Love and Respect in the Face of Male and Female Differences
Based on scripture’s command in Ephesians 5:33 for the husband to love his wife and for the wife to respect her husband, Sarah and I have found two challenges. One, to follow this command unconditionally means we are to love and respect each other even during our male and female differences.
Two, not only are we to love each other when these male and female differences between us are highlighted, but we are to also love and respect these male and female differences themselves as part of God's beautiful design.
I would like for you to reflect on this from your own experience. But let me provide a fuller explanation.
As for the first challenge, if you are like Sarah and me, who have been married since 1973, you don't always recognize the male and female difference at the moment of conflict. For example, according to a wealth of research, generally speaking a wife and mother is more risk-averse than the husband and father. Specifically when it comes to the children, a woman would rather be safe than sorry. Thus, she informs her husband that the dirt-bike ramp he is building for their son isn't a good idea. Of course, this husband's first impulse is to feel she is saying, "You are putting our son in harm's way. You are a bad dad. You are wrong." This leads him to become defensive. Because he is not recognizing that his wife’s fear stems not out of disrespect for him but out of a motherly protective love for their son, his first impulse is not, "Oh, how can I be a loving and respectful husband as my wife tells me I don't care about the safety of my son?"
As for the second challenge, Sarah and I do not always appreciate God's design of the other. We do not value, at least not at the moment the difference is highlighted between us, that this is part of God's larger plan of us as husband and wife. We need to love and respect each other’s gender, including the God-created characteristics that distinguish us from each other. Jesus tells us that God made us male and female (Matthew 19:4), which means that though we are equal in the eyes of God, we are not the same.
That a mother feels more fear for the safety of her son does not make her wrong, but God designed a part of her core as a woman to approach children differently. Though she needs to face her fears and learn to overcome some dread related to her children (i.e. The helicopter mom who tries to hover 24/7), in the broad brush stroke some fears are okay. Something in all of us feels fear on the edge of a cliff. God put that in us to make sure we live wisely and safely. That a father, by comparison, has fewer fears does not make him wrong either. Though he needs to use wisdom and caution with the children, his willingness to allow the children to explore various prospects and take chances is not a bad thing. Remember, men created the airplane and the parachute!
So, Sarah and I are learning to have a loving and respectful attitude toward each other when a male and female difference arises between us. And, we are learning to love and respect God's design of the other. Actually, when we lock into God's wonderful design of male and female, the specific conflicts from our differences are more easily handled with loving and respectful tones.
Questions to Consider
- What other male and female differences have you noticed? How have you and your spouse handled them when they arose?
- Have you been more apt to try and persuade your spouse to be more like you, or have you thanked God for the male and female differences He created within you in order to complement each other, not cause conflict between you?