Tag Archives: Spiritual Leader

Courting rules: how to respect a Christian man in the style of Ephesians 5

I have been thinking a lot about Christian women and respect lately, and reflecting over some of the things that I have experienced with different ones that either worked or did not work. Unfortunately, it is crunch time at work, so I might not be completely coherent in this post, but I thought I would write something out anyway.

There are times when the Bible suggests a way that Christians ought to behave, and one of those cases has to do with wives giving respect to husbands in the marriage:

Ephesians 5:21-33:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

26 to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—

30 for we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

I think it’s important for us to think about how to implement the specification that the Bible sets out for men and women in marriage. The Bible sometimes sets out rules and goals for expected behaviors, which become moral obligations for anyone for follows Christ. It is up to us to convince ourselves through study that the Bible has authority to speak to us. And it is also up to us to decide the most effective way to achieve the goals that the Bible sets out. This post proposes some tips for women who want to learn how to respect men, based on my experiences of what makes me feel respected as a man. I think this is beneficial for single women, as well, because it allows them to arouse the interest of a man by performing good actions.

A bit about me

There are some things you need to know about me before we can talk about what what women do to me that causes me to feel respected.

Here are some things that I want to accomplish:

  • Be able to have a stay at home mother to raise our children so that they will know God, be moral and achieve great things for God in areas that matter
  • Be able to fix the problem of anti-intellectualism in the church by training more and more Christians in apologetics and worldview, including politics, economics, etc.
  • Be able to have a presence at the university, e.g. – by being a Christian professor, or by supporting Christian scholars, or by sponsoring Christian scholars to speak and debate at the university
  • Be able to speak, write or teach about apologetics and worldview to the general public, for example people who read my blog or my co-workers, so that they either learn how to do it, or become more respectful of Christianity and its founder
I am actually working on all of those things, and many of the decisions and sacrifices that I’ve made so far have been to achieve those things at a higher level.

Things that women do that make me feel respected

1. Work

The first thing that really works is listening. I really feel respected when a woman listens to me explain my thoughts and feelings. This is especially true when I am talking about my work and my work day. When it comes to my work, I feel respected when a woman listens to me explain what I am doing. This allows her to be able to support me more because she understands what I am saying when I talk with terms like “unit tests”, “web services”, “source code repository”, etc. The more time she invests in understanding software engineering (what I do for money), the more supported I will feel. I feel a lot better making sacrifices (studying hard things, working weekends, volunteering at work) when those sacrifices are understood, encouraged and supported. For example, I felt respected recently when I was working on the weekend and could not speak to a lady I really wanted to speak to. Instead of getting upset about my absence, she started making suggestions on how I could be more effective at work, by bringing healthy food so I don’t go to the vending machine or my co-workers’ candy dishes, by asking me about my progress every few hours. I feel respected when I can talk about my work and then be encouraged and supported in it.

2. Plan

Another area that is important to talk about is my plan. I like it when I can tell a woman the specific experiences that I had that cause me to have the plan that I have. For example, my struggles getting apologetics into the churches that I’ve attended have really soured me on church leaders. Another thing I like to talk about are the Christian scholars who are my role models, and how I try to emulate them, and I want my children to emulate them, too. One lady I was speaking to has been studying areas that I care about on her own through books, lectures and debates and then going out into the world and engaging with the people around her. Sometimes just a few people, and sometimes with large groups. Recently she told me that she would like to start a group in her church to study useful books with them. This made me feel very respected. My goals matter to her, and she is trying to help with them on her own initiative, and with her own strategies. Note that women who want to respect men may find that it is useful to learn certain skills in order to be more effective at helping men with their plans. For example, she might study investing and start investing her own money, or she might study science apologetics and then engage her co-workers and friends with scientific arguments for Christian theism. She should find out what areas matter to him with respect to serving God and then come alongside him and help him.

3. Roles

A final area that is important is my roles as a man. I have been a Christian for a long time now, and I have noticed that many Christian women in the church are basically secular in the way that they choose men. Many Christian women are guided by their emotions, by pop culture notions of romance, and peer approval – even the approval of their peer group. According to the Bible, men are supposed to be the main provider for their families. So, I made the decision early in my life to prefer work to academics – so I have actually been earning money since the time I was 12 years old. My grades were As, but I was always working part-time, and in the summers. The money I earned went straight into investments, so that I would be able to afford two degrees in computer science (BS and MS) and have a nest egg saved for marriage. I had $9,000 before undergraduate school and $16,000 after, with no debts and a car. I chose computer science over English literature, because I knew that computer science was a more reliable way to earn a living. Marriages run more smoothly when money isn’t a concern, so I had to take practical steps in order to avoid a known risk factor for divorce.

But women also have a role related to providing. Their role is to prefer men who take that provider obligation seriously. I feel very respected when a woman takes the time to ask me about my education, research, employment, and investments. Our culture today doesn’t value men taking their provider roles seriously. Instead, many women prefer men who will not be able to exercise the authority in the home that comes from being a competent provider. They sometimes prefer to see all choices in education and work as equal, so that no man is more respected than any other man based on education, earning and saving. I see a lot of Christian women going after men who are much younger than they are, with non-STEM degrees, who have no savings, and no practical plan for financing a marriage – much less a homeschooling stay-at-home mother. That is disrespectful of the provider role, and I believe it stems from the desire to not acknowledge male leadership. When a woman minimizes the education, career and savings of the man, it diminishes her regard for his ability to navigate the world and take responsibility. Many women want to be swept along by impressions of confidence and superficial indicators of success. But this is not wise: a man who has a gap-less resume and an investment portfolio is a good provider, and a man who lives with his parents at age 30 is not – even if he is confident, has a deep voice, nice shoes, big shoulders, and a square jaw.

To treat unequals as equals in this important area is disrespectful and unBiblical – it disrespects the Bible’s mandate that the man be a good provider and instead substitutes an emotional/pop culture/peer-approval standard of what counts as a good man. Additionally, women need to have an understanding of the external conditions that strengthen a man’s ability to take on the provider role. To respect a man acting as a provider also requires voting for policies that support a man’s ability to work (e.g. – less regulation on business, lower corporate taxes) to keep what he earns (lower income tax, lower inflation) and to spend it the way he sees fit (privatization of health care, education, etc.) – and these issues need to be studied, not checked off on a checklist as “we agree”. Studying economics and politics in depth, and being political active, are ways for women to respect men in their provider role. Women need to take action to enable policies and laws that promote liberty and prosperity. They should not be supporting policies that promote the redistribution of wealth, or reward irresponsibility and dependence. They should not support policies that punish men who work hard at being providers while rewarding men who refuse to be providers.

It also helps when a woman studies hard topics on her own – math, science, engineering and technology – and builds up her own investment portfolio. It helps her to be able to be respectful to a man because she understands exactly what he studies and exactly how hard work is and exactly how hard it is to save money in a society creeping towards socialism. A woman who experiences sacrifice and hardship herself is more likely to respect a man who does the same in order to be ready for marriage, even if she eventually gives up work when there are young children to raise. And this works for other male roles. For example, men who guard their chastity in order to protect women from infidelity should be respected for making that decision. It’s important for women to study marriage research, e.g. – how factors like chastity and church attendance and cohabitation increase or decrease marriage stability, so that they have reasons and evidence to prefer men who choose to make that sacrifice.

Men also study moral questions like abortion and marriage, as well as spiritual areas like apologetics and theology, so that they can advocate for the victims of abortion and marital breakdown. Again, women must study the research on these issues so that they are able to prefer men who can do this over men who can’t. Christianity is not a checkbox and you cannot equate someone who understands these issues with someone who doesn’t because both attend church. When a woman puts in the effort to study apologetics, moral issues, economics and foreign policy, then a real man feels respected – because he knows that she has a standard for judging him that is a true measure of his ability to be a husband and father. It is important to treat a man who takes his male roles seriously differently from other men who do not take those male roles seriously.

Conclusion

One of the best ways to respect a man is to speak highly of his abilities in all 3 of these areas to others. If women are careful about the man they choose, then they should be able to speak highly of him with others. When a woman praises a good man, it is a signal to other men about what they should be doing in order to impress women. To change the culture and to encourage men towards marriage, women must be intentional about who they celebrate and why they celebrate them. It also helps if they understand what policies make marriage a more realistic undertaking for men, and then advocate for those policies. Again, this requires reading things like economics and law to understand what challenges a man will face from government and ideologies (feminism, socialism) should he choose to marry, and making sure that those challenges are reduced. A man feels respected when a woman has developed a detailed understanding of what marriage is about and how society needs to change to support and respect men who choose to marry and become fathers. The Bible says that divorce is morally wrong, so it is up to men and women to make decisions that reduce the risk of divorce. We can’t just float through life relying on our emotions and thinking that God has a secret, mysterious plan and there is nothing for us to do. Usually, that attitude will just make us avoid learning and avoid making hard decisions to prepare for marriage, and that will not do – we are responsible to avoid divorce, and we have to make an effort in order to achieve that goal.

If any of my female readers are interested in learning about men and what men need in order to act competently as protectors, providers and moral/spiritual leaders, you can take a look at Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” as well as Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages“. And don’t merely read the books – put it into practice by advocating for men and marriage from church to university to workplace to courtroom to government. Make plans to show that you respect Christian men who know what they are doing and why. Don’t rely on your emotions to guide you – this is more of an obligation requires training, recon, planning and execution. (The same way that a man prepares to love a woman and then loves her – because women need love just like men need respect). Men pay attention to women who respect them, and it’s much better for women to get attention from men by learning about them and helping them than by trying to bypass respecting the man to get attention by leveraging appearance and sexuality to get attention. And, of course, some men cannot be respected, so don’t choose one of those.

Where to get help if you have a selfish, absent or abusive mother or father

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Today, I want to say something this article about lambs in Scotland, written by Sheila Walsh in the The Stream.

She writes:

I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.

[…]Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful. Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs.

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.

“Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.

I am so grateful that Christ calls himself the Good Shepherd.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 NLT)

My older brother and I grew up with a mother who was very much focused on her career and earning and saving money for her retirement. We were both stuck in daycare very early after being born, so that she could go back to work right away. (Me after 6 weeks) My older brother has shown the ill effects of our parents (especially our mother) not having any plan for us, especially morally and spiritually. He dropped out of college after failing his first year, never had a career. Although he has normal intelligence and mental health, he never could stick in any real job.

Although there were early warning signs when his grades started to drop in Grade 5, my parents never took responsibility to make a plan to solve it. Oh, they would yell and scream at him at report card time, but just for a day or two, and after that, nothing constructive. My brother decided that he could just ride out the flak my parents gave him on report card night, and keep going with his plan of having fun and being popular. My parents just forgot about it until the next report card day, because they did not want to be distracted from their careers, hobbies and retirement planning. When dispensing rewards, my brother was always given the same as me, despite our different levels of achievement. And my parents considered this equal dispensation of rewards regardless of performance to be a great virtue, and excellent parenting.

I had the exact same upbringing as my older brother. He actually did pretty well until Grade 5 just like me, but then our paths diverged. From Grade 5 on, his grades deterioriated. He got tired of having to study and he was more interested in the opinions of his peers and conforming to popular culture. In my case, from Grade 5 on, my grades were always high-90s. I remember taking the same classes as he did, in the same high school, with the same teachers. He got a 44 in data processing, I got a 96 with the same teacher and won the award for the entire grade. Every class I went to, the teachers would speak fondly of my older brother – he was a nice guy, very popular with his peers, good at sports. But not a very good student. How was it that I was winning awards when he had scored so poorly. Was I really his brother? How could we be so different?

The difference is that in Grade 5, he got a Gideon’s New Testament and he read it and he didn’t put it into practice, and in Grade 5, I got a Gideon’s New Testament and I read it twice and I did put it into practice. That was the difference. I had the awareness of the moral law (i.e.- wisdom) that allowed me to judge my parents and judge my peers and judge my teachers and stand alone. When you cannot rely on anyone to lead you, be able to judge when others mistreat you is very important. That is what allows you to maintain appropriate boundaries and minimize the influence of friends and family who are teaching you self-destructive behaviors. Awareness of the moral law is what allows you to stop trying to please people who do not want what is best for you. On the other hand, God is always willing to give you wisdom if you ask Him for it, and you can find out all about him because he has left plenty of evidence concerning his existence and character for you to find. It is in knowing God as he really is that you can find your sense of value, purpose and meaning. The God of the New Testament is the God of people who are lost and need a Savior.

For me, Christianity was a simple matter of being willing to go along with what was true, and not insisting on having fun or conforming to peer expectations. The essential characteristic of my faith, in contrast to my older brother’s lack of faith, was this – I did not mind being different, so long as I never lost a debate about what was true. My obedience to Christ has never been conditional on things going my way, on being liked, or anything like that. The only thing that mattered was being factually correct. It never bothered me what other people were doing, or what other people expected me to do, so long as I was acting on what I knew to be true. And God helped me to find out what was true by motivating me to study, and leading me to him with good evidence, and good mentors. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, the mistakes I made early did not count against me, and they never will. Jesus’ death on the cross gives me the imputed righteousness that I need to stand before God holy and blameless. This is what allows me to keep learning and keep trying no matter how much I fail on any given day.

How has this affected me? Well, this is the second thing I wanted to say about the bummer lamb analogy. Since I was a victim of this hands-off, me-first style of parenting, it’s caused me to be extra sensitive about being a good spiritual leader to others in the same predicament. The people I mentor can see it in the way that I treat them . I treat them the opposite of the way that my older brother and I were treated. I care what people read. I care what courses they choose. I care what they eat. I care how they feel. I care about their finances. I care about their plans to serve God. I care about their romantic relationships. I care whether they get recognition for doing good. I care whether their life is going in the right direction. One person I mentored who once considered taking her own life wrote to me when she graduated from a STEM program, and she said this: “I wish you could have been here at my graduation. My parents only paid for this degree. You were the one who got me through it”. We have never met in person, but she is going to continue to make a huge difference for Christ and His Kingdom going forward.

I think when you have been a bummer lamb, you are extra careful to make decisions that will enable you to be a good shepherd to other lambs. Being a good shepherd does not mean being pious, spiritual, mystical, etc. Being a good shepherd does not mean making the lambs feel good about making bad decisions. Being a good shepherd means understanding what God has done to lead you, and then reflecting that love back to others in practical, self-sacrificial actions that solve actual real-world problems for other people who want to know and serve God. If you are about to jump off a cliff, the last thing you need is someone with no wisdom or experience telling you that God is OK with you doing whatever feels good to you. What you need is someone practical and competent to give you good advice, however much that advice may make you feel bad, or block your pursuit of fun.

One of my friends proof-read the draft of this post and told me that it made her think of 2 Cor 1:3-5:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Nothing else I do in life matters to me as much as taking care of the people I mentor, especially the ones who are lost and lacking guidance and care. I have good health, good education, good career, and great finances. But by far the most important thing I do is following the example of the Shepherd by caring for other lambs.

What does it mean for a woman to respect a man?

My favorite painting:
My favorite painting: “Godspeed” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900

Matt Walsh writes a popular blog where he sometimes talks about male-female relationships. I got the impression that he was writing too much about how to blame men, and not enough about the policies and practices that provide incentives for men to underperform, e.g. – mostly female teachers, unfair divorce laws, stimulus spending geared towards women, etc. So imagine my surprise when I came across this article about men and their need for respect.

Matt is concerned that men are hearing too many negative messages in the culture, and not getting enough respect for what they do right.

He writes:

These cultural messages aren’t harmful because they hurt my manly feelings; they’re harmful because of what they do to young girls. Society tells our daughters that men are boorish dolts who need to be herded like goats and lectured like school boys. Then they grow up and enter into marriage wholly unprepared and unwilling to accept the Biblical notion that “wives should submit to their husbands” because “the husband is the head of the wife.” [Ephesians 5]

It is a fatal problem, because the one thing that is consistently withheld from men and husbands — respect — is the one thing we need the most.

Yes, need. We need respect, and that need is so deeply ingrained that a marriage cannot possibly survive if the man is deprived of it.

Often, people will say that a husband should only be respected if he “earns” it. This attitude is precisely the problem. A wife ought to respect her husband because he is her husband, just as he ought to love and honor her because she is his wife. Your husband might “deserve” it when you mock him, berate him, belittle him, and nag him, but you don’t marry someone in order to give them what they deserve. In marriage, you give them what you’ve promised them, even when they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

OK really, one last quote from Matt:

Respect is our language. If it isn’t said with respect, we can’t hear it. This is why nagging is ineffective and self defeating. This is why statements made in sarcastic tones, or with rolling eyes, will never be received well. We have a filter in our brains, and a statement made in disrespect will be filtered out like the poison it is.

Men are notoriously reluctant to share feelings or display vulnerability. Many times, we keep those inner thoughts locked away — our feelings guarded and hidden — because we know we are not respected. A man will never be vulnerable to someone who doesn’t respect him. Never.

A man isn’t satisfied or content if he isn’t respected. If he can’t find respect where he is, he will seek it somewhere else. This can have disastrous implications for a relationship, but it applies in other areas of life as well. A man is much more likely to stay in a low paying job, a physically demanding job, a dangerous job, or a tedious job, than a job where he isn’t respected.

I’m only emphasizing this because I think it might actually be news to some people. Society does not permit men to be vocal about their need for respect, so the need is often ignored.

What I’ve found in speaking to women about this is that all the married and divorced women know about this need that men have. And by and large, they agree with it, too. But that is much rarer among single women, which is why men need to be ready to explain their needs and feelings. And women need to allow them to do that and then provide what men need in order to keep them performing.

Let’s take a quick look at the Bible, because that’s always a good thing to do when you want the truth about these things.

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some women get scared by that, but they shouldn’t be, because women get to pick their husbands, so just pick someone whose leadership you actually respect. Believe it or not, it is actually very comforting to co-operate with someone who knows what he is doing, and has demonstrated that through his past decisions.

And now for my opinion about this topic.

To start, remember that men are supposed to be good at the following roles:

  • protecting
  • providing
  • moral leader
  • spiritual leader

If a woman sees a man – any man – working away at these tasks so that he can solve her problems with something more than confident promises about the future, that’s the time to practice respecting him. All men need to be recognized and encouraged in these areas, by all woman who care that men are masculine.

When I think of protecting, there is obviously the physical protection, but there is also the protection from lies and bad decisions. For protection, what I end up doing most is analyzing decisions for women and then giving my recommendation. I have 12 young people I mentor, men and women, who are in undergraduate or graduate school. My job is to make sure that they are not studying garbage subjects, and working during the summer months. I am proud to say that the 7 women I advise are all in STEM areas, and that took some convincing. Why is this protection? Because women need to not starve, and they need to not feel pressured to settle for a guy because they can’t be financially independent by themselves. I am not a feminist, but I do think that women make better wives when they study hard subjects and do hard jobs. It shapes their character so that they are easier to reason with, less fun-focused, and more able to perform hard work without complaint. I also advise women not to waste money of pursuing fun and thrills when they are young, and instead advise them to save and invest it early. One of the young ladies I mentor just finished her BS in computer science, and just finished her first year of an MS in computer science, worked as a TA and in the summers as a software tester, just finished an internship with a great software company for the summer, and she has an account with Fidelity, just like me.

When I think of providing, I think of the man’s ability to work for money. It starts in high school, in the summers or evenings and goes on right to retirement. I did a summer internship with a huge telecom firm when I was in my sophomore year of high school, so it is possible. A man should not rely on others for money, he needs to be independent. A man should not find paid work “boring” and “meaningless”. In fact, part of what it means to be a man is to do things that you don’t feel like doing, so that you can provide for others. A man does not spend his money on alcohol or travel or other entertainments. He will have plenty to spend it on when he gets older – his family or maybe charity. A man buys things for others that will help them achieve goals – solving problems for others with his earned income. For example, if a woman has surgery on both of her hands, and cannot lug the vacuum up and down the stairs to clean up her cat’s fur, then the man buys her a corded hand vacuum, which is much lighter for her to use every day, (he knows she has OCD and wants everything clean). Money makes a woman’s life easier, freeing her up to do more important things. It’s important for a man to get started early earning money, because earnings can be invested to produce a return. A man’s confidence about the future has no cash value. A woman’s feelings about a man’s potential future earnings has no cash value. Cash has cash value. There is no such thing as assumed future income, there is only a resume, which predicts future earned income based on the reality of past earned income.

A good moral leader is not just good at being moral and spiritual himself, but of convincing others to be moral and spiritual. He is able to present his views on moral issues in a convincing way, especially to non-Christians. He studies philosophy (in his spare time! not as a job because it does not pay!) and is aware of research that helps him to make his point about topics like abortion and marriage. He has an interest in current events and politics, and is able to talk about legislation, policies and court cases related to his worldview. He is able to solve problems that could impact a person’s ability to be moral or spiritual in the future. For example, consider that some people really do lose their faith when experiencing evil and suffering. A good spiritual leader advises a woman to not make plans that are likely to fail, so that she will never blame God for her own poor decisions. A good moral leader convinces a woman to be serious about marriage early, so that she is not tempted to become a single mother by choice later. Those last two cases are cases I actually had to face, and I won the first one (she dumped a complete loser of a man and married a really great one), and lost the second (she became a single mother by choice and had a fatherless son). But the point is that there is more to being a moral leader than reciting moral rules. And there is more to being a spiritual leader than reciting Bible verses. A good leader proves he can lead by pushing the people he leads into real world achievements.

These are the things that a good woman looks for in a man, and when she finds them, she accords a man respect in those areas.

Where to get help if you have a selfish, absent or abusive mother or father

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Today, I want to say something this article about lambs in Scotland, written by Sheila Walsh in the The Stream.

She writes:

I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.

[…]Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful. Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs.

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.

“Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.

I am so grateful that Christ calls himself the Good Shepherd.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 NLT)

My older brother and I grew up with a mother who was very much focused on her career and earning and saving money for her retirement. We were both stuck in daycare very early after being born, so that she could go back to work right away. My older brother has shown the ill effects of our parents (especially our mother) not having any plan for us, especially morally and spiritually. He dropped out of college after failing his first year, never had a career. Although he has normal intelligence and mental health, he never could stick in any real job.

Although there were early warning signs when his grades started to drop in Grade 5, my parents never took responsibility to make a plan to solve it. Oh, they would yell and scream at him at report card time, but just for a day or two, and after that, nothing constructive. My brother decided that he could just ride out the flak my parents gave him on report card night, and keep going with his plan of having fun and being popular. My parents just forgot about it until the next report card day, because they did not want to be distracted from their careers, hobbies and retirement planning.

I had the exact same upbringing as my older brother. He actually did pretty well until Grade 5 just like me, but then our paths diverged. From Grade 5 on, his grades deterioriated. He got tired of having to study and he was more interested in the opinions of his peers and conforming to pop culture. In my case, from Grade 5 on, my grades were always high-90s. I remember taking the same classes as he did, in the same high school, with the same teachers. He got a 44 in data processing, I got a 96 with the same teacher and won the award for the entire grade. Every class I went to, the teachers would speak fondly of my older brother – he was a nice guy, very popular with his peers, good at sports, but not a very good student. How was it that I was winning awards when he had scored so poorly. Was I really his brother? How could we be so different?

The difference is that in Grade 5, he got a Gideon’s New Testament and he read it and he didn’t put it into practice, and in Grade 5, I got a Gideon’s New Testament and I read it twice and I did put it into practice. That was the difference. I had the awareness of the moral law (i.e.- wisdom) that allowed me to judge my parents and judge my peers and judge my teachers and stand alone. When you cannot rely on anyone to lead you, judging others is critical. That is what allows you to maintain appropriate boundaries and minimize the influence of friends and family who do not have any plan to grow you. Awareness of the moral law is what allows you to stop trying to please people who do not want what is best for you. On the other hand, God is always willing to give you wisdom, and you can find out all about him because he has left plenty of evidence concerning his existence and character for you to find. It is in knowing God as he really is that you can find your sense of value, purpose and meaning.

For me, Christianity was a simple matter of being willing to go along with what was true, and not insisting having fun or conforming to peer expectations. The essential characteristic of my faith, in contrast to my older brother’s lack of faith, was this – I did not mind being different, so long as I never lost a debate about what was true. My obedience to Christ has never been conditional on things going my way, on being liked, or anything like that. The only thing that mattered was being factually correct. It never bothered me what other people were doing, or what other people expected me to do, so long as as I was acting on what I knew to be true. And God helped me to find out what was true my motivating me to study, and leading me to him with good evidence, and good mentors.

How has this affected me? Well, this is the second thing I wanted to say about the bummer lamb analogy. Since I was a victim of this hands-off, me-first style of parenting, it’s caused me to be extra sensitive about being a good spiritual leader to others in the same predicament.The people I mentor can see it in the way that I treat them the exact opposite of the way that my older brother and I were treated. I care what people read. I care what courses they choose. I care what they eat. I care how they feel. I care about their finances. I care about their plans to serve God. I care about their romantic relationships. I care whether they get recognition for doing good. I care whether their life is going in the right direction. One person I mentored who once considered taking her own life wrote to me when she graduated from a STEM program, and she said this: “I wish you could have been here at my graduation. My parents only paid for this degree. You were the one who got me through it”. We have never met in person, but she is going to continue to make a huge difference for Christ and His Kingdom going forward.

I think when you have been a bummer lamb, you are extra careful to make decisions that will enable you to be a good shepherd to other lambs. Being a good shepherd does not mean being pious, spiritual, mystical, etc. Being a good shepherd does not mean making the lambs feel good about making bad decisions. Being a good shepherd means understanding what God has done to lead you, and then reflecting that love back to others in practical, self-sacrificial actions that solve actual real-world problems for other people who want to know and serve God. If you are about to jump off a cliff, the last thing you need is someone with no wisdom or experience telling you that God is OK with you doing whatever feels good to you. What you need is someone practical and competent to give you good advice, however much that advice may make you feel bad, or block your pursuit of fun.

One of my friends proof-read the draft of this post told me that it made her think of 2 Cor 1:3-5:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Nothing else I do in life matters to me as much as taking care of the people I mentor, especially the ones who are lost and lacking guidance and care. I have good health, good education, good career, and great finances. But by far the most important thing I do is following the example of the Shepherd by caring for other lambs.

What does it mean for a woman to respect a man?

My favorite painting:
My favorite painting: “Godspeed” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900

Matt Walsh writes a popular blog where he sometimes talks about male-female relationships. I got the impression that he was writing too much about how to blame men, and not enough about the policies and practices that provide incentives for men to underperform, e.g. – mostly female teachers, unfair divorce laws, stimulus spending geared towards women, etc. So imagine my surprise when I came across this article about men and their need for respect.

Matt is concerned that men are hearing too many negative messages in the culture, and not getting enough respect for what they do right.

He writes:

These cultural messages aren’t harmful because they hurt my manly feelings; they’re harmful because of what they do to young girls. Society tells our daughters that men are boorish dolts who need to be herded like goats and lectured like school boys. Then they grow up and enter into marriage wholly unprepared and unwilling to accept the Biblical notion that “wives should submit to their husbands” because “the husband is the head of the wife.” [Ephesians 5]

It is a fatal problem, because the one thing that is consistently withheld from men and husbands — respect — is the one thing we need the most.

Yes, need. We need respect, and that need is so deeply ingrained that a marriage cannot possibly survive if the man is deprived of it.

Often, people will say that a husband should only be respected if he “earns” it. This attitude is precisely the problem. A wife ought to respect her husband because he is her husband, just as he ought to love and honor her because she is his wife. Your husband might “deserve” it when you mock him, berate him, belittle him, and nag him, but you don’t marry someone in order to give them what they deserve. In marriage, you give them what you’ve promised them, even when they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

OK really, one last quote from Matt:

Respect is our language. If it isn’t said with respect, we can’t hear it. This is why nagging is ineffective and self defeating. This is why statements made in sarcastic tones, or with rolling eyes, will never be received well. We have a filter in our brains, and a statement made in disrespect will be filtered out like the poison it is.

Men are notoriously reluctant to share feelings or display vulnerability. Many times, we keep those inner thoughts locked away — our feelings guarded and hidden — because we know we are not respected. A man will never be vulnerable to someone who doesn’t respect him. Never.

A man isn’t satisfied or content if he isn’t respected. If he can’t find respect where he is, he will seek it somewhere else. This can have disastrous implications for a relationship, but it applies in other areas of life as well. A man is much more likely to stay in a low paying job, a physically demanding job, a dangerous job, or a tedious job, than a job where he isn’t respected.

I’m only emphasizing this because I think it might actually be news to some people. Society does not permit men to be vocal about their need for respect, so the need is often ignored.

What I’ve found in speaking to women about this is that all the married and divorced women know about this need that men have. And by and large, they agree with it, too. But that is much rarer among single women, which is why men need to be ready to explain their needs and feelings. And women need to allow them to do that and then provide what men need in order to keep them performing.

Let’s take a quick look at the Bible, because that’s always a good thing to do when you want the truth about these things.

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some women get scared by that, but they shouldn’t be, because women get to pick their husbands, so just pick someone whose leadership you actually respect. Believe it or not, it is actually very comforting to co-operate with someone who knows what he is doing, and has demonstrated that through his past decisions.

And now for my opinion about this topic.

To start, remember that men are supposed to be good at the following roles:

  • protecting
  • providing
  • moral leader
  • spiritual leader

If a woman sees a man – any man – working away at these tasks so that he can solve her problems with something more than confident promises about the future, that’s the time to practice respecting him. All men need to be recognized and encouraged in these areas, by all woman who care that men are masculine.

When I think of protecting, there is obviously the physical protection, but there is also the protection from lies and bad decisions. For protection, what I end up doing most is analyzing decisions for women and then giving my recommendation. I have 12 young people I mentor, men and women, who are in undergraduate or graduate school. My job is to make sure that they are not studying garbage subjects, and not wasting their summers. I am proud to say that the 7 women I advise are all in STEM areas, and that took some convincing. Why is this protection? Because women need to not starve, and they need to not feel pressured to settle for a guy because they can’t be financially independent by themselves. I am not a feminist, but I do think that women make better wives when they study hard subjects and do hard jobs. It shapes their character so that they are easier to reason with, less fun-focused, and more able to perform hard work without complaint. I also advise women not to waste money of pursuing fun and thrills when they are young, and instead advise them to save and invest it early. One of the young ladies I mentor just finished her BS in computer science, and just finished her first year of an MS in computer science, worked as a TA and in the summers as a software tester, just finished an internship with a great software company for the summer, and she has an account with Fidelity, just like me.

When I think of providing, I think of the man’s ability to work for money. It starts in high school, in the summers or evenings and goes on right to retirement. I did a summer internship with a huge telecom firm when I was in my sophomore year of high school, so it is possible. A man should not rely on others for money, he needs to be independent. A man should not find paid work “boring” and “meaningless”. In fact, part of what it means to be a man is to do things that you don’t feel like doing, so that you can provide for others. A man does not spend his money on alcohol or travel or other entertainments. He will have plenty to spend it on when he gets older – his family or maybe charity. A man buys things for others that will help them achieve goals – solving problems for others with his earned income. For example, if a woman has surgery on both of her hands, and cannot lug the vacuum up and down the stairs to clean up her cat’s fur, then the man buys her a corded hand vacuum, which is much lighter for her to use every day, (he knows she has OCD and wants everything clean). Money makes a woman’s life easier, freeing her up to do more important things. It’s important for a man to get started early earning money, because earnings can be invested to produce a return. A man’s confidence about the future has no cash value. A woman’s feelings about a man’s potential future earnings has no cash value. Cash has cash value. There is no such thing as assumed future income, there is only a resume, which predicts future earned income based on the reality of past earned income.

A good moral leader is not just good at being moral and spiritual himself, but of convincing others to be moral and spiritual. He is able to present his views on moral issues in a convincing way, especially to non-Christians. He studies philosophy (in his spare time! not as a job because it does not pay!) and is aware of research that helps him to make his point about topics like abortion and marriage. He has an interest in current events and politics, and is able to talk about legislation, policies and court cases related to his worldview. He is able to solve problems that could impact a person’s ability to be moral or spiritual in the future. For example, consider that some people really do lose their faith when experiencing evil and suffering. A good spiritual leader advises a woman to not make plans that are likely to fail, so that she will never blame God for her own poor decisions. A good moral leader convinces a woman to be serious about marriage early, so that she is not tempted to become a single mother by choice later. Those last two cases are cases I actually had to face, and I won the first one (she dumped a complete loser of a man and married a really great one), and lost the second (she became a single mother by choice and had a fatherless son). But the point is that there is more to being a moral leader than reciting moral rules. And there is more to being a spiritual leader than reciting Bible verses. A good leader proves he can lead by pushing the people he leads into real world achievements.

These are the things that a good woman looks for in a man, and when she finds them, she accords a man respect in those areas.