Gender Scripts

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. John 11:33

When we are born, we are each handed a script. A script of how to behave depending on the situation we’re in, the people we’re around, the location we’ve arrived at. We spend much of the first third of our lives learning and memorizing our script. How to behave around our friends in middle school; how to act cool at the playground; how to please our parents; how to impress the boy or girl who we think is cute.

A sign of maturity, as we move into the middle third of our lives, is questioning the script that was given to us. Is it really okay to make jokes based on someone’s race or nationality? Is it actually fine to not take no for an answer when trying to initiate a romantic relationship? Do I really need to wear jeans to go to Walmart, or are sweatpants just fine?

One script that we each get handed at birth has to do with our gender and our emotions. I don’t want to overgeneralize, but I believe it’s fair to say that most men in the United States are handed a script that demands the taming (if not strangling) of our emotions; and on the other hand, it’s assumed that women either don’t need to do this or are not capable.

Don’t believe me? You know exactly what the phrases “act like a man” or “you’re acting like a woman” mean, outside of any context. “Be a man,” “don’t act like a little girl” have very particular meanings about how we are supposed to handle our feelings, and the ways that handling our feelings are supposedly unacceptable.

If you want to know how the ultimate human man dealt with emotions, however, you need only look at Jesus.

If John 11, we see Jesus express a variety of emotions. We see his love and affection for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Lazarus, who is called “the one who you, Jesus, love”). We see that he is deeply moved, troubled, and cries.

As every Sunday school kid learned, the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”

And yet, within that short verse, we get the permission to unlearn the scripts we’ve been handed as men. Honestly, it’s a script that I’m dealing with in counseling right now.

Expressing emotion is not the lack of a coping skill — it IS a coping skill.

Holding in emotion is not a strength;
expressing it is not a weakness.

Expressing who you are and what you are feeling with transparency, honesty, and vulnerability - that is what takes true strength!

I’m thankful for a Lord, Savior, and friend who is able to empathize us, who knows what it is to lose a friend, to be betrayed, to be angry and sad and ecstatic and fearful and troubled and disturbed.

I hope to be more like Him someday.

Anthony Parrott

Anthony Parrott

Washington, DC