Family Dynamics: Navigating Life’s Important Relationships
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This Sunday, we will begin a new sermon series based on Ephesians titled “Family Dynamics: Navigating Life’s Important Relationships.” In this series, we will talk about love, marriage, parenting, values, boundaries, in-laws, drama, resentment, and how our faith should impact family life.
When it comes to living with emotional and spiritual vitality, men and women face unique challenges. For example, men seem to consistently struggle with issues of pride, ego, identity, and success. Men are competitive by nature which begins at a very young age.
Richard Simmons, an executive coach and author in Birmingham, wrote a book titled The True Measure of a Man where he argues that most men define their lives by two factors: career success and money. However, when one or both go away (like in a financial crash), men quickly become lost and often depressed. Researchers have discovered that men wrestle with loneliness, isolation, feeling pressure to provide for family, and struggle to cultivate meaningful friendships later in life. Men are very hesitant to be vulnerable, admit weakness, and ask for help. Suicide levels are much higher among men because when life comes crashing down, many feel they have nowhere to turn.
Women, on the other hand, are much better at forming relationships and surrounding themselves with a stronger support system. Women are much more likely to talk through their problems and reach out for help. However, women also feel the societal expectation of caregiving while balancing home and work life. Add this to a desire to stay in shape, be fashionable, entertain, and take care of children, and it feels overwhelming. Women are much more likely to find meaning outside or in addition to their professional work – as a mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Simmons argues that men are often driven by the question, “What do others think about me?” Women are more likely driven by the question, “Am I adequately fulfilling all of my responsibilities?” For women, self-care can quickly get pushed aside. When it comes to faith and the spiritual life, this presents unique challenges, although some overlap does exist.
Generally speaking, men need to let down their guard and admit when they are struggling and need help. Life can become overwhelming for anybody. Men also need to recognize that every now and then, the competitive spirit must be turned off for the sake of forming relationships and meaningful connections. Men are also much more likely to need time alone to unwind and reflect after a tough day.
Most women desire conversation and checking in. Men want to fix problems. Women want to know men care enough to talk about whatever the issue might be. Fixing the problem is not the point; caring enough to listen is what matters.
Generally speaking, women are much more open to faith, church, and tending to spiritual matters. Men often find church boring and can’t pay attention because they are thinking of what’s coming up later that day. Both men and women struggle with anxiety and cultivating a regular prayer life can make a big difference. Men seem to desire admiration while women seek affirmation. Both men and women want to be loved, but that love is shown in different ways.
Psychologist Gary Chapman identified five distinct love languages – physical touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and gifts. When it comes to marriage and relationships, the goal is to speak the language of your significant other and not just your own. Both men and women have a strong need for community and connection. Spiritual formation often happens when we are surrounded and supported by those we trust and love.
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