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My own experience – male pastors – the rule rather than the exception
You know what really made this issue strike me? The fact that I have actually experienced this myself, despite not being married!
How a glass ceiling works
I used to think that a glass ceiling would only “kick into effect” when I was say, around 50 years old, and I had already achieved some seniority in my work place. However, I now appreciate that it is there and present all the time, because prejudices in people’s hearts are there all the time. From my experience, this is how it works. When you meet someone, there might be some prejudice within them against you (for whatever reason) that makes them think that you cannot attain a certain level or you should not be allowed to attain that certain level. It might not even be about your attaining a certain level – it might just be negative attitudes towards you that are based not on facts, but rather prejudices. And obviously,there might also be irrational prejudices in your own heart against them or other people. In fact, I think it works in a very similar way to the way I think infatuation works, in that it is not based on reality, but rather on what is in your heart, except that infatuation obviously creates positive expectations. Now a “glass ceiling” in the conventional sense occurs when there is a group of people who have matching or similar negative prejudices against you in their hearts. It is like the prejudice within each heart joins up with that in the heart next to it, and together the prejudices in each heart join to form the glass ceiling, unseen but very real, and these people stop you from getting to a position that it is within their level to assign. Once again, these rules are often unwritten, of course, but you might find, as I have done, that although no-one ever says anything, some avenues remain stubbornly closed to you – as long as they are controlled by other people.
While by the grace of God, I have been fortunate in avoiding a glass ceiling in my employment, I have been unspeakably surprised by the lack of support that I have received from Christians generally and from pastors specifically in all my endeavours for the Kingdom of God. You’d think that because I am doing this for the sake of God’s work, the Kingdom of God, that people would encourage, or support… However, that has scarcely been the case at all! I am very grateful for those people who have acknowledged and supported my efforts. And yet with so many others… And it is not as if I have not invested my own time, effort and money to support these very same people, because I have! Admittedly, I do tend to be quite outspoken in my pursuit of the Kingdom of God, and I have hardly made any secret of the fact that I think that most Christians and most pastors are jokers. But still! Now it is not as if these people have actually formed a glass ceiling over my life, as my work in this field is not dependent on anyone’s approval or authorisation. However I am confident that if my work did need these people to authorise it, then I would quickly feel myself bumping my head into an invisible barrier! I should make it clear that it is not only men who have acted surprisingly, as exactly the same behaviour has come from women. However, for the sake of my marriage I am naturally more concerned with how men would behave!
From my own experience, I actually expect that this attitude among husbands will be the resounding rule, rather than the exception. I know that it would be diplomatic of me to pretend otherwise, that I believe most men would be encouraging and supportive and only the odd one “here or there” might struggle with this. However, I actually expect that the majority of men will respond negatively towards a wife’s success, with perhaps say, 15% per cent of men naturally handling it positively, and an additional 15 – 25 % struggling to embrace a positive outlook. Oh, the idea of marriage just grows increasingly attractive – not! That said, perhaps my own experience is not actually representative of how men would treat the success demonstrated by their wives, and is rather only representative of how people treat me!
Some men might make all the right noises before marriage about supporting you and your career or dreams. Some men might be lying outright, in the same way that they might lie about intending to be faithful to you, when they already plan to cultivate multiple affairs. But here is the thing – many men will actually, genuinely be sincere as they are making these promises. They might have every intention in the universe of supporting your plans. And yet, once you actually get married, something unexpected and (un)magical happens! Mr Enthusiastically Supportive slowly becomes Mr Unenthusiastic and Unsupportive. I believe that part of this is because we as human beings do not always know what we are capable of. That is, have you ever done anything where you surprised yourself? For example, I as a person tend to think of myself as being basically incapable of envy. And yet once, I found myself responding to one of my friends out of this very emotion. I was too embarrassed to apologise, so I ran away instead! And I’ve recently had to accept that some people systematically inspire feelings of envy within me.
I believe that this is exactly the kind of thing that might happen in a marriage, that a man might genuinely not realise before marriage that he is capable of acting this way. Until he does. And then he does again. And then it keeps happening until it becomes a habit that he is either unable or unwilling to break out of. It is for this reason that I believe that it is better to look for a spouse who is desperately striving after God and Christlike character, than even someone who is clearly sincere, or has already attained excellent character but is not striving, as someone who is striving after God will keep moving forward and becoming better and better, but someone who is not striving will at best remain at the same place, but in all likelihood will actually move backwards before your very disappointed eyes.
This further complicates the idea about male sincerity in this issue. That is, some men are genuinely fine with the fact of having female superiors at work or in any other regard. They are sincerely happy to work alongside women at work, they are sincerely happy to report to female bosses or line managers, they might happily talk to you about their female boss, and how well they get on. From this, you might be “lulled into a false of security”, especially as he also coos to you about how he will support your dreams. And once again he might be utterly sincere about being utterly secure with female ambition and success. And yet, in practice, he might struggle to accept female ambition and success when it comes from his own wife…that might hit him more personally, in some ways that even he might not have been able to anticipate before marriage.
I believe that something about dating is that in the fun and frolicking of a succession of dates you would not necessarily get to see one another’s limits of character, as these would tend to be carefully hidden away behind the best of manners and courteous behaviour. And yet, within marriage, once you start living with this person 24/7 you quickly get to know one another’s real limits and the truth comes out. I have a cousin, she and I are quite close, we used to spend hours on the phone talking about our respective thoughts, plans, dreams and ideas of marriage (she is now married). Well she once told me that she was going to Paris to celebrate a landmark birthday, and as I had never been to Paris before I invited myself along, assuring her of the French I spoke! So off we went together. Now this trip was only three days long, but oh my goodness, we could not speak to one another for about four months afterwards! It is amazing how much you can disagree with someone with whom you ordinarily get on so well. Limits that would never have been guessed at in all our honest and sincere phone conversations were instantly revealed. And this is also how it could be in marriage. So when you are dating him, and he seems to be the epitome of grace and excellent behaviour, you might never imagine the limits to his character that
might definitely will instantly reveal themselves when you have 24 hours in a day to observe them.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.