November 10, 2008
The Mixed-Gender Team
Humility is essential for mixed gender teams because pride is so destructive. Pride leads us to presume and prejudge one another. This in turn leads to issues of stereotyping, transference, and entitlement.
How many men and women feel offended by one another based on an unfair presumption? A man presumes, for instance, that a woman is against him - when really she is trying to help him. Or a woman presumes, for instance, that a man is avoiding her - when really he is busy with a task.
While both of these accusations sometimes truly fit the situation, many times presumptions are mistaken, and the truth does not come out because people fail to be humble enough to take the time to clarify team-splitting problems such as these.
Presumptions are akin to prejudice. To presume is to pre-judge, to decide you already know when, in truth, you haven't heard all the facts.
Presumption can destroy church unity. It leads people to assign malicious motives to each other. The result, too often, can be stereotyping and transference.
To stereotype is to generalize; that is, to conclude that all people are like one person that you know of. Stereotyping tends to happen at the level of impressions rather than as clearly articulated thoughts.
It is not uncommon, for instance, for a woman to stereotype all men as being oppressive, based on a bad experience in the past. Conversely, it's not unusual for a man to stereotype women as being weak and emotionally immature.
The issue of transference, by contrast, is more complex. Transference refers to the act of transferring onto another the unresolved issues that you have with someone else.
I can't speak as a psychologist, but I have heard counselors say that men and women in the church transfer their issues frequently.
For example, if a male leader has a strained relationship with his mother, he may transfer his frustrations with her onto another woman in the church. Men who have either domineering or especially frail mothers may see other women as being either too strong or too weak. For women serving on staff or in key volunteer posts, this can be particularly hurtful, especially if it causes the man to limit her unfairly.
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