“Men should be very manly and women very womanly” / “For Life” magazine no. 3 – Fall 2014

Excerpts from an interview with Fr. Constantin Coman originally published in Familia Ortodoxa magazine

The Spouses’ Different and Specific Vocations

I have come to the conclusion that there is a deep and specific man’s vocation and contribution to the family. It manifests itself by leadership, assuming responsibility.

I’d say man has the gift of leadership, which should not mean worldly tyranny, but a better self-possession he has compared to woman. (Unfortunately, this gift is not exercised and improved – this is another problem.) That is why the woman is drawn to him: she is looking for support in him, hoping he can master any situation. But, most of the times, the man doesn’t fulfill the woman’s expectations exactly because he has not worked on his gift of self-mastery and self-possession.

Yet, I believe this is man’s natural vocation. And a woman’s specific vocation is to submit to the man. She is submissive by nature. It is a great gift and it implies a lot of strength. It’s not easy to submit, to obey the man. But man is tempted to give up his calling, because leadership is hard.

Responsibility is the most difficult thing. You need to take decisions. Surely, you won’t do that arbitrarily or abusively, you won’t decide in a selfish way, you need to take the other into account.

The highest and most natural form of support for your decision is your love for the other. Therefore, your decision should reflect your readiness to sacrifice for the other. It doesn’t mean the decision is not yours. And the woman could thus get exactly what she has wished for, but in a more generous manner, as a gift from man, not as his simply meeting her demands.

This is the way to accomplish love: man needs to sacrifice himself when he takes the decision. He will not decide selfishly, in his own interest, but lovingly, as a gift to the woman. Thus, woman will receive much more than she could get by requests, nagging and fights. But, for man to be so, to be a mature person who assumes his decision and takes responsibility, he should be very good, spiritually developed and very mature, which is rare nowadays.

Self-mastery as measure for maturity

The most vulnerable way a man manifests his lack of self-mastery is through his body, obviously, in his relationship with his wife. Then the wife, who expects him to be a self-mastered man, realizes he is actually mastered by his own bodily impulses.

This is how man loses the test in the woman’s eyes. She may realize this or not. She may express it or not. No matter what, deep inside, he will lose ground in front of her. He is not the man she expected him to be, because he has lost test after test on the vulnerable ground of bodily self-mastery.

I’m not speaking from books. I’m telling you from my experience as a confessor and spiritual mentor. The man who doesn’t pass the self-mastery test – I’m referring to his bodily relationship with the woman, to succumbing to gluttony, sleepiness and others – proves to his woman that he is unaccomplished and becomes the cause of his woman’s degradation.

The child is a great gift

First of all, the family should welcome the baby. They should welcome it when God gives it. It’s very important! They should not plan too much, at least not the first child. Certainly, it would be best not to plan any of their children, but it’s essential not to plan the first one: whenever God gives it! Because there is great purpose here, in the first-born, which, as it is written, belongs to God (Exodus, 34:19). Everybody can see that for themselves. I did: families who restrict to one child will “lose” that child one way or another. God forbid of tragic situations, I have seen those as well! 

The child is a great gift, but it also helps the couple, because the tension between the two gets sublimated in the third, who is the expression of their union. Because the child expresses the parents’ union. It is a great gift. Unfortunately, we give birth to just a few children today. The context has also become too complicated. Now mothers have to go to work… Everybody is proud to have just one child. Others pride themselves with two children, they think they are wise.

I believe they are not. At least three children means wisdom, because there is a balance between children. Besides, we do have a duty to carry on the humankind. We were called into being as a gift and and we are called to give birth in turn. There are things more profound than we can imagine, and everything falls into place if man is aware of his place, his position in the world and his calling – towards God, towards people and the whole world.

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