Bridging the Divide Between the Sexes on Our Worldviews

Recently I have had discussions with my husband and a close female friend of mine who is also married with children. We’ve been talking through the differences between the way men and women communicate and understand the world and relationships with other people. I’ve worked with a lot of men over the years and many of my closest friends have been men. I don’t have any brothers, since I have two sisters. Through both marriage and my friendships, I’ve noted that there’s always been a barrier in understanding between men and women. It’s a barrier that is very difficult to make clear to either sex. We often make parodies of it, fight about it, or ignore it.

This difference is most easily seen and understood in married life, but it also manifests between co-workers, friends, in ministry, and any other area where men and women interact. Many of the fights men and women have center around the same types of things and the difference in worldview, communication style, and understanding. This often reveals a barrier between a husband and the wife in how a particular topic or issue is approached or comprehended. The same is true in other interactions between men and women. In many cases, both parties acknowledge this gap in understanding and simply find a way to compromise without ever dealing with the gap itself.

The most common complaint women will make is about how they simply want to vent about a problem because women often work through things relationally or socially. We talk it out and in the process sort out the problem. Men on the other hand want to fix the problem since they are problem-solvers. The problem is, most problems women work through don’t have a clear solution and men are left trying to work against their nature through discipline and listen to their spouse, friend, co-worker, daughter, or sister work through the issue. While this is indeed a struggle–and an understandable one–in my mind, it doesn’t get to the issue of how the two sexes actually understand the world.

Men are global thinkers. They focus on the big picture. There are all of these things that need to be done and they are prioritized a certain way in order to fit into the whole. The hierarchy of importance is much larger for men than it often is for women. Our focus is usually smaller scale. We are more focused on the smaller tasks that are given to us. We focus on the relationships around us and if we have been asked to do a particular thing, we put our energy into doing it well. Men place value on the overall picture, while women value the work they may be doing on a smaller scale. It is why we are mothers and are primarily charged with the nurturing of souls and men are not. We are caretakers. We are able to focus on the smaller scale dimensions and not get lost in the big picture or the rest of the world “out there”. This would be detrimental to the souls and people in our care if all we thought about was “out there”.

These two world views fit together and are complementary when they are balanced properly and when a mutual respect and understanding of these differences is understood. More-often-than-not, we either don’t understand the differences or we forget them when conflict arises. I can only speak as a woman, but one of the most destructive things a man can do to a woman is minimize the tasks she has been given or taken on simply because they aren’t as important as X, Y, or Z. We don’t compare our tasks to everything else. If we did, then our tasks wouldn’t ever get done because we’d be too busy comparing what we are doing to everything else of more “importance.”

Why is this damaging? Men attach value on the things they see of most importance in order to achieve the big picture. If a woman minimizes the big picture and says it doesn’t matter, then a man is going to bristle because he knows it’s important. Women objectively get that the big picture matters, even if it isn’t our primary focus and mission. Men unfortunately minimize the “seemingly” smaller tasks of women quite often. I usually give men a pass since–although I get frustrated at times too–unlike much of modern feminism, I don’t view men as a threat, rival, or an enemy. I get we are different, but recently I started to consider why women have coined the term “mansplaining.” I don’t agree with where it’s roots lie, but I see at least part of the reasoning for it.

I suspect it comes out of this difference in understanding of the world and our missions. Men will inadvertently–or even intentionally, depending on the man–talk down to women who focus on the things they have said they will do or have been assigned to do that are a part of the big picture, but not the big picture itself. Men will solely focus and compare it to the “big picture” and minimize and even dismiss the work a woman is doing. Comparing our work to the big picture is almost always interpreted by women as a man dismissing our effort as useless or unimportant. He will tell us how everything else is more important and this is utterly irritating to a woman, because we also know that our part is of value. This is really destructive when a husband views his work as of more importance than what his stay-at-home wife is doing to raise their children. Both tasks have been assigned for the good of the family and are indispensable.

In a woman’s mind she is putting everything into and trying to do the task well, but has now been told that it’s not worth while. This typically illicits both anger and hurt in women. Husbands will do this to wives when a woman is struggling in a particular aspect of her vocation. Focus on the overall goal or picture is what they will tell us. That’s fine and good, but women aren’t wired to focus on the big picture all of the time. We are more detail oriented. We are more relationship oriented. We are focused on each individual task assigned to us. If we’ve been given a project, we will put our entire selves into it in order for it to be done well.

My husband struggles to understand why I will sometimes put off a chore around the house in order to spend quality time with our daughter. I will place that relationship before a chore because I see something that our daughter needs at an emotional level. My primary love language is also quality time. I’ve focused on my daughter’s individual needs over the overall goal of taking care of our home (big picture). He is correct that the chores need to get done, but oftentimes women instinctively know to place other human beings before a task that needs to be done. This may not always be the case, but it seems to be much easier for a woman to understand than a task-oriented man.

These same issues arise in the workplace and in ministry. There’s nothing like a meeting to reveal these differences in understanding. Women will focus on the relational, emotional (this can be good, but a lot of times not), or smaller tasks that are needed to achieve the whole. We are bottom up thinkers while men are top down thinkers. Women build up, while men go out and conquer. Scripture is very instructive here in that the women are often building up the men–that bottom up approach–while the men sort out how to go out into the world to bring the world to Christ. Women are called to do the same, but our approaches vary quite a bit. It’s also one of the aspects of masculinity that makes the all male priesthood instituted by Christ logically consistent to me.

This distinction between the sexes is extremely important for building and maintaining communion within the Mystical Body. Women cannot focus too much on the smaller tasks, the emotional response of other people, relational aspects, and the details too much or men are not going to respond or want to be active in a ministry run in that manner. The same is true for men in the way they respond to women. Telling a woman that what she’s offered to do is not important compared to everything else is destructive for morale. Women do not want to work in those conditions because they do not see their effort as being valuable to the men in the group. Even if men don’t mean it in that manner–although oftentimes they do–women will take it as a direct attack on her person. This is an innate aspect of our nature. We can’t help that our focus is where it is and so when we are told it’s not as important as something else–when it is important to us–we shut down. It’s difficult to want to keep helping if that help is seen as minor, when in reality, the small tasks help form the whole and the mission cannot be achieved without both the small picture and the big picture working together: Complementarity.

The solution is for both sexes to come to understand these differences and figure out a way to bridge that divide. Women need to acknowledge that the big picture is essential and to support the men in our lives through that goal. By the same token, men need to understand that in constantly comparing our “minor” tasks to the big picture they are in fact hurting the women in their lives. It is human nature to want to disengage when the value is taken away from our work. This isn’t some silly emotional response that men often simply attribute to the emotional nature of women or that we aren’t thick-skinned enough. This is in fact tied directly to our nature. If you minimize our efforts, then our response will be anger and hurt because you’ve directly attacked an aspect of our womanhood.

We are never going to fully understand one another on this issue, but if we are truly seeking communion in Christ through the Mystical Body whether it be in our marriages, friendships, parish communities, or our secular responsibilities, then we need to at least acknowledge that this difference in understanding exists and patiently try to find solutions that will appease both men and women. When conflicts do arise, we need to forgive quickly so that any damage done to that communion can be repaired as quickly as possible.

Dear Daughters: A Letter to Girls, Teens, and Young Women in Their Dating Years

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*A note to moms and dads: Some of this may be hard to read or understand, but this is the reality of what our daughters are facing. Things have changed drastically since we were teens.

Dear Daughters,

  You are beautiful.  Every single one of you.  You are created in the image and likeness of God.  You were made to be loved and to love others.  You have every right to be truly loved.  Our society will tell you things that are not true.  Our society will push you to do things that you do not want to do.  Our society will tell you how women are to act.  Our society will tell you how women are just like men.  This is a lie.  Yes, men and women are equal, but they are not the same.  You do not have to be a man and you should not try to make men into women.
You might be a young girl, teenager, or an adult when you stumble upon this writing.  It is meant for all daughters, but I wanted to directly speak to teens and young women who are dating.  You will get a lot of information in your short life about how you are to act, to be, and what to do.  You will be told that certain behaviors are normal and expected.  You probably heard a lot of this in your sex ed classes or other classes.  So here are a few things I want you to know.  I am a daughter.  I have been hurt by the lies.  I also have a daughter. All women deserve respect and love:
*You do not have to have sex.
*Waiting to have sex until you are married is best for you and your future husband.
*No man should expect sex from you. A man who loves you will wait for you.
*Your peers should never pressure you to have sex.
*Teen pregnancy is not “normal”. If it happens there are plenty of centers that will help you.  Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Abortion is not the answer.
*Casual sex hurts women. It hurts men too, but they are less likely to recognize it.
*It is NOT acceptable for boys and men to look at pornography. If he will not stop, then he does not deserve you and you need to move on.  You need to discuss this with your boyfriend.  He may be doing it and you do not know it.
*It is  NOT acceptable for women to look at pornography or read pornographic novels like 50 Shades of Grey.  S&M is not normal and it should not be read in a novel that portrays it as normal.  It is unhealthy, destructive, and uses people as objects.  Pornography is not just pictures and movies, it includes novels.
*No man should expect you to act like a porn star.
*No man has a right to hit you or abuse you in other ways.
*It is always the right thing to do to get help in abusive situations.  You have a right to safety, love, and justice.  If the first person you talk to will not help you, tell someone else.  Keep going until someone will help you.  Never give up.  You are worth it!!!!  The first girl I met who was being beaten up by her track star boyfriend was when I was 15.  It starts early.
*Rape is never right or acceptable.  Get help!  You deserve healing and peace.
*Abuse from family members is never right.  Get help! Talk to someone, regardless of how it impacts your family.  You deserve safety.
*Cheating (you or him) is not acceptable behavior.  Love requires devotion and loyalty.
*It is right for a woman to desire marriage, regardless of what our culture tells you. (Men want marriage too)
*Sexual promiscuity is never the answer. It only leads to pain and self-hatred. You deserve a partner who loves you for you and does not use you as an object.
*Never live with a man before you are married.  A man who will not put a ring on your finger, but will live with you, is not fully devoted to you.  Cohabitations end in break ups way more often than they do in marriages.  You deserve MARRIAGE!
*Women and men should never use drugs.  Stay away from drugs!  You have so much more to offer this world.
*Binge drinking is dangerous. It puts you in vulnerable situations that you may not be able to get out of.  Enjoying a couple of drinks is fine.  Binge drinking is not.  Regardless of what our culture tells you, you are not physically stronger than your average male.  You also do not have the physical capability of keeping as much alcohol down as a male.  Alcohol poisoning hits a lot earlier for women.  You have a long life ahead of you.  Don’t endanger yourself to fit in.
*It is a good thing to desire feminine things: motherhood, marriage, love, comfort, security, etc.  You can also desire a career and success in the workplace.  God created us as female.  The gifts we have to offer the world stem from the beauty of our femininity.  You were not created to be a man.
*Motherhood is the most important job.  It comes first. It comes before a career (you can still have one, just prioritize).  Shaping human beings is a tremendous gift, it is hard, but joy-filled.  Children help make us better and less selfish people.  It is a good thing to desire children.  It is natural.  When we do not prioritize our children, they are hurt and become resentful.  Children need their parents, even if they say the opposite.
*No one should expect you to go on birth control and that includes doctors.
*Material possessions are not more important than having a family.
*You deserve a man who works hard for you and wants to provide for his family.  Slackers need not apply.
*Not all forms of feminism are good.  In fact, the majority these days will bring you heartache and misery because they fly in the face of who you really are designed to be.
*Take a lot of what you learn about feminism and politics in school with a grain of salt. Ignore snide comments about religion.  Read and educate yourself on these topics from a variety of sources.  Learning does not end after school.
*Remember that you are so loved that God came to earth as a man and died for you.  You are worth dying for.  No matter what you have done.  Jesus Christ forgives all sins and he gives us the grace to overcome sin.  Ignore the people who mock you for this belief.  They, like you, crave love, but have not found it.
*God needs to be priority in your relationship.  Religion becomes huge in marriage.  Marrying across religions and even denominations can add stress to a marriage.  Really consider your faith before you get married.
This list is not meant to be a condemnation.  Rather, it is to show you that you are worth more than what the outside world would tell you.  Doing these things will help you find happiness and love.  You are worth so much more than what our culture would have you believe.  You are talented, unique, smart, beautiful, and gifted.  You have unique gifts to give to the world.  You deserve a man who truly understands what it is to love, and he deserves a woman who truly understands what it is to love.  God created you in His image.  That makes you beautiful beyond compare.  May God bless you on your journey.

*There will be a letter to sons coming very soon.