My roommate and I are currently thrashing out what it means for a man to defend and protect. She had posted a blog that explored what a real man is. She is the writer of the room, and so usually this would be her posting a blog in her thought out, passionate, and eloquent words. However, this time it seems that this topic hit a string in me and as words poured out of my mouth about what I thought, so we decided that I should write a blog about it.
One of the qualities my roommate pondered upon was the idea that a man should protect and defend that which he values and loves. She put both "bucking up and taking on a challenge" and defending others in the same category. A wise mutual friend of ours responded and asked her to clarify what the difference is between the two. Is taking on a challenge really in the same category as protecting those around you? What does a man that fights for others look like?
Please feel free to challenge, probe, and poke at my thoughts here. I do not claim to be an expert on this. In addition I feel a bit presumptuous writing a blog about men as I sit here, very much a woman. Yet at the same time, I have watched and been a part of circumstances where men either took on that role as a defender, or sat back and either caused damage or did nothing to stop it.
Let me start off by exploring what defending someone or something looks like. Let's be honest, the picture that often comes to mind is an Aragorn-like image, a man with a gleaming sword swinging, violent and precise. His eyes show no fear, only focus, as he successfully obliterates his enemy, all the while keeping the image of his beautiful maiden in the back of his mind as his source of passion and strength. Let me also be honest and say that it is foolish and immature to think that this is the only type of protection a man can offer.
Protection can be a steadying hand when you encounter something or someone that unnerves you. It can be someone telling you bluntly that where you are going is going to hurt you, or will not honor God. Protection can be walking on the outside of the sidewalk so the girl is more shielded from the cars in the street. It can be setting up boundaries and sticking to them so you do not lead a friend on. There is a sweet relief that floods through you when you find that someone is there to defend you, and when you see that you are not left high and dry to fight whatever monster it is you are facing. Perhaps this is the best definition: When a man truly defends a woman, he offers her his strength.
Did you catch that? Defense is not forced. We live in a world where some men offer a bit of strength and then expect something immediately in return, or get annoyed if they have to expel their precious energies on someone. That leaves women cautious, fearful, cynical, and afraid of accepting the strength offered. It can be hard to know whether it is safe to accept a man's help. "Does he want something if I accept?" "If I accept this he'll get tired of me and stop being kind." "I don't want to be a burden on him" "He doesn't know what he's getting himself into. I'm too much." These are all thoughts that at times plague the minds of many women. For this reason, strength should be offered, never forced. If a girl honestly does not want help climbing down from a tall ledge, never try to grab at her and prove that you are capable. The purpose of protection is not to prove you are capable, but to offer strength to your sister in Christ as He offers it to you.
I will speak to the ladies now and say this: Yes, I understand. Wanting to be protected is the desire of many women, yet at the same time it's hard to let go of the thoughts and hang-ups that keep you from accepting genuine help when offered. It goes against so much about what the world teaches and perhaps even your very nature. ALSO: We are not to complain about men if we are the ones not allowing them to protect when appropriate. You want men to rise up? Fantastic. Let them rise up. You have baggage that makes this hard? Take it to Christ. I would also like to add that you very well know the difference between accepting strength and taking advantage of it. Let's not get ridiculous here and depend so much on a man's strength that it drains him unhealthily. We have ways of offering strength as well, and we are just as capable of pouring into them. If we want guys to treat us like sisters in Christ then we should behave like sisters in Christ. This is a two way street. It's important to know how to function as an independent person, completely fulfilled in Christ and His love. A man should feel welcomed, not obligated, to offer strength.
So now I go back to our friend's question. What is the difference between rising to a challenge and being a protector? Is there a difference? I think it can be put somewhat simply: From my point of view, protecting someone is rising to a challenge. It is standing up, offering the steadying hand, or putting another first. When a husband defends his wife he is rising to the challenge of leading her and loving her as Christ loves the Church. Do all challenges have to do with protecting and defending? Of course not. Some challenges are completely internal. Perhaps God wants you to allow Him to refine your heart, or He challenges you on a specific area in your life. Submitting to Him and working on what he has convicted you with is rising up and taking that challenge head-on.
Defending someone is more than swinging a sword at a dragon. It is offering strength where needed and expecting no payment in return. It's holding her steady when she needs it most. It's setting boundaries. It's God-honoring, and God-inspired. I challenge you to rise up to the challenge and examine where you may need to step it up in the defending department, or look at your motives for defending. Are you one of the men that makes women wary of taking help? Or can you confidently say that you are reflecting Christ in your actions and how you protect your sisters in Christ? And women, are you allowing your brothers in Christ to step up? Are you encouraging, and do you also offer strength where it is needed? Or do you suck in strength like a sponge, leaving a guy empty?
To defend someone is a noble thing. Offering and accepting strength is a thing of beauty. It is going beyond yourself while offering a bit of you to encourage and protect another.
Peace in Christ