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Manly Modesty- Protecting her heart (and yours)

March 17, 2012 1 comment

Modesty is something of a catchphrase in some circles. Among many of my Christian friends it’s actually discussed pretty regularly. That being said, in all of the conversations that I’ve heard, I can’t recall one instance when it was discussed as something that applies to men.

I wrote a blog a while ago discussing modesty in which I defined the virtue as the will to help others love you as they should. From this baseline, many of the recommendations for women logically flow. When a woman covers her body, it allows me to pay more attention to her as a whole person instead of focusing on specific body parts. “Loving” a woman only – or even primarily – for the sum of her physical parts is an insult to her dignity and to the love that I am called to. Looking at her and appreciating her rightly is my responsibility as a man, but in dressing and acting modestly,   she has demonstrated concern for my spiritual well-being by making that responsibility less difficult.

So the question then becomes, “As a man, how can I make her responsibility less difficult?” On one level, the same rules still apply. I shouldn’t be walking around half-naked in hopes that women will notice me and appreciate me for my body. But I think most of us can agree that women don’t struggle as much on that level.  At least not in the same way.

Sometimes an easier way to identify something is to search for its opposite. What if I asked the question, “How can I distract a woman from loving and respecting me as the individual and brother in Christ that I am?”  I would probably start by emphasizing my body which goes with the paragraph above. I would hit the gym all the time just to get that perfect beach bod, and hit the beach all the time to show it off. If I can get a girl to see me as a “hot” guy and take interest in me for that alone, I have managed to become an object of her use instead of a subject worthy of love. I would call this a violation of physical modesty, but let’s not stop there (after all, girls aren’t as visually stimulated as guys are). I would go a step further by associating myself with material things, like wealth, possessions and influence. I would buy drinks and meals and offer rides in my sweet car. I would be the guy with the VIP booth in the Gucci suit.  If I can make her associate me more with my prestige (and her material gain) than with my dignity as a human being I’ve once again managed to distract her. This would be more an assault on material modesty.  But what about the girls who aren’t into material things? What about all the girls out there who just want to be appreciated and admired and secure. For these I would just give them what they want. I would just shower them with all of the affirmation that they want (and deserve). I would be the guy with all the sweetest pickup lines who always knew the right thing to say. It’s a risky bet, but if I play my cards right, I can get her to appreciate me more as a provider of emotional  benefits than as a human being worthy of love for my own sake.  This final travesty would be an insult to emotional modesty.

Now, I really hope that you found something (if not everything) about the paragraph above a little unsettling. The statement above is only half of the story. If I ended the blog here, you might think that the truly modest man is one who (1) takes horrible care of his body and/or makes himself look ugly. (2) has no sense of style , hoards all his wealth where no one else can benefit, and drives a crappy car. And (3) either insults or makes no effort to affirm the women in his life.  That’s not exactly virtuous either. So let’s examine each type of modesty more closely.

Physical Modesty:

Once again, if the goal of modesty is to help others love me as they should, then physical modesty starts with showing the same respect for my body that others should. If my body is a temple, then I should take care of it with the reverence that it deserves as carrier of my soul and the house in which I manifest God’s love and glory to the world. Hitting the gym (and the beach) isn’t the problem. The failure in modesty (for guys and girls) arises when I showcase my body in a manner that gives it more emphasis than it is due.  Often, my physical immodesty begins not when others start seeing my body as an object, but when I start treating my own body as an object to leverage.

Material Modesty:

Material possessions ARE objects for me to use, so here my problem is a bit different. I am a very strong advocate of guys picking up the tab for girls when going out. Whether I’m on a date or just a group going out as friends, I think it’s an appropriate sign of appreciation and recognition of the wonderful blessing that those women are in my life.  That being said, I also have a responsibility to ensure that those intentions are clear and that I don’t present myself as a means to other ends. In essence, material modesty requires that we show humility even in our generosity.

Emotional modesty:

This is the really tricky one. I need to be careful when dealing with the emotions of my sisters in Christ. Some are more delicate than others, but almost all are more complex than my own. Modesty in this arena is still something that I struggle to understand and regularly fail to live. My insight here is limited, and I would greatly appreciate more help from my female friends out there in understanding this aspect (as well as the others), but here is what I have gleaned from my experiences and often times my shortcomings.

I’ve held the opinion for quite a while that guys in general suck at affirming the women in our lives. It seems to me that the only time many women receive compliments and affirmation from us is when the guy is romantically interested in them. Similarly it seems that in some circles the level of physical interaction that is appropriate between friends is limited to a handshake or awkward side-hug. I’m not a fan of either of these facets of our society, but I must take them into consideration when interacting with women.  I want to tell every woman that I meet that she is beautiful. I see that as inherent truth that is part of her dignity as a woman. However, I also need to realize that if I go up to a woman and tell her that she is beautiful, she will probably take that in the context of a romantic gesture. Further, even if I say that I am only telling her that as a friend and because it is true, I am still possibly  one of few places where she hears those words that she longs (and deserves) to hear. That can inflate my value in her mind, and if I make a constant habit of flattering her (especially when I’m first getting to know her) that can BECOME my value in her mind. Similarly, I need to make efforts to ensure that my physical interaction doesn’t project my value as merely someone who provides a physical affirmation or sense of security. The right balance of physical and verbal affirmation is unique to each relationship and each individual, but I think that it’s important to ensure there is a balance. Or maybe that’s just my problem…

In all three of these areas, I am dealing with something that God has given me. When I use it rightly, it should be attractive to a woman. The role of modesty is in placing that item in its proper place so that it doesn’t lead others to be attracted disproportionately to that part of me. My body is a gift that God gave to me and it is a part of who I am, but it is only a PART. I shouldn’t dress or act in ways that encourage people to see that as my entire source of dignity.  Similarly, I may be fortunate enough to have wealth which God wants me to enjoy and to share generously, but modesty reminds me to enjoy and to share humbly; not flaunting my wealth or expecting anything for it. Finally, when addressing the women in my life, I know that I have a responsibility to affirm them and lift them up – to remind them of their worth and how much I appreciate the grace of their presence. But I also have a responsibility to revere the emotional facets of a woman and the effects that I can have on them.

When I wrote the first blog to the women who were reading, I offered some tips. I suppose I should do the same for the guys.

  1. Don’t show off- it’s one thing to acknowledge the blessings that you have. It’s another thing to flaunt them.
  2. Take it easy- there’s a proper place for generosity in every aspect of life, but don’t go overboard when giving to an individual. Especially when you are first getting to know them.
  3. On a similar note, make a habit of saying one or two affirming things to the women in your life when you see them. But stick to one or two short and meaningful comments instead of multiple loaded statements unless a specific situation warrants.
  4. When possible try to make it a group thing. It’s a lot easier to affirm women rightly when it’s a group of guys that pay for dinner or walk the girls to their cars or even offer a compliment.
  5. Your actions should reflect the depth that has already been reached in a relationship (not the depth you want it to attain).
    1. At one extreme, you can look at sex which is the complete physical union of two persons and is only appropriate AFTER that union has been made emotionally and spiritually through marriage.
    2. On the other end of the spectrum is a hand shake (or a hug in some circles) which is an appropriate greeting for a relative stranger
    3. Everything in between requires a balance that you have to discern but should do so with a sense of restraint.
    4. In the words of a better friend than I deserve, “, I, like every other woman, am watching everything else and know when I am loved and valued without physical affection….”

In all of this, I can say with absolute certainty that I am a man who has a long way to go in this virtue, both in understanding and in practice. If any readers out there have any more insights, PLEASE for my sake and that of anyone else reading – share.

AMDG

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Tips for Being a Better Boyfriend

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I should preface these recommendations with a disclaimer: I’m not particularly experienced or qualified in the area. I’ve had three (3) girlfriends in my life and I’m single at the moment so I obviously haven’t figured it all out yet. A much more reliable guide would come from a man who is happily married (and / or his wife). That being said, I feel like I have learned a few things, often enough from my personal failures (and those of other guys that I’ve been around) and I would be remiss if I left you to make the same mistakes. Not to mention, writing these down is a good reminder for when I can make use of them. Most of these suggestions are equally valid for married men as for those in the courting phase. Please feel free to share your own insights, suggestions or criticisms.

Read more…

Love at First Sight

June 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Some people say that there is no such thing as love at first sight, especially for a Christian. I beg to differ. In fact, I would go so far as to say that love at first sight (LAFS) is the most authentic type of love (especially for a Christian). I would even say that it is the CALL of every Christian. The problem is our concept of love. Read more…

Chris West at USNA

June 18, 2011 1 comment

During my senior year in college (2006), I was fortunate enough to have Christopher West come and speak to an open audience (both Catholics and Protestants who were interested) at my school about “God, Sex, and the meaning of Life.” He allowed us to record it and share as we saw fit, so there’s no copyright issue. Here is a link to the download if you want to check it out (about 90mb and 90 minutes long).

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21653317/CW%20%40%20usna.wma

(note: the first voice you hear is the priest saying an opening prayer, Chris starts right after that)

also, while I still have space (over a GB), here is the link to the full video…

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fdl.dropbox.com%2Fu%2F21653317%2Fchris%2520west%2520at%2520USNA.mpg&h=84774

AMDG

Christian Gentlemen

June 18, 2011 1 comment

For all guys who are man enough to put action behind the respect for others that we have been called to since the beginning of our creation. For all the guys who at least attempt to live out the awe of Adam when he first beheld Eve- the masterpiece of God’s creation. For all guys who realize that Christianity is about more than an hour on Sunday morning: Read more…

Heroes

June 18, 2011 1 comment

The glory of God is man fully alive.” ~ st Ireneaus

 We all grow up with heroes in our lives whether they were TV characters or sports stars or our dads. And it’s no coincidence that we spent a lot of time pretending we were them. Whether we were in the back yard with a basket ball or inside with the Nerf guns, we wanted to be the hero and we wanted to save the day. Even as we grow up a lot of us play sports and video games to get that fix of “hero time”.

It’s no accident that we have this desire. It’s no accident that it’s been a part of our masculine upbringing since childhood. And sadly, it’s no accident that forces in our lives today try to limit our “hero time” to hours spent in front of a TV or on a ball field divorced from all other reality. Read more…