One of the most harmful lies that men and women are told is that we will fit into our gender stereotype. Not biblical calls for us individually or God’s design, but human fabricated stereotypes. When it turns out that we do not, we begin to feel there is something wrong with us.
I have heard the saying that adulthood is really the unlearning of many of our childhood lessons. Growing up, I believed that men must act one very specific way, and women act another way.
I am unlearning this.
For a long time, I wanted nothing to do with the stereotypes. I attempted to distance myself from anything in me that characterized woman stereotypes. Neediness, emotional outbursts, obsessing over marriage and children, wanting the relationship to move too fast, and anything else that fit the mold. I put on a fake persona that I was tough, emotionless and had no needs in me. This only lasted until my first relationship got serious and then it all began to break apart. It turns out that while I do fit many of the “stereotypes” that are expected of women, some of the expectations do not fit. When I got married, it was hard to understand why my husband didn’t fit his “mold” of manhood perfectly. I was shocked and confused why didn’t he act the way I was told he would.
The Bible gives us guidelines not to hinder us, but to help us grow. God acknowledges that we are made especially for special purposes that are sometimes different. He knows us individually and he does not group our flaws into specific categories. He has a special way of getting to the heart issues- in Ephesians women are told to respect their husbands and husbands are told to love and give themselves up for their wives. We are to submit one to another.
To give an example of these harmful stereotypes, I’ll tackle a very present topic in churches: it is often said that men love sex and women want very little, if any – women only crave affection. This view sees men as creatures with no self-control who only think of sexual intimacy and women as people who can’t stand to be with their husbands sexually but only want affirmation. Biologically, we know that men and women view and need sex and affection in different ways. However, the Lord does not put us in boxes of stereotypes. He says not to deprive ONE ANOTHER. He says we belong to EACH OTHER. All things are to be done with respect and love for each other, but nowhere in the Bible does it give specific gender stereotypes that we have created. It is harmful to both men and women when they don’t live up to their stereotypes at all times. These stereotypes we have made say something that God does not. Sex does not solve everything for men and affection does not solve everything for women.
We all need different things at different times and we are all built differently. You will not fit every specific stereotype or mold, and that’s okay. Embrace who you have been made to be and embrace who your spouse is. Love them accordingly.
Photo Copyright: chesterf / 123RF Stock Photo