Understanding and Respecting the God-Given Differences between Men and Women
Contrary to popular belief, men and women are not created equal!
Now, if I left that truth there without explanation, many of you would get angry and stop reading. In today’s culture, we are all about equality, even affecting the words we use, like “humankind” instead of “mankind,” or stores offering “unisex” clothing.
Even as language changes, the truth remains: God did not create men and women “equal.” And no, that does not imply that one sex is somehow “better” than the other. That is a completely false and offensive notion. Nor am I suggesting that a person should be offered more opportunity, more money, or greater deference, solely based on their sex.
All that aside, women and men are called the “opposite sexes” for good reason: we actually are different. And in our modern society, the failure to understand these God-given differences has shaken our homelives, ruined marriages and left families in a really scary situation.
“Equality” was never God’s intention in His creation.
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Think about the vast creative diversity in the universe: snowflakes, galaxies, animals, flowers, insects, trees – all amazing, complex, and uniquely beautiful. God has also created the human male and female with unique differences and strengths, as well as specific needs. And although we are quite different, we are “equally” valuable to our Father:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
…and we have equal standing before Him.
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).
This means we are equal candidates to be used by God. Look at the examples we have in the Bible:
- Paul, a man, was chosen by God to bring the Gospel to the nations. (Acts 9:15)
- Mary, a woman, was chosen by God to bring a Savior into the world. (Luke 1:30-31)
- Joseph was chosen by God to save Israel from famine. (Genesis 50:20)
- Esther was chosen by God to save Israel from genocide. (Esther 4:14)
- Jesus chose Peter to help establish the early Church. (Matthew 16:18)
While we are “equal” in many ways, a significant key to building strong marriages and family relationships is understanding our differences!
“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).
When we fail to understand each other’s differences, we are doomed to fail by inaccurately judging each other’s motives. There really is “relational power” released when we seek to understand another before seeking to be understood ourselves. Everything changes in our attitude and responses when we understand the “why” behind another person’s behavior.
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Men and Women Think Differently
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it (Psalms 139:13-14).
It’s interesting that as babies develop in the womb, the male and female brain develops differently. Research scientists have discovered that men average 4% more brain cells than women, and about 100 grams more brain tissue. So quite literally, a man’s brain is just bigger than a woman’s brain!
However, these scientists have also discovered that women have more dendritic connection between brain cells, meaning they use their brain cells more efficiently and effectively than men do. Their brains also have a larger corpus callosum, which allows for a faster transfer of data between the right and left hemispheres than men’s brains. Therefore, a woman’s brain just works better than a man’s brain!
And men, it gets worse.
Somewhere between 18 and 26 weeks into pregnancy, a male baby’s testosterone kicks into gear and causes the nerve fibers in the brain connecting the right and left hemispheres to start disintegrating, making it very challenging for the two sides of the brain to “talk” to one another.
It only proves what every woman knows…men have brain damage!
It may be funny, but here’s how this fact applies in a practical way to making your relationships better. Understand that, in general, and based on this biological difference:
1. Men are Better “Systemizers,” and Women are Better “Empathizers”
We see this problem arise in relationships all the time: a woman presents a problem to a man. He analyzes it, gives a solution, and thinks the conversation is over. He believes he has done his part by showing an interest in what has been troubling his wife, and providing a solution.
But it’s also why the solution is not “good enough” for the woman. Usually, she wasn’t looking for a solution, she was looking for an empathetic discussion, a connection.
2. Men Don’t See as Clearly as Women
It’s not green, it’s teal!
Women are not exaggerating here. The truth of the matter is, they have a greater variety of color receptors in the retinas of the eyes than men do. Women don’t just see color, they see in full-spectrum, technicolor!
Honey, where’s the salt?
When men can’t find something in the cupboard, they are not trying to be difficult. A man’s brain configures his eyes to act like a pair of binoculars, looking mostly straight ahead, and only seeing what’s right in front of his eyes. Women have much wider peripheral visual perception than men do. A woman’s vision scans, and sees virtually everything, easily finding and producing the hidden item.
3. Women are Fantastic at Multitasking. Men… Not So Much.
This generalized truth about men is due to a man’s brain being “compartmentalized,” because of the separation of the two hemispheres. In fact, if you were to scan a man’s brain while he is reading, you’d find he is virtually deaf.
A man has been wired from the womb to be able to tune everything else out when he is focused on something. Ladies, it’s not because he’s ignoring you!
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Men and Women Communicate Differently
A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge. “Forget it,” the man finally said. “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “in?”
Unfortunately, that is often the case with communication between men and women. We think we are saying one thing, but the other person is hearing something else. And before you know it, dishes are flying, insults are being hurled, we lose our Christian witness – and things get a little scary!
1. Men Like to Talk Things Out in Their Heads. Women Just Like to Talk Things Out.
A man will often go silent to think things through. He does not mean to offend anyone. But to a woman silence says a lot. It says:
-You’re not worthy of my time.
-I don’t really care what you think.
-Go away, you are bothering me.
Alternately, a woman is not trying to nag by wanting to talk things out – that’s just the way they are wired.
2. A Man’s Communication Is Generally Confined to His Words; a Woman Communicates through Both Verbal and Non-Verbal Means
There is an old episode of Star Trek where the characters encountered a species that was hypersensitive to nonverbal communication. The Enterprise crew diligently prepared for the meeting, studying ever possible protocol and nuance. One wrong eye blink, sudden movement, or incorrect voice inflection could result in a perceived insult, thereby unleashing an intergalactic war.
Sounds like the struggle between men and women. Do these jeans make me look fat?
Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret, ladies, we are not as dumb as we appear.
We get the hints, but we sometimes resent them and therefore refuse to respond unless you say what you mean.
Don’t overanalyze what we say, and please give us time to think it through first!
And men, it’s time to move beyond grunts and one-word answers and do this – watch your body language!
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Men and Women Want Different Things
Many research scientists have set out to discover what it is that men and women really want, but God has revealed it to us in His word:
“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror (1 Peter 3:1-6).
Men want to be respected. That means a man wants to be held in esteem and be shown consideration and appreciation – even when he doesn’t deserve it. Every man has a deeply ingrained desire to be seen as a hero, especially in the eyes of his bride.
Ladies, believe it or not, a man’s ego is very fragile. We need someone to believe in us at all times, especially when the odds are stacked against us.
I know it’s a risk, ladies, to show him respect even when he doesn’t deserve it. But when a man is respected and made to feel like he is the head of the relationship, he will automatically allow his wife to become the “neck.”
So what do women want?
Women want to be chosen. She is saying, I want to be the most important thing in your life. I want you to pick me.
When a man proposes marriage to a woman, he is saying to her, of all the women in the world, I choose you.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
That’s more than loving her, that choosing her as the most important person in his life, even more important than the first and most foundational relationship he ever had.
But once is not enough. A man must regularly demonstrate to his wife that she is his top choice: not the TV, not golf buddies, not work, not sports, not the garage, or the car, or the motorcycle – but her.
And here is a little secret, guys. When she knows she is your first choice, she will have no problem with you doing your “guy thing.” She will even encourage it, because her heart is safe.
Finally, Judge Not
When we judge someone, we draw erroneous conclusions about the motive of their heart behind their actions, which can be particularly damaging in our relationships. What would happen to our marriages, friendships and family life if we made an effort to understand each other’s differences, instead of assuming the worst, and becoming angry and offended?
I’ll tell you what would happen. We’d be more compassionate to one another, communicate more, be less frustrated and bitter, be more forgiving, and experience a much happier life.
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Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.