The Return of Honorable Manhood

The Return of Honorable Manhood

How Women Can Inspire Men Toward a Higher Standard

by Leslie Ludy | September 28, 2017

I’ll never forget the moment when I knew — really knew — that Eric Ludy was different from every other guy I’d known. It happened on a warm summer morning in the Rocky Mountains. Our church group had gathered for a two-hour hike through a rambling forest trail. Eric and I fell into step beside each other as branches and leaves crackled under our feet.  

I’d known Eric for about two years. He and I had become close friends, and over time began to sense that God was forming something more than just friendship between us. But instead of rushing headlong into a romantic relationship, we both felt clearly that we should wait patiently for God to show us when to take the next step. In the meantime, we wanted to treat each other with the utmost purity and honor — not getting emotionally involved before the right time. When it came to our physical relationship — well, we didn’t have one. Eric had told me that until God made it clear otherwise, he wasn’t even going to hug me or hold my hand. He wanted to protect my heart and emotions in every way possible.

I understood and appreciated his caution. Both of us had made mistakes in previous relationships, and we wanted to go out of our way to honor God and each other in this newly budding relationship; to treat each other as a brother and sister in Christ, with all purity as it says in 1 Timothy 5:2.

But I was soon to find out that seeking to act honorably toward each other would not be without its awkward moments.

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Our church group hiked along the trail for about an hour until we came to a beautiful overlook that boasted a spectacular view of the snow-peaked summit above us. We decided to stop for a water break and enjoy the breathtaking sight. To get a better view, I scrambled up onto a steep rock near the edge of the overlook. After taking a few photos, I turned around to climb back down. But then I realized I would need help to get back down the rock without falling.

Eric was the nearest person to me, and the most obvious one to offer his hand to help guide me back down the steep incline. As he noticed my need for assistance, I could see a moment of tension flash across face. He’d said he wouldn’t hold my hand until God made it clear it was the right time. He wanted to be a gentleman and help me down. But he also wanted to honor his commitment. I could almost hear his internal grappling with the question, “What is the right thing to do?”

The rest of our group was starting to move on. I stood balancing on the rock, waiting for him to make up his mind. Finally, in one swift movement, he reached down and grabbed a sturdy stick from the trail and held it out to me instead of his hand, grimacing self-consciously as he did.

Red-faced, I took hold of the stick and inched my way down the rock, silently praying that none of the others were watching the less-than-graceful scene.

After I was back on stable ground, Eric sheepishly muttered an apology for putting me in an awkward position. At first, I felt flustered and unsure how to respond. Should I be offended that Eric didn’t offer me his hand and gave me a stick to hold instead? Was it an insult? But I quickly brushed those thoughts aside. The more I pondered what he had done, the more I felt a newfound appreciation for him. Yes, the moment had been awkward and embarrassing — but more for him than me. And then I came to an astounding conclusion: Eric is willing to even look like a fool in order to treat me with honor. He had vowed to protect me both physically and emotionally, and he was willing to do whatever it took in order to keep that promise.

Most of the young men I’d known had the opposite attitude. Oftentimes, honor wasn’t even in their vocabulary. The single guys I’d grown up around — even most Christian guys — seemed far more interested in serving their own agenda than in protecting and honoring women.

They treated others with respect only to the point they needed to in order to get what they wanted. So many of them had a “conquering mentality” toward the opposite sex — enticing vulnerable women to let their guard down and compromise emotionally or physically.

The more I got to know Eric and observed his commitment to living in honor toward me, the more I awakened to a crucial truth: A truly Christ-honoring man does not seek to conquer a woman’s purity or compromise her standards. Instead, he sacrificially seeks to protect them.

But such men are rare indeed.

Eric had not always lived honorably toward the women in his life. Before giving his life to Christ, he had played with girls’ hearts and emotions. He’d been demeaning and disrespectful toward his mom and sister. In many ways, he looked at women only from a selfish vantage point. Yet when he surrendered his life to Christ, his attitude was transformed. He began to show thoughtfulness and consideration toward the women in his family. He became a listening ear when his mom or sister needed to talk. He “made a covenant with his eyes” not to look at women for selfish gratification. (See Job 31:1.) He purposefully chose to honor his future wife in all his interactions with the opposite sex. And as our friendship formed and grew, he desired to treat me “like a sister, with all purity.”

Wouldn’t it be amazing if today’s men lived with this code of honor? But all too often, the idea of honorable manhood seems like nothing more than a fairy tale. Women often sigh wistfully when they encounter gallant men in historical fiction novels or Jane Austen movies, wishing that somehow the men in their life could catch a vision for living and acting like true gentlemen.

Whether you are married and frustrated by your husband’s lack of sensitivity, living with a dad or brothers who display crude and rude behavior, or a single woman unsure how to respond to the selfish, predatory attitude so prevalent among today’s single men — chances are, you’ve been affected by the sorry state of modern masculinity in one way or another.

If you’ve ever used common tactics to try to change the men in your life — i.e. nagging, criticizing, complaining, and manipulating — you’ve probably seen them backfire on you.  Men today don’t seem to respond to women’s complaints about their behavior — in fact, sometimes they become even more stubborn and unwilling to change.

So what’s a set apart girl to do? Should we just shrug our shoulders and resign ourselves to the “guys will be guys” attitude that many in our culture have adopted? Should we settle for mediocre marriages, obnoxious behavior in our homes, and self-focused men as our only option for a future husband?

The Bible makes it clear that women can have a powerful influence over masculinity. 

Proverbs 7 enunciates the evil antics of a sensual woman on the prowl for vulnerable men. In verse 26, we are told that this kind of woman causes countless “strong men” to choose the path of death over the path of life. It is startling to realize the kind of power that manipulative femininity can have, causing even the strongest of men to fall.

But here is an exciting thought … On the flip side, women can also have a positive influence over today’s men when they choose the opposite spirit from what the Proverbs 7 woman demonstrates.  Just think about these powerful examples of godly women from Scripture and their impact upon men:

Queen Esther – influencing the king and saving the entire nation of the Jews. (See the book of Esther.)

Ruth – influencing Boaz to become a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi’s family line and becoming part of the lineage of Christ. (See Ruth 4:9-13.)

Rahab – protecting the spies of Israel and influencing them to protect her family and becoming part of the line of Christ. (See Hebrews 11:31.)

Abigail – influencing David not to react in fleshly anger and kill Nabal and his family. (See 1 Samuel 25:32.)

Lydia – influencing Paul and his companions to stay and minister in her home and community. (See Acts 16:15.)

The godly wife in 1 Peter 3:1 — influencing her non-Christian husband to believe because of her good conduct in Christ.

If you want to follow these godly women’s examples and become a source of inspiration and godly influence toward the men in your life — dads, husbands, brothers, guy friends, etc. — I would like to share four key biblical principles that can help you do just that. Whenever I’ve been tempted to nag, criticize, complain, or shrug my shoulders in defeat toward modern men, these are the principles that God has challenged me to walk in.

1) Know the Power of Prayer

For years, Eric’s sister Krissy wrestled in prayer for him.  Even when he mocked her strong stand for Christ, she continued to pray faithfully that God would rescue her brother from the selfish path he had chosen and redeem his life from destruction. There were times when it seemed like her prayers were not making any difference. The more she prayed, the more he chose compromise and mediocrity.  

But she didn’t give up.

One Christmas, when Eric was in college, she prayed about what she should give him for a gift. She felt directed to give him a book — No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green. Eric wasn’t excited about it and really had no intention of reading it. After all, he had more important things to do than to read about an outdated, afro-sporting Christian musician from the 70s. But, out of politeness, he took it to his dorm room and put it on his bookshelf. And every time he caught a glimpse of the book, he felt inexplicably drawn to pick it up.

Finally, one day, he did. And once he did, he couldn’t put it down. It was the story of a man’s journey to discover true Christianity. And Eric began to realize that even though he was professing to know Christ, he didn’t know Him like this man did. That book sparked the beginning of a spiritual awakening that would change Eric’s entire life direction.

On a cold February morning, after Eric had knelt by his bed and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ, he made a phone call. He called the one who had faithfully prayed for him and invested spiritually into his life for years, even when it seemed like he would never change. He called his sister. “I read that book,” he told her. “I gave my life to Jesus.” And after those astounding words, the only thing they each could do was cry.

Sometimes the hardest people to pray faithfully for are the men in your life who seem completely set in their ways: a stubborn father, a self-focused brother, an indifferent husband, a spiritually-cold friend. And yet, if we, who truly care about these men’s souls, are not willing to faithfully pray for them, who will?

1 John 5:16 gives us a wonderful promise for those in our lives who are ensnared by sin: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin…”

Rather than complain, nag, and criticize when we see the men in our life missing the mark, God gives us a clear action plan — take our burden to Him in importunate prayer! Prayer should never be an afterthought when it comes to fighting for the souls of the men in our lives — it should be our first and primary weapon for the battle.

Oftentimes, faithful praying can set the stage for a man’s heart to be softened toward the truth. If and when the door opens for you to speak into his life, he will be all the more ready to hear and receive your words if you have laid a foundation in faith-filled prayer. That is a big part of why Eric’s heart was ready to be changed by the book his sister gave him.

Just think about the first thing that Queen Esther did when she realized she needed to make a life-or-death appeal to her husband, the king, on behalf of her people. She didn’t rush in with an emotional plea. She didn’t use feminine wiles and manipulation techniques. Rather, she spent three days fasting and praying in preparation for her conversation with the king and asked her people to do the same.  (See Esther 4:16.)

Because of her faith and reliance upon God, the stage was set and the king’s heart was prepared. When she finally spoke bold truth to him, he was ready to receive it — though it certainly couldn’t have been an easy thing for him to hear that his right hand man had used and deceived him, and that he himself had ordered the death of his own wife. And yet he responded with favor, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!” (Est. 7:4).

When we see a man heading in the wrong direction — especially when his “wrong direction” personally impacts us — it’s tempting to respond in anger, frustration, or annoyance. Putting our emotions aside and committing to wrestle in prayer for that man’s soul goes against our human nature. The enemy often tricks us into believing that storming in with anger and accusation will have a greater impact than taking the situation to the feet of Jesus. But God’s Word cautions us, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jms. 1:20), and “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man [or woman!] conceals dishonor” (Prov. 12:16 NASB).

If a man in your life is struggling with sin, the first step is very simple, yet very powerful. Take your burden to God in faithful, diligent, importunate prayer! You may not see change happen instantly. But if you continue to wrestle for that man’s soul, you will see the faithfulness of God.*

*Note: For a deeper look at how to pray boldly and specifically, I encourage you to read our book Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God.

2) Exchange Criticism for Encouragement

We’ve all been there. A man does something irritating, rude, disrespectful, insensitive, or selfish, and we immediately think of a snide remark or angry lecture to whip out and throw in his face. Most of us have been told that nagging and griping won’t get us anywhere with the men in our lives, but for some reason we are inexplicably drawn to it anyway. We somehow think that if we can only make enough noise, be dramatic enough, or hit him with that perfectly-chosen verbal punch, it will finally cause him to wake up and get his act together.

But ironically, nothing in all of human history or in the Bible supports this idea. Men do not respond well to female complaints and criticism. It’s simply not the way to reach their hearts. In fact, God’s Word speaks quite strongly against nagging, complaining femininity: “A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov. 27:15), and “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman”  (Prov. 21:9).

I believe the reason we often resort to snide remarks and angry criticism is because we think that it’s our only weapon against dishonorable masculinity. Yet in reality, it’s a faulty weapon that will only backfire in our face and cause more damage.

The only way to influence a man toward Christlike behavior is to be Christlike in our approach. We can’t sow seeds of anger and contention and expect to reap godly, honorable fruit. James 3:18 show us the correct pattern:  “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In other words, if we want to see the fruit of righteousness emerge in a man’s life, we must become peace-makers, not pot-stirrers.

This certainly doesn’t mean we should be a mousy push-over and let men defraud us or harm others. There is a time when it is appropriate to speak bold words of rebuke to a man or take bold action in order to protect ourselves or someone else against evil. (Think of Gladys Aylward commanding a crazed prison rioter to put down his weapon, or Mary Slessor having a steely stare-down with a tribal warrior who was about to scald a woman with hot oil.) But even these bold steps must be done in the enabling power of God and not in our own fleshly anger. Remember — fleshly anger can never produce the righteousness that God desires! In reality, most daily challenges we face with the men in our lives don’t call for bold rebukes. Rude comments, crude behavior, selfish attitudes, worldliness, and spiritual mediocrity are the most typical “male stumbling blocks” we encounter in our everyday lives. 

But if criticism and complaining isn’t the way to get their attention, what is?

In addition to prayer, God has given us another amazingly simple yet powerful tool with which to influence men — encouragement.

This may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. After all, why would we encourage someone who doesn’t deserve to be encouraged? But here is a little-known secret — words of life breed life, and words of love breed love.  

When a man senses that we notice and appreciate the things he is doing right — even if those “good things” are small compared to the “bad things” he’s doing — it motivates him to cultivate even more of that positive behavior in his life. (i.e. “Hey, she noticed and appreciated something I did … maybe I should do it again!!”)

While criticism usually causes a man to become defensive, encouragement causes him to become inspired. A man remembers the words of life that a woman speaks into his life. Encouraging words — even if they are simple — will stay with him and become a motivating factor toward positive change.

As you read these words, you might be inwardly protesting, “But I can’t think of anything to encourage him about!  His life is so self-focused, I’m not sure how to find something positive to point out!”

Ask God to show you where to start. Even if you see a glimmer of honor in a man’s life, point that out, encourage him, and let him know that you appreciate that quality. For example, is your dad a good provider for your family? Let him know you are thankful for all his hard work. He may not be a great dad in any other respect, but you can still honor him for the way he has provided for his family. Did your brother help you move a piece of furniture? Show your gratitude and thanks for the time he invested to lend a hand. He may be a mess in every other way, but if you take the time to notice and appreciate the small things he does right, it will plant seeds of positive change in his life.

Even if there aren’t any positive qualities to start with, you can still encourage the men in your life by showing interest in their unique skills and hobbies. Is he great at computer programing? Tell him you admire his talent in that area.  Is he a fast runner? Let him know you appreciate his athletic skill. The more you encourage a man, even in the small and seemingly unimportant areas, the more you will gain a voice to speak into his life. Why? Because he won’t be on the defensive every time you talk with him. He’ll know that you care about and appreciate who he is, and he will be all the more ready to listen to words of input and truth when the time is right.

Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Your goal in communicating with the men in your life is to dispel anger and self-justification, not stir it up. And speaking words of love and life is the perfect way to do that.

Important side note: If you are a single woman wanting to encourage a single man, keep in mind that encouragement can easily be interpreted as romantic interest if it is not handled properly. So prayerfully consider ways in which you can speak words of life without going overboard or sending the wrong message. For example, a quick comment such as “I really appreciated how you helped that person, thanks for doing that!” is much better than writing a long, gushy letter detailing all the qualities you see in that man’s life. I’m sure you get the idea!  If you ask for God’s wisdom in how to encourage the single men and guy friends in your life, He will guide you each step of the way. 

3) Set an Inspiring Example

Women often complain that today’s men don't value or protect feminine honor and purity. But all too often, we as women aren’t setting the example by protecting honor and purity in our own lives. When we do not guard the sacred things that God has entrusted to us — such as our feminine modesty, our romantic dreams, our deepest hopes and struggles — men get the impression those things aren't valuable or worth protecting.

Proverbs 31:25 says that a virtuous woman is “clothed with strength and dignity.” But today’s women are typically the opposite — instead of strong and dignified, modern femininity is all too often weak (i.e. desperate), unguarded, and indiscreet. Just think about these familiar scenarios: Women who throw themselves at men, desperately seeking love and validation through the attention and approval of a guy … Girls who dress provocatively, tossing feminine dignity to the wind in an attempt to draw male attention … Women who have no discretion on social media, publicly posting all of their most intimate thoughts and feelings for the entire world to see.

These behaviors are the opposite of the strength and dignity that God designed us to exude. If we want men to rise up and become better champions of feminine honor, we must start by protecting our own.

I remember a scene that took place during an evening Bible study that I was part of many years ago. I watched out of the corner of my eye as a young man talked to a handful of young women about something that had happened to him that day at work. He was talking loudly, and I overheard most of the conversation. At first, his story was funny, but soon it ventured into the realm of inappropriate and crude. I knew the young women who were listening, and could only imagine how uncomfortable his words were making them feel. But for some reason, they continued to laugh at his jokes and show interest in what he was saying. Later, I asked them why they went along with his behavior — since I knew they didn’t appreciate it. “It would have been awkward not to laugh,” one of them said. “We didn’t want to make him feel bad,” answered another.

What would have happened if the women had simply grown silent when that guy began telling inappropriate jokes? What if they quietly excused themselves from the conversation? Yes, it would have likely made the man feel awkward, but it also would have sent him a polite but strong message — that kind of joking is not honoring to God or to others, and we don’t want to participate in it. Very likely, he would have thought twice before speaking crudely around those women again. But because they didn’t send him that clear message, he left the meeting that night having no idea that his behavior was not appropriate or honoring.

When women choose to embrace godly strength and dignity, it sets an inspiring example for today’s men. When guys observe a woman who holds to a higher standard than the cheap, desperate femininity of our culture, he is intrigued. And often, he is motivated to become the kind of man who is worthy of that kind of woman’s heart. Flirtatious, sensual women are a dime a dozen today. But a strong, godly woman who guards her heart, exemplifies feminine mystery and dignity, and doesn’t compromise her standards is rare indeed.

Ruth set an inspiring example to the entire community when she returned with Naomi to serve her in her hometown. Though she could have “gone after men,” she chose to submit to Naomi and become a vessel for the redemption of their family line. She laid down her own desires and agenda in order to serve Naomi and Naomi’s God. This is what gave her the strength and dignity that Boaz admired and respected. (See Ruth 3:10.)

If you want to inspire gentlemanly behavior in the men around you, ask God to shape you into a woman of strength, dignity, mystery, and godly discretion. The men in your life might not immediately respond — in fact, some might even mock it — just as Eric used to make fun of his sister’s strong stand for Jesus Christ. But eventually, they will gain a deep respect and admiration for the strength they see in your life, and they will be inspired to rise up to the same standard.

Here are a few key tips on becoming a woman of strength and dignity:

Be discreet with your words, especially in your digital life. Don’t jump on the cultural bandwagon and showcase all your intimate hopes, fears, dreams, and struggles to the world. Guard the private and sacred aspects of your life, and it will inspire men to help protect those things too. (See Proverbs 11:22.)

If you are single, don’t throw yourself at men — flirting, immodesty, strategically pursuing men for selfish gratification — all of these are behaviors demonstrated by the sensual woman in Proverbs 7. And God does not mince words about where that path leads:  “Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (Prov. 7:27).

If you are married and you want your husband to be stronger spiritually, set an example by strengthening your own spiritual life. Make prayer, time in God’s Word, and serving others a priority in your life, even if your husband isn’t motivated toward those things. The Bible says that a wife who sets a godly example can actually win a man’s soul to Christ!  (See 1 Peter 3:1.)

Find your fulfillment in Christ, whether married or single. If you are looking to men to satisfy your deepest needs, you will not be able to exude strength and dignity. Only Christ can be your All in all and fulfill the deepest needs of your heart and soul. Don’t expect a human relationship to take the place of Christ in your life. When Jesus is your First Love, you can smile at the future and be a woman of strength and dignity no matter what circumstances you find yourself in!  (See Proverbs 31:25 and Psalm 107:9.)

4) Choose Faith Over Despair

One of the greatest tactics of the enemy is to take away our hope; to cause us to believe that today’s men are never going to change and that we should give up believing that they can. This is why women resign themselves to being taken advantage of by men and treated as objects, why women stop praying for the men in their lives, and why wives give up on their marriages.

Why do we so quickly stop believing that men can change?  Because we are putting our faith in the wrong place. Too often, we put our faith in men, rather than in our mighty God for whom nothing is impossible. So next time you are tempted to throw your hands up in defeat and accept the mediocrity of modern manhood, fix your eyes on the God of miracles — instead of the behavior of the guys around you.

Remember, the problems with today’s men are certainly not more severe than the problems with today’s women. Just as there are widespread problems with modern masculinity, there are also widespread problems with femininity. It is very dangerous to blame men as the prime culprits for all our cultural and relational woes. Men are not the problem — sin is. And sin is something that each and every one of us has participated in — male or female.

So remember — if God can rescue and redeem your life from destruction, can He not do the same with your husband, father, brother, and guy friends? Put aside all thoughts of defeat and despair and fix your gaze on Him. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed. (See Psalm 25:3.)

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When Eric was a young Christian, seeking God’s pattern for godly manhood, he stumbled upon a picture of Christlike masculinity that astounded him. It was captured in a book called The Scottish Chiefs — and it was based on the life of Scottish reformer William Wallace. As he read about Wallace’s sacrificial love, dauntless courage, and warrior poet leadership, he knew he’d found a picture of the kind of manhood God had called him to. It inspired him to go after warrior poet manhood in his own life and to encourage other men to do the same. Now, over 25 years later, those principles are still shaping and influencing his life. But the most incredible thing about this life-changing story of William Wallace is that it was written by … a woman! Jane Porter, who wrote The Scottish Chiefs in 1810, beautifully illustrated God’s heart for valiant manhood. Without nagging, complaining, or manipulation, Jane Porter inspired Eric Ludy — and countless other men — toward God’s heroic standard for manhood.

Whether or not you ever write an inspirational novel about a gallant war hero, your life can have the same impact upon men as Jane Porter’s has had. Submit your femininity to Christ, let Him guide your attitude and actions, and He will powerfully use your life as an instrument of positive change for today’s men!