Weakness in Women (The Cons) ~ The Privilege of Being a Woman, Alice von Hildebrand


Painting by Mary E. Harding, 1916

by Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman

Pros of Weakness in Women is here.


“Weak” can refer to what is fragile, delicate, breakable, vulnerable, sensitive. Women are more vulnerable than men and this vulnerability can render them helpless and irritable.

They are usually less capable than men to fend for themselves. How often the Bible reminds us of the duty to care for widows. Widowers are not mentioned.

That women are in this sense weaker than men is exemplified by female tears. If all the tears shed by women had been collected since the beginning of the world, they would compete with the sea. The tears shed by men might fill a pond of modest size.

Not only do they cry much more than men, but moreover, they are not ashamed of their tears, whereas there are men who would rather die than be tearful. More will be said about this later.

Because of “the meld of heart and mind” which characterizes women, they are more likely to be wounded than men, whose power of abstraction often shields them from negative feelings.

Women have much less control over their emotions; they usually have greater sensitivity, they are more intuitive. Their bodies are mirrors of their psyche and seem to be more closely connected than in men.

This innate trait—when not properly guided—may lead them to yield to seduction and to some serious moral weaknesses, for example, partisanship, subjectivism in judging situations and persons.

More than men, women are likely to be attracted by magic. This may take the form of spiritism, tarot cards, or Ouija boards. Fortune-tellers are often women.

This might be another point Saint Peter and Saint Augustine had in mind when they called women “the weaker sex.” Women take their feelings much more seriously than men do, and so they have a tendency to dwell upon them and fall into self-centeredness. They are more likely than men to be romantic and sentimental (let us think of  Madame Bovary), to become prey to an unhealthy exaltation, to escape into the world of their dreams, and to be dominated by their imagination and their fancy.

Throughout her autobiography, Saint Teresa of Avila repeatedly refers to the dangers menacing the spiritual life of “the weak sex”: emotionalism, dreaming, illusions, self-centeredness. She repeatedly stresses how much they are in need of guidance.

Two great spiritual directors, Saint Francis of Sales and Dom Colomba Marmion, emphasize the fact that “however intellectual or enlightened a woman may be, God, according to the ordinary rulings of His providence, wills her to be directed by a man who is His minister.”‘

This is a theme which keeps recurring in his spiritual letters. Women need men whose mission is to help them to channel their emotions, to distinguish between those that are valid and those that are tainted by irrationality, those which are legitimate and those which are illegitimate.

But Saint Teresa—echoing Saint Peter Alcantara —also writes that more women than men receive extraordinary graces, that they are more receptive to God’s voice and particularly capable of heroic donation when their heart is purified.

The more privileged they are, the more they need guidance. Saint Teresa had the wisdom of always turning to wise and holy spiritual directors to help her discern the validity of her mystical experiences.

Without such guidance or grace woman may be weak enough to misuse one of her great gifts, her beauty, to her own destruction and that of others.

The prostitute (the most tragic of women) has mastered the sad art of seduction. She knows which buttons to press to catch a client. Since original sin, lust has entered into the human heart and, unless a person is protected by grace and a faithful life of prayer, it is, alas, true that most human beings will fall into the nets of coarse sexual attraction.

What is so tragic about this is that the beauty of the divine plan for the relations between men and women is thereby trampled upon and badly stained. It is indeed a shameful thing to use and abuse another human being.

Moreover, sexual sins disgrace man’s soul in a way that cannot be understood when our conception of this mysterious sphere is purely biological.

On the other hand, it is inconceivable for anyone to fall into sexual depravity (another word for filth) if he remains aware that God sees him at all times. There are deeds that can only be accomplished in darkness.

The master psychologist Dostoevsky has powerfully depicted in The Brothers Karamazov how an unfortunate woman called Gruchenka played on the keyboard of her sexual attraction in order to bring poor Dmitri into her nets. It is a typical cat-and-mouse game.

Literature abounds with such examples, and one cannot help but feel sorry for the foolishness of the “strong sex” (as illustrated in Gogol’s powerful novel Taras Bulba).

But it is not only women who can seduce men. Men can also seduce women. And even though generalization is risky, we are tempted to say that women are usually brought to their fall, not so much because of lust, but because of the promise of eternal love, or because they are told that their lover will kill himself if she does not yield to his wishes, or because of sheer vanity, or because they desperately want “to be wanted” and protected.

How sweet it is to hear, “I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you are.” “You are the only one who has ever touched my heart.”

The drama of Faust and Margarete comes to mind. It is so terribly tragic that when Margarete finds herself pregnant, abandoned, and in a desperate situation, she utters the words: “It was so good; it was so beautiful.”

She nurtured the illusion that the “great” man who conquered her actually loved her and, when her eyes opened, she was threatened by despair.

Finally, more than men, women speak about their aches and pains. When sick, men may grumble but dislike making of their discomfort the topic of conversation. Usually women grieve more than men and worry about possible dangers before they become actual. If they yield to this tendency, their behavior can easily become irrational.

Women are more likely than men to panic when they face a practical problem. The latter feel challenged and often enjoy tackling technological difficulties; they want to find solutions to problems.

Men usually refuse to think about problems until they actually take place and they can do something about them. They shun talking about things which they cannot change or influence.

On the other hand, women—more than men —grasp intuitively the meaning and value of suffering. Chesterton claims that men are more pleasure-seeking than women.

A friend of my husband who, for many years, was chaplain for both monks and nuns, told him that the latter were much more willing to make sacrifices over and above what was strictly commanded by the rule.

In all this, no intelligent woman can find ground for offense. As a matter of fact, to be reminded of one’s weakness is, from a supernatural point of view, a grace.

How many mistakes could we all have avoided if we had reminded ourselves that without God’s help we can do nothing? How many blunders do we make because we act impulsively and overlook our weaknesses and limitations?

How many sins, faults, mistakes, and stupidities can be traced back to the fact that their perpetrator did not realize (or did not want to realize) how weak he was and did not ask for advice?

Instead of being offended when reminded of their weakness, supernaturally motivated women are grateful. To be conscious of one’s weakness and to trust in God’s help is the way to authentic strength and victory.

This has been etched admirably by Saint Paul when he wrote: “It is when I am weak that I am strong.”

In the liturgy dedicated to Saint Agnes—a young maid who suffered martyrdom —the Church writes: “O God who chooses what is feeble in the world” (“qui infirma mundi eligis…”).

A few days after the feast of Saint Agnes, the Church celebrates another young female saint: Dorothy, virgin and martyr.

Dom Gueranger comments, “The religion of Christ alone can produce in timid women, like the saint of today, an energy which at times surpasses that of the most valiant martyrs among men. Thus does our Lord glorify His infinite power, by crushing Satan’s head with what is by nature so weak.”

Once again, the key to their victory over their innate “weakness” is the supernatural.

How many in marriage love each other selfishly, show themselves demanding, moody, eager to receive, but never generous in giving. There is so much selfishness in certain families even when they are very closely united.
The remedy is to supernaturalize the affections; to pass as quickly as possible from passionate love to virtuous love and to make conjugal love a permanent exercise of the theological virtue of charity. -Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus S.J., 1950’s

July, Month of the Precious Blood is around the corner!

Package Special! Precious Blood Chaplet & Precious Blood Prayer Book~ Wire-Wrapped, Beautiful and Durable! ~ Prayer Card Included. Available here.

Precious Blood and Prayer Pamphlet only available here.

This devotion consists of seven mysteries in which you meditate on the seven principal shedding of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. The Chaplet is divided into 7 groups, each containing 33 beads in honor of the 33 years of the life of Jesus.
This is a wonderful little prayer book that I have used all through my married life. The prayers are beautiful and the promises wonderful!
Here are some titles of prayers:
-Our Lady of the House Prayer
-Memorare to Jesus, Mary, Joseph
-Prayer for Choosing a State in Life
-Act of Consecration to the Precious Blood and the Blessed Virgin for Children
-Memorare to St. Joseph (and many other beautiful prayers to that Glorious Saint)
-A Prayer in time of Affliction, Wars, Pestilence, etc.
**Beautiful Prayers to many Saints!


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