The complete article is available here.
Myth #5: Gender is absolutely meaningless in marriage.
Fact: Gender and gender differences—physical, emotional, psychological, and relational—form the bedrock foundation on which marriage rests! The innate differences between men and women
- set the stage for interdependency in a marriage, and thus a journey away from selfish independence and toward oneness;2
- set the stage for practical needs to effectively be met within the family unit, which often includes innocent, vulnerable, and helpless infants and children;
- set the stage for God to display His image through the couple’s relationship. While this is true especially in Christian marriages, even non-Christian marriages offer a picture of God’s qualities and character.
Men are strong and independent and often are initiators. Women are intuitive, relational, patient, and supportive. This doesn’t mean that men can’t be relational or that women can’t ever lead. It does mean that, generally speaking, the husband is better suited to be the protector and provider of his family, and the wife is better equipped to be the nurturer and the source of warmth and encouragement in the home.
From Christian psychologist W. Peter Blitchington, we gain a great deal of insight into how male-female differences help foster emotionally healthy individuals and a healthy society—and how, from a Christian perspective, certain aspects of God’s image are reflected in each partner.
To Eve, and to women in general, God gave this important role—the ability to create new life; to deliver a unique human being, fashioned after his initial design. Woman represents the life-giving, nurturant side of God’s nature. Her capacity to give birth to a child represents God’s ability to give life to an entire universe. She represents God as the life-giver. The roundness and softness of woman were not designed just for the enjoyment of man alone (although that was part of the plan); they are also symbols of God’s tenderness and gentleness.…
But God didn’t stop there, for he is the life-sustainer as well as the life-giver. He could have made us without the capacity to create children after our own image; or he could have made us so that we give birth to independent, self-sufficient children who need no care or nurturance from their parents. But God chose to create us so that we would produce helpless, dependent children who needed our care and love in order to grow and develop. And so a woman’s breasts were created not to be mere ornaments but as life sustaining organs—reminders that every object in God’s creation is not made just to be selfishly admired and enjoyed (as important as beautiful things are), but to be used for others in some capacity. And appropriately, he placed those life-sustaining organs right over the heart of woman.
But the woman’s nature didn’t reflect God perfectly because it didn’t contain his power and strength, his initiatory activity and energy—in short, his masculinity.
So God created Adam—man—to reflect this side of God’s nature. He made Adam taller, more muscular, signifying the man’s role as the protector of his family. He was to be the first link in God’s chain of authority. God also created man to be more aggressive and dominant, more logical and analytical. All of these traits complemented the female traits perfectly. Adam submitted to God and Eve to Adam. All were in harmony. Since neither sex could fully represent God’s character alone, a unity between the two was required. Thus by his plan of marriage, God insured that there would be an opportunity for continual growth within the family.3
Let’s be sure we don’t overreact to the word submitted in this last paragraph. According to Christian teaching, within the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Father is the decision-making member of the Trinity, or the initiator. For the Son and the Spirit to submit to the Father causes no strife or resentment. Thus, since marriage is to reflect the diversity and unity within the Godhead, the idea of submission ought not to create strife in a marriage.
Also in Christian teaching, marriage depicts Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Is it a burden for the church to submit to Christ, the One who laid down His life for her? Not at all! It is a joy to submit to Christ. Christ is Lord, but He doesn’t “lord it over” anyone. Similarly, since the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it, there should be no bitterness on the part of the wife responds positively to her husband’s leadership. Would any woman married to a man who truly loves her as Christ loved the church have difficulty responding positively to his leadership? How could she, unless she already has resolved to remain independent of him? Yet marriage is about unity and oneness, not individual independence.…
Myth #7: Gender is absolutely meaningless in parenting.
Fact: Mothers are not fathers, nor can they be fathers to their children. Similarly, fathers are not mothers and cannot act, in any ongoing way, adequately in the mothering role. This is not to say that moms can’t ever challenge their children to take reasonable risks or that dads can’t ever be nurturing. It is to say that men are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be dads, and women are equipped physically, emotionally, and relationally to be moms. Men and women parent differently, and children of both sexes need the nurturing love of a mother and the strength, safety, and challenge a father will give. Children need both parenting styles for emotional balance and healthy development.
What are some specific ways men and women parent differently? Glenn Stanton, social researcher at Focus on the Family, names several in a must-read article. Here we summarize some of his major points.
- Moms and dads tend to approach their children’s play differently. From Mom a child learns the importance of equity, security, and building bonds through shared experiences. From Dad the child receives encouragement to compete and to strive for independence. Also from Dad, a child learns how strength and safety can be intertwined. Roughhousing with Dad teaches the child that Dad is both strong and safe. This is foundational for self-assurance and confidence.
- Moms tend to encourage and offer security while dads tend to push their children to move beyond their comfort zones to accomplish what they’re capable of achieving.
- Moms are verbal and personal in their communication style; dads use fewer words than moms and tend to be more direct or “bottom line.”
- “Dads,” Stanton writes, “tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Mothers tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child.”
- Moms provide a gateway for their children to view the world of women; dads provide the gateway for them to view the world of men. Because all children are, generally speaking, surrounded by women in infancy and in their earliest years, it is understandable that dad’s connection to the world of men is especially important for young boys. In another article, Stanton discusses the truth that boys must learn to be men. How else can they learn this essential skill unless they spend time in the company of other men?
- When children see their opposite-sex parents interact in healthy ways with each other, they learn much more than the relational dynamics involved when two people interact; they get to observe the core qualities and subtle nuances of interaction between the sexes. Though this interaction, kids learn what mutual respect for members of the opposite sex looks like and feels like.
Stanton’s conclusion offers this key statement: “When we disregard the gender distinctions of parental influence as unimportant or unnecessary, we seriously diminish the proper development of children.” In addition to Stanton’s article, this piece is well-worth reading.
This page is part of a larger article.
Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.