Imagine five women: two married (one with kids), and three single gals. All around thirty, give or take. We’re at the Opryland Hotel, piled on a hotel bed and various spots on the floor, one with legs draped over the side of an ivory recliner. It’s close to midnight. And we’re talking..about guys, of course.
Recently, it’s been encouraging. Instead of hearing the “There are no REAL men to date. Just boys. Boys without jobs. Boys who play too much Call of Duty. Boys with too many other girls who are friends. Boys who live at home. Boys who don’t open doors,” we had a totally different conversation.
“Do you think that sometimes guys feel like they can’t be men because we’re always telling them that they’re boys?” asked my friend sitting next to me on the bed.
Yes, yes, a million times yes.
It is easy to look around and see a world where men are tethered to their jobs, their phones, their parents…whatever gives them a sense of security and identity. Please don’t misread: women are as equally tethered to the things we find our value in. Somehow, we’ve found away, in spite of our competitive and comparative nature, to still champion one another – or at least help each other know we aren’t alone. From my very limited conversations with men, my husband included (who bleeds the desire to connect and grow with other men), it doesn’t happen so easily for them.
Generally speaking, women wired to nurture. Men are wired to protect. And because so many of us have experienced a man letting us down in our life (a father, a pastor, a priest, a spouse…), we have stepped into the role of protector so that we may feel nurtured. Safe. Free from being let down again.
If you’ve ever taken a sociology or human behaviors class, you know that once a group of people or culture changes a behavior, in time, that change has a profound effect on future human behavior. Just take a look at gender roles and how they shift with each passing decade. When the women of a culture tell men (by showing them) we don’t need them, it’s completely natural for the men to adapt to not being needed.
Instead of thinking the men of whatever generation are not men, maybe we can change our beliefs about them. By changing the way we think, I believe it will have a profound effect on how we act toward them – directly and indirectly.
I know in many situations, I’ve not always believed the best about my husband, Tim…even when one of the (many!) reasons he was able to break into my heart and steal it is because of his strong leadership and desire to protect and care for me.
We were one month into our marriage and finalizing details for our move to Nashville. We drove from Iowa to Tennessee and stayed with friends as we looked at renting and buying and where we should live. The cost of living in Nashville is about three times as much as it is in the Quad Cities area, so the sticker shock was a lot to take in.
I really (really, really) wanted to live in one area close to my friends and the community I’m used to living in. We had a little bit of debt to pay off, but we had the money to make the move happen without it stretching us too far financially. I thought it was a done deal until Tim proposed the idea of waiting three more months so that the debt could be paid and we could head into it without the guillotine of interest rates hanging over our heads.
In the living room of our friends’ home, with them present, I started crying/getting angry/being stubborn/wanting my way/and was pretty much on the border of a temper tantrum.
“Why don’t you want me to move back and live with my friends?!”
In one (loving) sentence, he shut my selfishness and my assumptions on his motivation down.
“The reason I want to wait three months is so I can give you this; so we can do this together, easier, and so you can have what your heart desires most.”
I see the power of my words, my passive responses to him, and the false beliefs I project on him and how they tear away at his innate desires to care for me and love me. When I show a lack of respect for him or my unwillingness to believe he has my best interest at heart fires away at him with 45-caliber force, I’m telling him I’m strong enough on my own. I can protect myself.
These things that hurt men, whether we’re married to them or not.
My friend that asked if sometimes men act like boys because of the way culture tells them to wrapped up our estrogen-filled talk time with a generous and love-filled thought:
“Whoever my future husband is, I pray he has women around him who are showing him he’s strong, he’s capable, and who are praying for him and encouraging him along the way, no matter where he is in his journey.”
May we all take on that countenance with the men in our lives: our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, our friends. May our thoughts, words and actions only build them up so they have one less voice telling them they’ll never be man enough.