Tag Archives: Spiritual Leader

The surprising pro-masculinity message in the “Far From the Madding Crowd” film

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

So, I have about a half-dozen older and/or experienced Christian women who advise me and assist me in various ways. The wisest and most experienced is calm and thoughtful Dina. She has a very stressful job dealing with demanding women, and what she admires most in men is “masculinity”, which she defines as a man’s ability to tell a woman what is right and wrong, what God expects from her, what she should be doing with her life, and guiding her and providing for her through the steps to get there.

What makes Dina angry is when a man makes a fool of himself for youth and beauty, abdicating his role as moral and spiritual leader because of attraction / lust. According to Dina, men who have self-control think about what a woman should do that is morally right, with the goal of her producing a return for God. Men who are swayed by youth and beauty are willing to give up that leadership role in exchange for attention and/or sex.

So, with that said, Dina asked me to watch a recently-made movie called “Far From the Madding Crowd“, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I immediately said “no” because I know about Thomas Hardy from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where he presents Tess as the helpless victim of Providence. I really hate that view of women, where they can do reckless, selfish things and then blame everyone but themselves for the destructive consequences of their own free-will decisions. But Dina said “wasn’t I right about the debate between David Robertson and Matt Dillahunty?” I said yes, and watched the movie. And of course, she was right, as she almost always is. This movie is a punch in the face to the radical feminism that seems to have infected so many young women, even in the church.

Here is a review of the movie by Rebekah, posted at her blog.

Rebekah writes:

What does this 19th century tale offer to modern audiences?  This latest rendering emphasizes something actually surprising and unexpected given that it is made in our age of radical feminism.  It is Gabriel Oak’s character that shines the most, not the proto-feminist Bathsheba.  […]In Bathsheba and Gabriel we see how men and women support one another in such a way as to ensure a flourishing in any role that fate might thrust on them.

[…]The relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, though unequal in earthly terms of authority and wealth, is one of mutual dependence.  We see Oak taking on a role of both counselor and conscience with Bathsheba – roles that in her striving towards independence she struggles to admit her need for.  She is not unlike the modern feminist in this regard, nor is she unlike all of us in our relationship with the Lord.  Her struggle is best seen in the various times she repels Gabriel only to find herself in desperate situations in which only he can help.  The filmmakers’ clever use of a recurring theme of Bathsheba galloping after Gabriel on a horse when he is needed is particularly moving (and surprising) here.  In the end, the film resists the urge to pander to our more extreme modern views on what women require to thrive.

Gabriel Oak also seems to be an embodiment of the biblical virtue of selflessness.  We see in his actions towards Bathsheba the Philippians admonition to refrain from “being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity,” but rather “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Indeed, vanity itself can be seen as a fateful character flaw of every major character apart from Gabriel.  He alone is able to move past rejection and carry on.  In fact, he is required to go so far as to be under the authority of the very woman who rejected his offer of marriage and, despite his continuing affections for her, witness her being courted and then married by another far less worthy man, Frank Troy.  No other major character is able to accomplish this challenge to their pride.  Though Bathsheba does eventually overcome the rejection of her husband, she only does so after tremendous tragedy and with the selfless and steady support of Gabriel.

Gabriel respects her independence, but, like a good shepherd, stays close by to protect and guide her.  Though he cannot protect her from her free-will choices, he does warn her.  He then remains faithful to her in the midst of the trouble she brings upon herself.  In this, he is not unlike our God, for he allows her to stray, all the while letting her know of a better course when asked.  And, she does ask.

In an important scene at a party, where Bathsheba must decide whether or not to marry a particularly obsessive suitor, when she asks, “Tell me what to do, Gabriel,” he simply tells her to “Do what is right.”  Is that not like our Lord?  Gentle shepherd, indeed, for our wild, independent hearts.  In this, I see Gabriel as most suitable for the role as the husband written of in the epistle to the Ephesians.  He loves Bathsheba “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”

Men and women both struggle with self-centeredness, but men usually work themselves out of it by studying hard things in school, and doing hard work that pays. Men have a natural desire to provide for others, and it is actually a duty laid out for them in the Bible. As a result of studying and working at things they don’t like, men typically are better at resisting their feelings and desires. In fact, if you ever want to make a woman less self-centered and emotional, leading her to study STEM and work a demanding job is a good plan. Dina has multiple STEM degrees, and a very difficult, challenging work history.

I would be suspicious of men who don’t prioritize providing, (as in 1 Tim 5:8), because working and saving gives a man practical experience at self-denial. When a man gets accustomed to working to share with others, it helps helps him to lead a woman to do the same: deny her feelings and desires, and make prudent decisions that will allow her to love and serve others – including God – in a sustainable way. Over the long-term, this practice of effective, self-sacrificial love will be worth more to the woman than the short-term pursuit of fun and thrills. To provide for a woman means to look into her future, and make a decision today to set aside something that will help her to deal with what the future has in store for her.

Dina’s advice to young women

I asked Dina to take a look at the draft of this post before I hit “Schedule” and Dina said:

What I would advise to all young women is not to expect a Gabriel Oak to be waiting for you at the end of your reckless years of hooking up, partying and wasting your youth on fun and men who have no desire to lead you to God or guide you to goodness. Don’t expect the hot stud that your friends approve of to turn into someone with the character of Oak with the magic powers of your premarital sex life. Find a man who doesn’t give in to your every whim, because if he does, you will only resent him for it, and blame him, for being what you thought you wanted him to be.  Find a man who leads, one who demonstrates self control, self denial, who can provide and protect. And most importantly, respect him for doing it.

Emphasis mine.

Sound advice from the Dina, young ladies. By the way, Dina’s favorite drama is the BBC production of “North and South” from 2004. I also give it a 10/10.

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 semester of an MS in computer science, worked as a TA and in the summers as a software tester, got 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

Practice that makes perfect
Theology that hits the spot

Normally in my 6 PM post I like to write about something related to apologetics, because that’s when people are done with their work and have time to think about the big questions. 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.

The surprising pro-masculinity message in the “Far From the Madding Crowd” film

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward: another in a series of posts designed to defeat feminism

So, I have about a half-dozen older and/or experienced Christian women who advise me and assist me in various ways. The wisest and most experienced is calm and thoughtful Dina. She has a very stressful job dealing with demanding women, and what she admires most in men is “masculinity”, which she defines as a man’s ability to tell a woman what is right and wrong, what God expects from her, what she should be doing with her life, and guiding her and providing for her through the steps to get there.

What makes Dina angry is when a man makes a fool of himself for youth and beauty, abdicating his role as moral and spiritual leader because of attraction / lust. According to Dina, men who have self-control think about what a woman should do that is morally right, with the goal of her producing a return for God. Men who are swayed by youth and beauty are willing to give up that leadership role in exchange for attention and/or sex.

So, with that said, Dina asked me to watch a recent movie called “Far From the Madding Crowd“, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I immediately said “no” because I know about Thomas Hardy from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where he presents Tess as the helpless victim of Providence. I really hate that view of women, where they can do reckless, selfish things and then blame everyone but themselves for the destructive consequences of their own free-will decisions. But Dina said “wasn’t I right about the debate between David Robertson and Matt Dillahunty?” I said yes, and watched the movie. And of course, she was right, as she almost always is. This movie is a punch in the face to radical feminism, and the leading man is indeed a masculine leader, according to Dina’s definition of masculinity.

Here is a review of the movie by another lady I admire, Rebekah, up at her blog “The Thoughtful Christian Parent”.

Rebekah writes:

What does this 19th century tale offer to modern audiences?  This latest rendering emphasizes something actually surprising and unexpected given that it is made in our age of radical feminism.  It is Gabriel Oak’s character that shines the most, not the proto-feminist Bathsheba.  […]In Bathsheba and Gabriel we see how men and women support one another in such a way as to ensure a flourishing in any role that fate might thrust on them.

[…]The relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, though unequal in earthly terms of authority and wealth, is one of mutual dependence.  We see Oak taking on a role of both counselor and conscience with Bathsheba – roles that in her striving towards independence she struggles to admit her need for.  She is not unlike the modern feminist in this regard, nor is she unlike all of us in our relationship with the Lord.  Her struggle is best seen in the various times she repels Gabriel only to find herself in desperate situations in which only he can help.  The filmmakers’ clever use of a recurring theme of Bathsheba galloping after Gabriel on a horse when he is needed is particularly moving (and surprising) here.  In the end, the film resists the urge to pander to our more extreme modern views on what women require to thrive.

Gabriel Oak also seems to be an embodiment of the biblical virtue of selflessness.  We see in his actions towards Bathsheba the Philippians admonition to refrain from “being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity,” but rather “in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Indeed, vanity itself can be seen as a fateful character flaw of every major character apart from Gabriel.  He alone is able to move past rejection and carry on.  In fact, he is required to go so far as to be under the authority of the very woman who rejected his offer of marriage and, despite his continuing affections for her, witness her being courted and then married by another far less worthy man, Frank Troy.  No other major character is able to accomplish this challenge to their pride.  Though Bathsheba does eventually overcome the rejection of her husband, she only does so after tremendous tragedy and with the selfless and steady support of Gabriel.

Gabriel respects her independence, but, like a good shepherd, stays close by to protect and guide her.  Though he cannot protect her from her free-will choices, he does warn her.  He then remains faithful to her in the midst of the trouble she brings upon herself.  In this, he is not unlike our God, for he allows her to stray, all the while letting her know of a better course when asked.  And, she does ask.

In an important scene at a party, where Bathsheba must decide whether or not to marry a particularly obsessive suitor, when she asks, “Tell me what to do, Gabriel,” he simply tells her to “Do what is right.”  Is that not like our Lord?  Gentle shepherd, indeed, for our wild, independent hearts.  In this, I see Gabriel as most suitable for the role as the husband written of in the epistle to the Ephesians.  He loves Bathsheba “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her…”

Men and women both struggle with self-centeredness, but men usually work themselves out of it by studying hard things in school, and doing hard work that pays. Men have a natural desire to provide for others, and it is actually a duty laid out for them in the Bible. As a result of studying and working at things they don’t like, men typically are better at resisting their feelings and desires. In fact, if you ever want to make a woman less self-centered and emotional, leading her to study STEM and work a demanding job is a good plan. Both Dina and Rebekah – like all of my female advisors – have STEM backgrounds, and demanding work histories.

I would be suspicious of men who don’t prioritize providing, especially as they get older, because it is the experience of self-denial and endurance that helps a man to want to lead a woman to do the same: deny her feelings and desires, and make prudent decisions that will allow her to love and serve others – including God – in a sustainable way. Over the long-term, this practice of effective, self-sacrificial love will be worth more to the woman than the short-term pursuit of fun and thrills. And men know this – we can look ahead and see where a woman needs to be, and then coach her on the interim steps, however difficult those may seem in the moment.

Dina’s advice to young women

I asked Dina to take a look at the draft of this post before I hit “Schedule” and Dina said:

What I would advise to all young women is not to expect a Gabriel Oak to be waiting for you at the end of your reckless years of hooking up, partying and wasting your youth on fun and men who have no desire to lead you to God or guide you to goodness. Don’t expect the hot stud that your friends approve of to turn into someone with the character of Oak with the magic powers of your premarital sex life. Find a man who doesn’t give in to your every whim, because if he does, you will only resent him for it, and blame him, for being what you thought you wanted him to be.  Find a man who leads, one who demonstrates self control, self denial, who can provide and protect. And most importantly, respect him for doing it.

Emphasis mine.

Sound advice from the Dina, young ladies. By the way, Dina’s favorite drama is the BBC production of “North and South” from 2004. I also give it a 10/10. If you’re looking for a good movie to get for Christmas, I recommend asking for that one.

Rebekah’s comments on the post

Rebekah wrote to me privately to react to the post:

I think you’ve touched on something important that’s a pitfall for women today – and really, men, too, but maybe less so – we live in a time of radical autonomy PLUS radical “feelings” orientation. Yes, I agree, women might be more prone to being affected by these because we do tend to be more feelings oriented. Plus, the pendulum has swung w.r.t. women’s rights compared to Hardy’s day.

Yet, can I say that from my virtuous single women friends I hear that it is hard to find a man that acts like a grownup? They are finding that many men watch porn and play video games after work each evening. They are not being responsible with their hearts – porn WILL affect their marriage one day. It’s a huge temptation for them. I think this is a major pitfall that men face today.

And, notice that each of these pitfalls – of men and women – feed and reinforce the other.

I would recommend STEM for everyone since the humanities have become so radicalized. I wanted to be an English major, as well, but my father wouldn’t let me because of the leftist values in those departments. STEM is a much safer bet and much surer return for the $$ spent.

That’s a generalization, though. I have a friend that majored in English at Hillsdale – a very conservative university. She’s amazing and brilliant. So, there are exceptions – I am sure you’d agree.

I am glad you liked the movie. And, I agree “North and South” is excellent – one of my favorite books and movies.

There are exceptions, I do agree.

Finally, I have some advice for Christian men. If you pick women who will advise you, don’t pick women who just want attention and control over you. Pick women like Dina who understand your male nature and will attempt to persuade you with facts and arguments, not feelings and sex appeal. And whatever you do, don’t marry someone who cannot communicate and disagree with you in an analytical way. That becomes a nightmare when they have the leverage of no-fault divorce to hold over you.

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 6 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, is starting an MS in computer science, worked as a TA and in the summers as a software tester, 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 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.