I originally wrote the following last night as a comment in a friend's Facebook thread. The topic, broadly speaking, was the age-old one of relationships between the sexes; more specifically, it began with my friend's perspective on the way many women today view men. The subject stirred up something that has been living in me for years about the nature of love. I could expand on it immensely, but the two paragraphs that follow say it well enough in brief....
Ladies and gents, allow an old duffer to provide a perspective from the pre-tech era. Let me be frank: hormones have always run hot. But there was a time when sex was something sacred, not a given; when "friendship with privs" would have been recognized as pure BS; when women were seen as something awesome by men, and men by women; when a guy's voice used to rise a minor third with nervousness about asking a girl out; and when care, respect, and honor, not me-first, what-I-want, and what-I-think-love-should-look-like, guided man/woman relationships.
We've lost track of what love is. This nation has become tremendously self-centered. So men, if you say you're a good man, then know for sure what that means, and then be it toward women in a way that can't be easily moved by circumstance and shifting emotions. Women, know that it is no easier for a man to be a man than it is for you to be a woman. Have respect for yourself--and have respect and care for us men. And both men and women, if you wonder what love--real love, not Hollywood love, not hormonal love, not love that's all about emotions and how you feel--looks like, consult that outdated book for non-sophisticates called the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. The ancient wisdom there will frickin' blow your postmodern millennial minds and challenge you to a higher vision than anything our trendy, self-deifying culture has to offer.
Men, do you want to build up your woman? Here is an important way to do so: tell her she is beautiful.
Tell her again.
And again, and again, and again.
Keep on telling her until she begins to believe you. And don't stop.
Because in our culture, where the standards for womanly beauty are so hard to attain and so unkind, and where the messages to a woman that she is imperfect and undesirable are fired like arrows into her soul from the time she is a little girl, far too many women, even those with a model's good looks, believe down inside that they are not beautiful.
Tell your woman otherwise. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her she is beautiful to you—because you're the one to whom, above all, she wants to be beautiful. So tell her, both by your words and by the way you relate to her, that you think she is beautiful both outwardly and inwardly. Let her know that you see her at her very core and that you love what you see—her intellect, her personality, her sense of humor, her spirit. And while her outer wrapper is just a part of her beauty, it is an important part, so let her know that you find that part of her attractive, because it matters to her. She wants to know that all of her—body, soul, and spirit—is lovely in your eyes.
Set aside the male ideals of breasts and legs and waist and buttocks. Great if your woman has got those things working for her, but every woman has got areas in which her physical appearance shines. Notice them, and call them to her attention. Do you love how her eyes sparkle when she's excited about something? Let her know. Does her smile light up her face? Say so. Do you love the sound of her laughter? Tell her. You can come up with something. Something to build her up. Something that is true and lovely about her and that makes her feel special to hear it from you.
Convincing a woman of her beauty is not always easy. Some women bear emotional scars that make it hard for them to receive compliments. Persist. You are a man—so be a man. A real man who bears up under her skepticism and patiently persists. Because healing doesn't happen in a day, or a month, or even a year. It takes time.
It is true that, just like some men, some women are simply not ready for a healthy relationship. Some are too self-centered, manipulative, and even cruel to be good relational material. But if yours has lived enough to have shed some of our culture's shallow trappings and developed a bit of character and nobility, then the question is, what kind of man will you be to her? What she needs is for you to see a beauty worth fighting for, a heart that longs to be seen and admired, and a person who needs and deserves to be loved.
There is a cost, but the reward is watching your woman's beauty emerge. When she smiles at you, her smile will speak volumes; it is for you only, and nothing can take the place of it.
Through the fights, through her testings of your sincerity, through the misunderstandings, through your own self-doubts, through the struggles and discouragement, through the months and years, be to her that man who tells her the truth: that she is beautiful. Stay with it. Because she is beautiful—and she is worth it.
I hope it truly is a happy one for you. For many, today will indeed be a day of richness--of family, feasting, and laughter. Yet I know that for others, today inaugurates a holiday season that will be marked more by pain and loneliness than happiness.
So perhaps it is wiser to wish you a Blessed Thanksgiving, whether it is a happy one or not. God's blessings keep us regardless of our circumstances. During the times in my life when I have struggled--and those have been many--the one constant I could count on was God's love for me, and His care in ways I often knew nothing of.
Today my friend Julie will spend her first Thanksgiving without her beloved husband, Chris. It would be foolish of me to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. But a blessed one? Yes, that is something I both pray she will have and trust she will have.
Blessings of comfort and peace, knowing that death does not have the last word: that belongs to the Alpha and Omega, and He decrees Life.
Blessings of family, with two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandchild with whom she will no doubt spend this day.
Blessings of memories, bittersweet, precious, and--remembering what a nut Chris was--often funny.
Most of all, overarching and undergirding all other blessings, the blessing of God's presence: the arms of a knowing and loving heavenly Father holding Julie in the midst of her grief--yes, even when it seems like no one, not even God, can touch the raw wound of a loved one lost. May the "peace that passes all understanding" be hers, and may grace carry and strengthen her on her journey.
Today I am thankful for my sweetheart, Lisa, who is busily preparing the turkey. I am thankful that today we will eat that turkey, and plenty else besides, with my dear 86-year-old mother and my sister, Diane. I am thankful for my family members who will be observing this day far away--for Pat in Washington State; Terry in Sweden; and Brian, Cheryl, and my nephew, Sam, in Dallas. I am thankful for some wonderful friends, and for health, and for my cluttered but clean and comfortable apartment. I am thankful for the gift of a simple life (though by no means one that is devoid of interest). There is much I find to be thankful for. Most of all, I am thankful for my Savior and Teacher, Jesus, who has walked with me and often carried me for over 30 years.
I am a blessed man with much to be thankful for. Today, whether your circumstances are happy or difficult--or, as is the case with most of us, a mixture of both--may you recognize God's blessings in your own life here and now. May you go through your day with a heart of gratitude.
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.