Women need to be loved. Men need to be respected.
I don’t know who said this originally, and I have no desire to find out. Perhaps that’s plagiarism. However, I have heard it in many circles, mostly evangelical ones trying to define masculinity and femininity in a Biblical way – an honorable task. There’s a problem though. I don’t think it’s true nor do I think it’s Biblical.
Now there is some truth in it. The fastest way to make most men I know feel unloved is to disrespect them – which is precisely my point. Men need to be loved too. It’s probably true that affirmation of tasks and competency and trust speaks love to men more profoundly than it does to women. It’s probably true that delight and feeling treasured speaks love to women more profoundly than it does to men. However, both genders need love, and both genders need varied expressions of love – delight, affirmation, empathy, time, affection.
Now I’m not going to comment extensively on the damage this statement can do to women because I don’t think I’m the best person to write on that. All I will say is the mature women I know desire and deserve respect.
I will comment on the damage this statement can do to men and the damage it has done to me. Like many, my college years were transition years into adulthood. As those four years progressed, I took progressively greater responsibility for myself, for my actions, for my development, for my relationships, for my finances, for my future, and for my faith.
I learned a lot in those years. I’m a pretty different man than I was over five years ago when I carried a paper map of Wright State University. I juggled a decent amount of activities in that time. I was a full time student, I kept a part time job, I was active in my church, and I invested a lot of my time in a spiritual student organization called Cru (I work for them now in the small country of Montenegro in Eastern Europe).
My sophomore year was the busiest of my life. I kept good grades in a difficult major (mathematics), worked around 20 hours per week at my part time job, and invested around 15 hours per week into Cru. (I promise I’m going somewhere with this; I’m not trying to brag.) I gained responsibility in my job. I performed well in my classes. At the end of that year, the leadership of Cru at my campus asked me to be the president for the next year. I found out I had a lot to offer. I had the respect of people in every significant arena of my life.
The first half of my junior year mostly followed the same script as its predecessor. Except, life happened. I had some relational strife. My circle of friends shifted. Leading was challenging. My expectations were mostly unmet. I was tired. I was spent. I didn’t see much relief coming either.
I realized something. I wasn’t letting people into my brokenness, my pain. Sure, I admitted that I was weak – that I was imperfect, but I wouldn’t truly acknowledge that I needed help. I had bought into the lie that I needed everyone’s respect but not necessarily their love. After all, the gospel tells me that God loves me. Isn’t that enough?
Despite the fact that life got harder, that my cares were mounting, I hadn’t lost the respect of others around me. No, I had the respect of all those who mattered in my life. But . . . I wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t enough. I came to find out I needed love more than respect. I had to risk losing respect to take a step closer to intimacy. I had to let others know (not everyone but a few) that I was hurting, lonely, broken, grieving, stressed, tired and I had to trust that they would meet me with grace. I had to take the risk in believing that those closest to me valued me for me not just my contribution.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing since then. I’ve had to relearn this lesson. I’ve had to do things to care for myself and to focus my mission that I knew would disappoint people. I really don’t like disappointing people. Several times, I’ve had to peel back the layers even further on my brokenness and weakness and risk rejection in order to be known. With rare exception, grace has met me on the other side of that risk not rejection.
I’ve had to take several dives into vulnerability in the last few years. My circle of closest friends today know me on a much deeper level than that time. Life has still been hard since that time. But in the midst of trials, I’ve experienced love which I still so desperately need. I’m still tempted to believe that everyone respects me but no one enjoys me. It’s clearly false, but I still struggle with it. Thankfully, I have wonderful friends and family who tangibly demonstrate that they do respect me and they enjoy, treasure, and love me.
So, I urge you as well to take this same plunge into vulnerability, seeking to love others and to allow others to love you. You need love more than respect whether you’re a man or a woman, a child or an adult, a leader or a follower. Mature Christ-followers seek and give grace.