A dilemma has long been on the rise in our culture: we are producing a whole lot of boys and very few men. Sure, there are plenty of guys who don’t mind a little elbow grease, and we’ve got a plethora of dudes working nine-to-fives. But you don’t have to spend much time looking at the dating scene before you realize they’re often caught up with finding Tinder matches or conniving a way to “Netflix and chill.” We’re not making men; we’re affirming boys in their boyhood, and this problem regularly seeps into our churches. When we refuse to face it, it does a massive disservice to the women around us, sometimes even physically or spiritually endangering them.
But manhood in singleness can be difficult at times. Much of what Scripture says about what it means to be a man culminates in marriage. But we all know that manhood and singleness cannot be diametrically opposed. We shouldn’t be waiting to become husbands; we should be preparing to become husbands. Here are four ways to protect women in your singleness that I think will help us churn out less self-centered boys and more biblically-minded men.
1. Relentlessly kill your porn habits.
Brothers, giving in to lust and pornography is arguably the fastest track to putting women in danger. In doing so, you reduce women—co-bearers of God’s image—into objects for pleasure. You degrade the women in your life now and create a false expectation towards your future wife (if you end up getting married, that is). In his book Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, author William M. Struthers writes:
“[Pornography] is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.”
Pornography is invasive, soul-killing, gospel-drying, demeaning, cowardly, and shameful. Do not allow it even the smallest foothold in your life. Do anything within your power to kill even the smallest traces of porn in your life.
2. Make your feelings clear.
When we fail to show all our cards, we run the risk of seriously burning women. Don’t assume she will catch on. Don’t “test the waters” to see if you’re interested unless you tell her you are doing so. It is confusing, lacks respect, and shows immaturity. Even worse, failure to make your intentions clear is a sign of early onset Deals-With-Hearts-Flippantly Disorder. Never forget that Scripture calls the woman who pursues God “far more precious than jewels” (Prov. 31:10) and calls her faithfulness “very precious” in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4). You are being trusted with preciousness by virtue of being around her. Do not overlook this.
3. Establish relational boundaries.
Even when we try our hardest, we fail. But the damage can be greatly offset if we establish firm boundaries about our relationships with women. If you’re hanging out, don’t do it alone in an intimate setting. If you start becoming emotionally reliable on her instead of the gospel (or if you sense that she is doing the same), sound the alarm and remind her of the gospel. Take a precautionary approach. It is worth it. Here is an example: The wife in a couple dear to me has faced a lot of depression issues. Because of the way God has worked in my depression, I have a desire to see people facing depression behold Jesus in even the darkest times…which means that sometimes she and I would talk about how one another was learning to trust God. Though there was no temptation to sin, we made the decision to talk about these things in plain sight of her husband as a precautionary measure, even going as far as creating a group message for us to talk in so he had full visibility of the conversation. This gives all three of us more comfort and allows us to talk freely within the appropriate boundaries.
4. Hold women in highest regard.
You must be willing to give your all for the well being of the women in your life. Start having a high view of women. It isn’t just holding doors open for them (though you should probably start doing so). Be conscious of her surroundings. Don’t let her be alone in parts of town where she shouldn’t be alone. If you’re eating together, offer to get her a refill. For crying out loud, it can be as simple as walking closest to the cars when in the crosswalk or closest to the road when on the sidewalk. It isn’t that women are unable to do these things without us; it’s about demonstrating a willingness to defend and protect women at any cost, in both the small things and the big things.
Manhood is the discipline of dying to self.
Manhood isn’t a line of work brimming with glory. It doesn’t give you much of an ego boost to confess that you looked at porn again or to get shut down when making your intentions clear. But us men were never been called to glorify ourselves. We’re called to die to ourselves daily, and this means putting to death the boy inside us so that the man can live. Brothers, if you love the Lord and love your sisters, start practicing these four steps and pray without ceasing, for this glorifies God.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Canon & Culture, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and is a contributor at servantsofgrace.org.