Sunday, February 27, 2011

Are women crazy

I've been reading this (and this and this.) h/t: Ali.

The theory is that 'craziness' - the emotionality and insecurity that women often experience - is sin and needs to be stopped. I'm thinking about it.

What about depression* and anxiety disorders? Many women have these and of course sin is a part of them (as it's a part of everything.) But is it helpful to label such experiences as sin?

*the writer speaks about irrational anger and sadness.


  1. Yes, but to be fair, I don't think the post author is including depression and diagnosed anxiety. She's referring to the sort of emotional meltdowns women often "laugh" about. And I think "insecurity" is not quite the same thing as "anxiety". A lot of we women do go about with a kind of plaguing insecurity that we could work on.

  2. It is certainly not helpful to characterise sadness or depression as sin - though, for instance, if our anger or depression stems from jealousy for instance (rather than from a terrible event, or illness), then there is a problem.

    And when it comes to people with a genuine illness or disorder, I think the relationship the author drew between men struggling with lust and women struggling with sinful emotions is telling. A man may turn to porn as a distraction from his depression; a woman may turn to irrational behaviour as a distraction from hers. Neither is acceptable, though obviously those suffering from depression are specially tempted to sinful escapism and need special encouragement (and sometimes treatment).

    In any case, many of us are healthy and have no excuse to cop out of responsibility. And I say this as someone would like to be able to consider my own insecurity as less than a sin - an insecurity which I am aware has a terrible impact on my own life and relationships.

  3. Forgot to tick the subscribe thing. But yes, the bible does say "do not be anxious about anything", which is about as straightforward a command as you can get, so if being anxious isn't straightforward disobedience and sin, then I don't know what it is. Granted, some people do have anxiety disorders, but I don't think that means we can never talk about anxiety as sin for fear of being unhelpful to some (even though I didn't detect this blog author as referring particularly to anxiety). As Anika said, that just leaves all the people who don't have a disorder continuing in it.

  4. Interesting topic (and some great replies so far...)

    Last year I read part of Respectable Sins. I think Jerry Bridges would label the anxiety/frustration/ emotional meltdown scenarios that the author of these blog posts is talking about as being sin. And I recognised it in myself as something I needed to work on.

    But since reading that I have also spent some time wondering about the crossover point between sin and a diagnosed condition like depression or anxiety. Does the point at which medication is needed or where professional counselling is required to help manage it make it not sin anymore?

    I guess the treatments help those with a diagnosis or identified chemical imbalances to better regulate emotions that can be unhelpful or sinful so they are not left struggling by themselves. And I believe God has provided advances in medicine and therapy for people to be able to use.

    Probably in the end I didn't come up with many answers to these questions. But I have thought about this a bit previously so I will be interested to see what others think.

  5. Ah yes, I wrote that second comment as I was running out the door and didn't mean to sound quite so "abrupt", and am a big believer in a little sensitivity, but I did appreciate that this post (haven't read the subsequent ones particularly thoroughly yet, I admit) was prepared to make us pause and consider some things that perhaps are just accepted as givens. And I spent 2009 doing some work with a group of friends on "emotions" and their expression, so I'm not at all adverse to those either, and think listening to them can be beneficial in this process of sanctification.

    I'm with you on your questions Karen, and have had Respectable Sins on the list for some time, so I might have to prioritise it.

  6. Sarah sits in the desk opposite me at work. She works two jobs (one full time one part time). She has 2 young children (ages 3 and 5. She is super organised. Her house looks like it came out of House and Garden magazine. She wears makeup and lovely clothes and she always looks good. On the weekends she has friends over for dinner parties or she spends time with the kids or rearranging things in her house. She and her husband have a shared vision for their future and they work well together juggling work and their children. She is super woman! She is the woman who manages to ride the wave of our society smoothly and she is puzzled by her stay-at-home-mum sister in law whose house always seems to be in disarray and whose kids are not as well behaved.

    Sarah is not actually a christian. I have not met many women like her. I believe our society puts an enormous amount of pressure on women to become superwomen like Sarah. And not many of us make it. We try to juggle work, children, our houses and all the work there. Magazines and the media bombard us with information and images which tell us we're too fat, we need better clothes, better marriages and to be afraid of aging.

    Added to this, if we are Christians we are pounded with conflicting views on what makes a 'godly' woman. The pressure on us increases as we are given masses of advice on how to bring up our children in a 'christian' way and we are often expected (and we want to) to have some 'role' or ministry in the church as well.

    No wonder so many women are cracking under the strain. Almost every woman I know who is trying to live the perfect life is on medication.

    No, I don't think it is helpful (or even really true, for that matter) to introduce the idea that if you feel a bit emotional or as though you're cracking that you are actually being sinful, and instead of 'enjoying' your sin (enjoying? you've got to be kidding me) you should repent and do something about it.

  7. Narelle, I agree with every word you wrote here. And having a fair experience of living with and supporting those who have various levels of depression and mental illness, I am generally highly allergic to a tendency to label 'emotional craziness' as sin. Frankly, that happens in the church enough anyway. But in fairness, I don't think either the original blogger or Ali said anything at all like feeling 'a bit emotional or as though you are cracking' was sinful.I think we need to be really careful in how we talk about this, but I do think sometimes we can create cultures where women (and men, too) who are not actually struggling with mental illness, validate one another's insecurities rather than seeing security in Christ as a real, practical, worthwhile goal. The original blogger was very much reflecting and speaking to her own experience of insecurity and I am less comfortable with the way she has generalized that to talk about fighting 'emotional craziness' precisely because those who struggle with depression are those most likely to condemn themselves unnecessarily on the basis of that term. But I think the conversation about how we combat insecurity - and whether we fight it as though it really was a deadly enemy - is still a good one to have.

  8. Thanks Jo. I wanted to say exactly what you said in that "I don't think either the original blogger or Ali said anything at all like feeling 'a bit emotional or as though you are cracking' was sinful". (And I actually think the sideways pressure to be some kind of "superwoman" with a perfect life is a whole other problem.) And I think you're right about the context the post author was writing in.

  9. Hi Narelle (and others). Sometimes I do 'enjoy' my sin. Have a bit of a wallow. Apart from that I agree with you. Because of my family of origin, genetic makeup and cruisey life, I've not had big issues with anxiety or depression (yet). Don't think it's helpful to heap more guilt on the already struggling.

    I'm also not happy with the generalisations. I don't think insecurity is my major issue.

  10. I think maybe there are a few other things to consider here.
    My reading of the OP(s) is that the issue we are considering - sooo far removed from diagnosed mental illness - is the contemptuous laughing off of a woman's uncontrolled, perhaps even indulgent, emotionally-driven behaviour as though it is instinctual, not volitional, not forgivable sin.

    1. I leave you to think for yourself on the practice of 'contemptuous laughing off' of anything that might be connected to human dignity, such as sexuality.

    2. Is female emotionality always within conscious control/volition? I think I want to say yes, but by heck, we are way more controlled by our endocrinology (the H substances) than we care to admit! Most of us live with a functional degree of estrogen dominance (i.e. it doesn't create the kind of symptoms that see us rush off to the doctor) that we would rather not even know about, let alone treat. Often, a good degree of estrogen is the thing that actually helps us recognise ourselves as women, but when it's out of balance, we might hardly recognise ourselves at all! (PMS anyone?) It is my belief that women have a responsibility to manage their physiology as much as their psychology. Estrogen dominance occurs as easily as uncontrolled insulin (carb/sugar metabolism) and cortisol (stress) surges - at the risk of nagging, are we caring for our bodies by limiting the amount of sugar and stress they have to deal with?? Maybe emotionally-driven behaviour is more 'instinctual' than the OP would suggest?

    3. Do women 'indulge' their hormone-induced emotion? You bet! When I'm feeling out of control already, and then someone acts rudely, I let fly! Do I have to? No. Did I choose to? Yes. Is that sin? ... Should I 'contemptuously laugh it off'? ...

    4. Do women 'indulge' their emotion when it is not hormone-induced, but circumstantial, or caused by sleep deprivation, or whatever? You bet! As much as anyone else does. And we are equally responsible for that behaviour. Because it is the behavioural direction of the emotion - constructive or destructive - that is more important in this consideration than the source of the emotion - as sin or sickness or instinct or indulgence or whatever.

    5. Irrationality is a misleading concept here. Whoever said that rationality was more good than emotionality? A distinction that the OP is quite careful not to conclude. We can rejoice in God's design of female sexuality with its strength in emotion!

    Finally, I will just share a sigh with you that no men have ventured to comment on this issue. If we are so unfamiliar with our 'womanly ways', how on earth can we expect our men to understand us?