getting from many who still claim to be Christian.
    Deconstructing scares people. And honestly it is scary to be the one doing it too, because you don’t know where it will lead you. But the thing is, for most of us, it is following Jesus that led us to deconstruct in the first place. We had to tear it all down in order to find him, to follow him, because all of this toxic theology was actually keeping us FROM him.
    So much of Jesus’ ministry was deconstruction: “You have heard it said, ____, but I say to you: ___” That is what your ministry is, Sheila. “The church told you this, but this isn’t the way of Jesus.” You’re going to make people mad doing that. It’s unavoidable. But I feel like you aren’t even doing it right if you aren’t scaring people. 😂
    I love you, and I believe your work is so important. And when you are ready to step back, know that the next generation will carry on this work too. It isn’t all on you. I promise. You’ve lit the spark in so many of us. We will pass it on, and the world will never be the same. ❤️

    Reply
    • Phil

      Kay – this is a beautiful description of what is really happening around here: So much of Jesus’ ministry was deconstruction: “You have heard it said, ____, but I say to you: ___” That is what your ministry is, Sheila. “The church told you this, but this isn’t the way of Jesus.” You’re going to make people mad doing that. It’s unavoidable.<—- This is exactly what happened with the High Priests and the church when Jesus was ministering. They told him and the rest that he was wrong and they were scared! When I was working through my issues with Sheila taking on these authors without talking to them first I recall using the words towards Sheila (which may have even been removed) "You like to bash the church" (Sorry for that Sheila). That’s how I felt – because the church is supposed to deliver the correct message right? This even though the church I was brought up in had a period of time where the ministry had the WRONG message and I was sexually abused by our Youth Minster. Really profound for me to look at that. Somehow I got the message that the CHURCH is right even though I was abused by my Youth Minister and all my messages about God where messed up. How do we add all that up and come up with such stuff? How do we miss it? How do we not see that if it isn’t what Jesus would do then it is not right? Thanks Kay

      Reply
  7. Chris

    I think a lot of the criticisms you receive are likely from hurt people. I know mine have come from that place. What’s the saying “hurt people hurt people”? Also, did you buy those blocks or were they home made?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re likely right, Chris!
      I bought them from a cute little Canadian company that does all wood toys. 🙂 I’m not that talented at woodworking (just knitting!)

      Reply
  8. Jane Eyre

    “I find it very personally difficult when so many call us out for criticizing what other authors say. I am told again and again that I am mean, that my daughter Rebecca (my co-author and frequent podcast guest) is mean; that we are out just to wreck other authors’ careers in order to advance ours.”
    Well, that’s nonsense. You are one of the most kind people on the internet – truly kind, not fake-nice passive-aggressive or mealy-mouthed “nice” or whatever.
    You are relentless about attacking IDEAS, not people. That makes a world of difference. Good people can be wrong – in fact, every person but Jesus has been wrong about quite a lot. That does not make us worthless, malicious, or mockable, and you and your team keep your focus on the ideas in the books and teachings and how those ideas affect actual people.
    Imagine a school with two math teachers, one of whom teaches PEMDAS and the other of whom says it’s too hard and the students can just do math left-to-right. Would the PEMDAS math teacher be “mean” for explaining the problems with the left-to-right approach and showing her students how to do it better, to set them up for success in higher levels of math? She would be mean if she attacked the other teacher as a person… but is she mean if she explains why the approach is wrong?

    Reply
    • Heather

      Keep fighting! It’s a particularly nasty comment to say about women—they are not “nice.” Men don’t get that criticism.
      It’s not about being kind. It’s about fighting false statements that hurt people.
      Don’t stop fighting.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you! I’ve always said it’s better to be good than nice. And I’ve always known that “nice” is not a word that will appear on my gravestone. That will never be what I’m known for. But in real life, I think people do like me and find me approachable. So there is that!

        Reply
  9. Becky

    I just wanted to say that I do admire the courage that you and Rebecca especially have in tackling these difficult but necessary conversations. There are so few resources for those who have been hurt by the more traditional Christian teachings about sex and marriage, and though my issues are relatively small compared to the abuse that too many women have had to go through, your blog and other resources have been the only place that I’ve found hope that things can be different. So thank you for continuing to fight for us, and know that I and your other regular commenters will continue to support you and your family however we can. (But definitely take some breaks for knitting and grandson time when you need to!)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Becky! And I do have on my agenda to create that vaginismus course! I’ve been talking to Katie (who will film it for me) when’s a good time in the spring. I really do want to get it done.

      Reply
  10. Katie

    AMEN, AMEN, and AMEN!! I am praising Jesus and close to tears over here. 🙌
    So many years of harmful teaching about marriage and sex that I devoured enthusiastically….but the sandy foundation is shifting now and I am committed that, as far as it concerns me, 2021 is the year for tearing down the bad foundation and building a new and healthy one. Thank you for being a voice of truth and hope for so many women, including me. May God bless your determination to see his name made great in our marriages!!

    Reply
  11. Katie Greener

    Thanks, Sheila! Whenever I describe your podcast/content to someone, I always say that you are doing the necessary work of deconstructing AND rebuilding. And then to see this blog post–YAY!
    Your podcast episodes made me re-visit some purity culture books on my shelf, and I did something I have never done… I earmarked the sections I now see as toxic, thinking that I’d just keep them around as “examples.” But nope. I ended up throwing the books away. It was freeing.
    Because like you’re saying, we cannot allow poison to just “hang around.” We must root it out, for the sake of healing. I agree with some other comments on here, that “deconstructing” is a trigger word in evangelical circles, unfortunately.
    But you’re giving us a path forward. My husband (a pastor) and I enjoy your podcasts during the week–we binge listen while cooking and doing home projects. So many great conversations have been prompted by your episodes. Thank you! (Going to pre-order TGSR as I write this! 🙂 )

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay! Oh, thanks so much, Katie! And that’s AWESOME that your husband listens, too. We love to know that pastors are tuning in!

      Reply
  12. Melissa W

    Keep up the good work Sheila! It is important and deconstruction absolutely needs to happen before re-building can be successful. I keep reading your blog because I share your point of view not because I am looking for help. I happen to be in a very happy marriage and have an active and mutually satisfying sex life and truly believe that what you are teaching and what my husband and I have believed for the entire 23 years of our marriage is the foundation for that. Having been in a church tradition, christian school and christian college that has always licensed and ordained women as pastors it is truly foreign to me many of things that are taught about women in some of these churches. I fully support you calling bad teaching out and getting angry and challenging the sexism. I do think that sexism is a big part of why you are called mean or are criticized for calling out bad teaching. This past season of Survivor the sexism was called out because men are praised for making moves and blindsiding contestants but women are criticized for it. So sexism is deeply ingrained even without us knowing it sometimes. Women are supposed to be nice and not get angry and put up with more. It’s beyond time for that to be called out and the bad teachings to be disputed.
    I can totally relate to how you both feel and how frustrating it is. When I graduated from college 25 years ago as a double major in history and Bible I had so much knowledge and really thought that everyone would think the same way as I did about the Bible because it really made so much sense to me that I couldn’t fathom anyone not interpreting it the same way. Just an FYI, the role of women in the church, marriage and home was a major focus of my studies in my Bible major. When studying original language, culture and the entire message of the Bible in comparison to a few verses that were used to oppress it made so much sense to me that those verses didn’t mean what many were teaching that they meant. However, I quickly learned that people believe what they are taught and when they don’t have access to the resources and amazing faculty and classes that I had access to you could hardly blame them for believing what supposedly educated pastors were teaching them. Unfortunately for me I often times came across condescending when trying to reveal and teach truth and that does nothing to educate and point people to Jesus. It just shuts people down when they feel they are being judged and essentially being called stupid for believing the things they were taught. So, what I have had to learn is to teach and instruct and get angry and challenge without making people feel like they are stupid. With much love and a ton of respect and as someone who struggles with it as well, that would be my challenge to you and especially Rebecca. Speak the truth, educate, get angry, challenge the status quo but be careful about the condescending tone, the “duh, who actually believes this stuff” attitude because I truly believe that is what many are having a negative reaction to. It rubs me the wrong way as well even though I completely agree with everything you are saying and stand with you 100%. So, with that said, you are in my prayers. I am so glad that God is raising you up for such a time as this. I have no doubt that God is calling you to take on this fight and will equip you for it. God bless!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a good warning, Melissa, and very fair! We have to keep remembering that not everybody has read as much about this as we have. If people were just at the beginning of deconstructing, what would help, instead of hinder? Good word!

      Reply
  13. K

    Like so many others I really don’t know where my marriage would be without the knocking down if lies that you have done through your teaching.
    A few years ago I would have been amazed that more people in power in evangelical circles weren’t listening, but have sadly come to see how corrupt and un-Christ like so many in power are. Not saying they all are, but my first instinct is now to question rather than to trust. I appreciate you talking about your motives for your ministry. I appreciate that you don’t want to do it but do it anyways. I appreciate that you don’t want your name known, but Christ’s name (a huge turn off to me right now is any ministry named after its founder). Keep talking about what a healthy church looks like. So many of us have seen the opposite we harshly know what to look for.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, we are really trying to transition in the new year to something different that isn’t as associated with me. We’re going to rename our podcast in the first Thursday of January (I almost typed the name here but I want to save the announcement for next week!). Everything should point to Jesus, not me. And I want to one day be able to walk away from this, but have others step in, with the same mission, and keep it going.
      I’m with you, though. I know default to distrust, especially for people in power. It’s not a fun place to be.

      Reply
  14. Sue R

    I am a long time reader, but have only started to comment (sporadically) recently. Anyone who calls you mean has a distorted view of actions and behaviors. And in today’s world and the anonymity of the online world and social media, it’s all too easy for people to become that way.
    I agree with all the wonderful comments from your other readers and would just like to emphasize that you are consistently authentic and diplomatic. You allow room for others to speak without fear of retribution when their experience is different. That doesn’t mean you don’t speak directly or tackle tough issues, because you certainly do. That takes a tremendous amount of courage, and you manage it with grace and dignity for yourself and others. Thank you, and may God bless you for your work.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Sue! That means a lot. I do try to be welcoming (although I’ve banned a lot of people lately!). But I’m glad you see it that way.

      Reply
      • Sue R

        I would bet my last dollar that you only ban people who are rude, disrespectful, hateful or worse, not people who simply disagree. It is entirely possible to disagree without engaging in name calling, using bad language, or being ugly in general. If people insist on being ugly, they don’t belong here anyway, and you are doing yourself and all of us a favor to “cut them loose.” Then, they can go and spew ugly elsewhere, as is their prerogative.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I do! I usually let them say one thing once, because it’s useful to show people that there are crazy misogynist people out there, and I’m not exaggerating, but then they’re often gone!

          Reply
  15. Soup + Celery

    Thank you TLHV team for everything you do!
    I first found this blog back in 2013 when I was soon to be married – just a sheltered homeschooler trying to find Christian advice about sex. Back when the content was primarily “women should put in some effort to be in the mood” etc.
    Fast forward to 2019, and a discovery of my spouse’s betrayal brought so much pain and confusion, and a desperate search for the truth. Thank God for this blog! I rediscovered it at such an opportune time, and really dug in and did some searching. What I’d thought was true for so long had all been a lie, and with the lies crumbling away, I had to find some truth to rebuild.
    Thank you for searching for and sharing the truth.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m glad you’re here! And, yes, my message definitely has changed over the years, simply by listening to more and more women. We need to listen more!

      Reply
  16. Rose

    As a single woman, I want to encourage you Sheila and the whole TLHV team, that your deconstruction of these harmful teachings have been so immensely healing to me! Initially stumbling upon your blog, I didn’t think your topics would apply much to me, but I’ve realized so much of our view of marriage translates to our view of men and women, and how they relate to one another, especially within the church. And so even as a single woman, your blog has been so affirming to me! It’s helped me uncover some very unhealthy views I had towards myself and especially men.
    Previously, I actually kinda hated the idea of marriage. It’s not that I didn’t want to experience romance or that there weren’t men I was interested in. But something about it felt gross, something I could never quite pinpoint, until reading your blog! So much makes sense now! I wasn’t even fully aware of the hurt these bad teachings had caused and had just accepted them.
    Reading your blog has been so illuminating and affirming to the hurt I’ve been experiencing. It’s given me more confidence as a woman and hope that there are good men out there, who aren’t selfish pigs!! And that marriage might actually be ok and something I might be open to pursuing now.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so great to hear from a single woman, Rose. I’m really glad you feel welcome here, too. I had an email the other day from a woman who was married in November, who has followed me for years. She was a sexual abuse survivor, and very scared of sex. But she found that all the deconstructing she did on the blog put her in really good stead for marriage. But even if people DON’T marry, like you said, it helps you see the genders better. So I’m glad you find it relevant!

      Reply
  17. 80s Kid

    I can’t overstate how important it is for critique of Christian marriage resources to come from other Christian sources. We need to talk back to what is out there representing our faith.
    I imbibed (uncritically) all the Christian relationship books in my teens and I’m still sifting through the emotional fallout from that. The things that have been really important for helping me do that have been Christian professors in my early 20s and this blog now in my 30s. It means a lot to have people who share my faith and understand what it was like to be inundated with all this stuff talk about things in a more healthy (and I believe a more scripturally appropriate) way!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay! Thank you. I do think it’s important for Christians to call this stuff out. We need to police our own, and we need to make sure people aren’t using the Lord’s name in vain (which is what happens when we attach God’s name to harmful stuff). I still find the silence of friends more cutting than the insults of strangers.

      Reply
  18. EOF

    I appreciate all you do here, and I can’t wait to see more people take your message to heart with the publication of the book. (Suddenly, the release seems so close. Yay!)
    It amazes me how we still seem to live in the dark ages in so many ways. But something does stand out to me about the people calling you mean — that’s what NARCISSISTS do. They deflect their own behavior by saying that to people who are calling them out on their wrongdoing. I’ve been doing a lot of research on narcissistic behavior, and that’s a common thing they do. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I’m mean for standing up for myself in my own life.)
    So, to me, the fact that these people are saying you’re mean further points to the fact that you’re doing the right thing. Keep it up!

    Reply
  19. Anon

    I just finished reading “Jesus and John Wayne.” I knew the church and its teachings were sick but after reading that I am appalled at how out of control sick it is. It all needs to be torn down, every last brick, and rebuilt. I am glad for people like you Sheila, and this website, who are part of the rebuilding.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much! Kristin Kobes Du Mez (the author of Jesus & John Wayne) wrote an awesome endorsement of The Great Sex Rescue, too! We’re hoping to do some fun podcasts together this year.

      Reply
  20. edl

    Sheila and Team,
    I know you would love to retire and/or work yourself out of a job. We all wish there was no need for the information you provide here.
    But the truth is – we DO need what this blog and your books provide – – not just information but a reforming of how we, as a society, view people (specifically women) made in God’s image, and how we view the marriage relationship, all created for His glory.
    Sadly human nature is such that there is a “silent majority” and it is usually mostly the angry or disgruntled people that take time to speak out.
    Something else I’d like to mention … We should not confuse “the church” with “the Church”. The first (small c) is a man made creation based on religion; because it is man made, it can be wrong. But the Church (capital C) is a gathering of God’s people, His creation, and He often has to strip us of our incorrect man-made thoughts and ways (as Jesus did to the religious in His day) to help us grow in true Godliness.
    God is at work. Thank you for being a part of helping us straighten out our often-wrong cultural and religious views of marriage.
    May God continue to give you strength and bless you for your good work.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Perfect, edl! I completely agree. I think there is a split coming between The Church and the church, almost like a second Reformation. So many are going through the same things–finding that the church they’re in is actually keeping them from Jesus, not leading them to Him. But I think change is coming!

      Reply
  21. Mara R

    Oh, please don’t watch your tone.
    I like it.
    Goes well with exposing the destructive nature of the marriage advice being peddled by those who are more interested in hierarchy and keeping up appearances than they are with tending to people’s sorrows and souls.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s exactly how we see it! I do know it’s a fine balance, though. But Rebecca and Joanna and I get plenty snarky behind the scenes when we’re upset at something.

      Reply
  22. Cynthia

    I want to encourage you and say how much I admire you and the whole team. You aren’t “mean”. Your blog has never been mean-spirited in any way, never focused on taking a look around and nit-picking and criticizing those around you, never really got political. If anything, you’ve been the opposite – you actually believed in the vision and ideas being promoted, the idea of healthy marriages and family life, and our duty to be good to each other. You made a good-faith effort to correct bad teachings, and if people take an honest and needed good message as a personal attack, that’s on them. You are speaking truth to power.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Cynthia! and maybe one day we’ll sit down to tea in real life and compare stories!

      Reply
  23. Daniel Ferguson

    Shalom Sheila I watch in udder Amazement at the work you and the team do I am a egalitarian Messianic Torah observant Pastoral student and I try to teach a Torah pursuant way of kingdom I believe sexually is monumental place to start learning to be Egaltarian and its very scriptural in one of the most stringent aggressively patriaichal place as the HRM movement im making waves with your documents and understandings one biblical orgasmic relationship at a time or lack thereof shalom sister take heart you are doing our fathers work
    Daniel

    Reply
  24. Lyndall Cave

    RE: People saying your tone is too negative.
    It’s so true that women are held to a much higher standard, and basically not allowed to express anger in particular. Honestly, I think the world needs to hear more from passionate and righteously angry women. What you are angry about (unhealthy and harmful marriage teachings) NEEDS to be brought into the light.
    For what it’s worth, I’ve been told I was “too negative” for talking about how I’ve been struggling with ADHD and seasonal affective disorder. People are gonna be cranky whenever a woman says something vaguely negative.
    I heard a quote today from KC Davis that paraphrased said, “Women are judged for how well they prop up the patriarchy”, so I think people getting annoyed about you speaking angrily is an excellent indication that you’re a threat to patriarchy, so YAY! Keep it up!

    Reply
  25. HB

    More of a lurker than a commenter. I’m sure there are so many of us who support you silently! Just wanted to comment to encourage you. Also I’ve kept some of those awful resources, especially the L&R with the idea of potentially doing an old fashioned book burning! I have the audio CD too. Made my husband listen to it since he doesn’t like to read years ago. I was so blinded to it’s flaws by my desperate felt need for love and poor teaching… It made our marriage much worse, but FF a decade, after HS conviction, he read your blog on his own and it helped so much. I had the idea of doing a video (not my thing though!) of burning while speaking to the issues (inspired by seeing this done (specific pages torn & tossed while countering), it’s great, ha!). I’d prefer someone else do it, so idea out there!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Awesome, HB!
      (And we actually have something really fun planned for some of those things you’re talking about. Likely in April or May? 🙂 )

      Reply
  26. Emmy

    Oh, Sheila, this was such an important remark:
    ” I have women messaging me telling me they haven’t needed to see their therapist in months since they stopped attending women’s Bible studies! ”
    So true and so heart breaking the same time.

    Reply
  27. Missy

    Dear Shiela, Rebecca, and the whole team at TLHV….Thank you for your obedience to God in doing this blog.
    I live in England and I first became aware of this blog 6 years ago because you were a guest speaker on a christian radio show.
    I’ve been reading this blog ever since and its been a real blessing to me. I’m not married but reading all this content has changed my view on marriage for the better not just for me but my friends too.
    Reading these blogs gives me hope and reminds me God is still working. I’m not one to comment but I just want to encourage you to keep running the race. So many peoples marriages have been transformed because your obedience to truth.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so glad you’re here, Missy! And it’s always neat to hear how people initially found me. That’s awesome!

      Reply
  28. Finding freedom

    Sheila, thank you so much for being courageous enough to speak out! I stumbled on your blog two years ago (as in, prayed to God for help in my marriage and your blog *happened* to come up in a web search) and God has used your message to year down SO MANY lies and bring SO MUCH healing, both to me and my marriage and my husband. Thank you!!!! Iam so sorry that you face so much criticism. In a small way, I can relate to that. I get so excited about the freedom I am discovering here, but when I try to share it with my family, I am often accused of being “harsh and critical”. Which honestly baffles me. “Wait a minute, I’m telling you that as a woman, you are more than a church approved porn substitute, and that makes me harsh and critical??? Or I say that as woman, we are not slaves of our husbands, just praying to God that they decide to be benevolent and gracious dictators, we actually have the power to make our own choices, and that makes me harsh and critical???” I think shaking the status quo is frightening to people. So thank you for shaking my status quo!! Freedom is so worth the battle!!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      SO TRUE, finding freedom! People do interpret anything that attacks the status quo as being “harsh and critical”, even if it’s only trying to bring life.

      Reply
  29. Jacob

    Sheila, Rebecca, Keith, Joanna, and everyone else at TLHV–thank you so much for everything you are doing to deconstruct unhealthy teachings and to re-build with healthy foundations. My wife and I have been really encouraged in our marriage after we started listening to the podcasts this year. As you launch into 2021, I am praying Hebrews 12:1-3 for you all! Pre-ordered The Great Sex Rescue from Baker and looking forward to reading when it releases! Blessings!

    Reply
  30. Sandy

    I want to tell you how much your work has impacted my life, my marriage, and my family in ways that have changed the trajectory of my path. Please keep doing what you’re doing, and please know that you are doing a much needed service. I send my adult children to your resources ALL THE TIME!! I have found help and hope over and over again when I haven’t known where else to turn. I only wish I could invite you over, make you some tea, and chat like friends 🥰. Maybe someday we will. I met you once at a Family Life marriage retreat and feel privileged to have chatted with you. Blessings and prayers to you and your family and ministry!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you so much for that encouragement, Sandy! I hope I was nice to you when I met you at the retreat. 🙂 I often don’t know what to say to people and I’m not very good at small talk. Keith is way better at that. At those marriage conferences, by the end, he knows the names of like 40 couples and I’m just like a deer in the headlights. 😉 No one realizes that because I’m so self-assured on the stage, but he’s way better one on one than me!

      Reply

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