Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church

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New Space!

Hi Everyone! I’m excited to announce that I’ve moved over to! I’m really excited about the new site. I’ll be keeping this blog up for about a week so that everyone who reads this blog via email or RSS has a chance to change over to the new site. Be sure to head on over there, my friend Beka is posting on the church’s response to sexual abuse today.


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[Learning Grace] How to Be Supportive

My apologies for my silence. I took an unplanned break from blogging during Thanksgiving week (and a little after), spending some much-needed quality time with my family and my boyfriend, who was visiting from Chicago for Thanksgiving. 

 I’m really excited to jump back in and start the Learning Grace series again. We’ll be tackling a wide range of issues, including depression, eating disorders, same-sex attraction, and more. Perhaps what I’m most excited about is hearing from others. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, e-mail me at

I’ve never considered myself a particularly sensitive person.

I’m an ESTJ who loves efficiency–not exactly the personality type of someone you would consider sympathetic toward people. And most of the time, I’m not. I find it very easy to get frustrated with others.

So I find it ironic that God has placed many people in my life that I’ve had to slow down and listen to. In high school, I had a friend who confessed that she was cutting herself. In college, I had a roommate who had serious health issues. And these just scratch the surface of my experiences.

In each situation, I was totally clueless about how to best support these people. It was purely by the grace of God that I didn’t do or say anything insensitive and hurtful (at least, not enough to end any friendships!). I still feel clueless a lot of the time, but I’ve noticed a few things that seem to be pretty consistent whenever trying to be supportive.

So, to get the ball rolling on this series, here are five principles I think apply to being sensitive in any situation. Anything you would add?

1. Listen

Let them talk if they want to, but don’t force them to do so. If they want to, listen attentively. Don’t interrupt, except perhaps to ask clarifying questions. Don’t be on your phone texting someone else while they’re talking. Give them your undivided attention. Absorb what they’re saying. Don’t just hear them–really think about what they’re saying.

2. Don’t assume

Even if you’ve been through something similar, don’t assume you understand what they’re going through or what they’re feeling. Don’t try to explain their situation, or offer solutions. For example, if a roommate has an eating disorder, don’t assume it’s because she has a poor body image. If a friend is suffering with depression, don’t tell them they need to pray more. Unless you’re a professional counselor or a doctor, you most likely can’t offer them a solution, or even a diagnosis. And your attempts to help may actually do more harm than good.

3. Ask questions

Always be careful not to ask questions that are too personal and inappropriate, but do ask questions to try and understand what someone is going through. For example, “How does that make you feel?” or “How can I be supportive?” are good questions.

4. Stay with them

Let them cry on your shoulder. Listen when they need someone to listen. Invite them over for dinner, or out to coffee. Continue to involve them in your life and be a friend to them. Many people going through difficult times or struggling with difficult issues find that others abandon them when they open up. Be someone they can count on to stick around.

5. Seek help

If you or a friend is in any danger, get help. If you’re in high school or younger, tell your parents or a trusted adult, call a hotline, or call 911 if someone is in immediate danger. If you’re an adult, see a counselor, encourage your friend to see a counselor, or call a hotline for help (or 911 if someone is in immediate danger). There are some things that you should never try to handle on your own, such as suicide, self-injury, and eating disorders. While you can never force a friend to get help, you can encourage them to do so and seek support for yourself.

Below are some important hotline numbers to know:

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE

National Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 866-331-9474

National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453

National Eating Disorders Hotline: 847-831-3438

What would you add to this list? What do you think is important for people trying to be sensitive and supportive to others?


Links for Learning, November 17


Photo by Adrian Sampson

Happy Saturday, everybody! My Saturday will be spent reading, going to coffee with one of my Awana girls, cleaning, and (hopefully) exercising. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. 🙂

Here are some links that caught my eye this week:

The most popular post on my blog this week

(broke some records for my blog!):

Also a don’t-miss: I’m starting a new blog series called Learning Grace. If you are interested in guest posting, e-mail me at


Christian Dating and Physical Boundaries

It’s a common refrain in the courtship crowd:

You shouldn’t do before marriage what you wouldn’t do with someone other than your spouse after marriage.

Typically, this standard is offered in relation to physical relationships. Is it okay to hold hands? To kiss? To cuddle while watching a movie?

In a culture that is often unhelpful in providing a path to marriage that honors purity, standards like this feel incredibly safe and helpful. Just ask yourself one simple question, and you can automatically know whether what you’re doing is okay or not!

Except it just doesn’t work that way.

Whoever came up with this guideline obviously did not have physical touch as their love language.

Imagine being in a relationship where your boyfriend or girlfriend never got you a gift, not even for Christmas or your birthday. Imagine a relationship in which your boyfriend or girlfriend never complimented you or told you how special you are. Or imagine that they never help you when you need it. Or hardly ever spent time with you.

That’s what a relationship with a very low amount of physical contact feels like to someone who has physical touch as their primary love language.

With good intentions to guard the sacredness of purity and marital intimacy, the courtship/biblical dating crowd has taken one expression of affection, which has just as much potential as any other to be beautiful and life-giving, and has, perhaps inadvertently, labeled it as bad and dangerous.

The truth is, all love languages can be beautiful and life-giving.

They can all also contribute to premature intimacy. It’s possible to say “I love you” to soon, to spend too much time together, to be too extravagant with gifts, and to communicate more intimacy and commitment that is appropriate for that stage in the relationship.

But just as growth happens in any area of a relationship–more time is spent together, communication becomes deeper, more of life is shared–it is natural to expect that an appropriate physical relationship will develop and grow alongside the rest of the relationship.

What that looks like for every couple will be different. Some couples hardly touch when dating, hold hands during engagement, and have their first kiss on the wedding day. And this can be beautiful. Some couples hold hands while dating and kiss when engaged. This too can be beautiful. Some couples have their first kiss while dating. And this, too, can be beautiful.

There is no one-size-fits all standard for physical limits. Each couple must seek God and decide for themselves where their standards will be. This does not mean that each couple gets to see how much they can get away with! Rather, they must ask themselves how to bless each other, how to point each other towards God, and how to help each other avoid lust and temptation. Sometimes, the boundaries a couple decides on will look very similar, if not identical, to “the rules” that many of us have been taught. But when boundaries are drawn from a place of freedom and a desire to honor God, they become blessings, not burdens.

I’m not advocating a free-for-all in dating.

Rather, I would propose that the question of, “What is okay?” should be traded for the question of “What will bless my boyfriend/girlfriend, communicating genuine and appropriate affection and showing them the love of Christ?”

Because when my boyfriend runs his fingers through my hair or kisses me on the forehead, he communicates care and honor. One-size-fits all standards that go beyond what God has said in the Bible and restrict Christian freedom, don’t.

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Why I Loved the Baylor Homecoming Parade

This year was the first year I got to watch Baylor’s homecoming parade from start to finish. My four years as a student, I was in the parade with Baylor Swing Dance Society. It was really neat to see the wide range of organizations represented in the parade, from BSDS and Baylor Dance Company to the sororities and fraternities, to the Baylor Driving Club, the Baylor Wakeboarding Club, the various academic associations, Student Foundation, etc. It showed the diversity of people and interests at Baylor and highlighted how many people and groups have found a home at Baylor.

What I didn’t expect to enjoy, though, was watching all the homecoming queen nominees go by. I figured they would all be the stereotypical type of pretty that you expect to see in magazines and movies. I always resented the homecoming queen competition while at Baylor; I figured it probably started as a way to show off the prettiest girls on campus and did nothing more than make other girls feel inadequate and insecure.

Surprisingly, I found that watching the homecoming queen nominees was one of my favorite parts of the parade.

I was surprised at how diverse the nominees were. While it’s true that most of the nominees were white and thin, there were nominees who were black, asian and latino; some who wore extra makeup and had perfectly coiffed hair, while others wore their hair in a simple, everyday style and wore minimal makeup; many of these girls didn’t fit the traditional definition of “pretty.” I was surprised, and pleased, to even see a couple of overweight girls dressed beautifully, sitting in cars and waving to the crowd.

The parade felt like a celebration of the range of female beauty.

Now, I’m not trying to set up the parade as perfect. I’m sure there is a lot of room for more diversity, and that many of the girls did fit within the traditional parameters for beautiful. But watching the parade, I felt hopeful. I felt hopeful that more and more people seem to be recognizing that beauty comes in different shapes and sizes. Hopeful that beauty is being displayed not just as something achieved through makeup and hairstyling, but as something that is naturally in every girl. Hopeful that I’ll someday bring my daughters to the homecoming parade and not be absolutely terrified that their self-esteem will be crushed by watching the queen nominees go by.

In the parade, the nominee from the Baylor Wakeboarding Club, who wore her hair simply, had minimal makeup, and wore a simple but pretty dress, looked just as beautiful as Miss Texas.

Helping build the self-esteem of the female population won’t come through blanket insistence that “everyone is beautiful,” but through celebrating beauty in its diverse forms. And this is why I loved watching the parade at Baylor homecoming 2012.