Men’s Psychological Barriers To Adopting An Egalitarian View -- By: Chuck Romig
PP 11:1 (Winter 1997) p. 31
Men’s Psychological Barriers
To Adopting An Egalitarian View
Chuck Romig, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Counseling at Wichita State University.
I have been told on a number of occasions that men who adhere to an egalitarian view of the marital relationship and who see no ministry restrictions for women in the church approach the Bible from some personal bias that keeps them from seeing the truth. What usually follows in the conversation (lecture) is armchair psychologizing as to why such men want or need to hold an egalitarian view. I find armchair psychologizing somewhat specious and boring when it occurs among my professional colleagues, so I am quite intolerant when laypersons enter into such endeavors, particularly when I know they are applying their theories to me! Nevertheless, in violation of my own rules in this regard, I offer some of my ideas as to why men have a psychological investment in holding to a hierarchical view and thus may show little willingness even to entertain the possibility that an egalitarian view could be scriptural.
I am borrowing somewhat from the work of Deborah Tannen, You Just Don’t Understand, for some of my basic concepts as I psychologize on this matter. I think Tannen documents well the inclination for men to view relationship dynamics, including simple conversations, as negotiations for status. Men seem to attempt to gain the upper hand in interactions, or at least make sure they are not put in a position of lower status. I think this natural tendency, which is predicted in Genesis 3, is one of the primary reasons for men not relinquishing a hierarchical view of all relationships, but particularly relationships with women. However, I have yet to find a Christian male willing to admit that power and status motivations are inherent to men’s nature and I must admit that I have met many Christian males (hierarchicalists) who are quite humble in most aspects of their lives. Therefore I suspect some additional psychological processes must be operating.
According to Tannen, a second aspect to this negotiation for status is more subtle and likely operative. Men have difficulty admitting they are wrong, because such admissions involve a loss of face, which lowers one’s status.
From my point of view, even many sincerely humble Christian males have difficulty admitting they are wrong, particularly on doctrinal matters. I believe, particularly for males in leadership positions, that admitting one is wrong on a doctrinal matter carries with it the fear that one’s followers will lose total confidence in the leader and possibly in their (the followers’) faith. I have heard many men state that it is more important to remain fi...
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