So there I was last night, enjoying some hot chocolate and a few online conversations with some good friends, when something rather concerning popped up in my little Facebook chat.
“I think I’m too jaded to ever let anyone into my life anymore,” she said without blinking, as if it were a common way to start a conversation.
I inquired for an explanation, and she proceeded to tell me a story of her work life involving the second-level CEO of her company. To the casual observer, he’s got it all. He’s a faithful man with a heart for God. He’s young, but managed to land a very successful job. He has a beautiful wife who loves him to no end. The road was paved smooth for both him and the silver spoon in his mouth. She described him as the person that people 20 years older look at in awe and think, “Wow, I wish I had that!”
But no one else in the company knew him the way she did. My friend proceeded to tell me stories of him grabbing at her underwear when she wasn’t expecting it, or how earlier in the day he obviously and intentionally staring down her shirt to make her feel uncomfortable, then trying to make light of his behavior with a joke. She had confronted him about how inappropriate and degrading it was to her, but her words fell on deaf ears.
Of course, because she’s a close friend of mine, my first instinct was to become disgusted with her CEO’s actions. The way he treats her is absolutely inexcusable by any measure, especially given that he’s married. But, while I definitely felt for her, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep had I not asked her about things she may have been doing to provoke his behavior towards her specifically.
I asked what she chose to wear to work that day, and she showed me a picture. To her, it was a nice sweater that she got a good deal on. “I just got a sweater for $15!” she said. But I explained to her that, as a guy, it was pure potential. It was a low-cut sweater that could turn virtually any upper-body movement into an unsolicited Victoria’s Secret commercial.
As our conversation continued, it revealed an attitude in her that I’d heard from numerous young women before:
“I had no idea he would look at me like that!”
“I just thought it was a cute shirt!”
“I can’t believe men really think that way!”
I’m not out to get on my soapbox about the fashion industry being a horrible influence on the minds of young women, or about men for being irresponsible with their sexual desires, or about women for being naïve regarding how men view them (though, I think all three are equally to blame). Frankly, I’m not a clothier, nor am I a woman, so it would be hard for me to objectively speak about many of the arguments and counter-arguments around this subject.
But, I am a man. I know full well what it’s like to have my eyes closed in prayer to God one minute, and open my eyes to find them straying onto the body of a young woman the next. I am all too familiar with wanting nothing more than to be a good friend to a young woman, but still struggling to not think of her inappropriately because of how undeniably beautiful she is.
So, with that, I aim to lay some hard truths out into the open for the young women who care to read this blog (especially those that are single), in hopes that they will have a better understanding of how men struggle with the things they do, and how they as women can present themselves in a way that’s honoring to both themselves as creations of God, and to God himself.
Truth Number 1: Men Are Dogs
It’s true. Every last one of us. We all struggle with lustful thoughts. If you meet a man who tells you otherwise, then he’s a dog AND a liar. It’s the reason that the verse in Matthew 5 talks about MEN committing adultery in their hearts after having a lustful thought.
The cliché that says men are visual beings is absolutely true. God created us to appreciate beauty, and he created women to be beautiful. It’s one of the many ways that God has perfectly designed us. Yet, it’s also something that can cause a great deal of pain to men and women alike when the appropriate appreciation of beauty isn’t embraced.
It’s difficult to accurately explain this struggle because it’s unlike most others. This isn’t a struggle like swearing or gluttony that are bad habits we learn from the world and can eventually learn not to do; this is a struggle that is built into our very core because of how God made us. It’s a struggle to use what we were given in a proper, God-honoring way. Women are always going to be beautiful, and we’re always going to want to admire them. That part of our brain never shuts off.
And on the subject of brains, I think it serves to make an important distinction here. A man who is being tempted and drawn into lusting after a woman can very well have NO emotional connection to her whatsoever. It is entirely possible (and entirely common, I fear) for a man to indulge himself in careless thoughts about a woman’s physical beauty when he doesn’t even know her name.
So women, please do not make the mistake of believing that because a man is gazing your way more frequently than others that he feels something for you. A lustful gaze is NOT the first sign of love; it’s the first step off a slippery slope of him approaching you for the wrong reasons.
Truth Number 2: You ARE Beautiful
What is somewhat troubling as a guy is that while it’s easy to spot women who are trying very hard to attract attention with their physical features, there are ten times as many women on the opposite end of the spectrum who somehow believe that they are simply unappealing to men in general. Every time I have a conversation with a young woman about modesty and the struggles of men, some sort of self-deprecating belief inevitably rears its ugly head in the form of a phrase like, “I guess I just never thought I was much to look at.”
Let me set the record straight. It’s a lie. It just is.
I can’t count the number of times I have heard a young woman I’ve thought was stunningly beautiful talk about how unattractive she was, and it is always disheartening on so many levels. Obviously it breaks my heart because the undying truth that God created every one of us perfectly has somehow escaped her. But it’s also dangerous because it’s that kind of thinking that leads a young woman to think a discussion of being careful about what she wears is wasted on her. Or even worse, that when a man finally does pay attention to her, he must be the one.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you have no need to dress modestly because no one is looking anyway – think again. DO NOT think that just because you find it difficult to see the beauty in yourself that it somehow doesn’t exist, or worse yet, that no one else thinks you’re beautiful.
And if my ramblings don’t get you to reconsider your stance on how you dress, maybe this will:
“For a woman, a great motivation for dressing and looking properly should be that she is jealous for her husband. First Corinthians 7:4 says, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband." The Bible says my wife belongs to me. She is my property. I own her. That is really not "politically correct," is it? But it is true. The Bible says it, and I would not want another man to be taking possession, even if only in his mind, of my property. I'm very territorial. There is only one man in the world who has the right to lust after my wife, and that is Me. And when a woman dresses in such a way where she shows her form, she shows her figure, shows her nakedness, what she is doing is taking something that belongs to her husband and giving it to another man. So you may say, "Well, I didn't go to bed with him." No, lady, but you showed him something that didn't belong to him. You showed him something he had no right to see.”
“So a woman, for the love of her husband, should want to be modest. She should want to be dressed appropriately. And by the way, if you are not married, your body still belongs to your husband, whoever he will turn out to be. Therefore, if you go showing it all off because you are not married, you are robbing your future husband. You are taking something that will belong to him and giving it to someone else, and that is not right. So you may say, "Well, I have to show it off to get a husband." You do that, and there is a good chance that you will wind up with the wrong kind of husband.”
“If you dress shamefacedly, then the only thing a man could be attracted to would be your countenance, your face, your character and your personality. It would take quite a man to become attracted to that, because men are not naturally attracted to those things at first. Naturally, the man is attracted to the flesh first, and the rest comes later. So if you can find a man who, without first having seen your body, is attracted to you, you have attracted the right kind of man.”
Truth Number 3: You Have a Part to Play Too!
As I said before, there are multiple factors that play into this particular struggle for men. I’ll never deny that men should take every positive step that they possibly can to keep their eyes, minds, and hearts where they belong. But, as the beautiful women that God made you to be, there are things that you can do to both help your brothers in their struggles, as well as command that you be respected and loved in the way God intended.
For starters, if you are still having a hard time choking down the fact that you are beautiful and can be physically desirable, figure out why. Figure out who or what taught you to think less of yourself, label it as a lie, and start telling yourself the truth. This is of the utmost importance because until you believe this about yourself as a daughter of God, taking steps to help young men see you as more than an object of desire will never make sense.
Secondly, challenge what you believe about the way you dress and present yourself. Take a long, hard look at your wardrobe and ask yourself, “Does this present me and my body in a way that honors God and leads young men to appreciate me properly?” If you’re on the fence about a particular piece of clothing, try phrasing the question differently. “Am I comfortable exposing this much of my [body part] to complete strangers?” Because, trust me, if there is something to be seen, men will see it.
On this point, if you’re still coming up empty-handed, to those of you who have men in your lives that you know and trust to be honest with you, I would highly encourage you to consult them. As a guy, I can’t tell you how much it means to us knowing that you want to take positive steps towards being seen in a way that God desires for you. It helps us to stumble less, and it’s reassuring to know that you have the self-respect to demand that you be seen as more than a body. If most guys are anything like me, they would jump at the opportunity to help you present yourself in a God-honoring way.
Ok, this has gotten a lot longer than I intended, so I’ll wrap things up at this point. Just know that as brothers in Christ, it absolutely breaks our hearts to see our beloved sisters treated as anything less than the beautiful, perfect creations that we all know you are. So as we take steps to love you in a God-honoring way, I would lovingly challenge you to meet us halfway. Don’t settle for anything less than complete respect and love of who you are as a person and child of God first and foremost.
And one day, if Prince Charming sweeps you off your feet, rest assured knowing that when you’ve invited him to love you in the way you deserve to be loved above all else, the other aspects of your beauty will be fully appreciated as God intended in its appropriate time. And the relationship, having been built on solid rock instead of sand, will endure through thick and thin.
With that, I’ll leave you with the end of my conversation with my good friend who has since made some encouraging choices about how her beauty.
I like to think of myself as a present,
For someone super special to unwrap one day,
And I am careful not to wrap too tight to give away the shape ‘cause then IT’LL RUIN THE SURPRISE!