For the past six months I have been working on a personal project of spiritual growth and theological understanding. It has been my sojourn to try and unlock some of the secrets of how we are made as human beings, the exact nature of God's relationship with us, some of the problems with what is going on in our American political context right now. More broadly, what I am interested in, is what is critically wrong with Christianity as we know it in the North American context today. And so, I have been writing a book.
The book is entitled, "With: The Transformative Power of Going With People Rather Than Against Them". Over the next 15 weeks, I will be writing blog posts that will flesh-out aspects of this book. I want to invite you into the conversation. I want to get your help in writing this book. If anything I write over the next several weeks strikes a chord with you in any way, please let me know. If you, like me, are as interested in unlocking the secrets of God's relationship with us, then perhaps we can embark on this journey together. What I am after is nothing short of, as Hemingway once said; "writing something true". And so now, if you are still WITH me...here is installment #7:
The Gender Divide In Going With
One of the things that I have discovered through the writing of this book is that there is a perhaps not so surprising Grand Canyon-like gender divide when it comes going with other people. Women just tend to be better at going with others than men do. While it is hard to pinpoint exactly the specific gift-sets involved in women’s abilities to go with others, researchers have found many ways that women tend to excel in the area of collaboration. For example, women tend to be better at dealing with crisis, better at working in groups, and better at working with others to develop strategies and solutions to tough problems. In a recently published article in the Harvard Business Review, a group of researchers found that women are much more collaborative, for example, as members of teams than men are.
In an article entitled, “What Makes A Team Smarter? More Women,” Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone write that the presence of women on teams almost always equated to a higher level of success. When they compared teams that had higher IQ’s to teams that had higher numbers of women, they found that the number of women almost always beat out teams with a higher IQ. In their own words; “though the teams that had higher individual IQ’s did not earn higher scores, those that had more women did.” Woolley and Malone observed definitively that; “It’s a preliminary finding – and not a conventional one…but so far the data show, the more women the better.”[i] Because of the complexities involved in understanding this gender dynamic, this book will not be able to fully explore the male/female dimensions in the differences between men and women in this regard. But a vast amount of research indicates that women are superior to men in assimilation, finding common ground, developing better ideas and general functionality when working with others.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports the idea that women are better at “going with” than men, most of us can probably come up with examples from our own lives of women have gone with us. Most of us know of examples of women who have selflessly and in a long-suffering way, gone with people, gone with situations, gone with challenges and gone with difficulties in incredibly generous and magnanimous ways. My own mother’s story is, in part, a story of going with. She was raised in Scotland, and in her early twenties, got married to my father, who lived in Southern California. She moved to the United States. And so she went with. I was born about nine months later, a brand new baby, had come into her life, and a whole lot of extra responsibility. And so she went with. About a year later, my father was called to a new church in Boise, Idaho. Boise was quite rural and disconnected from the larger world at that time. And so she went with. Several other moves and children entered her life. Salt Lake, Sacramento, the birth of my sister, the birth of my brother. And so she went with, and with, and with. There is no doubt in my mind that my mother’s abilities to go with our family changes and challenges contributed to the overall health and success of the whole unit. I’ll bet you can come up with a similar examples of strong female going with models from your own life.
As a pastor of some twenty years, I have often observed first-hand the superior ability of women to go with others, and to adapt to difficult situations. One of the starkest examples of this arises in the arena of funerals. Most of the funerals that I have had the privilege of conducting are for people who die of old age, or natural causes. And most of these funerals involve a member of a long-term marriage that passes away. Usually, and statistically, it is the case that women outlive men. In my personal experience, it is almost a rule of thumb that if the husband dies before his wife, the wife will most always be able to weather the storm of grief and loss and live much longer after her spouse dies. In other words, in a sense, she will be better at “going with” her husband’s death. On the other hand, when a wife dies before her husband, it is almost always the case that a husband will pass away shortly thereafter. Again, one way of understanding this phenomenon is that men have a harder time going with the death of their spouse than women do. The reason for this overall tendency, I have concluded, is that women just have a higher capacity for surviving the challenges of life. There seems to be a deep down innate, God given ability of most women to go with situations and people which are off-setting and destabilizing. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus had so many women around him (Mary, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Salome…) in his ministry. Perhaps Jesus just knew he needed a large number of talented and capable - “go with” people.