Should Women Control Their Emotions?

From the time they are born, little boys are told repeatedly to suppress their male nature. Young men are told to not hit their sisters, to not throw rocks, punch walls, nose-dive from on top of dressers. They are told to behave, and act like gentlemen, when in fact, acting like a man to a little boy is really all about how much testosterone he can expend in a given hour.

Little boys are repeatedly told to control themselves and to channel sexual aggression into other more “constructive” areas, like sports. While girls, on the there hand, are coddled and told that it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel (everything), it’s okay to be in touch with every emotion they experience. In the era following feminism, as well as a culture obsessed with the discussion of feelings, little girls have grown up to think nothing less.

Women begin to believe that crying is customary–that our ability to conjure up tears at the drop of a hat, for say a police officer who caught us speeding a mere 10 miles over the speed limit, is a secret weapon we can employ when necessary. We begin to believe that our emotions are not only acceptable, but womanly. Heck, we think being emotional is our right.

The problem, however, is that while men are being told to suppress their natural instincts, women are being told the opposite. But, should women control their emotions? On the one hand, men are taught to not give in, whereas women are often told, sure, give in whenever you want. Feel free to feel everything and then act emotionally.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that women should, in any way, become emotionless robots devoid of the essence that makes us women. What I am saying, however, is that the more women are taught to give into their emotions, the less happy they become. Letting one’s emotions run wild is not the path to emotional fulfillment. In fact, it might result in the opposite occurring: an unhappy life.

Dennis Prager, columnist and radio show host, puts it this way:

Consequently, the women many of these girls grew into lacked the ability to control their natures, to control their emotions, or their moods, and therefore lacked the facility to engage in the self-control necessary for happiness and the avoidance of depression.

When our emotions control us, we are very often unable to control anything else. We are tossed to and fro, from one passing emotion to another, never certain of where we might land. When women do not have control of their emotions, they are much more likely to find everyday situations cause for sadness. What a man could potentially reason his way out of, a woman sometimes easily succumbs to.

Men are rarely described as moody, for instance. I doubt many men sneak off at work to cry alone in a bathroom stall. But ask a woman if she has ever been called moody. Ask a woman if she has held back tears in her place of work. Most will say yes and on more than one occasion.

More than that, society rarely tolerates a hot-headed, quick-tempered man. We call him a jerk, but a weepy, emotional-roller-coaster-of-a-woman is usually not given a second thought. “Oh, she’s just a woman…”

I’m not saying that women lack critical thinking skills or that all women are emotional minefields. What I am saying though, is that more and more women have begun to view their decisions subjectively instead of objectively. They internalize everything, which often appears in an outward emotional display, whether appropriate or not, whether constructive or not.

Women, just like men, need to be taught from a young age that their inherent nature, which leans towards the emotional, is not always acceptable. Just as men must learn as boys, that their aggression and physical nature, must be directed towards more constructive areas. Woman have suffered a great deal for not learning to understand, and yet balance their own nature.

Emotions are a beautiful thing and so are women. We simply need to have a balance of the two.

Do you agree or disagree? Do you think women tend to be too emotional? Do you think this has adversely affected women?

Pssssst- If you like this post, you may be interested in checking out more Wednesday He Said/She Said topics, where I discuss all things related to men and women.

24 thoughts on “Should Women Control Their Emotions?”

  1. I see this as more of an individual thing, rather than a gender thing. On one hand, I think that a person needs to have self-control over his or her emotions. I also agree that some women embrace their “tempers” or “moodiness.” For these women, their identities come from how they emote (ex: “this is just the way I am”), rather than finding freedom and identity in Christ.

    Some even use their emotions to manipulate others. For them, their identities come from having power and control over others, rather than drawing power from Christ and trusting his plan and ability to change people.

    On the other hand, I think that the way society associates women with moodiness is used as a tool to shame women. For every person you know that flies off the handle with her moods, how many others do you know that are too fearful to emote, or to even speak up? They smile and comply- staying quiet out of fear and shame because they if they expressed themselves, even politely, they might get thrown in the “moody” boat with the rest. They don’t express their emotions, and it eats them from within. For them, their identities come from the way they are perceived, or using Christian terms, “the fear of man.” (And in many instances, a fear of woman.) The good news for these women is that they, too, can find their freedom in Christ because there is no fear in his perfect love.

    Emotions are good and healthy, and expressing those emotions are good and healthy. But I don’t think focusing on gender or emotion solves anything when the issue varies by individual. The answer is Christ.

    1. Jo, I agree with you that being (or not being) overly emotional should be evaluated on a case by case basis. I certainly don’t think all women are emotional. I state that in the post, in fact. But, of course, for the purposes of this topic I make some generalizations about women as a whole. I think more women tend to be overly emotional, but not that ll women are.

      I love what you said about finding their identity in Christ, finding their freedom in Him. I couldn’t agree more. However, I am also writing about women in general here, not just Christian women. I think this is a topic that affects all women and thus, our culture as a whole, not just women who know Jesus. But of course, women who are yet to know Jesus can find Him and find freedom too.

  2. wow. Commenting on this post feels a bit like playing “hot potato” with a live grenade….

    Men (in general) are either emotionally stonewalled – through upbringing, society, or trauma
    Women (again, in general) are emotionally… um, naked. Out there. “Because I’m a woman, that’s why!” Using anger, tears, or other strong emotions to manipulate and bully their way through life.

    And the men who are not stonewalled? Who freely share what/how they feel? They’re “wimpy” or womanly or called “gay”. And woman complain about both!

    I dunno. I think woman need to learn how to control their emotions. I really do. And just as much I think it’s important that guys be able to understand the emotions they feel (without shame). And both women and men need to learn how to display and/or release emotion, when its proper to do so, not when emotions are running strong.

    I’m tempted to delete this… partly because I’m afraid it makes no sense… and partly I don’t want to be the one holding the grenade when it goes off. Anyone wanna play catch? :)

    1. “And both women and men need to learn how to display and/or release emotion, when its proper to do so, not when emotions are running strong.” That actually does make sense, Andrew. No worries, the grenade’s a dud. ;-)

    2. Andrew, great comment! I think you nailed it by saying that just as women need to control their emotions, men need to learn how to be in touch with those emotions. Both sexes have different and unique struggles. Neither of us are free from the specific natures related to our gender. We simply need to learn how to control and use those natures in a way that is God-honoring and worthwhile.

      I’m glad you didn’t hit delete!

    3. I believe OP and this poster have it right. Society has dictates for men and women, and modern ideologies sort of mix things up, confusing everyone while allowing for more personal freedom.

      Most of my childhood featured incredibly emotionally volatile women, yet I’ve met handfuls…including my wife…who are the opposite. Generally the men I’ve known are more laid back, and I remember calling some volatile guys “effeminate” growing up because they couldn’t control their emotions.

      I think all urges on both sides of gender need some self restraint. One finds this throughout the New Testament, and in many other religious expressions. But stifling *every* impulse and emotion is unhealthy, and emotions tend to exist for a reason… proper channeling is key. Increasingly, I tend to label people, especially adults, who can’t control their reactions to situations “animalistic.” When I’m feeling particularly offended, “subhuman.”

      Hey, how many seconds were left on this grena-

  3. I completely agree with Jo_of_TSN. I think the main problem is the enormous discrepancy that exists between genders and what they are told to be. I think “moodiness” is less a “woman” thing, and more a personality thing. It saddens me that on both sides there are people who are made to feel abnormal– women who would rather not talk about feelings all the time, and men who are told that their emotions aren’t valid.

    You make a lot of interesting points. Do a lot of people in our culture today need to learn to grow up and take control of their own feelings and happiness? Certainly. I’m probably one of them. But, as you point out, it’s a balance– some women probably force themselves to be strong too often, and that’s not healthy either.

    1. Karin, I agree that there are many discrepancies between men and women in terms of identity. What men “should” be and women “should” be is radically different today than 40 years ago. I wish more women felt balanced in their emotions and more men felt that they could express their emotions.

      You bring up an interesting point too, in that some women feel the need to be “strong” and hold it all together. This, I think, is another negative side effect of feminism. if women hear they don’t need a man and that they are the same as men. Well, then they begin to think that must mean acting “strong.” It is an interesting phenomena. Certainly worthy of its own blog post.

  4. I think as a society we tend to be way more of accepting of emotions than I believe is correct. It’s important to point out that emotions are separate from actions, and I think that’s where we fall short. Emotional outbursts are normally justified simply by pointing out the strength and the nature of the emotion.

  5. Just yesterday I heard an idiot on the Laura Ingraham show, who has created a website to faciliate the finding of someone to have an affair with, defend his actions as something that is PRO family. I’m utterly baffled at this man and the rationalization he is living under, but he said something in explanation about having a way to yield to urges….

    And therein is the key. As a parent, it is my job to teach my children that it is not always okay, or wise, to yield to an urge. Just because you have an urge, doesn’t mean you get to act on it. There are other people in this world, and your actions affect them. Just because you have the urge to steal a candy bar, doesn’t mean you get to. Just because you want to have a car someone else owns, doesn’t mean you get to just take it.

    I view this situation with emotions the same way. I grew up in a home where ‘female emotions’ were not allowed and have spent the last decade or so trying to unlearn the things drilled into my subconscious. It is okay to feel. And YET! Feelings can be wrong. They just can. While I’m allowing myself to acknowledge emotion and simply feel, that does not mean to get to vent, submit to the URGE, of overwhelming emotion.

    There is a time and a place.

    I hate how my insides cringe when I hear phrases such as “like a woman”. Because I’ve grown up with the preconceived notion that that is a bad thing. It isn’t. It shouldn’t be viewed that way. But women who use it as another manipulative tool in their arsenal have spoiled it for the rest of us, so that to suddenly be incredibly emotional can make one feel ridiculous, silly, foolish.

    I think the wisdom of the Bible is apropos here. Proverbs 29:11: A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.

  6. I think that most people don’t understand the purpose and function of emotions in our lives. Every emotion is connected to a corresponding emotional need….just like physical sensations are connected to physical needs. When my body is hungry, it tells me I need food. When my body is tired, it tells me I need sleep. When I feel lonely, my heart is telling me that I need connection and intimacy. When I am afraid, I need a sense of safety. When I am angry, it shows me what I value or perhaps that there has been an injustice.

    When anyone tries to stifle or control their emotions, they run the risk of not recognizing valid needs and getting them met. This will create more unmet needs, and consequently more potentially unmanageable emotions. Feeling our hearts means that we are alive. If both men and women learn how to pay attention to their emotions in order to get their needs met, it can actually increase the emotional intimacy and quality of our relationships.

    1. I don’t think this is an appropriate response to those who are more emotional. I think that there should be control of one’s self because there is a time and place for everything but there is no way that there should be a blanket statement like that. “Crybabies” are the ones that weep for humanity. “Crybabies” are the ones that can be empathetic towards others. I wish I was more of a “crybaby” sometimes and not so quick to be frustrated that I want/need to cry. You can say that you don’t like crying in public or at all but please don’t judge those who do.

  7. There *has* to be a healthy balance. Otherwise, you end up with one who explodes over the slightest thing, and one who bottles everything up in hopes of “being strong,” only to discover that she’s only as strong as the cap she keeps on her emotional volcano…which then erupts with greater fury than the explosions of the first type. Granted, both of those are stereotypes of the extremes, but then, as my dad always said, stereotypes exist for a reason.

    My one five-year-old, the older twin, is very bright, and has for years had trouble controlling her frustrations when she can’t communicate what she needs/wants/whatever because she simply doesn’t have the words. A year of developmental therapy helped immensely, but she still has times that she screams in frustration because she can’t do something exactly the way she wants.

    We’re trying to teach her to control her anger and frustration. It’s a skill she needs in dealing with her sisters; it’s a skill she’ll need throughout life.

    The tricky thing is to teach that her emotions are valid and not stupid, while at the same time teaching her how to correctly control them, rather than allow them to control her.

    I’m an extremely emotional person by nature, and maintaining control over my emotions is sometimes hard, but necessary. I feel deeply and quickly, and even if the feelings don’t match up with the facts, the feelings are where I’m living. It’s how I handle the feelings that is the issue. When I watched my very old kitty gimping as she walked across the downstairs, I was reminded that she’s over 14 and her days are numbered. It’s a fact of life. It still made me sad. I couldn’t stop the tears and went to my husband for comfort. My children saw. They wanted to know why I was crying. While it’s difficult to explain to five- and six-year-olds that I’m sad because I know my kitty is dying, on the other hand, it’s going to help prepare them for when Po does eventually pass away.

    We’re trying to teach that there are times when expressing emotions is okay, tears are okay, anger is okay. And there are times when it’s not–like when you’re frustrated because you can’t write an S, or can’t zip your coat, or can’t draw what you want, or when you want to do something yourself and have trouble and yet refuse to ask for help.

    1. Great point! I certainly am not advocating that women be made to feel that their emotions are invalid. No way.

      I want my daughter to be able to freely communicate her emotions. What I don’t want is her emotions to control her. My job is to help her understand the balance between feel and then acting. What do we do with our emotions? Do we allow them to rule us or do we express them in a healthy way?

      You said: “The tricky thing is to teach that her emotions are valid and not stupid, while at the same time teaching her how to correctly control them, rather than allow them to control her.”

      it is tricky, but that is the goal.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I know too many women who drown in their emotions, unable to control them, so they’re at the mercy of their ever-changing lives. Throw in hormones wavering on a monthly basis, and it’s just a downward spiral into a pit of depression. I didn’t have any guidance on how to deal with emotions growing up, except for talking/crying about a situation or burying it down deep. Now I’m dealing with the repercussions from that. It’s hard to change how you react to certain situations, when your whole life you’ve just let the emotions flow.

    1. Chelsea, well said. You said emotional women are at the mercy of their emotions. I think that is so true and so wise. They have no control, only emotional displays that can lead to destructive relationships, work environments, etc.

      Like you, I’m still learning what the right balance is too, since I grew up not really showing my emotions. I think it’s a lesson most women need to learn, hopefully sooner than later.

  9. Is it bad that I said “Amen” out loud while reading this?

    It might not be P.C., but I agree with you 100%. I’m facing the reality of a 4 year old little girl ruled by her emotions and while I want to be sensitive to her feminine nature I want her to be in control of her emotions, not vice versa.

    Very well said. Great post.

  10. Nicole, I think you raise a lot of great points about the need for some greater self control in the area of emotions. For the record, I am one of those girls who has a LOT of emotions. (If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband. ;) ) So this is often an area of challenge for me.

    Something I was thinking about while reading this post and a few of the comments is that maybe we need to define what it looks like for a person to be “in control” of their emotions. In Ephesians 4:26 it says “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

    From that I think we can definitely say that God expects us to have emotions, even incredibly strong ones at times. We see the same thing all over the Psalms, in the form of people crying out to God for help, consolation, renewed joy, and a lot of other things.This passage discusses anger, but I would argue that some of the same principles from it can be applied to other strong emotions that have the potential to lead to destruction. It seems like God even expects us to have to be careful about how our strongest of emotions are dealt with: to not delay in addressing them and to guard against the temptation to sin as a result of them.

    I would say that there are no emotions that are inherently wrong to feel (at least God’s word specifically says that it is okay for us to feel anger), but we need to be careful not to let the devil get an inroad to how we deal with those feelings.

    So, maybe having self-control in the area of emotions starts first with recognizing that you are feeling a certain way and agreeing to not let it breed destruction as you address it. (Definitely an area that I can use some growing in!) I grew up in a very emotionally volatile family situation, but over the last few years God has revealed some of the destructive things that I have let my emotions lead to.

    In particular, I know I need to watch out for lies that Satan tries to get in there about who God is and who I am in Christ. I need to watch out for the interests of others when I am sharing strong emotions–that my sharing with them isn’t going to be hurtful or accusatory if there is anger towards them or a situation that involves that person. I need to watch out for the temptation to gossip or slander another person and that I maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. I also need to remember that no matter what I am feeling, that I have Savior who understands this life fully and who can handle it when I feel angry, sad, alone, fearful, confused, or anything else because He is bigger than all of it. He’s not going anywhere, regardless of my emotions. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons that I follow Jesus–He doesn’t think that I’m too much to handle, and praise God for that!

  11. Interesting post. I got much more in touch with my emotions when I became a Christian- I went from crying every couple of years to at least once a month now! But I see it as a good thing as before I just bottled everything up.

    1. Louise, I think, as some other commenters, touched on, women can be on either end of the spectrum. Overly-emotional or emotionally shut down or stilted. I think either extreme is harmful. I’m glad you have been able to emotionally open up more. A good balance is key.

  12. My theory is that men and women were meant to balance each other out. If men were left to rule the earth without a woman in existence, they would scorch the earth while fighting pointless wars (most likely for the sake of their manhood.) But if women were left to rule, we would be knocked down from the top of the food chain as it seems to me that most of us lack the amount of aggression and hostility that men so righteously possess. Are women emotional? Heck yeah we are. It’s necessary for it to be that way for the sake of human kind!

    So what do we do about this being “too emotional” stuff? When it comes to competing with the male species, we do need to get ourselves in check and understand that there is a time and a place. Let’s face it. It’s a man’s world. We have to make them believe that. Otherwise, they’d commit genocide against woman kind just to relieve a potential threat. (When would a woman with bent-up emotions ever even consider the genocide of an entire people? No, she would think about those poor innocent kids..) Like I said, it is necessary for women to be emotional if we want to live in an empathetic world. After all, it is women who teach us proper etiquette and if a man taught you, you know a woman taught him. Men are animals. We make them feel human because we make them realize that just because something satisfies, it doesn’t mean that you’ve found happiness. Charlie Sheen: Case and point.

    Do the world a favor and keep feeling. Just remember: THERE’S A TIME AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING.

  13. Coddled? Coddled?! Women are repeatedly told to “be nice”, “be polite”, “don’t hurt others’ feelings”, “put the feelings and desires of others first” no matter what. We are raised to subvert our feelings and our goals because what the men in our lives want is more important. But then again I was raised by mid-western bible thumpers. The women I know do control their emotions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *