“In Search of Holy Joy: Women and Self-Esteem” (Ch 25) by Joan Burgess Winfrey -- By: Rebecca Jones
JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005) p. 121
“In Search of Holy Joy: Women and Self-Esteem”
(Ch 25) by Joan Burgess Winfrey
Homemaker, Author, Editor
This free-ranging chapter by Joan Burgess Winfrey, professor of counseling at Denver Seminary, explores how women find “holy joy” in discovering a healthy view of their “work of ministry” and their “ministry of work.” Winfrey acknowledges that self-esteem is a multifaceted concept, in need of clarity. Its true meaning is uncovered only when “we bring theological discernment to bear on psychological theory” (433). Without attempting to produce such a definition in her sixteen-page chapter, she mentions two key factors: a sense of worth and a sense of competence. In her counseling, she has found that women often feel a lack of worth and competence, a lack that affects them as they seek to exercise their gifts in the church. Women frequently believe that they are less intelligent, capable and valuable than men. Winfrey attributes this lack of self confidence to their having accepted certain social and psychological categories that exclude them from the work of the kingdom. If we are to restore women’s sense of “kingdom purpose,” she says, we must work to reduce the “phenomena that have placed women outside the gate for…millennia, rendering them anemic and sometimes powerless to flourish on their own behalf and on behalf of Christ and his kingdom” (432).
To aid us in understanding how we have arrived at this state of affairs, Winfrey discusses three major influences on female self-esteem. The first is the fall. Winfrey echoes Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen’s work on the fall, which encourages us to “go beyond biological, familial and cultural explanations” (435) of gender stereotypes and struggles. Adam and Eve are both called to two tasks as they reflect the image of God: “accountable dominion” and “sociability.” The fall “foretells an unreciprocated desire for intimacy on the part of the woman and a tendency to abuse poser in the case of the man” (436). Thus fallen women, even Christians are prone to seek peace at any price and to ensure relation-
JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005) p. 122
ship and nurture even at the expense of obedience.
The second influence is that of Freud, whose huge contribution to psychology Winfrey praises in passing while agreeing with a passage in Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique that claims America turned to Freud to get rid of a bad conscience about consumerism. The results for women were not positive: “If the new psychological religion—which made a virtue of sex, removed all sin from private vice, and cast suspicion on high aspirations of the mind a...
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