Household Hierarchy: What does our physiology say about who should lead?

Jay Dee

Household Hierarchy: What does our physiology say about who should lead?

Apr 23, 2014

Last week we shared a bit about what the Bible says about who should lead.  This week we’re going to share what our physiology says about who should lead, because sadly enough, a lot of Christians now deny that the Bible is inspired, or they

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What does our physiology say about who should leadLast week we shared a bit about what the Bible says about who should lead.  This week we’re going to share what our physiology says about who should lead, because sadly enough, a lot of Christians now deny that the Bible is inspired, or they believe it is outdated, so let’s look at something a bit more scientific.

We’re taught from a young age these days that you can do whatever you want, be whomever you want. Our society has done it’s best to tell us that we are all equal, that gender is a frame of mind and a choice, that our physiology has nothing to do with what role we are to play in life.

We hear stories of public washrooms becoming unisex and of transgendered people suing athletic competitions for daring to categorize athletes based on their chromosomes.

But science has been telling us a different story. That our genders are fundamentally different.

There is a section of the brain called the corpus callosum, it is the bridge between the two hemispheres, the right and left side, of the brain. And women’s brains tend to have a much thicker corpus callosum than men. This difference is already measurable at week 26 of pregnancy by an ultrasound machine. Males, in utero, get a burst of testosterone earlier in the pregnancy that bathes the brain, essentially burning away part of this bridge.

Now, some will hear this and say that men are brain damaged, but I would say specialized, because this is the beginning of a larger process with an intended purpose. This difference in the bridge between the halves of the brain accounts for some interesting differences in our mental capacities and strengths. By the time we reach adulthood, men on average have 6.5 times the amount of grey matter (which is considered thinking tissue) than women.

This difference leads to interesting strengths and weaknesses in men.

Because men’s brains are less connected, but have more sheer processing power, being on average 10% larger than women’s brains, they tend to be better at achieving a small set of goals, or a singular goal. Men are specialized to see a problem, find a solution and execute that solution until the problem is gone, without distraction. We are created to cast visions, to find a mission and to target goals along to way to achieve that vision. I believe this is why God set men to be the household leaders. We are specifically created for the task set before us. This wasn’t random chance or a toss of the coin.

On the other hand, Women’s brains are highly specialized for support. On average we have 9.5 times the amount of white matter (connective tissue) than the male brain. By having more connective tissue, and a larger corpus callosum, connecting the halves of our brains together, what we lose in straight thinking power, we make up in the ability to think about many different things all at once, which makes us invaluable when it comes to filling in the details of plans, or how to get things going for a mission or project that has been set.

One interesting fact that Jay shared with me during one of the lectures in his recent studies is that when men visit for the first time with a Life Coach, they can generally come up with a vision and mission fairly quickly, if they didn’t already have one. But the lecturers (who were all women by the way) said that women have a really hard time thinking far enough ahead to vision and to plan for a far away future. They immediately start thinking about all the details and filling in the gaps in the present or very near future, and have a hard time thinking in a straight line to a distant potential future, instead finding obstacles that will get in there way before they even know where they are going.

Last year we went to Myrtle beach, and I planned the trip, what to bring how to pack what the kids would do for the drive, and how the seating in the van would be. There was a lot to think about! And I know Jay didn’t even realize the things that I put together until we left and saw what I did. I don’t say this to brag, just to show the difference in how we think. He focused mostly on one big task: making sure we had the money we need to take the trip. He also planned the route, settings our driving goals by finding the hotels we stayed in on our way there and back. We didn’t sit down and say “I’m going to do this and you do that”, it’s just how we work together.

I think it is fascinating when the Bible seems to line up with science, and with the experiences of experts in the field of leadership and planning, and our own personal lives. To us, this all points to a hierarchy that was set up at creation and has never been changed. Men are designed, appointed and responsible for leading the household, and women are designed, appointed and responsible for supporting their husband in his leadership.

Your Turn

Were you aware of these physiological differences in our brains?  Do you find this matches your marriage in terms of strengths and weaknesses.  Does this information help you understand how your brain works and why sometimes you get frustrated with your spouse when you just don’t understand what they were thinking?

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12 thoughts on “Household Hierarchy: What does our physiology say about who should lead?”

  1. FarAboveRubies says:

    Good article again, Bravo!
    When going into our marriage, we both thought that we were wired differently. This included the way we approach a problem. It’s just the way God designed us. We accepted this fact and kept it in mind when problems would present themselves. I love how science rocks. It must be the geek in me. 🙂

  2. Lindsay Harold says:

    I’ve often thought about how well designed men and women are for the roles God gave us. Men are better designed to be leaders and focused on long-term goals. Women are better designed to keep up with the many tasks that are needed to run a household.

    Men and women are also very complementary when it comes to raising children. Men are better at instilling discipline and responsibility. Women are better at nurturing and making children feel loved. Women kiss the boo-boos and men tell the kids to buck up and get over it. Kids need both in order to grow up balanced.

    And, of course, men and women are complementary in sexuality. Men are better designed to initiate and take charge. Women are better equipped to invite and respond. Men pursue; women accept. It’s a beautiful dance that fits with the overall roles God planned for marriage and family life.

    I knew a lot of these things already, but it’s become even more obvious as a married woman that we are male or female through and through and designed for these specific roles. It’s not a superficial thing. It’s not just a matter of plumbing. Men and women are different in so many ways, and not accidentally. We’re different in complementary ways. Everything works better when we embrace the roles we are designed for and work together as a complementary team, using our separate strengths for the good of the family and the glory of God.

  3. Robyn Gibson says:

    This was a great question: “Does this information help you understand how your brain works and why sometimes you get frustrated with your spouse when you just don’t understand what they were thinking?”

    … and explains A LOT!!

  4. KWM says:

    Great post. This scientific approach to family leadership is fascinating. While I recognize the need for a single leader or captain of the family, some don’t. Instead, they find that a 50/50 leadership approach is more egalitarian and thus better. Practically speaking, this approach makes no sense because decisions cannot be made with only 2 votes – the “no” always wins. I’d like to see a post about why the “single leader” approach, i.e., captain of the ship, is best/most effective. I think that would complement this post nicely. Thoughts?

  5. Dan says:

    You could always refer to my “rant” on the previous post as to whether or not I prescribe to a difference that could be determined by the presence of the X or Y chromosome to save me a lot of typing. There are times when I do often wonder just how much progress we can really make when we are so different. I carry on though because any progress is good and the resulting effects could build incrementally. and be lasting. I keep hoping to be effective in removing some of the stress in couples’ relationships.

  6. Dan says:

    “women have a really hard time thinking far enough ahead to vision and to plan for a far away future. They immediately start thinking about all the details and filling in the gaps in the present or very near future, and have a hard time thinking in a straight line to a distant potential future,”

    I find when we “open the floor to discussion” at our church on a topic that this is often how it goes. The women will get bogged down in the details and minutiae while the men are looking at the bigger picture. The men don’t like the women slowing down the discussion with such questions and the women feel frustrated because they feel the are not being heard and the men are being dismissive of important details. In some instances, there is truth about both camps. It’s like the men first just want to decide IF “it” is going to be done or not, while the women immediately want to decide HOW “it” is going to be done.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      That’s the difficult part of vision committee meetings (or visioning within another committee), there is always a group (not always just women, but often, as you said), that gets bogged on the “how are we going to get there” before it even gets decided “where are we going”.

      I have a vision committee meeting coming up this weekend, and while I love it, yes, that can be frustrating…I think I need to talk to our pastor about that before hand to see if he can “lead” the discussion a bit more forcefully (not let us get bogged down by getting ahead of ourselves).

  7. EssentiallyJess says:

    I love how we were designed to complement one another. I’m definitely much more detailed oriented than my husband, although I can read maps better 🙂

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Almost like God knew what He was doing…

  8. james Munroe says:

    I have realised that this site is a great source of knowlegde required to dwell with understanding in my marriege. Thank you so much for the great insight.

  9. Savvy says:

    This article makes it sound as if supposed brain development differences are well understood and distinctive between the genders. The reality is that these differences are not well understood by researchers and do not prove that men’s and women’s brains work differently. The reality is that society and culture as well as the influence of our parents and families has more to do with how we think than the fairly minute and not well understood differences between men’s and women’s brains. There are far more differences among men’s thought patterns and among women’s thought patterns than between the two genders. This is not to say that God did not create specific roles for husband and wife or that God didn’t intricately design husband and wife, but it is to say that the differences are overstated in this article. Personally, as a woman, I have an exceptionally difficult time planning details, yet am exceptionally good at having a mission and long term goals. This is not because I have a flawed female thinking pattern, but because God made me this way and has gifted me with that ability.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Of course, there are variations for each individual, my article was drawn from generalizations. As for it not being well understand by researchers, I found the same information in multiple places. It seems there are a lot of people that have this particular understanding.

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