From one to another

Dear guys,

Last week I wrote a letter to the female race, you may have read it. If you didn’t, it might be a good place to start.

This is quite a different letter, to the ladies I was trying to give a glimpse of insight into the way one particular guy thought, felt and acted. To you I’ve got a few words of advice.

Decide if you like a girl, find a way to let her know, and explore if that liking turns to love.

I told you I only had a few. Because, who am I to try and tell you much else?

You have walked a road that I have not travelled. The chances for love may have been punctuated with disappointment. I do not think I can write for every situation that you will have experienced.

It is not my place to opine about you longing after a girl who has walked away.

Can I with any credibility chastise the philanderer who leads each girl on and into his arms, but finds that there is another more pleasing to his eyes?

When you tell me that you have asked out one woman and then the next, and this has happened time and time again and they continue to turn you down: because my rejection count does not compare, I cannot advise.

And when you meet the one who you love, when she takes a step into the church and you turn and gaze up the aisle, the joy that overwhelms must be contained.

Because I have not been there. I have not lived the life you live.

But in fact, we need to help each other. We need to be honest about the challenges we face, share the hopes that we have and the dreams that one day might be our reality.

We need to cry when sadness darkens our day, confide when we’ve nowhere left to turn. Tell each other when we are being idiots, encourage us in our pursuit, or caution against heartache that might lurk ahead.

We do not know the life that each other leads unless we let each other in. We cannot help each other until first we welcome help. We are not ready to love a lady, with all our heart, with all our strength, if we have not first learnt who we are.

We cannot use the exceptionalness of our lives as a shroud to permit secrecy. Of course we all have experiences that others have not shared, and we will sometimes struggle to comprehend what greets each others’ day. The words of advice may be idiotic, the comfort we bring ineffectual, but that is not an excuse to close our lives off. And how will we ever get better at helping one another if we do not give it a go.

I talked to a few girls before writing this letter, and basically, they want to know if we like them. I recounted a story, maybe because it’s quirkiness hid my true vulnerability. That there was a girl who I liked, and I chose to spend time around her, and as my affection grew I realised that my actions could be construed as evidence of my interest so I backed off. I was worried that the girl to whom I was expressing an interest might actually realise how I felt. I also didn’t want anyone else getting onto the idea that I liked her. That might puncture my charade.

That’s how crazy I can be, I can tie myself in knots. And the ladies I told struggled to comprehend this ludicrous behaviour.

And I know that in other ways, you too can act a little crazy. Sometimes we purport ourselves as content on our own that we ignore the interest of the fairer sex. Sometimes we are so desperate for attention that we take the easy chances, find the girls that will have us. Sometimes we stay with someone long after our interest has waned because our fear of conflict takes over.

We have also emasculated our emotions in an attempt to conform to the cultural caste of gender.

We think that guys should be manly, concerned only with adventures, hand-wrestling grizzly bears and we have turned Jesus into that man. We have tried too hard to make God masculine. We have forgotten how to cry.

As Joe Carter put it: “Young men don’t need a Jesus who strolls like the Duke, squints like Clint Eastwood, and snarls like dick Cheney. They don’t need Jesus the cagefighter, they just need Jesus the Savior”.

Until we are comfortable with Jesus as a paragon of vulnerable masculinity we will try to live a life that isn’t reflecting Him. And I think for a start this means countering our pride. I’ve made it clear before that I’m open to girls giving a relationship a kick start. This can be a hard thing for us, it seems like we’ve been pre-empted, had our role taken. But we get things so very wrong so very often, whether it is about misplaced attraction, about ignorance of how other feel, about how we may have led a girl to think we were interested. About how we may shy away from facing that spectre of rejection, and if a girl gives a guy a helping hand we should welcome it and not resent it.

Finally, a word on singleness and marriage. We have got to esteem marriage more highly, and stop just thinking one day it will come to us, at a time when it is convenient, at a moment when we are less busy, less lustful for the next beautiful girl, at a time when we are ready to settle down.

But it’s also a problem when we are too desperate for marriage, I could pretty much quote all of what Max Dubinsky has written over at the Good Women Project, but this will suffice: “The enemy loves that you so desperately want to be married, that you’re crying on your bedroom floor begging God for a boyfriend or girlfriend because you can’t handle being alone. That your attention is focused on finding someone to marry. He loves that you don’t think you will be happy until you find ‘the one’”. We have to learn to be single well.

If this all sounds a bit too emotional, that’s okay, we’re all made differently. But if it does sound like I’m trying to get you to open up, think about your feelings, then I am. I think there is nothing worse that the facade that we perpetuate that we men do not have feelings. That we are unemotional beings with a lustful intent that we conquer by brute force as Ulysses chained himself to the mast to avoid the charms of the Sirens.

There’s much more I could say, but for now let’s end it here, and let us also remember to talk. So maybe my words were not as few as I made out, or my advice as limited as I suggested, but we shouldn’t shy away from taking time to grapple with complexity.

Your brother.

Girls, if you’ve been reading I guess that’s okay. Give us a chance, and help us where you can.

5 thoughts on “From one to another

  1. Forgive me for intruding as a lady on the post for the men… but I think there are eight words in your post that sum up the crux of the matter for both the men and the ladies “We have to learn to be single well.” And we could substitute the words ‘ be single’ for many other things… “work”… “do friendship”… “be part of the church family”… “rest in God”… Being single is only part of who I am… but in seeking God’s help to do that “well” perhaps other parts of my life can also be transformed; and my focus can move beyond my marital status to the wholeness to which I can already lay claim in Christ.

  2. Thank you for being brave enough to put your thoughts out there on the whole topic of singleness and relationships. It’s great to see a Man take the lead for a change as I have only ever heard from women on these topics. Especially great to hear a mans perspective…

    Again, forgive this woman for jumping in on the Mans post, but i feel compelled to respond to both the post from Othersideofthesea and to you and everyone else reading this blog.

    The fact of the matter is, yes, you are not defined by your marital status, you are defined by Christ. However, here’s a thought I want to throw out there, which some of your readers may not like….Marriage is biblical, Men and Women were made in the image of God, therefore what a more complete way to Honour God than to Marry, Male and Female. It is also a comand from God, Genesis 1:26-28.

    Rather than trying to justify why it is ok to be single, (which it is of course, as we all have free will to choose what we do in life, but lets “do single well” if that’s what we choose to be). Why don’t we embrace the fact that the majority of us would like to marry, and marry well. What can we do to encourage one another and stop pretending we are happy with our state of singleness, when in actual fact it is just a front we put on each Sunday at Church.

    We are fearful that people may think we are not a good christian if we are not happy with our state of singleness and therefore remain silent. We don’t let the secret out and the consequences…well see posts titled “when love and life collide” and “friends with benefits”.

    Sorry to jump on the band wagon, great blog, great responses. God Bless and thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. With the risk of going completely off topic on this post…

    Dear sister, thank you for your reply to my post. However I wouldn’t say that I, or many of my single friends, have “chosen” singleness. Indeed many have gone to great lengths to pursue what you describe as God’s command to marry, and yet still remain single.

    So I agree with you, yes often we put on a front about our struggle with singleness… but I know others who are married who equally put up a front to hide the struggles that lie within that relationship. In fact the issue isn’t that we as singles put up a front to pretend that everything is OK… but that we have created a form of Christianity where we don’t feel that we can be honest, open and transparent with each other on this and the many other issues we all face every day.

    • Hey both of you, and thanks for your comments.

      I think somehow we need to be able to hold two quite difficult things in tension at the same time. The first is to help each other live in whatever situation there are in as well as they can. So we need people to be single well, in relationships well, handling break-ups well, marry well, and sticking at marriage well.

      But at the same time I’m with ‘a sister’ on this we need to be honest about the fact the single people generally what to get married and we should celebrate this. We should uphold marriage as an ideal, and not shy away from saying that, but how we do that without being seen to denigrate those of us who are single is a question I’ve not got the answer to!

  4. Danny, I can’t thank you enough for openly sharing your thoughts on singleness and relationships. I’m so tired of the Christian community’s lack of honest conversation about this huge part of life. Because every adult is somewhere on the spectrum of ‘single – in a relationship’, and as you’ve said we spend a huge amount of time and emotional energy thinking about where we are on the spectrum and where we’d like to be! I wish people who are single could say honestly when they’re finding singleness really hard rather than feeling they should act like it’s wonderful being alone and someone else would just get in the way. And I wish married people would be honest with their single friends about the realities of marriage rather than letting us believe it’s this wonderful thing that single folk are missing out on and their life will only be complete when they have it. Honesty, openness, and loving, supportive friendship between single and married Christians could help lift some the fog from this very important and very confusing subject. Again, Danny thank you for doing your bit to break open the conversation – keep up the good work!!

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