“Leaning In” – A Christian view

19 Mar
Sheryl Sandberg - World Economic Forum Annual ...

Sheryl Sandberg (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

There has been much talk lately about work/life balance and opportunities for women in the work force.  “Leaning In” is the phrase that has become the symbol of this latest round of ideas.  It is also the title of Sheryl Sandberg‘s new book, released last week.  She is currently Facebook’s COO and a mother of two.

I have not read her book, but after watching her TED talk, it did cause me to start pondering… what does “Leaning In” look like from a Christian perspective?

What is “Leaning In?”

In her TED talk, Sandberg starts with a basic question: “Why do we have too few women leaders?”  After briefly discussing cultural differences between men and women, she has 3 points of advice for women:

1.  Sit at the table:  This means “be ambitious.”  Be bold and confident enough to sit at the table where deals are done.  Don’t be afraid to be noticed (for reasons of competence).

2.  Make your partner your real partner:  Sandberg notes that even in dual parent homes, the mother typically does twice the housework and three times more of actual child care than the father.  Her desire is for an even split of duties in the home.

3.  Don’t leave before you leave:  Sandberg has observed that some women “check out” way before their time in anticipation of getting married, or starting a family.  They don’t volunteer or strive for greater roles because they are already anticipating being gone.  Her advice?  Go for it… or, “lean in,” and you’ll have a better chance of having a job you actually want to come back to after maternity leave.

My Two Cents

Sandberg is hero to some, and a target to others.  But the one question I have in my brief encounter with the “Lean In” movement is, “Where is God?”

I thought I might take a stab at my own three points:

1.  Come to the Table

People need to understand that they are invited to a table that has much more lasting impact than the board room table.  It’s the Communion table where we are brought back into relationship with God.

Christ invites us at great personal cost: his body… broken.  His life blood… poured out in a new covenant between humans and God (See Luke 22:19-20).  And the invitation has nothing to do with how hard we work.  It has everything to do with how much God loves us.

And when it comes to women, Christ’s presence and teachings always elevates their status and lifestyle.  If you have 7 minutes to spare, check out this video segment from Dr. Ben Witherington on Christ’s impact on women’s roles.

2. Make Your Partner Your Real Partner

In short… I disagree and I agree.  I disagree that 50% is a good divider between the time mom and dad spend with kids.  I think that sets up expectations that in turn can set up disappointment.  Both mom and dad may go through seasons where one or the other might have less to give due to life circumstances.  On the other hand, there may be other seasons where the have more to give.

More simply said, I think 50% is a good average over time for two working parents, but this can’t become an excuse for one parent to bow out permanently.  There has to be agreement and accountability in a positive and loving way.

What is non-negotiable is that children need a parent 100% of the time.  We would cringe at the idea of having orphans in modern society, and we feel sympathy for single parents trying to raise kids in modern society.

But what can we call it when one working parent consistently works an 80+ hour week and comes home too exhausted to give any attention to children?  If they’re married, their spouse could be considered a single parent.  And if they’re not, I wonder if their children could be considered orphans?

I can already hear the pushback: I’m all alone and I have to work two jobs to put food on the table.  And I hear you.  I pray for you… and I pray for your children.

That’s why God both encourages and cautions us before we are in a position to become parents:

“This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Matt 19:5–6 NLT)

We enter marriage too lightly (or not at all)… and we leave it even more so.  Make your husband/wife your partner… your real partner… through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer… just like God planned.

3.  Don’t leave (God)… period!

Sandberg’s encouragement is to “lean in.”  To be fully present before taking a leave of absence.

But here’s a consideration.  When we “lean in” in one area, we have to “lean out” in others in order to balance.  And there are a myriad of decisions that we must make.

  • If I lean into work, do I have to lean out of parenting?
  • If I lean into my children, do I have to lean out of society?
  • If I lean into something other than the “C-level” job, do I have to lean out of self-esteem and worth?

Christ makes it much more simple than that.  He says that if we lean in… fully in… to one thing, then everything else will be taken care of:

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matt 6:33 NLT)

Seeking balance without seeking the Kingdom… above ALL else, will lead to a lot of leaning in, and leaning out.

And all that leaning in and leaning out… that’s not true living.  That’s the Hokey-Pokey!

Lean into the Kingdom… and live well!

What are your thougths on the “Lean In” movement?  What else do you consider when trying to find balance?

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Group Discussion


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