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Longing for Respect

Do women have a lifelong battle with being taken seriously?

By the time I was in high school, it dawned on me that I often enjoyed talking with the boys more than the girls. And not for the reason you're thinking! It had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with intellectual stimulation.

I was in high school during the late 1960s and the country was in turmoil. As a result, I was trying to process issues such as racism, war, and political ideologies. Perhaps it was just my circle of friends, but it seemed the girls wanted to talk about more frivolous matters, while the boys were willing to dig into the meatier topics.

In college although I found more people of the female variety who wanted to discuss these themes, the men seemed to have more interesting opinions and insights. It was also at this point that I began walking with Christ, so I had a myriad of weighty spiritual subjects I wanted to discuss. Again, the men were in general more theologically interesting, so I often found myself engaged in conversation with them.

My only problem was (and is) my femininity. I'm freckle-faced, petite, and have a high, squeaky voice. So although I was extremely interested in whatever topic was being discussed, I felt the men were taking my opinion with a grain of salt because I was this little pipsqueak character mouthing off in the midst of all these deep, weighty voices.

That's given me a lifelong inferiority complex. I start doubting what I'm saying because I see the look of amusement on men's faces (at least I think I do). I'm imagining that they're thinking, Isn't she cute. She actually thinks she knows something about this subject.

Embracing My Femininity

Recently, I admitted to my husband my feelings of inadequacy around men and found out that, as in most of my views of myself, they're mostly self-inflicted. He certainly respects my opinion and feels that other mature men do too. So as in every other issue, it's back to listening to what God says about me to counteract these ridiculous feelings of inadequacy.

I've found help in Paul's advice to Timothy. Although Timothy is clearly a man, he's a young man. And as a result, his opinion may not have carried as much weight, especially in that society that correlated age with wisdom. Paul told Timothy, "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).

So I'm taking Paul's advice. For my application, I've substituted a woman for young in that verse. When I'm in conversation with men, I try to remember what Paul said to Timothy rather than concentrating on the way I imagine I am being perceived. I have to discipline my mind to embrace that God accepts and values me as a woman, no matter what another's response is to me. And I've concentrated on the last part of that verse. Because in the end, it isn't important how much respect I garner, but whether I'm an example to others in the way I live and pursue God's calling on my life, concentrating on love, faith, and purity. For after all, those things are much more important than my opinions.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

JoHannah Reardon
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Acceptance and Identity; Disrespect; Gender; Respect
Today's Christian Woman, November/December , 2011
Posted November 1, 2011

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