Meet Joe. Joe is your average single Christian guy. Joe is frustrated. He feels like he’s doing all the right things to secure a godly woman of noble character, but women just aren’t responding. Joe believes women are hung up on some image of the perfect man — part J. Crew, part Jesus Christ — that simply does not exist.
Little does Joe know his female friends would have a few things to say if he’d only ask. While these lovely creatures appreciate good looks, charm and sensitivity as much as the next girl, they’re not as hung up on these things as Joe thinks. Here are a few things they’d like Joe to know.
Show some respect. When it comes to respecting women, many Christian guys act no differently than the world. When I hear a man talk about other women disrespectfully, it is an immediate turn-off. I’ve been around guys who, because they’re not interested in me, freely label attractive women as “hot” and apply unflattering labels to less attractive women. Even if this kind of talk is passed off as a joke, language that objectifies women is immature and offensive.
A man displays another kind of respect through his actions. When he opens doors, offers a woman his seat or walks her to her car, he communicates deference. Some guys will pour on the charm when they take a girl out on a date, but they don’t demonstrate the same consideration to their female friends. Even something as simple as keeping his house clean, so women feel comfortable when they visit, will make the women in his life feel valued.
Be kind to everyone. Men may be surprised by how often a woman is evaluating them in a simple interaction they have with someone else. I not only look at the way a potential suitor treats me, I also watch how he treats others. Consistent kindness is an outward sign of inner character shaped by Christ. The same goes for service and generosity.
My friend Julie notes the first time she found herself attracted to her now-husband, Nate, was when she observed him give away something of value to an acquaintance. “I thought, ‘he’s so generous,'” she says. They were only friends at the time, but Julie was drawn to his giving spirit — a quality that has continued in their marriage.
Seek out spiritual guidance and accountability. Many guys I’ve talked to seem mystified by this elusive “spiritual leader” Christian women say they are looking for. In frustration, I’ve heard these guys suggest that this ideal doesn’t exist — “there are only so many pastors to go around.” But the women I’ve talked to seem more concerned with evidence that a guy is engaged in the spiritual process than some benchmark of super-spirituality.
When I am getting to know a guy, one of the first things I consider is whether he is seeking accountability from other Christian men. A lone ranger is a red flag. While women naturally dwell in community, this kind of connection requires more of an effort for men. That does not mean it is less important. A man who takes accountability seriously shows that he wants his life to be laid bare and is inviting input into his blind spots. There is also less of a chance that he is fostering a hidden sin that has the potential to destroy a marriage. Similarly, a man who seeks out a mentor demonstrates a desire to develop his spiritual life under godly authority.
Love your family. My mom often tells the story of the first time she knew she wanted to marry my dad. It happened while they were visiting my dad’s brother and his family. Upon arriving at his brother’s house, my dad jumped out of the car and ran to his 3-year-old niece. “Little Weee-o!” he called, scooping her up and tossing her in the air. In that moment, my mom saw a future husband and father.
Women also notice how men treat their sisters, mothers and grandmothers. A woman feels safe when she sees a healthy and genuine love between a man and the female members of his family. This doesn’t mean he has to get along with them perfectly, but if he shows initiative to have a good relationship with them, a woman trusts he will take that same initiative in his relationship with her.
Take marriage seriously. For many of my guy friends, marriage is something they never talk about. Even if they’re thinking about getting married someday, there is no evidence that they’re planning for it.
My friend Hannah married one year ago. Several months after her wedding, she and her husband felt a call to go to France as missionaries. Within three months they were ready to go. When I asked her how all their financial needs were being met, she revealed a secret: “John has been saving for a wife,” she said. “He was able to pay off my college loans and both of our cars.”
I deeply admire such foresight. While every guy may not be able to achieve such financial goals, taking steps that show he is preparing for marriage — even just talking about it — demonstrates to a woman that he’s serious about being a provider.
Another evidence of readiness is a willingness to take on responsibilities. Many guys choose to continue living the carefree life they enjoyed in college, instead of embracing the new duties that come with adulthood. Those who consistently make wise choices in how they use resources, such as time and money, stand out. “I’m not looking for a boy,” a friend recently said. “I’m looking for a man.”
Take initiative. I recently heard my friend Danielle describe how God had brought her together with her husband, Josh. After knowing each other for several years, Danielle and Josh began leading a small group together. Feeling ready to marry, 21-year-old Josh prayed that God would show him if there was a woman in the church suitable to be his wife. When no one came to mind after several weeks, Josh asked a trusted friend if he saw anyone.
“What about Danielle?” the friend asked. Josh began praying specifically about Danielle. In the meantime, Danielle felt her heart moved romantically toward Josh when she had never seriously considered him before. After consulting with Danielle’s father, Josh approached her and asked if they might get to know each other for the possibility of marriage. A year later they were married.
This example may seem extreme, but it demonstrates the power of intentionality. I have been in meaningful friendships with great Christian guys who never took the initiative to explore the possibility of something more. On the flipside, I have considered relationships with men I thought of only as friends because they impressed me with their initiative.
Take a risk. Ultimately many guys let potential relationships dissipate because they let the moment of decision pass them by. They need to know that women respond to courage.
My brother has never been exactly a smooth operator. In fact, we sisters cautioned him not to use his corny humor outside the safety of our home. After getting to know Anna for a semester his freshman year of college, my brother began experiencing feelings for her. She was my best friend, so the three of us naturally hung out, and they connected easily. Matt decided he wanted to pursue Anna, so one evening he invited her to a coffee shop to talk.
Anna recalls that the music was loud, so my brother practically yelled as he began to tell her all the qualities he appreciated in her. Just as Matt was building momentum, a song suddenly ended. At that moment, every person in that coffee shop heard him say loudly, “I really like you.” Anna, now Matt’s wife, fondly recalls the embarrassment of that moment. That night she was taken by surprise and unable to reciprocate Matt’s feelings, but she was impressed by his directness. Within two months, she had gone from seeing him as my little brother to being enamored with his bold leadership — and corny jokes.
Joe may feel like throwing in the towel, but he may be closer than he thinks to a breakthrough. The women in his life aren’t looking for perfection. They are watching for consistent kindness, unflinching respect and honest initiative.
As Joe cultivates these characteristics, women will notice. And Joe may realize they’re not looking for J. Crew Jesus after all — they’re looking for Jesus in him.
Copyright 2006 Suzanne Hadley. All rights reserved.