I’m a big fan of matrimony (referring to marriage, not your eccentric aunt’s secret pile of cash under her bed mattress). Marriage is one of the more meaningful things that you can experience on earth, outdone by, and linked to our relationship to the Godhead. In other words, marriage is good stuff. So why do people get married? I believe there are several reasons.Read More
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has done well at using Scripture to sift traditional doctrine and practice, and reject that which is not biblical. A good example is the Sabbath, there being no sound biblical argument for keeping the pagan day of the Sun in derogation of the biblical Sabbath. Another example would be the state of the dead; the notion that a disembodied consciousness continues on after death is a pagan Greek idea that is contrary to the Scriptures. But Adventists have not done as well as most other “high Scripture” Christian churches in one area. We are weak on the one topic that Christianity has historically seen as emblematic of, almost definitional to, the distinction between Christians and pagans.
We Have No Fundamental Belief on Sexual Behavior
As Dr. Elizabeth Iskander pointed out in an article here last October, the SDA Church has no fundamental belief on sexual behavior. Elizabeth proposed that the following language be added to FB No. 22, on Christian Behavior:
We are not to engage in biblically unlawful sexual acts, including sexual acts between persons of the same sex, or between unmarried persons of opposite sex. Lev. 11:1-47; 3 John 2; Lev. 18:6-18, 22; Ex. 22:19; Prov. 7; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 5:1-2, 6:9-11, 7:2-3; 1 Thes. 4:3-4; Heb. 13:4.)
It is not clear why our fundamental beliefs contain no statement setting out this basic, near universal Christian belief about sexual activity.
It could be argued that such a statement is not necessary, because it is common to Christianity. But there are many things in our fundamental beliefs that are shared by almost all Christians, including that the Scriptures are the written word of God (FB 1), the there is a Trinity (FB 2), that Jesus is God, was incarnated, died for our sins, and was resurrected (FB 4), etc. Since we chose to reiterate many of the basics of the Christian faith, why did we omit a statement on sexual behavior?
We Have Ignored All Biblical Guidance on Sex Roles
I will not extensively rehash what has often been discussed on this site, but the Bible establishes sex roles in the home and in the church. The husband is the head of the home. (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1). The church offices of episkopēs (“bishop” or “overseer”) and presbuteros (“elder”) are described as male offices, to be filled by sober men who are the husband of one wife, and capable fathers. (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Effective leadership of the family is a prerequisite to leadership in the church: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4) There are specific admonitions that women should not be in church leadership roles. (1 Cor. 14:33-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-14).
But when we Adventists read these passages, they seem alien to us. They have never been emphasized in the Quarterly, the Review, or any other official SDA publication. They seem almost the guilty secret of individual Adventist Bible readers, who think, “Wow, my pastor never said anything about this.” Needless to say, there is no fundamental belief on male headship. The clear biblical model of patriarchy in the home and in the church is not any part of our Adventist religious subculture.
I do have an idea how this came to be. Adventist pioneers often had to deal with those who—quoting the patriarchal passages—argued that because she was a woman Ellen White should sit down and shut up. Having a group of texts constantly used against you will not engender any fond feelings toward those texts. Adventists apparently decided there must be something wrong with the texts themselves, rather than in how they were being deployed against Ellen White. In fact, there is clear biblical precedent for female prophets (Judges 14:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Luke 2:36; Acts 21:8-9), and for women to prophesy in a church setting (1 Cor. 11:5). But the biblical fact that women may be prophets and may prophesy in church does not vitiate the normal gospel order of headship. (1 Cor. 11:3)
The result of our ignoring the biblical guidance on sex roles is that the SDA Church is now riven over the issue of women in church leadership. Most SDA members are in third world countries with more traditional cultures; they do not want female ordination. But the first world, having drifted along with post-Sexual Revolution feminism, is committed to implementing female leadership in the church, just as first world cultural, business, military and governmental elites are committed to implementing female leadership in all aspects of secular life. Even otherwise very conservative Adventists in North America, Europe, and Australia see no problem with women in leadership roles in the church. Last year, we watched as the NAD's attempt to remove the barrier to women becoming conference presidents led to a rebuff from the GC, which led, in turn, to a rebellion by the Columbia Union and the Pacific Union, both of which voted to ordain women notwithstanding that the world church in General Conference session has twice voted against it.
We Are, as a practical matter, Pro-Abortion
God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:1), and Scripture portrays children as a blessing from God (Gen. 33:5; Deut. 7:14; 28:4, 11; Psalm 127:3-5; 113:9; 128:1-6; Prov. 17:6; John 16:21; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14). A recurring scriptural motif is the barren woman who, in answer to her prayers and through God's power, is made fertile and bears a child. This was true of Sara (Gen. 18:9-15; 21:1-6), Rachel (Gen. 30:1-22), Samson's mother (Judges 13), Hannah (1 Sam. 1:1-20), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25). In Scripture, children are greatly sought after, a cause for rejoicing, and fondly cherished.
Interestingly, the prophets write of God having formed them in the womb, and called them to be his messengers while still in utero. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.” Psalm 139:12. “Yet you brought me out of the womb . . . from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Psalm 22:9-10. Of Jeremiah, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:5. Isaiah testifies: “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. . . . And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself.” Isa. 49:1, 5. Paul states, “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles . . “ Gal. 1:15. Samson's mother began preparing him for his future calling while he was yet in the womb, by eating a special diet during her pregnancy. (Judges 13:7, 13-14) These passages clearly imply that personhood begins before birth; a person is a person, capable of being designated for a consecrated purpose, while yet in the womb.
One who accidentally causes a premature birth or a miscarriage is subject to a fine (Ex. 21:22-25), but Scripture does not seem to have contemplated a situation in which someone would intentionally kill a baby in the womb. Yet there can be little doubt that abortion is contrary to a biblical and Christian world view. Scripture condemns the ritual killing of children as a “detestable practice.” (Lev. 18:21; 2 Chron. 28:3, 33:6; Ezek. 16:20-21; Jer. 7:31; 19:3-6; 32:35). In most pagan cultures, including ancient Greece and Rome, it was perfectly acceptable to abandon unwanted babies to die of exposure. But just as a Christian Rome eventually outlawed gladiatorial combat, she eventually, in 374 AD, also outlawed the pagan practice of exposing unwanted babies (the ancient practice most comparable to the modern late-term abortion). The Christian consensus about babies is that they are not to be killed, in the womb or out of it.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has an ambivalent official statement about abortion, which speaks of an unborn child as “a magnificent gift of God,” while also seeking to preserve “the personal liberty of women” to toss that magnificent gift in the trash. But there is nothing ambivalent about the Church's involvement in the abortion industry. We are hip deep in the abortion business. Elective abortions are performed at many Adventist hospitals, but the real history has been made by individual Adventist doctors. Dr. Edward C. Allred, a graduate of La Sierra University and Loma Linda University, founded “Family Planning Associates” and personally aborted well over a quarter of a million babies. Dr. Allred made the abortion business very lucrative by spending no more than five minutes with each expecting mother. “We eliminated needless patient-physician contact,” he told one reporter. Allred owned 23 abortion clinics, which generated $70 million in annual gross revenues and $5 million in annual profits. When Dr. Allred retired from the business, he sold it to another Seventh-day Adventist, Dr. Irving M. “Bud” Feldkamp III. (Dr. Feldkamp is a dentist, not an OB/GYN, but he recognized a profitable business when he saw one.)
Although Allred's fortune was built on aborted babies—and he continues to own horse-racing venues which he has stuffed with slot machines—his money was plenty good enough for his alma mater, La Sierra University, which named the “Edward C. Allred Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship” after him. La Sierra's board is chaired by Pacific Union President Ricardo Graham; other union officials and three conference presidents also sit on the board. If these men approve of taking blood money from a mass abortionist and naming a “center” after him, it cannot reasonably be argued that the SDA Church is ambivalent about abortion. We are pro-abortion. We seem to consider abortion as wholesome as motherhood and apple pie.
The church’s pro-abortion stance has consequences. It is often argued that high standards are an impediment to church growth, but all of the research and empirical evidence suggest that people are attracted to churches that have high standards and make demands on their members. Our failure to take a Christian position turns people off, including many Adventists. Teresa Fry Beem was a Seventh-day Adventist anti-abortion activist, one of four children of a prominent family in Keene, Texas, where I grew up and was educated. Teresa became so frustrated with the church's stance on abortion that she converted to Roman Catholicism. She's written a book entitled, “It's Okay Not to be an Adventist,” and has founded a “former Adventist discussion group” on Facebook. It's hard to know how to respond to the Teresa Beems; abortion is a needless and indefensible stain on the Adventist Church.
We Are Slowly liberalizing the Church Manual on Divorce and Remarriage
At the 2000 General Conference session in Toronto, a comprehensive re-writing of the church manual chapter on divorce and remarriage was approved. Actually, the re-writing had been tabled after stiff opposition from the conservative third-world delegates, but was revived by a parliamentary maneuver and approved by majority vote on the last morning of the session, when only about 150 of more than 2,000 official delegates (fewer than ten percent of the official delegates) were present on the floor. Most of the conservative delegates from the developing world had gone to check on flight reservations (there was a rumor of an Air Canada strike) and were not present for the vote.
The new chapter on divorce and remarriage begins with a general discussion of marriage that includes an unsubtle attempt to undermine the Biblical teaching of male headship in the home. (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1) The new chapter states: “Partnership in Marriage—Unity in marriage is achieved by mutual respect and love. No one is superior.” Of course, role distinctions do not imply ontological superiority or inferiority, but role distinctions between men and women are part of the created order. The new chapter also states, under “Restoration and healing, No. 2”: “Oneness and Equality to be Restored in Christ—The gospel emphasizes the love and submission of husband and wife to one another (1 Cor. 7:3-4; Eph. 5:21).” The cited scriptural passages are not germane. Corinthians 7:3-4 commands spouses not to withhold sex from each other. Ephesians 5:21, telling believers to “submit to one another,” probably does not even apply to relations between the sexes, but rather to Christian believers in general. Most translations attach this phrase to verse 20, as in the KJV: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Some politically correct translations, like the most recent NIV, detach verse 21 from the preceding verse and place it below an added, editorial subheading, “Instructions for Christian Households” or some similar verbiage. The next verse, Eph. 5:22 states, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.” In verse 25, husbands are commanded to love, but not submit to, their wives.
The biblical standard for divorce is very clear: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Mat. 19:8. Jesus' disciples thought His teaching on divorce was outrageous, and we are just as committed to easy divorce as were the people of Jesus’ day. But the standard is the standard. “Men are not at liberty to make a standard of law for themselves, to avoid God’s law and please their own inclination. They must come to God’s great moral standard of righteousness.” Ellen White, The Adventist Home, p. 342.
Ellen White’s counsel notwithstanding, the SDA Church at Toronto made a new standard. The revised Church Manual chapter states:
Grounds for Divorce—Scripture recognizes adultery and/or fornication (Matt. 5:32) as well as abandonment by an unbelieving partner (1 Cor. 7:10-15) as grounds for divorce.
Did Paul really intend to add another ground for divorce to what Jesus had clearly stated? (How ironic that, based upon this lone passage, we’ve expanded the biblical grounds for divorce, yet remain in full-throated denial of Paul’s oft reiterated specification of male headship in the home and the church.) Even assuming that Paul created a new ground for divorce, does this situation arise often enough to warrant mention in the Church Manual? It seems to apply only when two non-Christians marry, one is later converted, and the unconverted spouse then insists upon getting a divorce without biblical grounds.
The re-written Church Manual chapter also postpones discipline in cases of non-biblical divorce until either of the spouses marries a third party, at which time the remarrying spouse should be removed from church membership. The most probable practical effect of this change is that one or both of the former spouses will have moved to different church before remarriage, the prior marriage and divorce will have been forgotten, and discipline will go by the boards.
As explained below, church discipline in cases of divorce has become rare, so the changes to the church manual were largely academic. But the absence of practical consequences argues for leaving the standards as they were: Since discipline is rare anyway, why add another ground for divorce, and why defer the possibility of discipline from the time of the unlawful divorce until the time of the unlawful re-marriage? It is difficult to view these changes as other than incremental (creeping) liberalism, a slow abandonment of that much-hated, impossibly high moral standard on divorce and remarriage.
What to do?
In all of these areas—biblical grounds for divorce, sex roles, sexual behavior, and abortion—a Southern Baptist will be far more likely than an Adventist to be familiar with the relevant biblical principles. That is not something to be proud of. Our Adventist religious subculture has, strangely, failed to acknowledge plain biblical standards and principles in the area of human sexuality.
Until about four decades ago, Adventism in North America could ride the coattails of a basically Christian sexual constitution. In the 19th and early 20th Century, we were more patriarchal than Latin America is now or ever was. Father knew best. Divorces could only be obtained by rigorously proving a ground for divorce (or by agreement, but even an agreed divorce usually necessitated an extended vacation in Nevada). Abortion was illegal, expensive and dangerous. Pornography was illegal; “stag films” existed underground, not as a multi-billion dollar above-the-counter business. Sodomy was illegal, and laws against overt homosexual activity were often enforced. Social disapproval of unwed motherhood and illegitimate children, and the lack of effective birth control, discouraged out-of-wedlock heterosexual activity; when an unmarried girl was found to be pregnant, inquiries were made and a shotgun wedding was arranged.
But the Sexual Revolution changed all that. Society rejected the concept of sex-role differentiation in the workplace, and governments began to enforce gender neutrality across a wide range of endeavor. Between 1967 and 1973, all 50 states adopted no fault divorce, meaning that either party could be granted a divorce without having to prove grounds. In the late 1960s, a few jurisdictions began to liberalize their abortion laws, and in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court mysteriously found a theretofore unimagined constitutional right to abortion. Some 55 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade. Most forms of pornography—those that did not involve minors or extreme acts—effectively became legal, as the Supreme Court subjected state obscenity laws to an expanded notion of freedom of expression. The gay rights movement erupted after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and by the late 1970s most cities had stopped enforcing sodomy laws (although they remained enforceable until the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas deemed them unconstitutional). Strong social disapproval of unwed motherhood began to dissipate (does anyone remember “Murphy Brown”?); unsurprisingly, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has quintupled since the sexual revolution, and now stand at 41% of all births. In sum, the Sexual Revolution overthrew a basically Christian sexual constitution and replaced it with one that is pagan or worse.
The Sexual Revolution’s toppling of the Christian sexual constitution has many implications for organized Christianity, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, one of which concerns church discipline following divorce. Before the introduction of “no fault” divorce, the church could usually rely on the state to determine who was at fault in a divorce proceeding. But today, almost all divorces are no-fault divorces; the state courts no longer find fault, but merely divide the common property and issue any necessary orders regarding child custody, support, and visitation. The church would need to introduce ecclesiastical divorce courts in order to replace the factual findings of fault that the civil courts no longer make. Thus far, the church has shown no interest in instituting church courts. The result is that, in North America over the past 35 years, there has been less and still less formal church discipline over divorce, until it is now almost never seen. Sadly, we now have even pastors who are remarried in a way that is biblically unlawful.
The Sexual Revolution brought about radical changes to the sexual constitution of the developed world, discarding a traditional Christian view of sexuality and replacing it with a pagan view of sexuality that is based upon the idea that anything consenting adults want to do with each other is normative and acceptable. Because of this cultural earthquake, Christians in the developed world can no longer coast along with the dominant culture. And yet that is exactly what Seventh-day Adventists have done in the areas of sex roles, abortion, and divorce and remarriage. We must not continue to drift along with an increasingly pagan larger culture. As Seventh-day Adventists, we need to open our Bibles and, in humble submission, learn what Scripture teaches about sexuality. It seems late in the day to transform our sexual subculture, but the first step in solving any problem is to admit you have one. We have one.
In 2009, I bought a Volkswagen Jetta diesel through a Craigslist ad. The flight out to Kansas City was pleasant and so were the sellers of the car who picked me up at the airport. We drove to a bank parking lot, where I paid them the agreed-on purchase price and I then hit the road for Ohio. For the first time in my life, I had bought a car without test driving it first! Though I don’t normally recommend that, I’ll explain why later. The biblical institute of marriage is under attack on several fronts today. One of these attacks is what Grandpa and Grandma called “shacking up” and it is affecting almost every family in one way or another.
This may surprise you, but prior to 1970, it was illegal for a man & woman to live together if they were not married. Several decades have passed since then, and let's look at what the facts reveal about cohabiting outside of marriage.
In 1970 there were 523,000 people “living together” (or cohabiting) outside of marriage. That is 11 percent.
- 1980 1,589,000
- 1990 2,856,000
- 2000 5,500,000 (50 percentage)
Today, the number of couples who cohabit prior to, or instead of marriage is 60 percent! This is a serious trend that is altering society in several ways, and the worst of it has to do with children. That number is growing too. In 1980, cohabiting couples with children were 27 percent. Today, that number has risen to over 40.1 percent.
Between 1990 and 2007, the number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% (2). In 2010 alone, the number of new couples living together rose a record-breaking 13 percent in one year (3). But the real question remains. Is cohabitating a good idea, or not? As a counselor, I have spoken to many young people over the years, and this is what I have learned about cohabitating.
There are five reasons that people commonly give for cohabiting:
- “We want to find out if we are compatible with each other” (human wisdom).
- “We do it because it makes good sense financially.”
- “We don’t like to live alone (companionship).”
- “Everyone else is doing it (rationalization).”
- “We’re going to get married eventually. We’re in love.”
Welcome to the real world 1. Far greater chance for divorce. About two-thirds of couples cohabiting said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. Forty percent of all couples that marry end up getting divorced. Over 75 percent of couples that shackup prior to marriage end up getting divorced (Alan Booth and David Johnson, Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Success, pp.261-270).
2. Greater odds for conflict. Living together outside of marriage increases the risk of emotional and physical abuse (Pennsylvania State University study). According to the U.S. Justice Department, women are nine times more likely to be assaulted if living with a man unmarried than if they were married. The Family Violence Research Program at the University of New Hampshire found the overall rate for “severe” violence is nearly six times as high for cohabitating couples then it is for married couples (Journal of Family violence vol. 41). The National Crime Victimization Survey revealed that between 1979 and 1987, 65 percent of violent crimes against women were committed by boyfriends (or ex-husbands), while only 9 percent were committed by a husband (April 4, 2003). This is astounding.
3. Less chance for happiness. It is hard for a person to be happy if his or her relationship is built on the need to prove himself or herself. In a shack-up arrangement, commitment is day-to-day and month-to-month--“If you make me happy... If we are sexually compatible.” People who marry “til death do us part” have quite a different level of commitment, and therefore quite a different level of security, thus quite a different level of freedom, and as a result a quite different level of happiness. A recent study of 6,023 couples reported significantly higher levels of happiness in married partners than did cohabitating partners (4). The married couples report less depression, less anxiety, and lower levels of psychological distress and, according to the National Institute for Mental Health, women who cohabit with men have rates of depression three times higher than married women (a similar study in the U.K. revealed depression rates of 330% higher).
4. Greater risk of adultery. Sexual faithfulness is one of the many areas that are negatively impacted for couples who cohabit. This pattern continues into their marriage if they wed. A Michigan study shows that couples who waited to cohabit until after they were married (the correct way) were much more likely to rate those relationships stronger than those who lived together before marriage. If a woman lives with a man prior to marriage she is more likely to cheat on him once they are married. Three-point-three times more likely. Contrary to popular belief, the best sex is experienced by married people (The National Sex Survey of 3,500 people, and then 1,000 people).
5. Less likelihood of saying “I do.” A common reason couples give for cohabiting up is that they are going to get married anyway. According to Brown & Booth, only about 40% of couples who cohabit eventually marry. Other studies have shown similar or worse findings. Living together before marriage actually decreases the chances that a couple will marry. The odds are greater that they will not. Cohabiting up is a high-risk--low reward option.
Summary If you and your boyfriend/girlfriend “cohabit,” your chances for long term marital success drops to 21.2 percent. Aggression (domestic violence) is 50 percent greater, and 60 percent greater if you don't marry at all. Your chance of experiencing depression is three times greater than couples who marry.
Would you parachute out of an airplane if you knew that four of every five parachutes would fail? Probably not. Adding these unnecessary failure rates would probably make the bravest of us say, “No thanks.” The wise choice is to marry first and then live together.
Here is a testimony hot off the griddle:
I am in a cohabitation relationship going on a year now and I love the person dearly but living together is just not enough for me anymore. I want marriage, but in a way, I think that he is just comfortable the way things are now and I feel as if he could make me wait forever. I will never do this again should my boyfriend and I break up. I just feel like I am doing all that a wife does and more and I don't get anything out of it. The stats scare me considering that we are currently engaged and I am just frightened. I don't even want to marry him now. I just want to move out and start over…" (spoken with tears).
So today, when young people offer the objection, “You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it would you??!!” I can honestly say “Yes, I have.” And that gives me an opportunity to tell them about God’s will for marriage, about the biblical instruction regarding it. There are four things that amaze me:
- I am amazed how God can change a life.
- I am amazed how sin binds and destroys a person.
- I am amazed how repentance and cleansing frees a person.
- I am amazed how accurate the Bible is to provide answers for the things that we struggle with.
Go and do as He commands (Hebrews 5:9).
_____ 1. Nearly 40% of unmarried American households include children. - U.S. Census Bureau. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007.” 2. U.S. Census Bureau. “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007.” 3. Cohabitation Numbers Jump 13%, Linked to Job Losses, By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY 1/27/2011 4. Steven L. Nock, “A Comparison of Marriages and Cohabitating Relationships.” 1995
Several studies have concluded that there is a difference in the average number of words that men and women speak daily. Nancy and I have found this to be true in our own lives and in the lives of almost everyone we minister to. Last evening we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant for another round of fried bean curd and vegetables. As I was making the food disappear, my wife wanted to talk. Between my eating and checking the weather updates on my iPhone, I overheard my wife comment quietly, "You're fun tonight.." Uh-oh™. On the surface we were at a typical male-female roadblock. Nancy wanted to connect, and I wanted a bit of space to eat and plan our work for the rest of the week. Part of the fun of marriage (29-years) is that moments like this happen all the time, but we have learned how to navigate around them. She has learned how to listen better, and I have learned how to communicate beyond monosyllabic, caveman grunts.
The consensus between such relationship stalwarts as Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Gary Smalley, and more recently, Mark Gungor is that men speak about half of the words daily that their female counterparts do. “Not wrong, just different" as Emerson Eggrich says.
There are various reasons for this difference. When a woman is upset she generally needs to talk about it. Wise husbands recognizing this will lend a listening ear to their wives during such moments instead of thinking about how cool it would be to parachute off a skyscraper (umm…guilty).
On the flip side, when a man is troubled, we tend to go quiet or go ape, depending on the circumstances.
In 2007 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans to try to understand how men and women handle stress. Among the findings? Anxiety activates the "tend and befriend" reaction in women's limbic systems and the "fight or flight" response in men's prefrontal cortexes. Translation: Under pressure, women reach out, while guys go Rambo or clam up (1). I’m not a big fan of the “men are from Mars and women are from Kansas” or whatever that book was called, but I am a fan of the Bible, and the Scriptures tell us that men and women are fundamentally different in our created roles. And it’s a good thing.
"The brains of men and women, while similar in many ways, are more different than most scientists ever realized," says Larry Cahill, Ph.D., an associate at the University of California, where he researches emotion, memory, and the brain (2).
In spite of the evidence, there will always be modern-minded multitudes who don't want to believe that men & women are fundamentally different in our God-created cores (Pennebaker, Mehl, and CBS News itself). But hard truth is truth nonetheless and the hard truth is that we are different in a complimentary way. Guy’s brains have boxes, women have wires.
In 1996, I purchased the book Brain Sex for my library. Despite its provocative title, this informative book by David Jessel and Ann Moir helped me to understand what people like James Dobson and Gary Smalley already knew. Men and women tend to think differently. Not wrong, just different.
One benefit that some women derive from their wiring is the ability to utter those three little words—“I was wrong.” They may not admit it to men but they’ll admit it to others of their persuasion. Men have that ability too. Just not very often. The last man to use the “Sorry, I was wrong” box was Custer at Little Big Horn after he told his men, “Here they come boys. Don’t take any prisoners!” Oops. With God we can do better than that!
If I am focusing on my laptop at breakfast when Nancy wants to talk, she will feel frustrated/ignored. If she wants to tell me about a sister's emotional mood swings when I am reading Russell Sullivan's book on Rocky Marciano, I will feel like turning on the ceiling fan to blow some of the words out the windows. If I am waxing eloquent to my wife about the specific merits of polymeric isocyanates, it may cause her to have an out-of-body experience. What's the solution?
Quality over quantity. The solution is to learn how to communicate heart-to-heart. This takes less words (all the guys say YES!!) and the words have a heavier specific gravity, meaning they are worth more. This builds emotional intimacy (right here all the girls say "Yes!!"). So whether it is 20,000 words a day for women and 10,000 for the guys, or 16,000 words for the women and 8,000 for the guys—there are really only three words necessary for heart-to-heart communication. Are you ready?
“Are you happy?” “I need you” “I am lonely” “Can we pray?” “I love you” “We need Jesus” “There is hope” You are special “Let’s resolve this” “I was wrong” “Can I care?”
As you communicate on this deeper level beware of three bad words:
“Ready, aim, fire!” “I don’t care.” “Just shut up” “I won’t listen” “You are wrong” “I’m usually right” “What an idiot” “All about me…” “Get a life!” “I’m in charge” “Got my rights!”
So instead of counting words, smart couples will count the cost, count their blessings and count on God. That will give our words life, and most importantly quality over quantity.
- Corporate Wellness Magazine, “It’s all in your Head” Jason Krausert and Donna Tosky, May 2011
- Scientific American, May 2005