What Men Can’t Say

By Cindy Koch

It was only the beginning of a fight. She said. He said. But it turned ugly when she said too much. His anger flared, and his voice got louder. She stood her ground and said so much more. They felt the pulse of the evening race out of control as their words fueled a fire. Anger prickled his neck. Tears choked in her throat. Panic and pain washed over their hearts deep in the middle of their broken conversation.

Quiet, he might have said, but that would have only escalated the argument. Every cry of oppression, every sting of liberation would be called to attention if she heard that word from this man. For women have been taught that when a woman is quiet, she is a doormat opening herself up to abuse. Silent, he might have whispered. But that would have caused so much strife and disagreement as she interpreted this word as a value judgment. She may conclude her words don’t matter as much as his, that she is less of a person than him.

The curse continues to sting. She desires authority; He rules over her.

But when this fight comes to church, there is another level altogether. The Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches a man must speak in authority, and women should be quiet. This was not written in the midst of a heated battle. This was not spoken in the face of an angry war. It is a word about speaking authority in the church, a word about love for neighbor for the sake of building up. But her reaction seems to be the same. Quiet, he said, and today the argument is escalated. Silent, he said, but today she has concluded she is less than him.

The curse continues to sting us even inside the church doors. She desires authority; He rules over her.

It is clear in our culture today that our broken relationship between man and woman hates the reality of this curse—well, at least the second half. Women have shouted it from the rooftops, “We don’t want him to rule over us!” Men were not created to Lord over a woman and make her less of a creature. We collectively affirm that this is a bad thing, a curse that plagues any relationship between man and woman.

But isn’t it interesting – we don’t much care about the uncomfortable reality from the first part of this curse. That woman was cursed from the Garden to desire the gifts that God gave to man, namely his authority to speak. In fact, claiming his authority seems to be the most virtuous thing for a gal to do these days. But this is part of the curse. It should make us women squirm that our desires were so distorted as a result of sin. Just like we acknowledge the pain of childbirth. Just like it men sadly nod their heads when they hear, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” None of these things are good. None of these things remain as God intended.

The curse continues to sting. She desires authority; He rules over her.

Men can’t say, “Quiet” without playing the part of the ancient strife of a broken relationship. Women will not be inspired to curb their desire for authority from such an appeal. Men can’t say, “Silent” to escape this curse. Women themselves will not be able to soundlessly solve this long-standing war.

There is only one thing to say.

“I forgive you.”

And the curse is finished.