Understanding Men: Episode 287

Understanding Men: Episode 287

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Listen to this week's show!

Roundtable: Relating to Guys

It’s easy for women to go to extremes when interacting with men. Some try to capture men’s attention by being overly talkative, flirtatious or vulnerable. Others draw too many lines and come off as distant, aloof – even cold. Where’s the balance? How can women exercise genuine kindness and Christian love with their brothers in Christ in a way that’s natural and appropriate? This week’s panel has something for all personalities and situations.

Culture: Kingdom Man

Dr. Tony Evans likes talking to men. He’s disappointed at the way men have lost the biblical script for true manhood and have instead settled for lies. Enter Kingdom Man, Dr. Evans’ rallying cry for men to return to God’s call on their lives and embrace the joys and challenges that come with being a man of God. Guys, let Dr. Evans instruct, encourage and inspire you to be all you’re designed to be.

Inbox: Do Opposites Attract?

There are so many different theories about compatibility. Some say opposites attract, while others insist common traits and interests are the key. Our listener wants to know what balance of the two extremes makes for the most ideal match, so Candice offers some advice.

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  • --It's possible to go too far in the direction of thinking that men and women should never hang out one-on-one unless they're dating, but I don't really see it that often. Not many people that I meet are afraid to ever do something one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex. The other extreme though just gets you into trouble.

    There are probably exceptions out there of purely platonic opposite sex friendships, but there are also probably examples of times when someone threw gasoline onto a fire and didn't get burned in the explosion. One person usually ends up getting hurt because the other doesn't return their interest.

    I feel badly for women though. If a guy likes a girl, he can ask her out right then and figure out whether there's any returned interest instead of having to wait to be asked out.

    When women do turn men down for a date, there's nothing wrong with that, but the least they can do is be honest. I know better than to believe that you are super busy at work right now and just don't have time to start dating someone new, but a lot of guys, especially church guys, actually believe that. I know you don't want to come off as a mean or bad person, but lying to string a guy a long so that it's easier on you is mean and bad, and older women in the church should have no tolerance for younger women pulling stuff like that.

    I think a lot of times there's also an issue of women not wanting to date a guy but liking the self esteem boost that they get from having guys like them.

  • --Great podcast!  It was very timely.  Thank you, Boundless!

    Real life scenario:

    In a few days, I get the dreaded privilege to more forcefully tell a guy at my church "no" who didn't accept the first "no" I clearly gave him.  I go to a large church (over 900 people each Sunday), he's not in my small group, we don't have the same group of friends, and I have done my best to avoid him beyond responding with a "hi" or politely waving if he sees me.  Over the past year I have participated in some conversations he tried to start with me.  But, I tried to keep my distance and my space.  Still, he won't back off- coming over to me to try to hug me, pat my shoulder, going out of his way to talk to me, etc.

    In an ironic twist of events I recently learned (upon seeing a message from him) we use the same online "Christian" dating website.  He messaged me on the site a few weeks ago with something to the effect of, "I think we'd be great for each other".  His picture online is dated from a few years ago, and he doesn't look quite the same.  Therefore, I wasn't sure if he was the same person, but the thought did cross my mind that he looked familiar.  Regardless, I'm not interested in him and I sent an auto "No, but thanks for asking" reply.  But, he continues to try to talk to me at church.  I am polite, kind, and brief, yet he is refusing to get the hint.

    Last Sunday, he overheard me get asked to serve at one of the communion tables.  He quickly approached me (instead of the person who assigns people to communion tables), and he asked  if he could serve with me  (meaning be the other person to stand with me at that station and serve); I thanked him for offering, but I said no because I was going to ask someone else.  To me, that seems like a very obvious hint that I am not interested in you.

    He didn't get the hint.  In fact, yesterday he messaged me again on that site.  (Seriously?  I already told him no on that site.  However, he's not the first guy online who's done that.)  He obviously knew all along it was my profile (I have current photos posted).  Now I get to deal with an even more awkward situation.  I plan handle it with love and truth.

    I agree that women should be honest and not give excuses.  And, when I have to "slam the door in his face" (as an older mentor in my church recommended), I won't relish it.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  I tried to gently let that guy know I wasn't interested.  But, he refused to accept the most gracious reply.  So, something along the lines of, "Thank you for your interest, but I am not interested in starting a relationship with you; and that is not going to change.  I would appreciate it, if you would respect my space and my decision" is what I'll say.

  • --I like this guy Tony Evans. He drove home a point about a problem in the church with which I am only too familiar: the neglect of young men. I left my lifelong congregation because I had become an outcast. Thankfully, God has brought me to a new congregation where I can finally be part of something. I DO love to be challenged!

  • --@ksmall, yikes! I agree with your mentor, don't worry about being polite. You've been polite many times already. Maaaybe he is just oblivious, but it sounds like he is testing how far he can push your boundaries, especially with the way he's constantly trying to hug or pat your shoulder. Ignoring boundaries is a huge red flag. I would only confront him in a public place with other people in the background. If he doesn't respond to "Thank you for your interest..." then I would say something like, "No, I've already said no many times, now leave me alone!" in a firm voice and walk away. If that doesn't work, then you might have to talk to a male church leader about it. Two different times at my church, two different guys were behaving similarly (they weren't interested in me, thank God!), and they would not stop until someone told a leader, and the leader had a serious talk with them.    

  • --When I was single, 9 out of 10 times, I found guys to be cold and standoffish, often even rude  However, now that I'm married, that has disappeared.  My theory is they wanted to make it very clear they had no interest in me, which I think is a horrible way to communicate that.

  • --Hey now! Last week was our week to talk about guys. This week is supposed to be about women!

  • --The one thing I can say about men is that men tend to need something or someone external to motivate them to do something.  I look around at all the guys I know, especially young guys my age, and I feel very dissapointed.  There are guys who are in jail or drug rehab, who drink their lives away, or who are addicted to pornography or video games.  It's just so sad that in Western countries there are so many opportunities for them to make something of themselves and they don't even try.Even at my men's Bible study almost all the guys there only started going because their wives nagged them.

    For single girls I would encourage them to find men who have a long history of taking initiative.  Men who step up to the plate and actually do something when they see a problem.  Stay away from guys who need to be nagged all the time.  Look for men who have a strong internal drive to make glorify God and to serve their fellow human beings.  

  • --I can so relate to being the quieter girl who struggles to know how to carry on convos well--small talk has never been my strong point but I'm growing in it. I do think how you relate to your dad has an impact on how you relate to guys. I love my dad, but we've always struggled in our relationship, so sometimes it's hard for me not to assume guys will react the same way he normally would, and I find myself far too guarded because of that. As someone pointed out on another thread, practicing conversation makes a world of difference! As I've continued practicing I've gotten far more confident and secure, and seen how it's impacted my friendships with guys. And helped me turn from being more the ice princess (mostly due to my shyness) to become far more open, friendly, and talkative.

  • --I found this session more insightful than the previous. Is it that hard for a man to talk about women? But the reality is you can only talk about what you know. Is it possible to have a switch, where the men answer questions from women and women answer questions from men about each other? Dr. Evans, you really put some things into perspective I am hoping to purchase that book for myself.

    Oh that men would take initiative is the cry of my heart. I remember there was this young man that I was interested in, and God just said to me "If he doesn't lead now, he would not lead later."  If I have to make all the relationship decisions before we are married, imagine what life would be life after marriage. What a strain... A woman telling a man who he should be and what he should do is backwards. It makes me as a woman feel as though I have switched places then I become the one to not walk in womanhood. If a man has no vision for himself where will he lead his family?

    I'll try not to be too hard on my brothers though, I'll pray that they would fulfill the purpose God has for them and they find a community of mature men who would mentor them in Godly manhood.

  • --Linae, I'm glad you were listening to God's voice about the kind of man you should marry. I, too, think it would be terribly frustrating to feel that I had to do all the heavy spiritual lifting in the family. However, I'm suggesting that "A woman telling a man who he should be and what he should do" isn't "backwards" - it's just plain all around wrong. Switching it around to read "a man telling a woman who she should be and what she should do" is equally wrong.

    I think sometimes in their desire to "lead" their families, men take on too much responsibility. They feel responsible before God for the choices the ones under their care make. If you're the one at fault for someone else's wrong decisions, then you'd better make sure they make the right ones. This line of thinking leads to a lot of fear and control - not very healthy dynamics for a relationship.

    I'm not saying this is what you are advocating--at all!--just expressing a flip side, of which too many are unaware.

  • --How about men put on a show and we judge them.  And then we tell them how they're doing everything wrong.

  • --The reason that women fall into the "trap" of dating a lot of men, is that this raises their "value."  And nobody cared.  If dating was Pokemon cards, and women were Diglet, that would be the "dig" move.  If you can somehow flail your opponent with your only lame move, you just keep doing it until you "win."  This makes women competitive and forward.  But that's what the majority of even Christian men value, because that's what they encourage.

  • --I make light of this, but it's an absolute abomination that men nowadays are deciding to marry at such an old age.  It's bad and unnatural, so it probably belies another societal ill.  It literally demonstrates a belief held by even Christians that sexual control over a woman is acceptable: I don't like where this is headed for the Chruch...

  • --@Red, can you expand on what you're trying to say? It sounds like you have a lot of personal frustration, but I'm having a hard time following your train of thought.

  • --Elena, I almost wrote a similar response to Linae, but then I thought for a moment and didn't. Hopefully what follows will be better balanced than my knee-jerk reaction would have been. :P

    I think the "church" at large (along with much of society) is really confused about leadership. We think of leadership in terms of patriarchy or the stereotypical family values of the 1950s, which was really the golden age of the stay at home suburban Mom -- men had incomes that were enough to support their families and in suburbia, at least, the need to have lots and lots of kids to run the family farm, which required lots and lots of work had significantly decreased. Because of this largess, women had the kind of "free time" to participate in the PTA and community functions and be that stepford stay-at-home like June Cleaver.

    In poorer, more rural areas (or in minority homes), however, there was still an overabundance of children and mouths to feed and more work than time in a day to do it. Women worked hard in those homes, just as they had since the dawn of time. At the end of the day, women have always worked hard, whether they do it at home, or they do it outside the home. Somewhere along the way, we've gotten this idea of "woman" or "good women" that has less to do with being a strong, fierce woman who looks out for her family, provides care and shelter for them and supports her husband by her labors and her intellect, and we've replaced her in our mind with a milquetoast immitation who attends school meetings, chaperones an occasional field trip, never challenges her husband's decision making process, and maybe, sometimes, it it doesn't step on someone else's toes, brings some cookies to the church bake sale.

    Many of us priveledged folks (the kind of folks who can afford a PC, or work in an office job) don't relate to that hard labor upbringing, because our parents were raised in suburbia -- but instead of seeing how we are all products over our environment, we instead superspiritualize what we think of at the "perfect" nuclear family, without realizing that our picture is ethnocentric and economically priveledged, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain even for the wealthier half of the middle class.

    But that is the family structure (the only family structure) that the church strongly endorses, I think because they don't really understand what leadership looks like in the home. I have watched homes try that structure so hard that they drive the marriage into the dirt trying to make sure there is food on the table. By the time they get done going to the extra measures they need to so that Dad can work and Mom can stay home, there's actually no time *left* for the kids.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've seen homes where the Dad simply digs his heels in because the wife makes more and gets frustrated that her income is challenging his role as the provider. So he gets resentful and mean, and instead of talking about it, just retreats into a shell and quits the family while still living in the home, because men don't talk about their feelings, even with their wives.

    I've also seen men who are willing to run their wives ragged chasing a wild dream. it doesn't matter that their income is low, that their family is not being provided for, they are chasing their *dream* and their bedraggled wives and children should support them in their venture, and if they don't, then it is their fault for being contentious and unsupportive.

    Somewhere along the way, we've confused what it means to be a Man and Woman with what it meant to be a made-for-TV trope half a century ago. We've confused "bringing home the bacon" for being the head of the household, and we've confused "providing for the needs of your family" with all of masculinity.

    Here's a silly little secret: You can still be a man, a real man, a man's man, someone who is worth the love of a good woman and respected by your wife and not keep an iron grip of control on your place of headship, on your wife's earning potential, or on your personal goals.  In fact, you might be a little better off, and your family might be, too if you learn to simply work hard and hold those things loosely. By doing that, you are showing that you are the kind of man who would benefit from a relationship with a helper, not because you *need* one, but because you want one. Because you feel your life would be improved by one, and because you feel like you could offer one a better life than she could achieve on her own. If you don't feel like you could offer a woman a better life, I feel you. This is a tough economy. Times are hard, but times are hard for *everyone.* Let that light a fire in your gut that propells you to be part of the cream that rises to the time. Without pressure, diamonds are just lumps of coal. You are a man, not because of what you may someday achieve, but because of what you are achieving, even now.

    Once, I dated a guy with dreams, but no goals. He had perfected the art of sounding good to other people -- but he still worked minimum wage at a grocery and was waiting on life, change, luck and God to throw him a big break, and was uncomfortable with my level of income stacked next to his. That is, in his ideal world, it would be better if I were dragged down to his level than for him to rise to meet me. In the light of Linae's post I would deffinitely advise a discerning woman to steer clear of such a man, because that is the sort of guy that, in time, drags his wife and children down, doesn't see his wife as a person, but merely as an entity to fill a dress in his home, no different from a particularly nice sofa. He wanted to "improve" our relationship by sinking me.

    Contrasted, now, in the light of all I know with my now-husband's response to our engagement, I respect him all the more. After he proposed,  Mr. A(tof) enrolled in a master's degree program. Which he knew he needed to do in his career field, but had not done previously simply because he didn't want to. But he told me at the time, "I know this is going to be tough and gruelling and I don't "want" to do it, but this is how I am going to provide for our family." His way of responding to pressure was not to sink me, or drag me down, or try to shove me beneath him or to throw a dream out into the ether like an excuse, but rather, it was to improve himself, to make practical steps to provide for his family and to set new goals that we could achieve together.

    THAT is leadership!  and submission is coming alongside that and saying "YES! I wholeheartedly support you in this. What can *I* do to help you make our family better?" (and submission is a whole separate thread!)

    So what does all this have to do with dating?

    As a woman, evaluate the way men interact with you, around you, kindly and fairly. Do not mistake control for leadership, or pie-in-the-sky dreams with no legwork with leadership, or loud boasting about how a household is "going to be" with leadership. Make wise choices about the kind of life and lifestyle you want to live when looking for a spouse. Do not fall prey to an entitlement snare, but at the same time also do not allow people to peer pressure you into dating men who would drag you down on the grounds that "your standards are just way too high." When you get into a relationship ask yourself "Am I better or worse because of this relationship. Does this man acknowledge that I have hopes, dreams and aspirations, or does he expect me to shove mine aside to make room for his?"

    As a man, embrace your masculinity by opening up to the possibility that leadership and strength is best demonstrated by overcoming challenges, not by avoiding them entirely. You can lead best when followers naturally rise up behind you, rising to your expectation because the team has to achieve their goals; not when you are dragging along hostages, and not when you are looking back over your shoulder going "Hey, so are you going to follow me now, or what?". Confront the things that make you nervous. Accomplish difficult tasks. They don't even have to be particularly "manly" tasks. So what if you like baking cupcakes? Women loooooove cupcakes. Be the best darned cupcake baker you know. Save a little money from every check and open a cup cake store. Start a kickstarter for that wild idea you had. Put *legs* to your dreams and hopes and aspirations. Don't just talk about being a missionary someday, sign up for a trip. And find a woman that's not going to be your little "yes man" but one who is going to press into you and push you ahead. Someone who's going to get elbows deep in cupcake batter with you, or join you halfway around the world kicking a soccer ball with underpriveledged kids. Someone who is going to rise to your level and pull you up with her.

    THAT is leadership.

    Asking a woman if she wants to get coffee with you is just a date.

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