The Dynamic of the Gift: Authority and Submission in Christian Marriage

Both persons in a marriage are called to love … called to a life of giving and receiving.  The catch is:  spouses don’t give and receive in exactly the same way … because man and woman are not replicas of one another, nor are they mirror images.

At the heart of the Christian vocation lies the notion of gift.  Each of us is called, in some particular way, to make a gift of our very self.  It is this “self-gift” which we call “love.”  Living out a true dynamic of gift within the specifics of family life, however, brings with it a distinct challenge.  This is because the love relationship, marriage, which is the foundation for the family, is not just any ordinary community of persons.  The persons who enter marriage are either man-persons or woman-persons.  As Catholics, we do not profess to be gender-neutral; we believe that masculinity and femininity shape the entire person, not merely the body.

Both persons in a marriage are called to love,which means that each one is called to a life of giving and receiving.  The catch is:  spouses don’t give and receive in exactly the same way.  This is because man and woman are not replicas of one another, nor are they mirror images.  Instead, they seem designed to exist in an asymmetrical relationship which has often been described as “complementary.”  The recently canonized German philosopher, Edith Stein, provides some excellent insight into the spiritual differences between man and woman.

Edith Stein argues that a person’s physical nature is an expression of his or her spiritual dimension, and is to be understood as a “clue” to that person’s destiny.  With what specific qualities does nature endow a woman?  The most obvious is the capacity to bear new life—the ability literally to grow and nurture another person in her own body.  Stein suggests that it is precisely because of a woman’s natural disposition to cherish, guard, and preserve the life within her womb that her spiritual ideals take on a distinctly feminine character. 1 

Regardless, then, of whether a particular woman ever bears a child in her life, she has been given a psychological outlook which is geared toward the development and nurturing of another person.  Fulton Sheen noted that while men tend to gather around discussing things and ideas, women are much more inclined to gather around discussing other people. 2 We must ask:  in what way is a person different from a thing or an idea?  For one, a person is a concrete whole.  There is nothing abstract about a person.  When a mother takes care of a child, she does not have the luxury of caring for his physical needs one day, and his psychological needs the next.  She needs to relate to her child as a whole—and in the present moment!  She cannot abstract from, or ignore, any of his needs.

A person is a multi-faceted creature, with women being more inclined and equipped to deal simultaneously with all of these facets, and giving women a tendency to excel at multi-tasking. A woman is a natural multi-tasker because she is “person-oriented.”  She demonstrates an instinctive way of “tuning in” to persons and personal details to a degree that most men do not share.  (Men tend to develop these abilities by way of learning, rather than by instinct.)

What gift, specifically, enables a woman to connect so naturally with others?  Stein argued that it was a woman’s emotions which fueled this ability.  She commented that it is only through the stirring of the emotions that one can really relate to a soul in its entire being 3—one glance at her child’s face can often reveal more to a mother than if she were to ask the child a barrage of questions.  It is the place of the intellect to separate and abstract: the intellect breaks things down in order to understand them.  The emotions, on the other hand, can sense the whole.  This ability is what the ages have termed “women’s intuition”— an immediate grasp of a particular truth.   This is not to suggest that women do not have an intellect, but merely that it is not primarily the intellect which powers her heightened ability to engage with persons.

It is precisely the intellectual ability to abstract from the whole that informs the natural outlook of men.  Consider a man physically.  His physical form is not designed for bearing and nursing a little person. What characterizes his physical form is size and strength.  His capacity for battle and for work indicates that he is designed not to receive and nurture a person, but instead to act on the world.  While this is done certainly for the sake of persons, his immediate outlook is less person-oriented, and much more deed or object-oriented.  A man tends to more easily distance himself from the immediacy (often, the total chaos) of a situation in order to pursue a long-term goal beyond it.  This is a strength of the intellect.  Man has an ability to pursue the future by disentangling himself from the emotional pull of the present moment.  Think about it:  how else could a father leave the intimacy of home and family, day after day, to trudge off to work?  How else could he stand to leave his loved ones in order to march off to battle?   (How else could he spend five hours straight playing video games?)   Men often rely upon their ability to compartmentalize, to “shut down” their emotions, in order to accomplish important tasks.

Once again, these complementary perspectives of man and woman, Stein asserts, find their source in the sexual difference.  A woman’s entire sense of identity is deeply connected to her body, and its nurturing power.  From an early age, her body, and its natural hormonal cycles, remind her she is female.  She seldom feels the need to “prove” she’s a woman in the way a man does.  Her body simply reveals it to her, and in a certain way, she identifies herself with that body.   (Note the amount of time and attention women pay to the details of physical appearance.)   A man’s body-soul relationship, however, is a little less direct—his body does not immediately reveal to him that he is a “man.”  Because his physique is designed for work, his body serves more as an instrument to his identity. 4  It is precisely those deeds which he accomplishes through his body that form the basis for his sense of self; hence, the time-old tradition of initiatory rites for young men, who attempt to “prove” their manhood through various actions. Comprehending this subtle difference in self-understanding is key in explaining the different ways in which men and woman both crave and express love.

The masculine and the feminine orientations—towards the “project” and the “person”—are both absolutely necessary for the fostering of the family.  While a man’s concerns tend to be more “linear”—directed toward accomplishing a single task at a time—a woman is inclined more globally—interested simultaneously in all aspects of the person.  It has been said that while men tend to be specialists, it is women who are the great universalists.  The fact remains that the world needs both.

What we need to remember, however, is that God’s design, beautiful as it is, has been profoundly affected by original sin.  And it is not just human nature in general which bears the wounds of sin, but human nature in its particular incarnations of masculinity and femininity.

It is well-known that a man’s particular abilities for specialization and abstraction can come at the expense of personal relationships.  A man’s absorption in his career may cut him off from family life.  His drive toward accomplishment and dominion may degenerate into an exploitation of the world, a senseless acquisition of wealth and, often, an objectification of women. 5  Frankly, man’s “worst fault” is summed up in a single phrase:  he tends to rank things over persons, or better, he tends to treat persons like things.  Sinful man approaches the world from the perspective of dominating and controlling things for their use, and is, therefore, inclined to abuse other persons along the way, treating them as objects.

Women, too, must examine the perils of their own femininity, which did not make it through the Fall unscathed either.  Her instinctive concern for the growth of others can easily be perverted.  It can be confused, first of all, with mere curiosity about others, leading to that incessant gathering of all possible information about them.  That women are most often the perpetrators of gossip is no accident; it is simply a perversion of her natural, global concern for persons.

Furthermore, because of her orientation toward the whole, rather than the part, a woman can too easily make the mistake of “frittering away her powers” 6 by dabbling in too many things at once, putting herself in danger of living only at a superficial level.  Where a man might get lost “in his project,” so to speak, a woman often has her hand in so many things that she doesn’t enter very deeply into anything.

There exists another perversion of the feminine nature, as well:  a woman’s concern for others can degenerate into something radically self-centered.  A woman’s emotional desire for personal relationships can propel her to insert herself into the lives of others, drawing satisfaction by clinging to the “needy,” gaining a sense of importance through involvement in others’ lives.  While Stein asserts that the emotions are the feminine source of strength which enable a woman to “tune in” so effectively to persons, they become her Achilles heel if she does not temper them.  Experience reveals that it is all too easy for women to become obsessed with relationships, and slaves to their moods.

So we can see that the man-woman relationship, which is foundational for the family, is a precarious one because of the effects of original sin.  The account of Genesis is clear on this point.  After eating of the forbidden fruit, the man and the woman in the Garden face the consequences.  God addresses the woman:  “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (RSV Gen 3:16)  For his part, the man will be prone to dominate his wife, to use her and control her as one would an object;  the sad complement here, however, is the part the woman plays:  through her own fallen nature and desires, she will allow—and even encourage—this domination to happen.  Sin transforms the man-woman relation into what Stein calls “a brutal relationship of master and slave.” 7 And while these fallen tendencies of ours cannot be ignored, we know that they are not God’s will for the family.  That is simply not how he made us—sin and its consequences are a human accomplishment, not a divine one!  Christ our Lord has placed the relationship between man and woman at the foundation of the family for a reason. If sin fractures this relation, we must ask:  how, specifically, does Christ propose to repair it?

For if Christ came to redeem the world, surely he came to redeem marriage as well.  It is at this point that we must look at St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Here, encapsulated, is Christ’s teaching on the husband-wife relation:  what marriage is meant to look like, what the grace of redemption enables the man and woman to become.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (RSV Eph 5: 22-27).

It is clear in this passage that the natural differences between man and woman do not “disappear” as a result of Christ’s grace; there remains a definite “asymmetry” in the relation that founds the family.  The man as “head” is clearly not identical to the woman, called to “be subject” to him.  Today’s feminist ideology, which identifies any “difference” with “inequality,” completely disregards St. Paul’s words here as being culturally conditioned—simply a remnant of the “dominating male/servile female” notion of antiquity.  What are we to make of this?

On the one hand, we know that the early Christians were radically counter-cultural. So there was no reason for St. Paul to dilute the truths of faith in his preaching.  On the other hand, if the so-called “master-slave” relation between man and woman was the result of original sin, how could St. Paul possibly be referring to—and upholding—this model in his preaching on the sacrament of marriage?  Christ came to heal our sins, not to reinforce our already sinful inclinations.  So we must try to understand the asymmetric relation between husband and wife in a redeemed sense.

If being “head” does not mean “being a tyrant,” and if “being subject” does not mean “being a slave,” then we must consider the true meaning of these terms, without compromising them to make them more palatable for our times.  In marriage, St. Paul makes clear that the husband is the authority.  We must, then, ask:  what is the authentic meaning of “authority”?

The root of the word “authority” is “author,” and what is an author but the very source of a thing’s life?  An author brings a thing to life. The philosopher, Yves Simon, describes the function of authority in a similar way, though from a more political perspective.  He argued that authority was an essential principle in governing people.  This is so because every group of people needs guidance and coordination if their common good is ever to be achieved.   He claimed that the precise function of authority is to vivify each of the different parts of a whole. 8 And what does “vivify” mean?  To energize or bring to life—there is that idea again.  True authority “brings out the life” of those it serves.

When authority, in the political or the domestic sphere, is misunderstood as tyranny, it attempts to squash and dominate its subjects; it crushes their spirit and it squelches their life.  All true authority must be true to its name:  it must foster life.  This principle was affirmed by John Paul II, when he stated that in “revealing and reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of his family.” 9

Through his initiative and purposeful activity, a father’s “project” is to help realize the potentialities of those under his charge, to foster their lives.  This notion finds its biblical correlate in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  There, a husband is called to be “head” in the manner of Christ himself, to love his wife as Christ loved the Church.  How, precisely, did Christ give life to the Church?  By pouring out his own life for her.  You can’t “give life” unless you literally give life.  A father is called to self-sacrifice to the point of death for his beloved ones.  Like Christ, he is not a tyrant, but a lover; he does not exercise authority by taking, but by giving.  And so it seems that in the gift dynamic of marital love, it is the man who emerges as the chief giver—and it is precisely in this mode of giving in which he properly exercises authority.

But if this is the case—that there is an authority proper and exclusive to the husband—how are we to understand the submission of the wife?  Does this make her something like a slave, servile and unequal in dignity?  First of all, a slave is someone who has not chosen to serve; a wife is one who voluntarily chooses to submit to her husband.  From the beginning, there is the will: the exercise of freedom in marriage.  In fact, the Greek verb St. Paul uses for “be subject” (hypotasso) has the character of being reflexive—it literally translates to “submit yourself.”  It is a call for wives to make this free choice to submit. (He does not say, “Wives, you are by nature inferior beings,” but rather, “You are being called to make this submission so that the family will be truly fruitful.”)

And what is the nature of this submission?  Since the husband is called to give himself, a wife’s submission is essentially a way of receiving her husband’s self-gift.  John Paul II refers to a wife’s submission as “above all, the experiencing of {her husband’s} love.” 10 She is becoming vulnerable, allowing him, in fact, to do certain things for her.  After all, how can he give his life to a wife who will not accept it?

What we need to realize is that being a receiver is more difficult than it sounds.  Being on the receiving end of a gift requires a willingness, as Gabriel Marcel suggested, to “accept the unexpected.” 11  After all, with a gift, we never quite know what we are going to get.  One does not order a gift according to certain specifications.  Furthermore, receiving a gift makes one vulnerable to the giver of the gift. It makes one, in a certain way, freely indebted to him, willingly obliged to him, and inextricably involved with him.  The receiver of a gift carries a great burden—the entire relationship hangs in the balance based upon her free response to the gift.  Will she receive it gratefully or ungraciously?  Will she wound the giver? Or inspire him to give more generously through her appreciation of his efforts?

From the beginning, the human person has struggled with being on the receiving end of a gift.  Adam and Eve simply could not countenance being in such a position with regard to God.  Consider that, from the very beginning, they had known nothing else but God’s total generosity and care for them in the Garden.  And yet, they could not stand having to accept such generosity on God’s terms.  The humility required by such terms was more than they could bear.  They instead chose to accept Satan’s proposition that God was not loving, but jealous, that God’s command to them (regarding the forbidden fruit) was not for their good, but in order to withhold power from them.  Though such an idea was totally insupportable in the face of God’s complete generosity toward them, our first ancestors chose to accept the lie of the tempter.  As John Paul II declared, Adam “cast doubt in his heart on the deepest meaning of the Gift” and “on love as the specific motive of creation.” 12 They chose to believe that God’s relationship to them was not rooted in gift, but in a mere power play.

From the beginning, then, man has had a mistaken notion about authority.  We have made the fatal error of believing, like Adam and Eve, that God’s authority was bound up in some sort of knowledge that we could gain.  Such an error has echoed down though millennia, and was summed up the Baconian mantra that “knowledge is power.”  When in reality, true power, true authority, was first and foremost rooted in love—in the utterly unmerited, divine gift of creation itself.

And so it is, that a husband’s authority, a husband’s headship, is not even possible without a free and gracious reception on the part of his wife.  Indeed, a husband needs to be allowed, freed, enabled to be “head.”  At its heart, then, authentic submission is an attitude, a fundamental disposition of gratefulness, offered in response to a husband’s works performed on behalf of his family.

These works, these “gifts,” so varied in kind, are the concrete manifestation of his authority—of his “life-giving” role in the family.  Examples of such gifts are his material support, through which he creates the conditions for his wife to fulfill her person-centered nature.  Through his employment, he is enabling her, freeing her, to foster the emotional ties upon which she and her children thrive.  Even assistance with household tasks—such as cleaning and laundry, and anything that helps his wife to be more patient, nurturing and attentive toward her children—is included in this gift.  Beyond material support, the spiritual encouragement he gives his wife to continue to develop and share her own talents (something often neglected by the “multi-tasking” wife), can be essential in maintaining her happiness, and sense of self-worth. 13 Another critical gift is his presence.  A father’s educative “presence” in the family begins at birth, when he introduces a newborn child to the very notion of otherness, and continues through the teenage years, as he sets an example for his children, particularly through his faithful love of their mother.  One may object that such actions are generally expected of a “good” husband and father; the material point here is that such activities are essentially an exercise of true authority, and they are not to be feared.

What usually strikes a note of fear when addressing the topic of husbandly authority, however, is in the area of decision-making.  Does a husband’s headship extend to decision-making?  Certainly, it cannot be denied that each member of the family has a proper “sphere of activity” in which free decision-making is possible and necessary.  How can anyone be prepared for a fully human life if his or her freedom has not been developed?  Spouses, as a natural part of their vocation to love, should seek to communicate, as fully as possible, regarding decisions that affect their family’s future—and should seek consensus.  In fact, a wise husband will often heed his wife’s advice, deferring to her expertise in many matters.  But, there are times in every family when a consensus cannot be reached, and it falls to the husband to make the decision.  And while there is a certain sense in assigning someone in the family with “a final say,” it is not simply accidental that such a say is given to the husband.  William May points out that a husband’s masculine nature helps equip him for such a task:  “at times, [the man's] superior strength is relevant; very often, his experience in dealing with the external world, and his tendency to devise means to achieve particular goals, is of crucial significance” 14 in being able to make decisions for the common good of the family.

Recall that a man tends to be future-oriented; a woman, because of her attention to persons, is at times so consumed in tending to them in the present moment that it can be difficult to abstract from it in order to gain perspective.  On the other hand, the woman’s nature gives her a distinct advantage in accepting her husband’s decision in a difficult matter. The feminine ability to subordinate her own interests for the sake of a personal relationship 15 enables her to “get on board” with a decision with which she may disagree.  A man, being object-oriented, struggles more to accept such decisions, and, should they backfire, may be less willing to take responsibility for them.

What is important to keep in mind here is that these types of “final say” decisions are not the norm in marriage; they are the exception.  Those who would argue against a husband’s authority often paint a picture of a dictator husband making “final decisions” on a daily basis and a passive, subservient wife who keeps her opinions to herself.  Having a clear principle of authority within marriage, however, ought to give wives a new sense of responsibility.  A wife needs to use all of her powers—of intelligence, of intuition, and especially of her natural warmth—to influence her husband.   If she takes her maternal mission seriously, she will work to be an effective advisor to him, and a passionate advocate for her children’s well-being.  The more devoted a wife becomes to communicating positively with her husband, the more rare it is that a stalemate is reached.

And such decisions can hardly be considered a “triumph” for a husband.  In fact, they can be quite burdensome because they are to be made for the common good of the family, not in order to satisfy his own whims.   He must then bear the weight of responsibility for those decisions, particularly if they should turn out badly.

So, we see that authentic authority does not tyrannize; it will not oppress those whom it leads.  In fact, we recognize instead the great trepidation of those who wield it; for it is they who are called to complete self-oblation.  The husband is called to image Christ—and though he is not Christ—he will grow more and more into Christ’s image through the respectful submission of his wife.  It is she, who by lovingly placing herself in his hands, inspires him to claim responsibility for herself and her children.

Such an idea may be difficult for a modern wife to swallow.  But the bleak alternative to such a model—otherwise known as the “nagging and controlling” wife—is already a documented failure.  Nature has simply ordained it this way. Nagging will, without a doubt, repel a man.  Why?   Because nagging erases the freedom of his gift.  Nagging demands a gift,which really negates the meaning of gift in the first place.  Nagging strikes at his masculinity, which is bound up in being a giver.  Harsh criticism from a wife is toxic to a man; it can seriously compromise his ability to give, because his identity is wounded by digs at his efforts.  While a woman is more easily wounded by remarks against her physical person; a man, on the other hand, is more sensitive to critiques of his ideas or actions.

It is rather through beauty, admiration, and gratitude that a man is truly motivated to give.   When a wife shows appreciation for his deeds, however imperfect, she is communicating a respect which affirms him to the core.  It is often precisely the measure of a wife’s delicacy, of her respectful adherence to him, that has awakened in many a husband the vocation to live as another Christ.  For every husband fails in some way—and though she may be tempted to—no woman should respond to the failure of a husband by failing as a wife.  Each wife must take literally the words of St. John Chrysostom:

‘Be subject to each other out of reverence for Christ.’  If your spouse does not obey God’s law, you are not excused.  A wife should respect her husband even when he shows her no love, and a husband should love his wife even when she shows him no respect. 16

 

Notice his language here—though man and wife are both called to love—there is an underlying asymmetry in the dynamic of this love.  A woman craves love in the form of a gift; a man craves respect as an expression of gratitude for that gift.  A wife’s submission, at its root, is a loving, grateful reception of her husband’s self-gift.  But is not love supposed to be mutual?  Does a wife have nothing to give? Certainly, but her most valuable gift to her husband is no “thing” at all:  it is a fundamental disposition of gratitude. A woman, sensitive to a man’s soul, knows that an appreciative manner can truly build him up, and inspire him to become even better.  Just as she nurtures others in her life, she must “make room” to receive and appreciate what he has to offer. 17

For his part, a man, though acting in the role of chief giver, demonstrates his gratitude, his appreciation for his wife through his acts of giving.  It is an honor for him to be able to give to her; to have his gifts received and cherished exclusively by her.  His outgoing deeds demonstrate his appreciation, his gratitude for the woman.   It is like a gift to him to be able to bestow something upon her.  Hence, the phrase “allow me” when performing a service for another.  There is a certain simplicity to it; but it does not make living this gift dynamic “easy.” Therapists have noted that one consistent symptom in troubled marriages today is that husbands do not feel respected by their wives.  Such a “gift dynamic” seems grounded in our very natures; couples ignore it only at the cost of their own happiness.  It is only through the self-sacrificing gift, and generous acceptance, on the part of husband and wife that marriage will cease to resemble the “power play” suggested by Satan, and will, more and more, begin to image the Trinity in being a self-giving love that is fruitful.

  1. Edith Stein, Essays on Woman, 2nd edition, revised. Vol. 2 of The Collected Works of Edith Stein, trans. by Freda Mary Oben. (Washington, D.C.: ILS Publications, 1996), 45.
  2. See Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love (New York: Garden City Books, 1952),134.
  3. Stein, 96.
  4. Stein, 95.
  5. Stein, 71.
  6. Stein, 47.
  7. Stein, 72.
  8. See Yves R. Simon, A General Theory of Authority (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1962), 64-65.
  9. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 25.
  10. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein  (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2006), 92:6.
  11. See Kenneth Schmitz, The Gift: Creation (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1982), 48.
  12. John Paul II, Man, 26:4.
  13. Stein, 77.
  14. William E. May, “The Mission of Fatherhood,” Josephinum: Journal of Theology, Vol. 9. No. 1 (Winter/Spring, 2002), 42-55.
  15.  See Stein, 46.
  16. St. John Chrysostom, On Marriage and Family Life, trans. by Catharine P. Roth and David Anderson (New York:  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), p. 54.
  17. See Stein, 132.  She describes the feminine soul as “a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”
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avatar About Mary Stanford

Mary Stanford earned a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Dallas, and a M.A. in theological studies degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., graduating summa cum laude from each institution. She is married, and is the mother of six children, whom she educates at home. A frequent speaker on topics including marriage, contraception, femininity, and the theology of the body, Mary also teaches as an adjunct instructor in the theology department of Christendom College.

Comments

  1. avatar bill bannon says:

    I found the above essay to be far better than John Paul II on this topic and nearer to Casti Connubii, section 74 e.g. There are six NT passages referring to husband headship directly or obliquely. John Paul II stays exclusively in Ephesians (in TOB ( #89) and  in “MULIERIS DIGNITATEM” VI/24) because he really didn’t like anyone having the “final say” and saw that as part of the “old” pre Christian way. But the passages that he never quotes ( I Cor.11:3, Col.3:18, I Tim.2:11-12, Titus 2:5, I Peter 3:1) are very “final say” oriented and tinged with a bygone culture. Ephesians for all cultures is crucial in coloring those five by its “mutual submission”; but John Paul in effect made Ephesians the only passage worth reading and he so convolutes mutual submission that it nullifies any real life quick
    “final say” decisions by a husband. John Paul II showed the same pattern on the death penalty topic wherein in Evangelium Vitae, he spends multiple sections on God not allowing vengeance against Cain
    for murder but he fails to tell the readers that just a little later in Genesis 9:5-6, that same God gives a death penalty for murder to both Jews and Gentiles when God knows that He is about to begin formal
    governments with Nimrod as first ruler in Genesis chapter ten.
    On the marital submission topic, I can’t find it at all in the catechism and it may well be because the CDF thought the topic was in flux after reading John Paul II. But “Dei Verbum” says the hierarchy are to pass on what was handed down to them in Revelation.

  2. avatar jamie says:

    This was great, thank you so much, just what I needed to hear !

  3. avatar aninonymous says:

    What timing for this subject of “submission” in light of the abuse and murder of the young woman in India!
    All this intellectual theology when most women everywhere are just trying to survive.

  4. avatar John Smith says:

    Thank you for the great article! Just out of curiosity, would you also agree at all with the saying that “Women are givers and men are takers”?

    • avatar Mary Stanford, M.T.S. says:

      While my article was not meant to argue that men solely give and women solely receive, the saying you quote does seem to be directed at man and women in their most “fallen” state: the man, so “object-oriented” that everything (and everyone!) in the world appears ripe for the taking, and the woman, so “person-oriented,” so hungry for relationships, that she is sometimes inclined to “give” herself away at the expense of her very dignity, to offer herself prematurely in order to achieve that personal union she so craves. Both tendencies are attempts at fulfillment that both sexes find wanting– and it is only through grace-assisted efforts to “give” on the part of men and to “receive” on the part of women that seem to lead to true happiness.

  5. avatar Kristen says:

    This is pure disgusting sexism and bad theology besides. “In Christ there is neither male nor female.”

    • avatar Harvey says:

      Are you sure you read the article, Kristen? The sub-title clearly says that “man and woman are not replicas of one another, nor are they mirror images.” And everything stated within reflects St. Paul’s words — even the words you’ve quoted, if we understand them properly.
      Certainly St. Paul didn’t mean that male and female are EXACTLY alike in EVERYTHING. So the pure, 100% literalistic sense that you take those words with cannot be true. Dig a little deeper!

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