August 21, 2012 – On the whole, it would seem Christian women in the U.S. are doing just fine. When asked to evaluate their faith and the condition of their interior lives, most projected a confident, composed opinion of themselves. In this, the third of a four-part series, Barna Group explores the state of Christian women, including what they like about their lives and where they struggle.
A Fulfilled Faith
As noted in Part 2 of Barna’s State of Women series, women give their personal spirituality high marks. The vast majority say they are either extremely close (38%) or pretty close (43%) to God and say they evaluate their relationship with God on a daily basis (52%).
Such confidence continues when women were asked to describe the characteristics of their faith. Women, almost without exception, assign positive attributes to their spiritual life. Nearly three quarters (73%) of women say their faith is characterized by joy. The same can be said for spiritual freedom. Three out of four women say they experience a lot (72%) of spiritual freedom in their faith. The numbers dip slightly when it comes to feeling fulfillment in their faith—67% of women say they feel a lot of fulfillment in terms of their spiritual life.
When it comes to negative characteristics, Christian women are much less likely to admit to any of them. In fact, the numbers are almost exactly reversed as those for the positive attributes. Only 3% of women claim to feel “a lot” of fear, doubt or confusion in their faith. Only about one quarter of women claim to feel “some” of these negative emotions in connection with their faith.
A Different Kind of Sin
Churches have long taught the seven deadly sins or modern interpretations of them: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. For women, these traditional sins do not seem to be a problem; they claim instead much more “modern” struggles. In fact, when asked what they struggle with, women most often point to disorganization (50%) and inefficiency (42%).
As for the traditional sins, women are least likely to admit to lust (8%). And, against common stereotypes, women also say they rarely battle jealousy or envy—less than one in eight women (13%) admit to feeling envious often or sometimes. When it comes to other negative behaviors and attitudes, about one third (36%) admit to feeling anger, one quarter say they struggle with selfishness (25%), one in five say they are prone to excessive arguing (19%) and just over one-sixth (16%) say they can be arrogant.
Women’s Biggest Hurts
For most people, it is fairly easy to come up with the single biggest disappointment they have faced in life. And, at least when it comes to women, movies may have it right. Most Christian women point to relationships as being the cause of their most significant heartache.
The permanent loss of a relationship—the death of a loved one—was highest on women’s list of disappointments. Nearly one third (29%) say losing someone they loved was the hardest thing they have faced. For one in five women, their family or children have caused the most hurt in their life (20%). An additional one in 11 women (9%) point to a divorce or a bad marriage as the biggest disappointment in their life.
The numbers fall significantly after that. About one in twenty women say their major disappointments have come from health. Then came other relational, financial and moral disappointments. Career and faith came in last on the list, with only one in fifty women pointing to either as the cause of their biggest life disappointment.
[For David Kinnaman’s sketch of what all this means, go to the link above.]