There’s a fierce battle raging over masculinity. These days, the arrows come from every direction.

Flip through the channels and you’ll see the emasculation of men on a plethora of TV commercials or sitcom-style shows.

In the sitcom King of Queens, Doug, the over-weight dad, is sleeping while his personal trainer plays video games in the garage. His wife Carrie walks in, crosses her arms, and shouts, “What the hell is going on here?!” The trainer stutters, “Please, please don’t tell my wife,”  while Doug struggles for an explanation.

On TV, dads are portrayed as dumb and awkward. They don’t make time for their kids; they don’t clean, and they make cheesy, unromantic moves on their wives. They need help picking out diamonds, because apparently men don’t know anything about romance or aesthetic. They live like slobs, never cleaning or taking care of themselves.

Take for example, the iRobot Roomba (a robotic cleaner) advertisement where the women starts off by saying “I don’t know about you, but I live with a bunch of animals.” The ad goes on to show pigs running around the house and her patting the back of her husband, a donkey.

Fighting these perceptions is a battle indeed, but it is still something we can overcome. However the battle becomes nearly un-winnable when your own trusted community becomes the source of the attacks. Recently, I’ve heard Christian women discussing:

“Too many boys, not enough men.”

“Men play too many video game.s”

“Why can’t men commit?”

“Men need to work harder.”

“Men need to spend more time with their families.”

“Men can’t control their eyes.”

“Men just think about sex.”

“Men don’t come to church.”

“Chivalry is dead.”

Some of this criticism may actually carry truth. But when they come from the women we love, it’s totally crushing.

As usual, Proverbs shares some ancient wisdom: “A virtuous and worthy wife [earnest and strong in character] is a crowning joy to her husband, but she who makes him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.” (Proverbs 12:4 AMP)

There’s something about a woman who encourages her man (or any man in her life). When I know she’s fully with me, I feel like I can do anything; fight any enemy, overcome any odds. It allows me to fight for her, instead of running from difficulty.

Let’s suppose I’m dealing with a difficult situation. I’m up against a lot, maybe with a discouraging situation at work. I feel worn out, beat down. Maybe I’m even ready to give up. If she looks me in the eyes and says, “Hey, I believe in you,” it changes the game and lifts my head. It’s like the serum that transforms the frail, sickly Steve Rogers into the superhero known as Captain America.

But it works the other way too. It seems the author of Proverbs 12 was speaking from experience: “She who makes him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.” He’s saying that when a woman makes him ashamed to be a man, it totally kills him on the inside. He literally becomes sick, losing strength and motivation.

There’s nothing worse than being ashamed or emasculated by a woman we long to fight for. Telling a “boy” he’s a boy and not a man is never going to make him into a man. Making a general declaration like “chivalry is dead” is not going to get any man to rise up and be chivalrous.

So if negative criticism doesn’t work, what will inspire guys instead?

Instead of saying “Too many boys, not enough men,” encourage guys to spend time with other godly men. Masculinity is only learned from spending time with other men, which usually works out most other issues.

Instead of saying “Men play too many video games,” change your perspective. Guys develop relationships by doing things together, not necessarily by talking one-on-one. Instead of seeing the game as the problem, see that he’s probably seeking much needed relationship time with other guys. Encourage him to do more things with his friends, even if that means having them over for a game night. Or maybe he’s stressed and overloaded and just needs to relax.

Stop asking “Why can’t men commit?” Instead, make an unwavering commitment to stop dating guys who won’t commit. If he’s not ready, he hasn’t spent enough time being single. The best encouragement is a woman who’s confidently waiting for the right person to pursue her.

We’re so sick of hearing this one: “Men can’t control their eyes” or all the variants like “guys struggle with lust.” This is an issue that really should be dealt with guy-to-guy. I hear way too many women discussing male issues like this. It’s humiliating to always be reminded that you’re dressing modest to “help us out,” like we have no self-control at all. God made men to be captivated by beauty. We appreciate a woman who knows how to show off her beauty while still respecting her purity.

Stop making claims that “Chivalry is dead.” First, it’s not dead. Second, being chivalrous isn’t because a guy thinks you can’t open a door yourself, but because he desires to be a servant. Make it a point to tell him his servant heart is well received.

Ladies, for the most part, us guys already know what we struggle with. In fact, the weight of our past failures is the single greatest force pulling us down. But the difference between men struggling and overcoming is often in the power of the tongue. We need your encouragement!

I’m not giving men a “get out of jail free card.” The battle is raging. There are a great many things we need to work on. But I hope in the future, words of criticism will be exchanged for words of life.

Josh Neuroth

Josh grew up on a farm in Michigan. After finishing college in Ohio, he moved to New York City. He works at the intersection of design, technology, and storytelling. Moments that involve adventures, coffee, and photography are high on the list. Josh writes posts on his iPhone because it allows him to take advantage of subway commutes. It also forces him to stop rambling on countless side topics, something he may or may not be famous for. Read more about Josh in the "Our Team" section of She Has Worth.

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