Sunshine posits the question: Why are modern women so anxious?
I was interested in what she had to say because I too sometimes have really bad anxiety symptoms in large stores. It started when I was in my mid-thirties, and while I wouldn’t call them full blown panic attacks, the symptoms can be intense enough to be very physically uncomfortable. The sensation is one of panic, like I need to drop everything and run, along with a racing heart and that clenchy feeling in my stomach. Mine are not nearly as bad as my supervisor’s, and I can get through whatever shopping needs to be done by praying for God to flood me with peace and by repeating phrases to myself like It is okay. I am okay. My family is fine. I can get my groceries and then I can leave. God is with me. Also paying close attention to my breathing, keeping it even and deep, helps.
So a couple of things I’ve noticed is that it isn’t really the crowds that are the problem; I can go to church without panicking, for example, although sometimes large concerts and sporting events make me tense until we are in our seats. Another aspect is that it seems to be exacerbated during the school year when I’m working and abates somewhat (but not completely) when I’m home in the summer.
Obviously, the simple patriarchal answer is that: Women do best under a structure of authority and boundaries.
In general, anxiety is a fear response. Fear response tends to manifest when we feel like we aren’t protected. Women aren’t protected when they are removed from the authoritative covering of their fathers or husbands. Hence, why women were given from the father to the husband in marriage. You could say that fear and anxiety is the natural price of independence: You have to take care of and protect yourself. If you are a Bible believing Christian then the answer is simple. Women weren’t created to shoulder that burden alone.
Modern women who opt into egalitarian marriages do not see their husbands as providers and protectors. Hence, it should be no surprise that they still live in fear and anxiety over many aspects of life.
Now, much of these this fear and anxiety should be taken to God first before women take it to their fathers and husbands. God fills the the God-sized hole of need within all humans. However, if a woman is anxious about a particular situation this is where a father or a husband can help her set boundaries.
For example, if working or say PTA involvement or church involvement is causing a wife anxiety, a husband can look out for his wife by telling her to cut back. This exempts her from the rock and a hard place:
- The uncomfortable situation of not wanting to cut back because others at work, PTA, or church may see her as slacking or not good enough for the position versus having the stress, workload, and responsibilities of the particular positions.
Thus, the responsibility of the decision making and boundaries are placed upon her husband and not her. It is the quintessential responsibility offload a wife can use: “If you have a problem, you can take it up with my husband.”
This is simply one of the ways that fathers and husbands add that protective layer of covering over their wives and those under their authority. Likewise, this is the same as with the Father and Christians. If we decide to go our own way and sin and thus step out from under God’s protective covering then we logically should have a holy fear and anxiety about things going wrong.
I talk about more about this rational fear versus irrational fear here. I think most of the anxiety and fear that women go through now is rational. That is women deny their nature that God created and want to go independent on their own. However, I don’t doubt that some of womens’ fear can be irrational if they are built on lies about who the Father is and who they are in Christ. Chiefly, our adoption as children of the Father.
Romans 8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Of course, all of these require trust in the Father, womens’ fathers, and wives’ husbands. Unfortunately, this is not the norm but the exception.
I am also convinced that this is why Paul tells Titus and Timothy that women should be workers at home, and why Proverbs is about a woman working out of her home.
Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may [b]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Simply put, taking jobs outside of the home like the ancient and modern workplaces will place women in the role of “independent worker with certain responsibilities” within a company. Women generally don’t like making important decisions with responsibility and hence it becomes a source of fear and anxiety in regard to failure.
I don’t doubt that secretaries under their boss don’t really have the same issue as say a doctor, physical therapist, OT, SLP, dentist, pharmacist, those in business, those in trades, or those in STEM careers or other professionals may have. There is more autonomy and responsibility with certain career paths than with others that can lead to fear and anxiety in women.