Symbolic Interaction and Flirtation

You’re wondering what ‘symbolic interaction’ is, for heaven’s sake, and also what it has to do with flirtation.  Well, I will tell you.  Symbolic Interaction is a sociological term used to describe how people look at things and how it affects their behavior.  For instance, in America, mummies are a symbol of death and fear, so we react in that way.  In Egypt, however, a mummy may just be a historical symbol treated with respect, not repulsion.  So how do mummies translate into flirtation?  No, I am not going to tell you how to flirt with a mummy.  (That would be rather one-sided, if you ask me.)

Symbolic Interaction is part of my sociology class.  My sociology textbook had some interesting things to say about American culture and how people behave.  I am going to share some things from the book below, because you will find that a worldy textbook has some very interesting things to add to what we have already covered.  Please take a moment to read through it as I think it adds some scientific backing to the Biblical concepts we have been discussing.

Touching:  Not only does frequency of touching differ across cultures, but so does the meaning of touching within a culture… An experiment with surgery patients illustrates how touching can have different meanings.  The nurse, whose job it was to tell patients about their upcoming surgery, purposely touched the patients twice, once briefly on the arm when she introduced herself, and then for a full minute on the arm during the instruction period.  When she left, she also shook the patient’s hand…  Men and women reacted differently.  Touching soothed the women patients.  It lowered their blood pressure both before the surgery and for more than an hour afterward.  The men’s blood pressure increased, however.  The experimenters suggest that the men found it harder to acknowledge dependency and fear.  Instead of a comforter, the touch was a threatening reminder of their vulnerability.  Perhaps.  But the answer could be much simpler:  being touched by a pretty nurse aroused the men sexually, which increased their blood pressure… 

Eye Contact:  One way that we protect our personal bubble is by controlling eye contact.  Letting someone gaze into our eyes — unless that person is an eye doctor — can be taken as a sign that we are attracted to that person, and even an invitation to intimacy.  Wanting to become the ‘friendliest store in town’, a chain of supermarkets in Illinois ordered their checkout clerks to make direct eye contact with each customer.  Women clerks complained that men customers were taking their eye contact the wrong way, as an invitation to intimacy.  Management said they were exaggerating.  The clerks’ reply was “We know the kind of looks we’re getting back from men,” and they refused to make direct eye contact with them. 

Smiling:  In the United States, we take it for granted that clerks will smile as they wait on us.  But it isn’t this way in all cultures.  Apparently, Germans aren’t used to smiling clerks, and when Wal-Mart expanded into Germany, it brought its American ways with it.  The company ordered its German clerks to smile at customers.  They did — and the customers complained.  The German customers interpreted smiling as flirting.

Eye Encounters are a fascinating aspect of everyday life.  We use fleeting eye contact for most of our interactions, such as those with clerks or people we pass in the hall between classes.  Just as we reserve our close personal space for intimates, so, too, we reserve lingering eye contact for them. 

Several girls mentioned that they had not thought about the eye contact issue very much.  While I think it is necessary to look someone in the eyes while talking to them, looking ‘deeply’ or maintaining eye contact during a conversation with a man issues a challenge to him.  It signals that you are interested in a more intimate relationship than ‘just friends’.  I think the textbook did a good job showing how our actions can symbolize something totally different than we even intend — which is what flirtation is.

I hope all my readers have enjoyed this study of flirtation.  Rest assured I am learning right along with you!  Our next study will begin on Monday, and I will be covering “Waiting — When Not Dating”.  God Bless!

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Are You My Daddy?

The Psychology of Atheism

One morning at church, when I was about six years old, I was wandering around the foyer with a few of my little friends. Church had just let out, and because the congregation was large — almost 400 members — the foyer was crowded with laughing, chatting adults. Amidst the laughter, I suddenly realized I couldn’t see my dad. I was lost in a sea of people! Leaving my friends, I frantically searched for the one face I would recognize –that of my father. There! I saw his legs. Full of exuberance I rushed across the room and siezed the khaki-clothed appendages. I looked up, smiling brightly — at a man I didn’t know! Terrified, I fled back through the crowd, flushed with embarrassment. When I finally found my real father, I was so relieved I could have cried!

To children raised in a Christian, homeschooling enviroment, there is an enormous emphasis placed on the importance of a father and his involvement with the family. However, in today’s culture, this is not normal. Fathers are viewed as stupid, inadequate, megalomaniacal beings who are either linguine-spined or controlling. Much of this projection comes from the feminist quarter of the media, whose view of men is based on hatred and women’s refusal to accept authority. The media’s negative presentation of the father figure, and masculinity in general, has removed any incentive for boys to become real men: warriors, adventurers, heroes and leaders. Our society has raised up a generation of effeminate, weak-willed “guys” who live only for the next thrill.

Despite what the world says, the role of father is perhaps the greatest one a man can fulfill. It is a job that grants lasting rewards; the chance to see your legacy living on in the life of your child — particularly a son. The father’s role is one of loving authority, firm gentleness and compassionate discipline. The father is a leader, a provider, a teacher and a friend. Why then, would the world want to dispense of such a position? Because it is a position of authority.

What do feminists, the majority of teenagers, and bratty children all have in common? A resentment toward authority. They don’t like being told what to do. It begins when they are small — even at age two or three. You tell Junior to eat his lunch and he says he doesn’t like it. “You can’t make me eat it! NO!” You told him to do something he didn’t like, so he resents your authority over him. Unfortunately, many men and women never grow out of this stage. This is due to the absence of loving parents (but especially a father) who would discipline the child to bring them to respect and honor their authority.

As women have become more ‘liberated’, the need for men to fulfill their God-ordained roles as husband and father has quietly slipped away. Women don’t need men anymore — so the men, disrespected and deprived of the role their very nature was created to fulfill, fall into a default mode of laziness and irresponsiblity. How many single moms are out there, “making it on their own”? They wanted their liberated life — so their men left them to have it. This is only a reflection of the consequences of removing a father’s authority. It goes even deeper than that.

What does the removal of the father have to do with atheism? In my opinion, it is one of the roots of such a worldview. What do Christians call God? Father. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” He is the Ultimate Authority — He is the one who instituted the position of a father and is the example of it Himself. Now if a boy grows up without a father, or with an abusive one, what is his conception of any father, earthly or otherwise, going to be? Most likely, very negative. Voltaire, a famous atheist from the 18th century, had a father who was abusive and angry. Voltaire hated him so much he changed his family name. Later on, Voltaire would respond to God with the very same hatred he had directed toward his earthly father. Nietzche, another famous atheist from years ago, had a father who was weak and sickly. This father was also the pastor of a church. When Nietzche was between the ages of three and five, his father, whom he adored, died. Nietzche was crushed that God would take his father from him, and later on would also associate his father’s weakness and death with the Christianity he preached. This view was compounded by the fact that young Nietzche was raised by highly pious women, which caused him to further view religion as for the weak-minded and impressionable — never for the strong.

Other atheists were influenced by highly involved, loving fathers, who taught atheism to their sons. These fathers were so loved and respected by their sons that whatever they taught, the sons readily accepted. This is the inverse of the other examples — but it also shows the tremendous influence a father has. These sons learned to rebel against God by sitting under the teaching of fathers who they adored, but who were atheists themselves.

Political atheists like Stalin and Hitler were the products of, like Voltaire, abusive fathers. Stalin was whipped and beaten nightly by his drunken father. Also like Voltaire, his hatred caused him to change his name — to Stalin, which is Russian for “steel” — and turned his heart against God, a position of authority. Stalin resented a father figure because of his past experience. What could he expect of a God who was called “Father”, when his own had hurt him so badly? Hitler had a similar experience.

Freud’s life was similar to Nietzche’s. Freud, a Jew, grew up under the teaching of a highly religious but weak father. As a boy Freud associated this physical weakness with religion. One instance particularly influenced young Freud, when his father, spit upon for being a Jew, simply tolerated the persecution and walked away from a fight. Freud saw this as weak and effeminate. He responded to this by reacting against religion and God with the argument that it is for the, once again, weak-willed and women. Freud, however, perhaps unconsciously laid out the exact argument I present here in his writings — stating that the impression a child has of a father, and his authority, will directly affect his future view of God.

The role of a father is an enormous responsibility. So few people realize this, and even fewer appreciate it. If the fathers of these atheists could have seen the effect they would have on their sons — and the resulting effect their sons would have on the world — perhaps they would have contemplated the legacy they were leaving behind. To think of Voltaire, Nietzche, Stalin and Freud as once being young, impressionable boys, crying out for a father to lead and love them, could almost bring me to tears. But time cannot be turned back. Thank God for the fathers we DO have, who lead and love, correct with compassion, and fulfill their representation of the Father of the entire world.

For a more extensive study of this topic, you can buy the book “Faith of the Fatherless” by Paul Vitz.