You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

Not only that, but Jesus knew what people actually needed not just what they wanted.  He didn’t serve them based on what or how they wanted to be served.  Think of the washing of the disciples’ feet.  At no point did the disciples think, “we’ll like Jesus more and follow Him more if He would wash our feet.”  In fact Peter saw it as an affront at first.  He knew who Jesus was (or at least was coming to know) and he knew that Jesus was the one who should be served.  That’s what made it so incredible.

So what does this have to do with being a single man in the church?  Here are some thoughts.

First of all, we need to understand a very important fact.  Despite what we are sometimes lead to believe by evangelical leaders, you can not serve your way to attraction.  What I mean is that there can be this idea that if I serve a woman she will be attracted to me.

Let’s say you really like a girl.  You are attracted to her and you want her to be attracted to you.  One line of thought is that you need to get to know her and do things for her or even “minister” to her.  She is moving and needs help so you volunteer to help move her.  You’re in college and she needs help studying so you help her study.  You offer to carry things for her.  You open every door for her.  You look for every opportunity to serve her.  She is going through a hard time and you are “there for her”.

Those are all fine things.  But none of those things will make her attracted to you.  If she is already attracted to you, those sorts of things could help advance the relationship at some level.  But they are probably at best neutral in terms of attraction.  However, if she is not attracted to you and she knows you are attracted to her it could be a negative.  You could end up in the nice guy/friend zone.  You are meeting her needs which is great for her, but that won’t make her attracted to you.

On top of that, and this gets back to how Jesus served, if you are serving to get her to like you (be attracted) really you aren’t being a servant.  There are strings attached.  Women see right through this.  They might take the help.  But that’s as far as it is going.

This is one of the ways that nice guys get clobbered over and over.  “I did all of this for her and yet she chose this other guy.  He does’t do anything for her . . . ”  Well that might be true.  But too bad.  First of all, that’s not part of the deal.  Service means just that.  Pure servanthood operates without expecting anything back.  Also it doesn’t matter because if the other guy who doesn’t serve her is who she is attracted to, then . . . well . . . she is attracted to him.

What I’m saying here is that serving the girl is fine.  That’s your choice.  But if you do it so that she will date you, then that’s really on you.

Jesus served out of strength.  He did it out of love.  Not romantic love or “feelings” love. He doesn’t call us to do it out of those things either.  He wasn’t qualifying himself as worth being with by serving.  He was already worth being with and they knew it.

This by the way carries over into marriage.  We tend to sell guys on this idea that if they do certain things they will get certain results.  Serve your wife to “earn” points (I’ve actually seen Christian leaders say things like this).  But that’s not sacrificial service.  That’s selfish service.  It’s for sure not leadership.  I don’t do the dishes so that my wife will like me better.  I do it because why should I not do it.  I do it because she made a great meal and the least I can do is help clean up.  But I don’t do it expecting her to have sex with me. And I’m not counting on it making her want to.  I’m for sure not doing it to bank “points”.

Let me be clear once again.  I’m not anti serving.  But I’m saying don’t serve with an expectation of a result for you.  Don’t serve to be more attractive because it won’t make you more attractive.  Don’t serve to get something in return.  Serving is not a tactic.  And it won’t work.

Finally let me add this.  If you are serving someone in an effort to chase or get them to like you, I’d stop.  Stop being the nice guy.  Stop putting yourself in the friend zone.  Stop trying to earn it.  Don’t be used in that way.  I spent significant time there in my life.  It’s not effective and it won’t help you.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Ahh The Man Problem

We have a man problem!  How many times have you heard that in the Church in the last 10 years?

I want to respond some more to a piece from the SBTS that quotes Al Mohler talking about this.  This isn’t personal by the way.  All Mohler is doing is putting words to what so many in the Church think about singleness and marriage.

As Mohler is discussing the “sin” of delaying marriage (what length of delay equals sin is unclear of course) he says,

“This is a problem shared by men and women.  But it is primarily of men.  We have established a boy culture in which boys are not growing up into men.

Guys, the reality is that God has given us a responsibility to lead, to take responsibility as a man, to be the man in every way before God that we are called to be . . . It means taking the leadership to find a godly wife and to marry her and to be faithful to her in every way and to grow up to be a man who is defined as a husband, and by Gods grace we pray eventually, as father.”

I just . . . I mean. . .

First let every man read and understand what I say next.  You are not primarily defined by being a husband or even a father.  You are primarily defined by your relationship with Christ.  Period.  This is vital because if you don’t get this then you won’t be a good husband or father if you get married.

Now if you get married, then there are defined roles and responsibilities (which these same evangelical leaders will be sure to remind you of).  It’s not bad to know what those are because it should impact your decision to get married.  Are there guys slacking off because they don’t want to “man up” as it were?  Sure.  But that is only a part of the issue.

This premise that its all the guys’ fault is a complete failure of the Church to acknowledge the rest of culture and it’s own part in creating it.

The blame the men movement comes up short for lots of reasons –  Just for starters:

  • It fails to address why men are not going to church, getting married, or even finishing college (or other “mature” things).
  • It fails to address women’s sin in any way
  • Completely ignores attraction and choices involving it.
  • It makes women the helpless victims and absolves them of their choices
  • Embarrasses the men in church who women don’t date – of which there are many
  • Doesn’t help any of those men learn anything that will help them get married
  • And most of all, creates more disrespect of men within the body of Christ

Here’s the other funny thing about it.  If all of these Christian men are a bunch of “boys” whose fault is that?  Was there a secret men’s meeting that I missed where we all got together and said, “Let’s not grow up.  Let’s step back from leadership. Screw what the Church teaches.”  Guess who raised us?  Guess who spoke to our parents in the pews?  Guess who taught us how to be nice?  Guess who told us that slogans, rallies and sermons can save us?  

I could handle the “men are the problem” line better if it started with, “We’ve failed our young men.  We help set them up to fail.”  That would maybe lend some sort of credibility.

Mohler and company have this idea that there are all these sinless godly women just sitting around and if only men would act they would say yes and marry them.  They assume that the reason that Christian women don’t get married is that men just aren’t . . . well . . . man enough.  (This idea of men are sinful and weak and women are sinless is everywhere and in everything they talk about – not just singleness.)*

But the truth is that I know a lot of men that want a godly wife.  There are single men in every church looking for that. I was one.  For 20 years. Is Mohler suggesting to the women that they should go out with any of these guys that ask them and become their wife?  Of course not.  Men should go find a wife – really any wife.  They don’t need to be attracted to them and the woman doesn’t have to be that godly.  Just man up and marry a woman – you can help her be godly.  Women on the other hand are taught to be careful.  Don’t settle.  They are told they need protection from all of the not quite godly enough men.  

So according to many of our leaders, the only way to be a godly, mature man is to get married.  But the only men that women should marry are godly, mature men.  Again – whose fault is all of this?

Part of the problem (without getting into this too much here – more later) is that they are asking men to play by the cultural rules from 50 years ago, while not asking the same of women.  They fail to recognize how the culture has reshaped the getting married game.  It’s not just the men that have created this.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.

The bottom line here is that simply saying man up is a non-starter.  It’s not working.  At all.  We have to talk to both sexes and we have to teach them both not only what to do in marriage and that they should get married but also how to go about getting married.

 

 

*Examples – If Husbands will lead the right way then women would not try to take over the lead.  If more men would sign up for combat duty then women wouldn’t feel the need to. Etc.  H/T Dalrock

 

You Are Not Her Spiritual Leader

I want to continue to try to answer a question that reader Stephen asked me a few weeks ago. Here is the question.

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. 

I tackled the general nice guy question previously, but I think Stephen raises a very interesting question when it comes to leadership.

First of all, let’s clear a couple of things up.  Nowhere in the bible is the phrase spiritual leader used.  It’s kind of inferred in several places but we’ve sort of created this phrase so that we don’t have to use words like headship.  But regardless of all of that, and no matter what you call it, when you are dating someone, you are not her spiritual leader or head of anything. You are not saddled with that and you don’t have to love her as Christ loved the church (any more or less than you would any other person) and she is not called to submit to your leadership.  Ephesians 5 is not about dating.

At the same time you can show leadership.  You’re not her “leader” but that doesn’t mean you can’t lead.  In the restaurant example from above (a great simple example) I’d say on the fist date you should just have a plan and do it.  Just lead.  This is where I’m taking you tonight.  Go someplace that you like that you think she might also enjoy. Don’t show up and say, “where do you want to go?”

Now once you are dating, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking her what she’d prefer, but I’d ask her that before you show up.  Leadership is more about an attitude.  It’s more about the conversation that night than the menu.  (A note to the ladies here – for the love of all things, if the guy asks you if you prefer mexican or italian and says he is great with either, and you have a preference, express it.  Don’t make him guess and then say, “well I really wanted mexican”.  Men like food.  We don’t care.)

While the above is sort of a practical answer to the fist couple of dates, I think this question begs a deeper one.  What is leadership and what does it look like in a dating relationship.

Leadership is sort of a funny word in our culture. It seems that everyone wants to be one, but very few are seen as one.

Which brings me to the first important point – in order to be a leader, you have to actually be going somewhere.

If as a guy, you know who you are, and remain confident in that, you can look for someone who will come with you.  In terms of attractiveness, knowing what you want, and passionately pursuing it aren’t going to hurt you.  Frankly it’s also often more effective when first asking someone out to invite them to go with you versus a general ask.  “Will you go out with me sometime?” is a lot more pressure than, “I’m going to the game this weekend, come with me.”  I get that isn’t always the preferred method, but the general idea of having a plan and inviting her to it is good.

But here’s another funny thing about leadership.  It require followers.  If no one is following you, you’re not actually a leader.  Also, just because someone has followers doesn’t mean they are leading the right way – just that they have leadership ability.  Hitler had followers.

I say all of this because it’s hard to have a conversation about men leading, be it in marriage or dating, if we don’t sort of have that down.

So here are a few thoughts on how to lead in dating.

  • Be going somewhere yourself.  What are you about?  Where are you heading – big picture and tomorrow.
  • Invite her to that – the simple small stuff at first (go with me to the game?) the bigger vision later (where do we want to be in life).
  • You set the boundaries – physical and otherwise – and honor them – even when she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t follow her around.  Pursue her, get to know her (which is leadership), but don’t chase her.
  • Make decisions about things you do together.  (Again to clarify, the more your in the relationship the more that becomes joint – but you can still lead the conversation).
  • Lead in reconciliation and forgiveness, but not out of fear – instead out of concern for her and the relationship.

These are just a few examples.  Maybe some commenters will have more.  Keep in mind that no one leads well all of the time (I for sure don’t) and over thinking it and crushing yourself when you feel you don’t lead is totally counterproductive.  Every guy screws this up.  But we need a target.

One final thought here – if you lead and the woman never follows – reconsider that relationship.  Especially when it comes to following Jesus.

He’s Nice But. . .

It’s been a while as work (as in my real job) has sort of taken over of late.  But I wanted to get back to Stephen’s great questions.  You can see the first part of his three part question right here.

Today, I want to tackle Stephen’s second question, which actually is much easier and more clear than the first.  Stephen asks,

Everyone talks about women wanting guys who “lead”, who “aren’t pushovers,” who “aren’t nice guys,” etc. Question: what does this mean in the context of DATING. NOT MARRIAGE. Its fairly obvious what this means for married men. But when I’m asking a woman out for the first, second, or third time, the only things we’re going to disagree over, or have to decide together, are whether we’re going to Chipotle or Olive Garden. What if I really don’t give a darn? How am I supposed to “lead” while I’m casually dating a girl? I’m not an integral part of her life, I’m not her primary counselor, I’m not even likely to be *informed* about serious decisions that she has to make. How, given that we all spend the first 14 years of our lives being taught to be courteous and considerate – that is, NICE – am I supposed to demonstrate that I’m not “just a nice guy” in that context?

There is so much great stuff here.  I probably can’t do this in one post.  These questions are so crucial.  So let’s go.

Let’s talk about the first assumption here – that is that women want guys who lead, aren’t pushovers or “nice guys”.  The key word here really is the whole nice guy phrase. I like the pushover wording that Stephen offers.  I’ve written a whole post about not being nice, but here’s the short version.

Nice typically doesn’t work.  Now it’s important that when I say nice I don’t mean good.  I think you can be a good guy without being a “nice” guy.  I get that for many this is semantics.  So let’s clear it up a little.  Women aren’t typically attracted to a guy they can push around.  Basically the key here is don’t be a wuss.

This is important for several reasons but the main one early on is that it’s ingrained in women (in my opinion) that if you can’t stand up to them, then you won’t be able to stand up for them. Now that can get played out all sorts of ways – some reasonable, and some not so reasonable.  But women test this.  Not necessarily even consciously.  Some women test it the first time they meet you.  Others just figure it out a few dates in.  They may not even be able to name it, but they do it.

Beyond that, nice often means afraid.  What I mean is that a lot of the reason men are “nice” is that they are super worried about whether this person will like them.  Or, they think if I’m nice then she’ll like me.  I used to be this way. Going all the way back to when I was a kid, if I liked a girl, I was always super nice to her, and would never think of standing up to her.

When I became a Christian, then of course I had to not only be over considerate but I also had to guard her heart etc.  All of this is bogus, mostly counterproductive, puts the woman in authority of the relationship and makes you generally less attractive.  And if you are using being nice (buying gifts, chasing her everywhere, always doing what she wants) in order to get her to like you – how is that any different than any other game method.

Now I know there are people who say, “but we aren’t like the other people in the world. We should be different and treat women well.”  I’m  not saying treat women poorly.  The opposite of the nice, pushover guy is not the jerk.  You can be good, generous, kind, etc without being “nice”.  Frankly Jesus wasn’t nice.

Also what’s funny is that Stephen mentions how this is easier in marriage.  Sort of.  I think the leadership part is easier in principle.  But being the nice guy in the marriage can get you crushed.

Look, the last thing any guy wants to hear is, “He’s a really nice guy. . . but. . . ”  I was this guy a lot.  What’s funny is I’m not that nice.  Haha.

What does this look like.  First don’t be desperate.  Even from the first time you approach her it’s important to not convey that.  Have a plan and make decisions.  Don’t “need” her approval.  Don’t be her friend – be a guy she might want to date. Don’t just do everything she wants.  Act valuable.  (Read the linked posts)

This ties into the second part of the question.  Let’s say you get the girl to go out with you, and you start to date a little.  How do you lead, and not be a pushover early in the relationship.  Great, great question.  Man I screwed this up every way.  But I’ll need another post to get to that.