Good men, the ones who know what it is like to fight the battle for virtue, are deeply hurt when other men don’t see the dignity in women. I have found this to be true in personal experience and the glimpses of truth that entertainment sources can provide. Real men value the unique role women have and they do not respect men who fail to protect women.
I was watching a TV show the other day and the plot centered on a woman who was found in a forest, badly beaten. Uncertain of the ones who committed the crime, the people aiding her were able to find her husband and sent word to him of her location. The woman revealed, however, that her husband was the one who had beaten her. The central male character in the show was profoundly disturbed by this reality. When given the chance to protect the recovering wife, the main character did so. He was overly vehement in his defense, the protection spiralling into beating the man himself, but that beating I could understand, even if not condone. Real men want to defend women, not manipulate or abuse them.
The numerous accounts of sexual harassment that have made the news over the past several weeks has been a bit disheartening. Last week, my class was reviewing an informational quiz they had taken about tech safety. One of the questions asked them to define objectification. Many did so accurately, speaking about how it means you treat a person as though they are an object. Then I asked a simple question, “Do you think men objectify women more or women objectify men more?” There was no statistic I had in mind; I simply wanted to see what they thought. Most people said men objectify women more, but some students argued it was equal.
In one class, however, the conversation continued and they began sharing how men objectify women in different ways than women do. They spoke of unwanted physical contact, vile words in catcalls, and other scenarios. Several of the young women in my class had situations or opinions they wanted to share. After a few shared, I began noticing the faces of the young men in my classroom. They seemed a bit defeated. I asked the women to pause their sharing for a moment so that some of the men could chime in. I didn’t want it to be a man-bashing session because good, virtuous men are as appalled by this behavior as women.
More than the words were the young men’s faces that produced an ache in my heart. There seemed a vulnerability in their faces. They couldn’t argue for what the men did because they knew it was wrong. But hearing about man after man hurting women dampened the natural exuberance they exhibited in my classroom. I was fine with the gravity of the situation, yet I didn’t want them to feel to blame simply because they are men. Feminism often takes the unnecessary step from desiring to be seen as equal to bashing men.
In social media and in the world at large, young men are seeing many examples of what not to do. I told them that men aren’t looking very good in the media right now and that it hurts because we know there are many, many good men. I challenged them to be the virtuous young men that our culture needs. A world that continues to tell us to “do what we feel” is now experiencing the results of doing what we feel. Unsurprisingly, most don’t like the results. I want my students to be the ones who change the cultural perception of what it means to be a man.
Jesus, however, has been proposing a different way of life ever since He walked the earth. He calls us to not just avoid adultery, but to avoid looking at anyone with lust. A transformation of the heart is what is essential in achieving this. In a world that is producing more and more pornography, we are telling generations of men and women to look but don’t touch. It will never remain with just looking. Simultaneously, we see the patterns of human trafficking and are seeking to minimize the increase. When we live on a diet of distorted realities, why are we surprised to see a culture bearing distorted fruits?
Knowing and being in friendship with good solid men makes me a better woman. The first good man in my life, my father, set the bar pretty high. His pursuit of justice and integrity were powerful influencers in my childhood and youth. As time passes, the number continues to grow of men I know who inspire me. Some are priests and others are co-workers. Yet being in relationship with them motivates me to draw nearer to Christ and reveals a different aspect of God that female friendships can never exhibit.
Good men, the ones who know they aren’t perfect but fight courageously for daily virtue, transform the world around them. They are models for young boys and men who are in desperate need of positive examples. In varying ways, they create a better world. They pour themselves into families and marriages, into professional work, into life-giving hobbies, and into deep relationship with the Lord. By being in relationship with good men, I understand more clearly my gifts as a woman and the unique way that God crafted my heart. Good men bring my heart great joy because I can see the humanity of Christ living and radiating in them.
To all good men, thank you. The world needs you to keep being men of integrity, men of virtue, and men after God’s own heart.