Something I seem to have the hardest time explaining to men is women’s need for safety, physical yes, but mostly emotional and spiritual safety. I even have a hard time selling some women on the idea, but I think it’s an important gender difference and things tend to go all awry when we ignore it.
My husband is awesome and I’ve been talking to him about safety for some 30 years, but even then it is just not his world so it doesn’t fully resonate. We have 3 daughters and many times I have whispered, “safety.” Dad, your kid needs emotional cover, protection, safety. She needs your reassurance. Comfort? Your strength? Safety.
And Dad will say, “No way, she’s tough, I’m proud of her” or something similar. He’s right, our girls are tough, bold, strong, but they are still girls. Sometimes they just need their Dad. Safety.
Their Dad being a rather traditional guy, doesn’t always see and speak the whole emotional/feeling world going on within women. So with a son you might say, “you’re tough, you’re brave, I’m proud of you,” and that would help to provide them the encouragement, the strength they need. But girls are a bit different, their strength tends to come from feeling safety, protection, security.
It’s probably not politically correct to say, but girls, even women, tend to glean our strength from the safety provided by men. There’s nothing wrong with telling girls they are strong and brave, but the core root of our strength is actually to be found in our weakness. When we are allowed to be “weak,” when we are provided emotional cover, protection, safety, we become strong.
The Apostle Paul understood this concept well in his own relationship with Christ when he spoke of knowing how, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Women learn to lean into Christ’s strength too. In our weakness, He is our rock. When we stand upon His shoulders, we become strong. But here on earth we also have earthly rocks, men, created in His image, and they have a profound impact on us as fathers, husbands, brothers, friends. Women need men very much, for a variety of reasons, but one reason is our need for emotional safety. Not all men are worthy, but in general they often are the ones that provide the safety that frees us to be strong.
I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations with men explaining to me that “God is not safe.” God is the safest place in the entire universe. God is the first place to run towards. God is safety. However, I can see the gender differences going on very clearly in these discussions, the way the men perceive God’s power, His authority, as not tame. They’re perceiving safety as tame, weak, powerless. Not at all. Safety is to be found in the biggest, baddest, un-tamed, well, God. I’m laughing here, but in times of trouble who are you going to stand behind, the kitten or the Lion?
However, I want to reiterate, while God is not “safe,” He does provide women safety, emotional cover, and let us never forget His grace, His protection and sacrifice. God “gets” women, even when human men sometimes struggle to understand. It’s very fascinating to read of the way Jesus interacts with women in the bible and to pick up on this, the emotional cover He provides, the safety. This is not the same thing as not being accountable for oneself, in fact, it is often Christ’s ability to provide emotional safety that is so convicting for women.
Safety denied, even by women themselves denying biology and our own needs, can become rather pathological. You see that in abuse victims all the time, they struggle to find and repair their sense of safety. I think we see this reflected in the world today too, with our “safe space zones” on college campuses, the way some descend into complete panic at the slightest political controversy. Where is your internal sense of emotional safety?
We have a world which seems to be screaming “safety” from the top of their lungs, while at the same time acting as if women don’t need safety at all. That is pathological, that is wounding speaking. That is a convoluted mess of biology screaming for what it desires, but battling against the zeitgeist of the day.
It can be downright ridiculous sometimes on the internet when you are trying to chat with a bunch of strong, empowered feminists, independent, tough…. who immediately start hollering about trigger alerts and how you are harming their PTSD and violating their safety. I managed to do this epic fail myself, ironically while trying to speak of women’s biological need for emotional safety.
The thing is, there can be great healing and emotional health for women when we embrace and understand our own needs for emotional safety and then nurture and allow it. Instead we seem to be living in this world where such things are being suppressed, where women’s need for safety is somehow perceived as shameful, often by women themselves.