It’s not an absolute rule, people are all different, but as a general principle, women internalize, men externalize. What that means is that women’s emotions tend to turn inwards while men’s turn outwards. Anger for example, it is far more common for women to turn their anger inward and to engage in assorted forms of self harm. Men tend to express their anger outwardly, also often engaging in self harm.
The fact that so many women internalize is part of the reason why we have to treat them different in a counseling situation. Women tend to take shame, blame, and condemnation into their being, especially in abusive situations, while men tend to externalize the problem, make it the fault of someone else.
Porn addiction for example, every wife I’ve ever known or read has immediately gone to “it’s my fault.” I’m so ashamed, what did I do, I’m inadequate, I made this happen. Immediately! The same is true in cases of domestic violence or when your child becomes disabled or your husband runs off with another woman. What do many men say most often? Yep, it’s totally her fault. It’s her fault I’m a porn addict, it’s her fault I’m having an affair, it’s her fault our child is having problems, it’s her fault we’re getting divorced.
That’s an externalized response to emotions, it’s a projection. Men tend to be fixers, verbs, “who did this, I’ll fix it.” It’s no more rational than her it’s all my fault response.
It’s not about sin, it’s not about the false virtue of women blaming themselves, it’s not about men being irresponsible, it’s a gender difference due to how we handle our emotional lives. There are exceptions, but in general you’re going to see women internalizing feelings around shame and blame while men externalize their feelings.
This is why I get so ticked off at pastors, counselors, people who say things like, “We are dealing with a culture-wide insistence that women not be held responsible for what they do.” Utter rubbish, especially when it is so often the women who get left behind, forced to bear not only the emotional burden of the entire relationship, but the cultural burdens too, and often the financial and physical burdens of trying to raise children alone.
So when someone, such as Pastor Wilson, is calling for female repentance that is a delicate matter, because her sin will often lie in the fact that she does not know her own worth and value, that she has taken on blame that does not belong to her, that she falsely believes she has control where she does not. The same is true when we speak of submission in marriage, why does she resist the idea? A lack of trust, a need for control, fear, taking on emotional burdens that do not belong to her.It is not becasue she has not been shamed and blamed enough, but rather too much.
So, the worst thing you can do is speak of repentance and sin as if these two things are completely gender equal all of a sudden. There is no “equal, fair, or just” in the world, men and women simply respond differently. Whether she is partially responsible for the situation or not is completely irrelevant, because it is likely she will have already internalized the entire thing, her share, his share, and the world’s share.
To bring healing, to lead women to repentance, you actually have to first free them of layers and layers of shame, blame and responsibility that don’t even belong to them. It is only after you cut through all that deception that you can discover the root problem, the unrecognized sins that might need healing.
You heal women by balancing the equation. Each time a man picks up internal responsibility for something, she will let it go. Men don’t like to hear that, they believe it’s going to somehow make everything their fault, their problem, and now they’re bad because they doubt their ability to “fix it.” What they sometimes fail to understand is that the simple process of taking the burden off of her has already fixed it.
That is why in happily married older couples you will sometimes hear men quip about how the magic words are, “yes dear, it’s my fault, I’ll fix it.” This is not the result of being brow beaten or ashamed of oneself, this is wisdom learned on how to bring peace to their wives, and even repentance. My husband says, “yes dear, I’ll fix it” my first thought is often, I should be gentler to the poor man, I hope I haven’t overwhelmed him, what can I do to make his life easier, etc. He has gone and balanced the equation, he has lifted off burdens, and what lies beneath that is either a call to repentance or gratitude and love. He has provided safety, protection, provision. Now that I am no longer carrying his burdens, I am free to examine my own.
It’s somewhat ironic, you see this principle demonstrated almost comically in Pastor Wilson’s post about the alleged problem of how, “we are dealing with a culture-wide insistence that women not be held responsible for what they do. ” Externalized emotion, a response often practiced by men, first declares we have a problem, than it declares the problem is women, than it quite comically declares the problem is…. women not being accountable for their own sin. How do we fix this? Let’s blame women some more!
Or, as someone once quipped, “first men drive women crazy….and then they complain becasue all the women are crazy.”