Be kind but not a doormat. Be gentle but not weak. Be sweet but not too nice. Be dependable but not independent. Be strong but not too strong and don’t be fragile. Be attractive but not vain. Be honest but not candid. Be resourceful but not an usurper. Be soft but not hard. Be happy but not angry. Be compliant but not dictatorial. etc. etc. etc.
Women certainly do get a lot of messages about what they ought to be; or at least, what they ought not to be – and much of that is conflicting at best. The world says one thing, the church another; and it’s getting that much harder to be in one world and not of the other at the same time.
The world says: “The sky’s the limit, just ask Amelia Earhart; and even then, you can become an astronaut like Sally Ride; or the C.E.O. of a fortune 500 company or a politician – work hard, do your best, follow your dreams.”
The church says: “Men and women have different but complementary roles; men may lead worship and their families, wives are follow their husband’s lead as their husbands follow Christ – play second fiddle. Turn down your light so that your husband’s light can shine all the brighter in the darkness.”
So this author says that too many women are “Alphas”, they have “Type A” Personalities, and they have been groomed to lead and struggle with not leading, in other words, being in touch with their feminine side. Which suggests that leading is, in essence, masculinity itself. In order for a relationship to be whole, it needs a leader and a not-leader, a positive force and a negative force to light up the world as two batteries cause a flashlight to operate when correctly working in tandem. In her book, men are Alphas, they make the decisions, pay the bills, make the phone calls. Women are Betas who don’t make decisions, don’t pay the bills, don’t make the phone calls. Because men have testosterone, that makes them Alphas by nature; so Alpha women are unnatural and should revert to being Betas (more naturally feminine) in order to restore their relationship and smooth out the friction that often appears when there are too many cooks in the kitchen and they spoil the broth. Above all, women should not tell their husbands what to do. Apparently they don’t like that (and women do?)
I sometimes wonder if it’s possible to be tired of your role; always leading, never taking a break. Always following, never getting to shine. Going through the same old routine – same old song and dance, same steps in the same order. King Solomon, one of the wisest men that there ever was, believed that there was a time for everything – a time to lead and a time to follow as much as there was a time to follow and a time to lead. He also talked about two friends are better off than one alone – because one can help the other and together they can achieve a lot. I’d like to think that is true of all of us, when one tires of leadership, the other can take over. When one no longer has the stamina to drive, his partner can take over the wheel and he can trust her fully to have his back as she trusts him to do the same. Now some dancers have developed a system to do just that, switch from leading to following and back again. It keeps things interesting and prevents burnout.
I don’t believe for a moment that being dependent upon others is weakness and that always being in charge is strength. I don’t believe that what really matters is that husbands lead and wives follow as if it’s the end-all and be-all of Christian relationships. Wouldn’t we say that of two friends, one who never defers to the other is a failure? Wouldn’t it be seen as being prideful to never listen to advice? Why is it okay for the deepest kind of friendship of all when it’s utterly unacceptable for friendships in general? Ultimately, there’s no winning either way – either you do your best to be your best and excel in your efforts and draw the ire of the church for being too much an “Alpha” or you deny your gifts and talents in an effort to hide your light and be a “Beta” by depriving the world of your unique capabilities. Someone somewhere will be disappointed if not by what you did right then by what you didn’t do or did wrong to their way of thinking. So if you can’t win, you might as well choose to be true to yourself – that way you always have yourself in your own corner.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ” – Marianne Williamson
We’re a nation that prides itself on our leadership and on our future leaders. We never strove to create followers, so it should come as no surprise that we inspire and encourage leadership among everyone. I remember being invited to the Rotary Club as they hosted a breakfast for graduates whose outstanding grades showed the promise that future leaders would be bright. We weren’t be awarded for being mediocre students who held back our gifts but for the effort we put into our high achievement level. Everyone has potential – and a little encouragement can go a long way; but that only works when you don’t punish some of them for being too confident, too decisive, too competitive, or too ambitious because these traits are only appropriate in men and are unnatural or unbecoming of women. They are not unnatural or unbecoming; they’re necessary to thrive in a world of shifting rules and changing roles.