In a world of "I don't need a man"
The Bible has a high standard for how husbands and wives should treat each other within marriage. It sounds great, right? What could go wrong if we love each other as equals and have the other’s best interests at heart?
But that’s not what we see happening around us.
Our broken culture
All around us, we see both Christians and non-Christians using other people to satisfy their need for affirmation or pleasure. When the other person isn’t making us happy anymore, we leave them. We use humans to distract us from our pain; we consume them during one-night stands or through our computer screens. We suffocate under emotional and physical abuse. We grow up not knowing one or both of our parents.
Amidst the wreckage of broken relationships, distrust and disdain for the opposite gender run deep.
Take a look at popular culture. In the Western world, it's become socially acceptable to laugh at and disrespect men without anyone blinking an eye. Women walk around with shirts that say, “The future is female,” and yet, without men’s cooperation, that goal isn’t possible.
We women lift up our noses and say “I don’t need a man.” Absolutely, that might be true when it comes to romantic relationships. Of course, women don’t need men in order to have value, serve God, or have fulfilled, happy lives. However, that does not mean for a second that we get to erase men from our lives.
Men have perspectives and ways of looking at the world that women can benefit from. I’ve become a smarter person through the male friendships I have. As a result, I am better equipped to love and interact with others—regardless of their gender. Men have key insights into the brains of other men. Understanding that a little better not only helps me navigate a world that is roughly 50 per cent male—it also adds a richer depth to any relationship advice I give to other women. In order to be a better, more well-rounded human, you need friendships with both genders. This is true for men as well as women.
Of course, I get where these sayings come from, and I know they’re partially sarcastic. But I’ve also seen that language—too often repeated—switch off women’s compassion towards men. It’s a subtle cultural shift that is meant to lift women up. Unfortunately, it often does so in a false way that doesn’t really herald women’s strengths, it just demeans men. (I’m sure most of us can think of at least three memes right now that would back me up.)
The loss of bravery
This demeaning has consequences because it attacks and twists even good instincts. For example, movies portray men as bumbling idiots—all brawn and no brain—and we laugh. I laugh.
But how dare we women laugh at men when we are so rarely willing to go out on limbs of our own for men we truly care about? I’m not talking about superficial gender roles here, like the guy asking the girl out first, or always paying for dinner. If you are a woman, I’m not saying you shouldn’t make the first move. As a matter of fact, I’ve made the first move myself.
What I am saying is this: guys seem to have a natural bent towards bravely, stupidly doing things to try and get a woman’s attention. Sometimes, their motives are poor and their actions reek of their own arrogance. Sometimes, they really have hearts of gold. But that’s not the point. The point is, they actually put themselves on the line far more frequently than women do. And yet, this is happening less and less often. Now, guys text vague things like, “You want to hang out?”
Ever wondered why?
Because they’re being laughed at and ridiculed for being vulnerable and admitting their feelings. I’ve seen a man practically trembling while trying to respectfully articulate valid opinions about a sensitive topic involving women. All I could think as I watched him sweat was that he’s probably experienced total dismissal before, simply for trying to state his opinion.
We condone man-hating speech—laughing it off as harmless while it crushes men. Even worse, when men do try to respect women, today’s climate often rejects them (you think I can’t open a door myself, misogynist?) or ridicules them for being a weak sucker (you’re just tied to her apron strings).
The problems are cyclical. Men tend to handle insecurity or fear by using physical intimidation. Women tend to do it with words and the emotional power of those words can be devastating. We get a lot of messages in our culture reminding us that women are victims—often leaving us with the false impression that women can’t hurt men.
We know all too well the ways women are treated unjustly. I’m not saying that men aren’t jerks. But let’s not forget that women are jerks too.
So, how can men love and value women when those women manipulate, mock, undervalue and reject them? How can women trust men's motives when those men use, abuse, undermine and dominate them?
We cannot, through sheer force of will, be “good enough” to restore our relationships or build a healthy view of the opposite gender. However, I know that God can change our mindsets and give us the grace we need to keep going. As we trust him and continue to obey him, doing so becomes easier.
I know several men who have been seriously hurt by women. Yet, through Christ, they are bravely fighting to respect, honour and love women. I know women who have been deeply wounded by men. God has given them the courage to see good in men once more and to treat them with compassion and kindness.
The test of marriage
Marriage is almost certainly the most difficult test for learning how to love and work with the opposite gender. The answer isn’t finding the perfect person who will always love you and value you according to your true worth. Most of us still hope for someone like that, even though we know, on a head level, that they don’t exist.
We continue thinking this in the early stages of falling in love, where most of us are convinced we’ve found the most amazing person ever—the one who is perfect for us. But on an objective level, the person you marry isn’t any better or more special than anyone else.
What makes them special is the fact that you have chosen to make them the priority and focus of your love.
This puts them in a very high, important place in your mind. This status is maintained by your mindset towards them—not by them continually earning that place. They will screw up…daily. If you want to view them with the utmost respect and love, then you have to choose to let them occupy that space of deep importance and value in your brain, regardless of whether or not they fail you.
Because they will fail you. They will let you down. And yet, through Christ’s forgiveness, we can pick ourselves up and keep going without condemnation. We can try again. Marriage, at its core, represents a fragment of the kind of love the Lord has for us. The kind of love that, regardless of what terrible thing we did that day, allows us to say, “He brought me into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me,” (Psalm 18:19).
Now that we have the backdrop of the rest of Scripture as a base, there is one more blog post I want to write on this topic. I haven’t yet touched on the most succinct job description that Scripture gives specifically to women: the helper.
If you want to dig deeper, here are a few other voices who’ve weighed in on this topic.