Overworked and underappreciated. It’s sad whenever that can be said of anyone, but even sadder when it describes people who deserve extra appreciation for sacrificially giving of themselves day after day. I’m thinking at the moment of one group in particular—women.
It’s a complicated and demanding business, being a woman these days. Women make up a large percentage of the workforce and account for more of the average family’s earnings than they used to. More women worldwide are leaders in the political and professional sectors than ever before. At the same time, women are expected to continue to fill their traditional roles in the family and community—roles that in some ways have become tougher in these challenging modern times. An increasing number also carry the responsibility of raising children alone. In all, far more is expected of women today than even one or two generations ago.
When talking about equal opportunity or equal rights for men and women, the real question that is often on our minds, whether we readily admit it or not, is, “Who is in charge?” Competition, pride, jealousy, and discontent haunt many people’s lives today. What a relief it would be if in every workplace and in our personal lives we could simply recognize one another’s talents, skills, and strengths, and without regard for gender do the best we can to make sure each person is in the position where he or she will be happy and challenged and able to accomplish the most for “the team.” But, you’re probably thinking, that’s more easily said than done. You’re right!
In the Israel of Bible times, men’s and women’s roles were clearly defined, with the women’s sphere traditionally being the household and everything pertaining to it, including the care of the children, the oversight of the servants, and often the managing of the family’s finances. But throughout the Bible, God didn’t limit Himself by gender when choosing who to use to accomplish His will, speak His words, or lead His people. In some cases, the tasks God gave women would have appeared daunting even to most men, but that didn’t prevent these bold and full-of-faith women from answering His call.
Question: My boyfriend and I normally get along great, but sometimes one of us becomes frustrated when the other one reacts differently than we expect or would like. How can we avoid those situations that put a strain on our relationship?
Answer: You’re not the first to encounter this problem. In My Fair Lady, the musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, Professor Henry Higgins raises the question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” That just about sums it up—from both sides. Men think women ought to respond to things like men, and women wish that men thought and responded the way women do. That’s not going to happen, of course, but God does have a solution, as always.
Traditionally, women have been considered to be ‘the weaker sex,’ and it’s true that they are generally weaker physically, yet it is their qualities of love, concern, compassion, sensitivity, intuition, and understanding that strengthen relationships and add balance and stability to our world.
This description of a virtuous woman, found in Proverbs chapter 31 and written nearly 3,000 years ago, bears some remarkable resemblances to many women today. The author was advising men on what to look for in a wife, so his praises are in that context, but the obvious implication is that these qualities are also to be found in single women.
Some of the specific activities that he mentions have disappeared with the times—spinning thread and weaving by hand (verses 13 and 19), for example—and today many women spend more time in the workplace than the home, but this passage bears tribute to women’s timeless wisdom, intelligence, diligence, foresight, energy, industry, tenacity, compassion, and self-sacrificial love. Now, as then, she is the consummate multitasker. Some things never change.