Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Courting rules: how men use self-control to make relationships count for God

Consider this piece of research from Medical News Today. (H/T Uncommon Descent)

Excerpt:

Thinking about religion gives people more self-control on later, unrelated tasks; according to results from a series of recent Queen’s University study.

“After unscrambling sentences containing religiously oriented words, participants in our studies exercised significantly more self-control,” says psychology graduate student and lead researcher on the study, Kevin Rounding.

Study participants were given a sentence containing five words to unscramble. Some contained religious themes and others did not. After unscrambling the sentences, participants were asked to complete a number of tasks that required self-control – enduring discomfort, delaying gratification, exerting patience, and refraining from impulsive responses.

Participants who had unscrambled the sentences containing religious themes had more self-control in completing their tasks.

“Our most interesting finding was that religious concepts were able to refuel self-control after it had been depleted by another unrelated task,” says Mr. Rounding. “In other words, even when we would predict people to be unable to exert self-control, after completing the religiously themed task they defied logic and were able to muster self-control.”

“Until now, I believed religion was a matter of faith; people had little ‘practical’ use for religion,” Mr. Rounding explains. “This research actually suggests that religion can serve a very useful function in society. People can turn to religion not just for transcendence and fears regarding death and an after-life but also for practical purposes.”

So why would religious people have more self-control than non-religious people? Speaking as a Christian, I would argue that self-control is not a by-product of religion, but that it is a tool used by Christians to achieve certain ends that fit with the Christian worldview.

First, let’s look at how people who don’t have self-control operate. I have been chatting with some friends recently about the lifestyle that people get into when they get away from their parents for the first time. (Assuming the parents don’t take education and apologetics seriously). The fun lifestyle, it was explained to me, goes something like this:

  1. A bunch of friends meet in a bar
  2. They drink a lot, listen to music and dance around
  3. They meet people and have conversations in which the men are careful not to express any moral judgments, religious convictions or conservative political views to the women
  4. They gradually get more and more drunk, and it gets later and later
  5. The friends retire to different people’s houses in order to hook-up, which involves anything from kissing to intercourse
  6. They keep doing this, there is no structured courting and no parental oversight, and occasionally people move in together or have kids out of wedlock by hooking up
  7. Some of these children are aborted in order to keep the woman free for work and having more fun
  8. The children who are born are often raised fatherless, causing all kinds of damage on them, especially making the girls prone to have sex much too early and the boys more violent
  9. Any marriages that emerge break up shortly after since no one  is willing to sacrifice for the marriage or the children
  10. Government expands to address the broken homes with more police, day care, welfare, etc.

I never really knew much about this until recently when some of the people who read my blog have been explaining it all to me. The thing that strikes me the most about what secular people do is that they have no agenda for God when they go out and meet people – especially when it’s men talking to women. They don’t bring their relationships or group activities inline with religion, and so there is no reason to be self-controlled – they have no plan that they are are trying to achieve, they are just there to have fun.

Now what about Christians? When I go out with my male friends, we are not drinking anything – we’re going to play a sport like racquetball/squash or something and then we are going to go to a restaurant to eat and talk about apologetics and science and war and education and investments and parenting and education and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. After that, we might go back to someone’s house to play video games or play pool or watch a debate and discuss that. But always we have an agenda – we are trying to build each other up in our Christian lives and planning different activities like conferences, debates, etc.

But when dealing with women, who are very often influenced by feminism these days, it’s different. Most men seem to think that if a woman has sex with them, that this is some great affirmation of them. I don’t think that and my friends don’t think that. I have learned from women that they give up sex as a way to control men, to make them hang around and buy them things, but without having to be led by the man. Women who have been influenced by feminism hate the idea that men will tell them to read books, act morally, honor their obligations to men and children, develop religious convictions that exclude others and make them unpopular, mentor other Christians, and so on. They want to have men around, but they don’t want to be told not to act selfishly/irresponsibly/amorally.

Sex is a tool that feminist women use in order to get men to “like” them, without having to let men do what men do – lead, provide, set moral boundaries, defeat lies, and fit the woman to a plan so that she can help him achieve it. So the bottom line is that a woman giving me sex is no good for me – in fact, it would be bad. It would be a way for her to control me and to prevent me from having the leverage to lead her and fit her to my plan – a plan that includes a stable home for raising children who will have an influence. Instead of standing her up with duties and obligations (read this book, stop spending money, debate your non-Christian friends), I would just shut up and let her continue to let her act in ways that are no good for marriage and parenting. Men with plans understand what women are for, and the thing that we are looking for is not sex, but help. We need someone to help us achieve our plan.

So that brings us back to the topic of the post. The reason why I don’t play the hook-up game is because it gets me nothing.  I cannot get a woman to do the things I need her to do by giving her leverage over me. When you first meet a woman, she is very likely not to be ready to do what you need her to do in a marriage – she needs to be mentored. Right from the start, I want her to know that what I am offering her is the ability to do useful work, to achieve important goals, and work together with someone who is supportive, appreciative, thoughtful, romantic, devoted, faithful, attentive and caring over a long period of time. And the way that I communicate that I am not here just to provide women with fun is by giving them tasks to do right from the start, and making it clear to them why I need them to do things.

Back to the original topic, I hope that this makes clear why religious people exhibit self-control when secular left people do not. Christian men have a goal for our relationships with women. We need them to support us in our plans by having particular skills and performing particular tasks. During the courtship, men refrain from sex to prevent a woman from escaping from her obligations to get those skills and train to perform those tasks. To have sex is to give up leadership in the relationship and to let women control the relationship. And when women control the relationship, it means that the goal of the relationship is almost always going to be to please them – and not God.

Christian men should never give up control of the relationship by giving up sobriety and chastity, because we know that relationships work better when men lead and emphasize what men care about most: morality, reason, chastity, evidence, theology, apologetics, marriage, family, parenting, free market capitalism, personal responsibility, law and order, illegal immigration, protecting the unborn, national security, traditional marriage, the debt crisis, etc. Self-control is the tool we use to lovingly prepare women for the tasks that we need them to perform – tasks that we often cannot perform ourselves - and always with the higher goal of making the relationship please God by achieving something for him.

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19 Responses

  1. eMatters says:

    Excellent points. The key to the Bible is Jesus and our reconciliation to the Father through him, of course, but if you want to know the most beneficial advice for living it is about the marriage relationship. Non-believers and far too many people who claim the name of Christ have it backwards from the Bible.

    3rd wave feminism is about women thinking men are bad, so their remedy is to act like men (??) and have sex with men with (allegedly) no commitments or consequences. And the pagan men hate that, of course. /sarcasm.

    • Marriage matters very much to Christians as a way of experiencing theology, like you said.

      But there’s another reason why marriage matters that’s more practical:
      http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v

      It turns out that children don’t accept the beliefs of their parents unless there is a man in the home explaining and proving those beliefs and putting them into practice in the real world. The feminist assault on marriage and fathers is lethal to Christianity, and yet many Christian women support things like no-fault divorce, public schools dominated by female teachers and administraors, single mother welfare and other policies that are anti-father – replacing fathers with government programs. If you want men to rise to the occasion, you need to think of how to produce them by policy and by law. This is something that most pastors cannot talk about because they do not make the connections between policy and Christianity. That needs to change.

  2. Kunoichi says:

    “When I go out with my male friends, we are not drinking anything – we’re going to play a sport like racquetball/squash or something and then we are going to go to a restaurant to eat and talk about apologetics and science and war and education and investments and parenting and education and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. After that, we might go back to someone’s house to play video games or play pool or watch a debate and discuss that. ”

    That sounds like a fun evening!! :-D

    ” I cannot get a woman to do the things I need her to do by giving her leverage over me. When you first meet a woman, she is very likely not to be ready to do what you need her to do in a marriage …”

    Perhaps is a matter of wording, but this bothers me. Your (potential/hypotheical) wife is supposed to be your partner, not an immature child. You don’t “get” women to do the things you “need.” It comes across as calculating, dictatorial and autocratic. Where is the respect for you wife’s intelligence? Personality? Opinions? What about what she “needs” YOU to do?

    It doesn’t show respect to a wife when you demand things of her, then ‘bribe’ her with the reward of romance and attention. That’s the sort of thing you do when training a dog, not developing a life long relationship with a wife.

    It seems to me that you’re playing the same game you are accusing modern feminists of. You say them giving out sex is a leverage tool to control men (which I don’t disagree with; I just wouldn’t assume it’s generically ture; some women do it simply because that’s what they’ve been taught they’re supposed to do. For others, it’s far more complex). Aren’t you doing the same by using promises of romance, etc. as leverage to control them? Where is the mutual give and take of partners who respect each other, in their unique marital roles? Heaven help any woman who disagrees with what you believe you “need” her to do. What if what you think you “need” turns out to be wrong? It doesn’t sound like she’s going to have much choice. Either she does what you say, or she won’t get the nicey-nicey things you’re dangling in front of her.

    At least that’s how it comes across.

    Beyond that, I agree with your statements about self control, and believe it applies to both men and women.

    • I’m writing a post later about what sort of stuff I do to lead women as friends (pre-courting), but it’s mostly demanding that they read books, encouraging them to mentor other Christians, and applauding them when they get into fights with non-Christians. The way I get women to do things is non-coercive. I just send them books by mail, accompanied with flowers and hours of eye-contact talking, and if they want to be my friend, then they read the books. Some of them like a man who has things that he wants to talk to them about and things he wants them to do and things for them to do. These ones buy into the plan, they want the attention and the leading, they like to have the power to debate and disagree with others, and they maybe even want to get married to me.

      Some women don’t want to follow my leading and that’s fine. I just don’t marry them. I’m not obligated to get married to anyone, you know.

      • Kunoichi says:

        I guess this is where my confusion lies…

        “…it’s mostly demanding that they…”

        followed by

        “The way I get women to do things is non-coercive.”

        The two statements are contradictory. Even the second line is contradictory within itself. The notion of “get[ing] women to do things” is manipulative and contradicts your claim of being non-coercive. Non-coersion requires a substantially different way of thinking then most of us have and an intense level of respect for the individual’s thoughts, opinions and choices, and a willingness to allow them to choose differently without judgement. In your writing about women, you’re coming across as very adversarial. Women are an opponent to conquer and force into submission.

        I realize you’re not obligated to marry anyone, but as someone who’s said you *want* to marry, and being able to judge only by your writing, it seems to me you would be driving away women before getting the chance to know if they really are someone you’d like to marry, as your “demands” that they do things you want them to would make most women very defensive.

        To be fair, I’m not a big fan of “non-coersive” behaviour (it’s a big thing in many parenting circles, so I hear the term used a LOT) because I find that many people who think they are practising “non-coersive” behaviour are, in reality, being highly manipulative and devious. I find it essentially dishonest on the part of the person who thinks they’re being non-coersive and confusing to the person who is the target of this behavior. There’s a fine line there that’s almost impossible not to cross.

        • Look, if a particular woman doesn’t want to follow my lead, then she isn’t for me. And it’s not coercive for me to make demands on women to follow my lead, because I am not obligated to love anyone. I get to choose, and I choose women who follow my lead. That might be uncomfortable for women who don’t want to learn new things or do any work or have any obligations to other people, but that’s not my problem. I can always find someone else to pay attention to.

          I think the problem here is that some women don’t want to do anything that they don’t feel like doing, and my job as a man is to detect that attitude as early as possible and move on.

  3. Em says:

    I think it’s important for a couple to find out prior to marriage (preferably prior to dating) if they are willing/happy to learn and grow together. Married life will be frustrating and dull otherwise because feelings alone cannot carry a lifelong commitment, nor can they help two people accomplish any shared objectives.

    I am assuming that Mr. WK would in turn read/discuss books recommended by the lady. But I think that’s a safe assumption. :)

  4. Most men seem to think that if a woman has sex with them, that this is some great affirmation of them. I don’t think that and my friends don’t think that.

    For a normal woman with a healthy psyche, it is an affirmation of them as a man – that’s why, back in the day, so many women waited until they found a man they loved, admired, and adored before having sex, and waited until that man had pledged his life to her.

    A lot of men want the achievement without the underlying effort – sort of like being promoted to General without having set foot in a war zone. (Incidentally, atheist Ayn Rand has quite a bit to say about these sorry excuses for men.) Women who give them such ‘achievement’ fail to understand that they are hobbling men, future relationships, and their own development through this behaviour. Frankly, I have no idea how a man who has slept around can later marry a woman and understand the full emotional ramifications to his wife of what they do together.

    Lest we blame women too much, I will remind you that the vilest of terms, “hang-ups”, is frequently used by men against women who don’t put out.

  5. WK,

    Let me start off by commending you on your recognition that men being leaders and responsible in the home is not just a happy wish, but an unequivocal necessity for a healthy family and legitimate biblical marriage. I would request some further clarification on one sentence, however. You wrote the following:

    “Speaking as a Christian, I would argue that self-control is not a by-product of religion, but that it is a tool used by Christians to achieve certain ends that fit with the Christian worldview.”

    I would agree that self-control is not a by-product of religion, but I wonder about your meaning relative to a tool (means?) to achieve ends that fit with a Christian worldview.

    When I think of self-control I think of the fruits of the Spirit as given in Galatians 5. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are fruits given in contradistinction to the acts (outworkings) of the sinful nature – debauchery, idolatry, discord, hatred, rage, selfish ambition, etc. I would see the attributes for believers then as qualities manifest not as means to an end or tools to be used, but as part of a process of sanctification and evidence of the Holy Spirit acting in and through a person’s heart and life. In that sense, self-control is a compulsion of the believer out of love for the Author of his/her salvation and part of a desire to glorify God, not a tool to be used. This explained more fully in verse 24 and 25 of chapter 5 – “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. SInce we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Self-control is a character trait that comes as a result of a change in a persons very nature (led by the sinful nature vs. in step with the Spirit). Self-control would then not be a tool to be used when desirable to achieve a certain end, but rather a trait the exudes from a person whose very nature has been changed by the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

    It’s a fine point, I realize, and you may have this very line of thinking behind what you wrote but it didn’t jump out at me in reading your thoughts. Men and women both must live in the roles designed for them by God. However, acknowledging those roles, accepting them, desiring to live them out, just like self-control only becomes known through being born again and by the work of the Holy Spirit. So I don’t really see those fruits as being tools to be used, but a natural outworking as part of the process of sanctification evident in those whose hearts have been changed.

    I hope that is all clear, and thank you again for standing up for a higher standard of behavior in believers (which is of course the standard for right living).

  6. MC says:

    Being asked to demonstrate your capability for a position does not negate your intelligence or opinion. It is quite the opposite. If a woman can impress & attract a man without depending on physical attraction, sexual prowess or flirtation, how priceless will she become to him and vice versa? She knows he is not assessing her on her looks and that he values her intelligence and opinion on serious matters that will affect their life together. The gifts, attention & adoration are not rewards for being ‘a good girl’ they are a man’s way of ensuring this incredible example of a woman knows how valuable she is to him. Women have lost sight of how much power they actually have in a relationship. Not controlling power, it is the man’s role to lead. Women have the power to drive it, maintain it and nurture it. However, this requires a more selfless nature and attitude than a lot of women have nowadays. Instead they have a sense of entitlement to happiness, adoration and commitment without doing anything to deserve it or achieve it.
    If WK’s demands to assess a woman’s capability drive women away or make them defensive, it shows how unreceptive they would be in allowing a man to lead them through a life together, so he is quite right in not entertaining them for long.

    • Oh that’s perfect! That’s what I was trying to get at. I do think that women have to act a certain way in order to get a man to engage in the relationship. Many women don’t know how to do that and don’t want to know. It’s too bad. Men used to have a lot of fun responding to femininity, and now it’s really rare to find anyone who knows how to be feminine.

    • CJ says:

      Amen to that! Please elaborate on how a woman can drive, maintain and nurture? Some examples would be great. I am a Christian Woman trying very hard to be worthy of a good godly man some day. People say that I am attractive and I have been treated like that’s all I am worth. For some time, I believed it and it has been very difficult for me to think I have any other good attributes to be worthy of a good man. Please advise me on how I can be this great kind of woman you speak of!!! Such information would be priceless to me.

      • I have a friend who is married with children who is going back to school NOW to do nursing. She is homeschooling her children and they are seeing her taking courses in chemistry, biology and microbiology. So I think that’s one way to drive others to learn and to nurture their progress – because she is able to be much more involved in what they are doing in school since she knows it at a much higher level than they do.

        • CJ says:

          Oh, I feel silly now. I guess I read too deeply into what MC was trying to say. I understand how important it is to be a good example and how important it is to educate myself so that I can educate my child. Children also drive us to be better people! That is why they are such blessings!

  7. MM says:

    . I wonder how getting women to want to be led and and have a man provide would work for a woman coming into marriage, who may have their own career, their own money and property. I respect WK has said in above article and think him to be sincere, but do not know how some women will go with it, I would be interested if WK or someone else knows if it is biblical for christian couples to have separate accounts. and write up pre nuptials?
    No one has spoken to me about what happens to the finances once you marry.

    • Kunoichi says:

      There is nothing “unbiblical” for women to have their own incomes and property. That has little to do with leadership of the husband, or lack of it. Where it can become a problem is if the wife’s career, income, etc. become more important to her than her husband and their relationship; if those material things become how she defines herself as a person (a problem among men, as well).

      Having seperate accounts in itself is not a problem – there can be a number of sound financial reasons for a couple to have certain things in both names, or just one name. My husband actually insisted I have my own personal account outside of our joint account. It’s there for specific purposes.

      Where problems start is when these things come in between the couple. If someone has a secret bank account, or refuses to allow their spouse to know what’s in it, or has credit cards the other doesn’t know about, etc., that’s nother issue. It denotes a lack of trust, and trust is essential in a marriage. As for pre-nuptual agreements, these are contracts written on the assumption the marriage will end in divorce. Hardly a good way to start a marriage! Certainly, a couple should think about how finances and properties are to be managed should one of them die – something that can cause all sorts of hardship for the surviving spouse, on top of dealing with grief.

      One of the most cited reasons for divorce is finances. It is essential for couples to be on the same page when it comes money and property. There was a time, culturally, when the finances of the family were firmly in the hands of the husband, while the wife was expected not to worry her pretty little head over them. This was harmful to both the husband and the wife – to the husband, in that he was not being open and honest with his wife, as well as adding undue stress, and to the wife in leaving her in ignorance and unprepared should something happen to the husband. It was also quite condescending to the wives, as it assumed they were intellectually inferior and incapable of understanding finances. Though some may have used the Bible to justify this, there really isn’t any Biblical reasoning behind it. That reasoning had more to do with social Darwinism than anything else.

      Again, none of this has much to do with the husband being the head of the household and playing a leadership role. That is relational, not material. I have no problem at all having my husband be in the leadership role in our marriage, now or in our early years when we both had jobs outside the home. Frankly, as our children get older, one of my goals is to make enough money myself to replace his income so that he doesn’t have to go to work anymore, because of his health problems. This has no affect on my recognition of him as the head of our household.

      It helps that he is an excellent leader, and I greatly respect him for that skill set. I am truly blessed to have him as my husband. That certainly doesn’t mean that I’m a doormat. On the contrary, there are times when he recognises that my own skills may be more appropriate to a situation, and he will step back and let me do what I’m good at. That, too, is part of being a good leader. It would be much more difficult for a woman who, for one reason or another, cannot respect her husband as a leader. If a woman’s own career, income, etc. is the reason she cannot accept or respect her husband as a leader, that’s when it’s a problem.

      It should also be noted that not all husbands are willing, or know how, to be good leaders, and have not earned their wife’s respect. That is a different problem that a couple would need to deal with.

    • I believe God’s design for marriage is for the two to become one. That doesn’t just mean joining their bodies. It means being a team in all of life. I don’t see how that works well if you keep things as “mine” and “yours.”

      In my marriage, we both had things of our own before marrying. We had our own bank accounts, vehicles, and furniture. But when we got married, we decided that all possessions are both of ours. We still refer to the truck as his and the car as mine, but we both know they’re both of ours. I kept my credit union account from before my marriage because keeping accounts open longer is good for your credit. But the money is both of ours and we both decide how to use it. For a marriage to work, you have to be a team. No matter who makes the money, it’s both of ours equally because we are one.

      As for pre-nups, they basically mean that you are planning to divorce. It’s totally the wrong viewpoint to think you need to protect yourself and your stuff from your spouse “just in case.” Such a marriage is practically doomed to failure…not because of the pre-nup, but because the people going into the marriage have the wrong view of marriage and aren’t willing to merge themselves with the other person to become one. The pre-nup is just a symptom of an underlying problem that will come out sooner or later unless they have a change of heart.

  8. One of the main ways for a woman to nurture her marriage (or relationship leading to marriage) is to encourage and support her man. For example, my husband was working on his Master’s degree in Engineering when we got married. I’m a biologist. Engineering isn’t my thing. But I took interest in his work and helped him with his research project. When he was running tests, I was there. I asked questions, got an idea of what was going on, and helped record data and check everything to make sure it was all set up properly before running the test. Just having two pairs of eyes checking for errors helps a lot, as does having someone to keep track of everything. And data is data, so I also helped him analyze his data and look for patterns. I was basically his secretary to keep up with the little things so he could concentrate on the big picture of the project. And I also made sure he had healthy meals to eat while he was working and a clean house to come home to. That’s just one example of what it means to be a helpmeet. His work was important to me, so I did what I could to make it easier on him and make him more effective at what he was doing.

    • CJ says:

      I appreciate you taking your time to answer my question. That is a good example. How can we act to get men to engage in a relationship in the earliest stages? I’m just entering the dating scene and I’m trying to avoid serious mistakes.

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