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By Lisa Meadows Garfield

At the adult session of Stake Conference last weekend, our Stake President suddenly and forcefully said, “Now brethren, I need to speak to you right now. This may sound harsh, but you need to hear this. I am hearing from too many of our faithful sisters about the way they are being treated by their husbands. Brethren, you are breaking their hearts.” He repeated, with tears in his voice, “You break their hearts!” Then, still emotional, he counseled the men to “be kind”.

This got me wondering. How pervasive is this problem? I am not hearing it (much) from my sisters at church. And what does he mean by “be kind”? A significant enough number of men in our stake must be treating their wives unkindly or he wouldn’t have felt it necessary to reprove them. What does “unkindness” look like? Why would any Christian man do that? Why would any woman tolerate it?

I live in a suburban Atlanta stake, and most of the members here are steeped in the culture of kindness in the family. There’s little machismo here. So if this is happening in the genteel American South, what’s it like in other, less “enlightened” areas?

Though my own marriage is irreparably broken, I still have trouble imagining what my Stake President is talking about. Is he referring to flying fists and angry outbursts? Or is it a more subtle abuse of priesthood power (or simply manhood) as in “I’m the Boss, and your thoughts and feelings don’t count.”

This is not a man-bashing post. Men are as different from each other as any two human beings, and I know and love plenty of kind and selfless men. Certainly, there are some general gender differences. Is this propensity toward unkindness one of them? I have trouble buying that. But Jacob gave a very similar speech to the Nephite men of the church, recorded in the second chapter of Jacbob :

6 Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts.

 7 And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;

 8 And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.

 9 Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.

 10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.

 Jacob chastised the Nephite men for much more than unkindness, but the setting was the same as our evening Stake Conference meeting, a body of men and women, gathered to hear the pleasing word of God.

Much of the counsel we receive from church leaders is non-gendered. But I have noticed that the men seem to get more “admonishing” than the women. We women hear a lot about how “sweet and wonderful” we are. For many of us, that kind of “praise” is condescending and gag-inducing. The men seem to be almost disparaged sometimes, like there’s hardly hope for their eternal souls (even though it is often couched within a context of superiority) which I find equally repellent.

So, why the difference? Is it based in reality? Are men really more unkind, more “hopeless” than women?


What is your experience?



About Lisa Meadows Garfield

Lisa Meadows Garfield is an award-winning poet and author of “For Love of a Child: Stories of Adoption.“ An avid traveler, she is generally away from her homebase in Vancouver, Washington 9 months of the year, exploring the wide, wonderful world. Mother of 6 and Nonnie to 11, Lisa loves sunshine, words, good friends, and especially, Jesus.

11 thoughts on “ARE MEN UNKIND?”

  1. Many men hurt women. Many women hurt men. Men and women both hurt children. And, children hurt men and women. I've served long enough in the Church to see too much of the world's influence among our membership.

  2. The longer I am a member of the church, the more my testimony seems to subtly alter. I am a returned missionary, married in the temple, have served in pretty much every ward & stake calling there is. My testimony is strong, as is my devotion to my Savior. But WHAT I have a testimony of seems to be shrinking. I find that I no longer care much anymore about deep doctrinal issues; they rarely even enter my mind. Some days, it is all I can do to just pray earnestly, "Help me be kind. Help me love those around me. Help me carry with integrity the name of Christ, to be a good Christian."

    When I hear stories like yours (and the problem of "unkind" husbands abounds here WA also), I fall further & further back to these core beliefs – Be nice. Speak kind words. Love without judgement. In my mind (& here's where my ideas may vary from many who read this), these issues are SO much more important that the outward ones – word of wisdom, paying tithing, avoiding rated-R movies, never missing a day of church… Sure, those are good things also. But if the outward manifestations of "righteousness" become the focus, it is FAR too easy to allow the unseen poisons of unkindness & superiority take over. I have a much easier time envisioning a kind, loving person who drinks an occasional latte entering the celestial kingdom than one who never touched a drop of caffeine but was hyper-critical of his wife & kids.

  3. I always enjoy your posts, Lisa, and I love writing back-to-back with you. You're asking such good questions. At my house we pray for kindness morning and night and to "treat everyone we meet as child of God." Every FHE focuses on kindness, we talk about kindness ALL THE TIME and still we struggle. I think women are just as inclined to unkindness as men, but girls and women are usually taught to restrain that unkindness at least on some level. Too many parents subscribe to the 'boys will be boys' mentality. As a history major, I've always wondered about the generations of women who were abused by their husbands and then allowed their sons to be taught the same standard. If we want to create a kinder world we MUST teach kindness at home.

  4. I wonder if the stake president was referring to husbands seeming to neglect their wives in favor of sports, the internet, work, or other distractions from keeping their covenants. I wonder if the men are reacting unkindly to the wives unrealistic expectations. Some years ago I was in an RS presidency with a younger married woman who had finally been able to adopt a lovely little girl. This sister came to a presidency meeting rather frazzled from her day and totally upset that her husband wouldn't stay home from playing softball to care for their daughter while she went to her meeting. She was a stay at home mom, he worked to support the family. My reaction was that he deserved some recreation after working all day in a stressful environment. She could have gotten a babysitter or brought the little girl with her. I gave my two cents and got a scolding for it. SHE deserved some time off and HE should have sacrificed his softball. Wow! I guess I'm part of a different generation. Anyway, because the stake president didn't elucidate it's hard to tell what prompted his admonition to be kind. But perhaps he's hearing all kinds of things and lumped it all together.

    It's just my opinion, but it seems to me that too many sisters have thrown out traditional roles and are following the world too much. I am so thankful for my hero who goes out to slay dragons every day. I look at it as my job to make his life easier and to take care of him. When I do that he just naturally is kinder to me and takes very good care of me and my needs. Dr. Laura wrote a book call The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands that addresses that very thing. It could be eye-opening to many sisters.

    All that being said, I want you to know that we have endured severe trials in our marriage. Trials such as pornography and attempted adultery. The only thing that saved us has been applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ as the healing balm in our lives. All those qualities listed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World upon which successful marriages are built really do work.

  5. My experience does not suggest that men are more unkind than women. My theory is that church leaders target men like this because of a subconscious need to compensate for the large gender-based power differential in the church. Women have little power to make decisions and very little in the way of leadership contributions so leaders are more reactive to men who are "unkind" and tend to also pedestalize women as a way to subconsciously even things out.

  6. I've lately found myself in a similar position. In the early days of my mission, all I had the vocabulary to testify of was that God loved his children and he had a plan for us. Most days I'm back there.

  7. I don't believe that men in general are less kind than women in general. My experience is that men and women are unkind in different ways and for different reasons. It also seems like a man is less likely to complain to a priesthood leader (or anyone else for that matter) if his wife is unkind, even extremely unkind to him, unlike women who are more likely to appeal to leaders or trusted friends if they are experiencing unkindness. Also worth considering: one of the major obstacles for marriages these days is pornography. If a husband (or wife) is looking at pornography or is engaged in any other form of infidelity, he or she will often act in ways that are very unkind or downright abusive without necessarily even being aware of it.

  8. There are so many possibilities. Whatever the situation, the call of the Stake President should be something that will be heeded by giving pause for reflection and introspection about our relationships and how we treat our spouses. I can easily find ways to better my own relationship with my wife. I try to do so, but I still have a long way to go.


  9. I remember many years ago when Pres. Hinckley came to dedicate the Perth Temple. At the time I was not a member, but was dating a good Mormon girl and investigating. One thing he said stood out to me strongly: he called the people of Perth "mean"!
    For me this was somewhat of an affront as I believed all of the people he was addressing were kind, welcoming and pleasant. They had been in all of my time with them. However, the longer I've been a member, the more I can see it. We are kind, to those we know and already serve. We are welcoming, if you are the right fit or are willing to remould yourself to be so (Don't even start me on the ties issue). And we are pleasant, on the surface. But below the veneer bubbles a pool of judgement and in-group expectations. And the worst offenders are the High Priests.
    I think because we men are privileged, and because we are often placed in positions where we are told to "judge", we can tend to be more judgmental as well. Wider society tells us our opinions are more important and church culture does little to counteract this sentiment.
    So to answer your question, I believe that – yes – mean are mean.

  10. In my culture men hurl epithets and express disgust with much less restraint than do women. Women tend to only do it when they are deeply rejecting someone or something. Men tend to do it when they are rejecting, when they are simply frustrated or even as brash humor. They are raised to be much more free with it and to use it, with or without intent to wound.

    So when a man hurls epithets or expresses disgust in his communication with a woman the message he sends is not the message she receives. For her such language is clearly rejection. And, as a result he wounds when he is clueless that he has done so.

    Charity involves not only loving someone and wanting to heal rather than wound, but it involves also respecting the other's comprehension of communication instead of insisting that they are stupid not to comprehend yours.

    That's not to say that women don't also have ways of wounding that they employ without understanding the wounds they inflict. It's just to say that, both men and women must learn each others language not only to understand what the other is saying but also to be able to articulate their own thoughts and understanding in ways that do not fail to be understood by the other as preserving trust and respect in spite of whatever other feelings or frustrations are involved.

    Men's words and actions often hurt women in ways that very often men do not understand because, at least in my culture, they are raised to use words differently.

    Women's words or actions very often hurt men in ways that women do not understand, because women are, in my culture, raised to respond to situations differently than men.

    And as each wounds the other, the sense of rejection only increases the tendency to continue wounding.

    A big part of the art of a good marriage is taking the time to speak and act in ways that not only maintains respect and is loving or humorous to you but are also perceived as respectful, and loving or humorous to the other. That requires humility and patience and a willingness to change..


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