Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Debbie Maken's essay on "how men need to quit whining and get their act together"

***Disclaimer: Obviously, she's a Christian, and I'm not (see previous, unfinished, post). But I respect her "no nonsense" attitude about this issue***

The following is from the website of someone named Debbie Maken, who has written a book called Getting Serious about Getting Married

 . . . But the question still is—are they pursuing someone with whom they have parity. God in his beauty has created males and females at all points of the spectrum with respect to looks, intelligence, professions, ambitions, maturity, etc. As I read some of the comments from angered men, there is an accusation that if a woman did not want to settle for some man, ergo, she must not want to settle down period. There is an implied charge that women should be happy to just have the “bare minimum” man who has an “okay job” and “doesn’t pass gas” in church. There is this notion that our grandmothers settled for our grandfathers because they brought little education or monetary capital to the table, and hence, the granddaughters should do likewise, even if their trousseaux are substantially larger.

This almost reminds me of a Saturday night skit where the punch line was—“lower your standards.” God has not called us to lower our standards, but to be equally yoked, and I believe this means more than two people who profess Christ as Lord. The more commonalities a couple has will work toward helping the two work in unity as one—this includes spiritual maturity, knowledge and understanding of Scripture, intellectual development, familial backgrounds and expectations, educational achievements, social standing, ambitions, etc.

There are two things men can do here to help improve the situation, if indeed they are sincere about seeking marriage. First, most men would feel less frustrated if they pursued women who were like them (i.e. equals), and thereby risk a lower chance of rejection. It is the opinion of this author that because there is no gatekeeper or scout to screen candidates on behalf of women, most men usually aim a little bit higher than they should, hoping to get lucky, and hence a series of “systematic mismatches” (a term borrowed from Dinesh D’Souza) follow to vex both sexes. It is little of the sixty year old grandpa on his second wind hoping to get lucky with the less wrinkled forty year old woman. Women today are not going to settle for the bare minimum man, any more than a man would settle for a bare minimum car or a bare minimum stereo system. We all have something to offer, but some do have more to offer than others. The trick is to find someone with whom to be equally yoked, and yet realize that the time to search is a relatively limited period. (I apologize if my writings are coming off as “marriage being a consumer product;” that certainly is not my intention, as I believe it to be a union mandated through the creation ordinances to reflect the glory and image of God).

The Egalitarian notion that romantic love will obfuscate all other inequalities is a purely Western sentiment. No one India who is an untouchable is entertaining possibilities of advancing into the next caste through marriage; males and females in each group pair according to parity and what they respectively bring to the table. The entire time parents raise children in India it is being instilled that the choices they make throughout childhood will ultimately impact who they are as an adult and will have a bearing on what they are able to capture in terms of a spouse. Here in the West, we simply assume that people should love us the way we are and are angered when they don’t.

Second, men can actually do something to improve themselves and make themselves more appealing. This notion of “why can’t you just accept me the way I am” is fundamentally childish. No one is going to remain static; God himself wants to change virtually everything about us to make us conformed to the image of Christ. What in the world would make men think that women wouldn’t want them to change certain habits or traits also? What in the world would make men think they deserve to stay the way they are? Ever since we are born into this world, everything around us and about us is changing and being shaped by others. My children are constantly being coached about sharing toys, being loving towards one another, and to deal with sins of the heart like covetousness. They are constantly being disciplined about the manner in which they speak to parents, the use of their voice and tone. They are constantly being told to use their hands for the glory of God and not for evil. I suspect I am going to have to constantly keep mothering and helping shape them until they have formed their own home (and who knows, maybe even thereafter). But at marriage, they will have their respective spouses to shape them and make them holier for Christ. It is irrational for anyone, male or female, to believe that romantic significant others will not ask for change in some way or fashion. We should count ourselves so lucky that God allowed someone to enter our lives to help change us for the better. The only question we should be asking ourselves is if the change sought is an improvement, and then submitting in love.

I share the story of one girl I knew who once dated a young man who was really, really, really into auto parts. Though holding two advanced degrees in engineering and having a decent stable job, this man chose to spend virtually every spare minute playing with auto parts and having grease underneath his fingernails. When it came time to go out on a date, he did not have a real car, but one that he was assembling and chose to take his date out in that crude vehicle (which BTW had no seat belts). This young man often dressed in overalls for his dates; such is the self-imposed requirement for those who pay faux homage to agrarianism. She once made him return home to change his farmer outfit before the two of them went out. They, of course, had to take her car since his auto-thingy was unfit for driving or riding in, unless one actually wanted to smell of exhaust fumes at the restaurant. As the story goes, ultimatums were issued, and the guy wanted to know why the girl “wanted to change everything about him.” She let him know that if those things were so fundamentally part of his identity, it could not be a part of her identity. This man is now over forty and has not found anyone else, as his girlfriend predicted when it ended. I share this story only to point out that it is really easy for men to say that they simply want women to “respect their leadership” and accept them the way they are by not being “critical.” When the truth is, that there are some hard things that certain men may need to hear, and while it would be best coming from their parents (who should have groomed their children to be marriage-ready in conjunction with coming of age), these men should nevertheless count themselves fortunate that God was able to use another individual to help them evaluate areas of self-improvement.

My husband when he was trying to find a wife was constantly prodded by his mother to take better care of himself. She helped him to work out and made sure he went in for facials. Mrs. Maken Sr. was doing everything she could to help her son put his best foot forward. And often, the criticisms that most men receive, whether from mom or a wife to be, should be taken with this understanding—that the women who care about you simply want you to be the best you can be. After all, this is what God wants from us in general—our best effort (i.e. excellence), and God has appointed a wife as a helpmeet so that we can have an invaluable assistant and be our best. So often, I see lack of ambition and effort on the part of men excused by the over- spiritualization of poverty and financial martyrdom. Greed and vanity are made to be the only demons worthy of slaying. We are too quick to dismiss poorly made occupational/ professional choices of men by distorting monetary success and the need for it as a worldly, fleshly desire. In the process, we often cover up the vices of sloth/ laziness on the part of men to do better and to hold jobs that demonstrate the ability to support a family. The problem I am seeing here is that some men make choices to lead a certain life, to behave in a certain way socially, and when their choices do not seem to appeal to women, instead of accepting personal responsibility, they choose to call the women demanding, obsessive, or plagued with Feminist thought. I just find that Feminism is a very convenient scapegoat when we do not want to take responsibility for the choices we make in how we present ourselves as a candidate for marriage. A woman has an obligation to affirm a man’s leadership, she is not required to celebrate mediocrity.

Having said this, I do want to add that I share the frustrations of some decent men who suffer from unjust dismissals from women. In my book, I discuss at length the benefit of having an agent (i.e. a parental figure) work with women in the process of securing marriage. The gatekeeper/scout father figure works both ways to not only hold the man accountable, but the daughter as well. The agent not only stops a lackluster suitor from access to a worthy woman, but also can counsel a daughter not to squander opportunities with a fairly good/even match. I can think of girl friends of mine who have rejected perfectly good candidates with noble character and stable jobs over issues of not being cute enough or too thin or not feeling butterflies in the stomach. I wish I could have said to them that some of their own deficiencies in other areas would cancel out his mediocre looks. Or I wish I could have cautioned some about overly romanticized expectations that are not necessarily Biblical criteria for rejection. Or I wish I could have told another friend to stop investing so much of her time and effort into a Seminary degree (for we all know how efficacious they are for women) so that she could do “youth ministries,” and instead explore the potential of a relationship with a good friend of mine looking for a wife, a choice which would more than likely have led to her own set of youth to minister to. Unfortunately with the hard truths, friends usually cannot be so bold, but authoritative father figures can. Thus men, it is to your advantage, to work alongside an older established Christian family man in your serious pursuit of marriage, and insist your courted one also have one available for accountability purposes for her and you.

The long and short of it is-- calling men to task for neglecting marriage, for irresponsibility in conducting one’s youth, lack of vision, lack of ambition, lack of purpose, poor professional choices, poor social skills-- is not “fundamental disrespect” of men. It is immature in the extreme to believe that our personal choices which constitute much of who we are somehow become consequence free in the mating game. It is easy to avoid personal responsibility for our personal choices that have caused perennial bachelorhood by pointing to Feminists, soft core feminism in Christian women, labeling women as men-haters or disrespectful the moment they suggest change or dare disagree, or by casting women as lacking a submissive, quiet, gentle spirit if they logically outline the flaws in a man’s argument. Women are only required to submit to their fathers or husbands, not to men in general. If men desire the submissiveness of women, they first have to be men to win the hand of a woman. They have to be leaders. Jesus defined leadership as servanthood, so a sacrificial spirit will inevitably be evaluated during courtship. When men refuse to change even simple things, like social habits, and instead want to be argumentative about women being controlling or Feminist driven, the heart of the matter is exposed.

The only way to respect men is if men show themselves to be men; and for that, women, whether in courtship or already married, must make every effort to make sure that her man is leading. When men clamor to be “met on their own terms,” and “let the girl be the girl and the boy be the boy,” it sounds so romantically egalitarian, and yet so oblivious at the same time. The girl cannot be the girl unless the boy is the man. Similarly, a wife has nothing to submit to if her husband does not lead. It is possible for the husband to lead, and the wife to sadly revolt against his authority. But the converse (husband no lead, wife follow) is impossible. The reason is because the woman is for the glory of the man, and the man must precede the woman. (I. Cor. 11:7-9). God designed it so because the woman was made “out of”/for the man. (See also Gen. 2:22-23).

The resistance I am hearing from a lone few bachelors out there is because someone, albeit a woman, finally had the nerve to say no longer do romantic relationships on men’s terms or women’s terms, but according to God’s objective for marriages forming during one’s youth. And for that, men and women are required not only to present themselves as marriage-ready and marriage-worthy, but to be purposeful from the inception of a relationship. Women by their very nature and design instinctively know that they are made for the man. During the Reformation, there was a strain of thought that suggested that women could never have been called to remain single because they were “made for the man,” (I. Cor. 11:9) and because all five characters in the Bible with lifelong celibacy produced singleness were all male. There is a loneliness, a floundering, an unexpressed longing to be whole, that is more acutely felt by women than men remaining single. Single women experience purposelessness; whereas, single men experience a crippled/ maimed life, though many seem to get accustomed to their own hobbling. Therefore, it is not extraordinary that women then are the ones usually demanding DTR (define the relationship). Adam named Eve to establish his headship and help her with her own self-understanding. When a man refuses to define, set out objectives, clarify intentions to his follower, he is ultimately refusing to lead. He is refusing to be a man.

But, women are looking to the man to define far more than the nature of the relationship. They want him to articulate the future as well. I am not talking about gazing into a crystal ball with your significant other, but imagining a future that is blessed by being together and acting as one. Women are evaluating the leadership potential of a man by knowing that he has a vision, a plan, goals for him, his wife and children. No one affirms a man just because he is a man. I do not revere my husband just because he is a man. I revere him for who he is as a person, what he has done so far, for the potential he holds, and for what he wants to do, and on the demonstrable basis of past accomplishments and track record, and a satisfactory observation of the development of adequate Christian character, he was entrusted with becoming my husband. The only way a single man will be able to bring alongside a single woman to share in his dreams for the future, to create in her mind a mental picture of future blessings, is not by smooth seductive words, but by showing her that he is trustworthy based on his past conduct in being diligent, ingenious, hard-working, and sacrificial. The “bare minimum” man is not interested in proving anything to a young lady or even offering her much, but claiming an entitlement to respect by the very fact that he is male. That is simply unacceptable. That is simply unbiblical.