Understanding And Leveraging The Differences Between Man And Woman
“Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.” Prov 14:1 (Amp)
“Women are terrible!” This was the strong statement made by an acquaintance, which more or less summed up his life story and fractious relationship with the fairer sex. Nevertheless, let me quickly affirm from experience that for one man who makes such a negative statement as above, there are ten irate and deeply hurt women who would counter with their own bitter assertion that “Men are dogs!” This reality is borne out by the fact that most single parent households are headed by a woman. This is often as a result of relationship breakdown. The man choosing, for whatever reasons, to walk out on his family, leaving the woman to take care of the children and other fallouts of the failed relationship. Hence, acknowledging the fact that there are significant natural and often conflicting differences between sexes, which impact on how we view life constitutes only the beginning of a better understanding of the complexity that is the marriage relationship.
A few of these natural differences between a man and woman include orientation, mentality, etc. For example, men tend to be generally more task oriented as opposed to the women who are characteristically more relational. Men are more egoistic, hence their mentality tends to be more about achievement as opposed to the nesting or caring instinct that predominates in and often influences women’s decision. Men also tend to be more logical and emotionally detached in comparison to the womenfolk who tend to be more emotional. Consequently, men tend to go more on reason why women have more intuition. Any wise man will recognise that logic is not always right and would thus learn to harness his wife’s intuition, which although often not logical, has the annoying habit of being right more than we men care to admit. Also, men tend to be more visually stimulated, that is, they tend to relate more with and are therefore impacted by what they see as opposed to women who are more audibly stimulated and tend to be more influenced by what they hear. It is no wonder that men are more susceptible to pornography while women often allow their wayward spouses to get away with murder just by being told what they wanted to hear, even if these were pure lies. And of course men differ from women, especially within the context of marriage, in terms of authority and influence. Generally, men tend to be more authoritarian, while women tend to rely on their natural or subtle ability to influence events without resorting to force. Consequently, our proper understanding of the interaction of man’s authority and the woman’s influence is crucial and goes to the heart of what constitutes a marriage relationship, for it is part of the human nature that predates the fall of man and the consequence of sin.
From the beginning, when God created and conferred His authority on Adam in the Garden of Eden, man has been synonymous with unalloyed authority. He duly exercised that God-delegated authority over all of God’s creation in his charge as a function of his design. Sometime later, God concluded that man needed a help meet and duly created the woman Eve to both complement and keep Adam company. Intrinsic in God’s action was the understanding that the woman should share in her husband’s authority, meaning that she too should co-rule over God’s creation with her husband, Adam. However, the nature or mode of execution of that authority differs in line with the characteristic of each gender. Man’s authority can be described as hard power, expressed as undiluted or strong authority; while the woman’s equivalent is the soft or subtle type that relies more on wit than raw power to achieve its goal. Nevertheless, the end of fulfilling God’s purpose in marriage remains the same, irrespective of who is wielding the authority.
John C. Maxwell defined leadership as the power to influence. So, since the woman is synonymous with exercising influence, does this make the wife the leader of her husband? Absolutely not, and this is reiterated by Scripture. See Eph 5:22. Within the context of a home, the headship belongs to the man. Ideally, the woman’s influence is designed to both complement and complete the man’s authority, as was originally intended and established by God’s action in the Garden of Eden. However, let me quickly add that this scenario does not apply outside the context of marriage, as a qualified woman can actually lead men in position of authority. The bible’s injunction of the woman’s submission to man was very specific and limited. It should be only to her own husband, while both of them are jointly and severally submitted to God’s overall authority. This nullifies the argument that women cannot attain position of authority either within the church or in the larger society and erases the culture-based pretext that is often selfishly advanced by mostly men to keep their women in perpetual subjugation and preserve their privileged status and all that comes with that in a society. A man’s authority is limited to his wife and cannot be legally extended to cover another man’s wife. Marriage provides the proper context within which a man and his wife can relate in mutual respect and submission with the husband taking the lead role and the woman complementing his effort. Both act under the greater influence of God to fulfil His purpose for their lives through their marriage.
The implication is that whenever the man’s authority is used for a selfish end or the woman’s influence is not functioning as designed to either complement or complete man’s authority, but is corrupted and thus competes with or actively undermines her husband’s authority, God’s purpose for that marriage is liable to being sabotaged. So, it is not enough for the man to stress his right to wield his authority over his wife if he has not previously been operating in God’s love as enumerated in 1 Cor 13 towards her. Walking in love qualifies a man with the moral authority to lead and expect his wife to follow. Normally, a woman would submit to her husband’s authority if she knows that he loves her as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her. If there are issues that needs addressing, he will be able to boldly tender them before God in the knowledge that he has obeyed God’s word and that God is honour-bound to back up His authority in him and make things right. This is the key to having a happy and enduring marriage relationship.
As long as the man’s authority and the woman’s influence function cooperatively as designed, the relationship is bound to prosper. As long as man chooses to exercise his God-delegated authority in fulfilling his God-given purpose coupled with and actively encouraged by his wife’s tacit and wise use of her influence, the marriage will be strong and nothing that comes against it will succeed. As long as the wife is prepared to employ her soft power of influence to complement and enhance her husband’s ability to fulfil his God-given purpose, the marriage can only go from strength to strength. However, the moment she starts using that influence unwisely, the marriage slips into dangerous ground. Disunity and recriminations will follow and peace will fly out of the window until everything is once again brought under God’s control. Let us look at the example of the first couple Adam and Eve to illustrate what can go wrong when influence is used ignorantly and incorrectly to sabotage the purpose of God. The bible says:
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable and pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate.” Gen 3:6
The story of how Satan first sowed the seed of doubt into and deceived the woman into eating the forbidden fruit is common knowledge, so I will not be going into it in greater detail here. However, I want to concentrate on the phrase “And she gave some also to her husband, and he ate”, because it is a loaded statement, which gives us an insight into the power either for good or evil of the woman’s influence over her husband. As Apostle Paul confirmed, it was the woman that was deceived and not the man. So, the puzzling question is what made Adam do what he knew was patently wrong. What actually made Adam commit what amounted to personal, spiritual and professional suicide? Why did he take the fatal step of cutting himself off from God? Why did he not refuse the fruit when offered by the woman when God had plainly forbidden them to eat of it and why did God hold Adam ultimately responsible for his treasonable action despite the latter’s protestations?
The answer to these questions can be found in the scripture passage quoted above. The woman may have been deceived into eating the fruit, but the man wilfully took it of his own volition. The issue is why? I believe that Adam succumbed to the potent, but negative influence of his wife and was thus nagged by Eve’s unrelenting persuasion into disobeying God. I believe that the story as recorded above in the bible was compressed; hence we are not able to easily see what went on behind the scenes. I firmly believe that Adam was a godly man who was determined to do God’s will, so he would not have tamely succumbed to Eve’s argument the very first day. It is more likely that Eve used her charm and the power of her personality backed by powerful arguments to wear down her husband’s initial resistance and fidelity to the word of God and thus persuaded Adam that the fruit was good to eat and that nothing would happen to him. She would have used her person as proof that the word of God was not true. After all, she had not died since eating the forbidden fruit, and had also suffered no ill effect. In fact she had become as wise as God, as predicted by the serpent. On account of Eve’s unrelenting pressure, Adam’s resolve began to waver until it finally collapsed. Even though Adam knew in his heart and remained convinced that God’s word was true, it seemed he became exasperated by his wife’s pressure and ultimately folded and ate the fruit himself. Therefore, Adam’s sin was relatively greater in that he knew what was right and chose the wrong option as opposed to Eve who was deceived by the Devil’s lie. All the same, they were both guilty of sin and faced God’s righteous sanction accordingly. Claiming ignorance has never been an acceptable way of escaping righteous judgement – whether divine or human.
Unlike Eve who apparently did not suffer any immediate ill effect from eating the forbidden fruit, it was a different story from the moment Adam took a bite of the fruit. The negative effect predicted by God, but which had been delayed until that moment started manifesting simultaneously in both of them, as they both immediately started experiencing the repercussions of Eve’s deception and Adam’s wilful disobedience. For the first time in their lives, Adam and Eve began experiencing the once alien feelings of fear, shame and guilt as a direct consequence of the entrance of sin. They became alienated from God and actively hid from fellowshipping with Him. This however only proved to be the beginning of their troubles as God unleashed His righteous judgement on Adam and his wife Eve and ultimately sent them packing from their home, the Garden of Eden.
God had directly and specifically commanded Adam not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it seemed that Adam passed this injunction on to his wife, because Eve made mention of that fact to the serpent. However, this made him more liable for disobeying God’s direct order and his treasonable act inexcusable; hence the severe punishment. He allowed himself to be swayed by his wife’s evil influence (in this particular case) and consequently made himself into an enemy of God. One wonders what would have been had Adam stood his ground and held God’s word to be the truth. However, the moral of the story is that a wife’s influence is powerful either for good or evil. It is a power that must be used carefully and, essentially, for prosecuting God’s righteous purpose.
Another example of the negative use of the wife’s influence over the husband is between Abraham and Sarah. It concerned the character and promise of God of a son to both of them. As they both aged, and it increasingly seemed unlikely that God would fulfil His promise, Sarah approached her husband Abraham with what she thought was the solution to their problem – the proposal that they try another means of having a child by doing what the people of the world in their situation normally do – use the services of a surrogate. This is what the bible says:
“And Sarai said to Abram, See here, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. I am asking you to have intercourse with my maid; it may be that I can obtain children by her. And Abram listened to and heeded what Sarai said.” Gen 15:2
Abram knew better than to doubt God’s character and promise, but allowed himself to be persuaded by Sarai’s argument that they try the world’s way of doing things. Well, it initially seemed that the world’s way worked beautifully until unforeseen relational problems started cropping up to further complicate their lives. The sting in the tail was that this same Sarai who had persuaded her husband to adopt the surrogacy plan later started angling for the expulsion of the slave and her child. This again proves that the unwise use of a woman’s influence can have grave repercussions. Although Abram was, to put it lightly, extremely reluctant to do his wife’s seemingly harsh bidding this time around, God forced the issue by commanding Abram to listen to his wife. This was a very painful step for Abram to take, but he nonetheless did it. However the repercussion of this costly mistake still lives with us today in the intractable Middle East crisis. The point here again is that the woman’s influence on her husband is very powerful and should be used principally to further and not frustrate God’s purpose for that marriage. We can also see from this story that God always hold the man responsible for the authority He has delegated to him and just to drive home the point of His displeasure, God refrained from speaking to Abram for many years and consequently forced him to wait for another decade before His long-awaited promise of a son became a reality.
A lesson that is profitable for all of us from these stories is that we should be careful what we desire or pursue, for that which seems right to man often ends up in death and misery especially if it contravenes God’s will for our lives. Eve and Sarai had their ways with their respective husbands, but the improper use of their influence only brought angst and unexpected complications into their lives that they both could have done without. In both cases, as it is with all manners of temptation, the reality did not live up to the promise. It was painfully disappointing. So, don’t let the devil short-change you with empty promises in his ploy to deprive you of God’s best.
As an addendum to this story let me ask you this important question, do you think Abraham informed Sarah of his intention to sacrifice their only son Isaac to God at His command? I think not! Abraham would have learnt his lesson of dealing with his wife wisely by now that he would just have informed her that they were going to offer sacrifice to God without elaborating. Had he informed her about what he wanted to do with the son they had both suffered together to get, it is likely that Sarah would first have sacrificed her husband on the altar of her unalloyed rage before the latter would have had the chance to carry out his plan. It is no wonder the bible enjoins the men to deal with their wives with knowledge. So, men, be wise.
Other examples abound in the bible of the wife’s negative use of her influence over her husband. Moses and Zipporah’s marriage is another case in point and we can see that she nearly caused the death of her husband at the hand of the God who had just commissioned him to save his suffering brethren from slavery in Egypt. She had used her influence to prevent Moses from obeying God and circumcising their second son, and poor Moses, trying to avoid a scene as men usually do, chose not to confront her. Well, they both paid for their infraction of God’s law later, but God mercifully spared their lives. The same truth is proven here that God always hold the one with the authority responsible and that is chiefly the man.
The negative influence of Solomon’s wives on in his latter years is another story that buttresses this point. When King Solomon became old, his foreign wives influenced him to forsake the Jehovah he had served in his youth and led him astray just as God had predicted.
Nevertheless, it is heartening to know that it is not in every situation that the man succumbed to his wife’s negative influence or that the woman’s influence on her husband is always negative. Authority and influence are amoral. The use we put them to determine the character they ultimately take up. Despite the intense pressure he was subjected to, Job chose to remain faithful to God and determinedly withstood his wife when the latter implored him to curse God and die because of the horrible suffering that he was going through. On the contrary, Job persevered in his trouble and kept faith with God and God ultimately rewarded him by delivering him from his troubles and doubling his blessing. That is the pleasant end that awaits those who choose to keep faith with God in the face of terrible demonic oppression, whatever their gender.
As earlier propounded, it is also not in every case that the woman’s influence is negative. Abigail was a wise woman in a difficult marriage. She was married to a fool of a husband, Nabal, for that is the true meaning of his name. It turned out that Nabal was not only a fool in name, but also a fool by nature; albeit a rich fool. When she heard of her husband’s foolish dealings in maltreating and insulting David’s men who had come to request payment for services rendered in securing his enormous flock of sheep, she immediately took wise steps to defuse a dangerous situation that was threatening to explode and by so doing prevented the death of her husband and his entire household by the hands of an irate David. She also used her womanly influence to dissuade David from committing murder and it was this important quality that attracted the latter to her and later led to him marrying her after her husband’s demise.
The reality is that the wife is the centre of the home. Without her, a home will barely operate as she is often the link between the man and the children. The import of this role is that a wife and mother is best placed and can wisely facilitate the relationship between a man and his children or foolishly turn her children against their father. In difficult marriage relationships, the children can quickly become weapons with which the combating spouses hurt themselves as they vie with each other to gain the upper hand or wrest the children’s affections. The tragedy of such situations is not only that the children are negatively impacted by the shenanigan going on in their family, but also risk carrying forward the hurts and scars sustained in such internecine battles to negatively impact on their own future families, causing the vicious cycle of hatred to continue from one hurt generation to another.
The truth that we need to understand is that we all have a choice as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers to use our authority and influence to either wisely build our homes or families or foolishly break them down. We need to first understand God’s purpose for the family and then seek to fulfil that purpose as we wisely relate with our spouses and children in order to guarantee a happy marriage and a better future for all.
So, how well have you been doing on this front? Do you perceive that you’ve fallen short on some points? As a woman with strong character, have you wrested authority from your husband because of his perceived weakness or unwittingly undermined his authority in the home? If yes, let the spiritual mirror that is the word of God show you your fault and determine to amend your way as you honour God in your marriage. As the one with the authority, are you the man of the house a tyrant ruling your house in fear and like a tyrant? Remember that the authority was given to you in trust and that you will one day be called to account for its judicious use. So, use your authority in the fear of God. Do you have a vision of raising a God-fearing family or are you just muddling blindly from one day to the next? Ask God to give you a new vision, if you have none; to renew your vision, if you have already lost your way. When you choose to honour His word, it will not just be you alone building up your family, it will be you and Him. And with God on your side, success is guaranteed. As husbands and wives, use your God-given authority and influence wisely and your children and their children will call you blessed.