It seems we are endlessly discussing a woman's behavior in the workplace. Should a woman "act like a man" to ensure she exerts authority when she leads and works? Or should she use her softer, more feminine side to get what she wants? Or what about a combination of both—a sort of strength and femininity holding hands? No matter what she does the stereotypes abound: Assertive? Too bossy. Feminine? Too weak.

I remember a co-worker recounting advice upon being hired to a marketing company full of men. Her mentor, a successful woman herself, saw her gender as an advantage in her field. "Never stop acting like a woman," she told her. And it stuck with her. Many years after this initial conversation, she led with tenacity and femininity in meetings, client sessions, and decision-making.

In a Washington Post article earlier this year, law professor Joan C. Williams addressed the dichotomy of expectations for working women and brought up a similar suggestion. After interviewing 127 successful women, she found that while they now fill jobs that require "masculine tendencies", women are still expected to be feminine. Enter the concept of gender judo:

Powerful women often take feminine stereotypes that can hold women back — the selfless mother and the dutiful daughter, for example — and use those stereotypes to propel themselves forward. I call it gender judo. The martial art of judo, which means "gentle way" in Japanese, focuses on using your opponent's momentum to overpower him.

Williams calls it gender judo. I'm tempted to just call it manipulation (which we all know is not a new tool in a woman's toolbox). I'm glad to see women use their femininity to their advantage, but I'd rather see a healthier, more straightforward approach, where women can act like themselves and still work to productively, effectively influence the people they work with.

The Bible presents us a clearer way, reminding us that every part of the Body is needed in order for the church to function (1 Cor. 12:27). Under this model, there is no need for any of us to hold back who we are as male or female. Because we bear the image of God, our femininity matters. So does our strength.

We are learning that the female presence in work, home, and church is a benefit to all of us, and women and men find themselves working together for the Kingdom in new ways.

As a complementarian, I hold to the teaching that God has a good design for us as women by providing us with unique roles to use our gifting in the home and church. We are immensely useful in a variety of ministry settings, and many times those settings place us directly in a position where we have to use our influence in decision-making.

We have been hearing for a while now how valuable women are to the business world. We have been hearing about how important it is for women to have a seat at the table, often one previously filled by white, middle-class men. If we believe that men and women are equal, they should be treated as such. So what does this look like in the church for someone who believes that this equality doesn't necessitate the same function? Does gender judo have a place?

At one time, complementarian stereotypes said women were relegated to kitchens, nurseries, and the hospitality table. Gender judo would have been out of the question. But this could not be further from the truth. It is the very perspective and influence that makes a woman different than her male counterparts that brings necessary diversity to a local body. While women are forging ahead in the marketplace, using their gifts and influence, they can always find a home in their local church, as well.

Of course, it might look different than the world's model of manipulation, but that doesn't change the value that women bring to the church. As believers, we should never seek to "overpower" our opponents, male or female. But we can voice our opinions with grace and humility regardless of our gender.

With so many ideas, it is important to sift them through the sieve of God's word and not simply take them at face value. Gender judo has value in business and in the church, it just looks differently when squared with God's word.

Do you remember Abigail? She isn't talked about much, but she played a very important, though short, role in the Old Testament narrative. She was married to a wicked man named Nabal. David sent his men to find favor with Nabal. Instead of welcoming them, he rebuffed them, much to David's chagrin. When Abigail heard of this, she immediately took action and went on her way to appeal to David to relent of his planned attack on her husband and his men (1 Sam. 25).

Her influence worked. David softened to her kindness and turned from attacking them. You could say she practiced gender judo, but more importantly, she exercised her influence without diminishing David's authority as the king of Israel. She didn't shrink back one bit, but she knew when and how to speak to make a difference.

As Christian women we shouldn't want to overpower men anymore than we wouldn't want them to overpower us. Like Abigail, our femininity is not meant to make us doormats or weak. It makes us strong. It's how God intended it to work.