Let’s examine the five points made by the author.
One. “Keep your ring on.”
There are many jobs which require a man to take off his ring sometimes or often. Demonizing career necessity is not helpful. Beyond this, though, a married man is a married man with or without a ring. There are people out there who will deliberately pursue romance with a married man or woman because the likelihood of the relationship lasting very long is slimmer than with a non married person. The wedding band factors extremely little into these situations. If you personally need a ring to keep you on the path of fidelity, well, keep doing what helps but you would be wise to seek out counseling. Immediately. A ring is a tenuous tie to fidelity.
My dad is a good example of how senseless this necessity for a ring really is. A number of years ago, he hurt his hand during a DIY project and had to have his wedding band cut off in the ER. A few years went by before my parents replaced the ring, purely due to a combination of other priorities for cash and the lack of necessity. Hardly anyone noticed my dad wasn’t wearing a ring anymore. There were no issues. Why?Because it wasn’t an issue. My dad’s faithful behavior to his wife did not alter with the absence of a band on his hand. He is taken. He is hers.
Two. “Hang up pictures of your wife at work.”
Not an awful idea, at least not until you think again about the motive for having the photos to begin with. If you need a photo to let people know that you are married, you’re probably not behaving as very “married” in the first place. If you need to hold up images of your wife in order to keep those pesky single women at bay, you great hunk of a man, then you are either madly underestimating the voracious appetites of single women by thinking that a shield of photos is enough (note the sarcasm), or you’re naive as all get out in thinking that a photo can replace your own behavior. A man who is off the market has a certain vibe about him that people can read a mile off. Why? Because he doesn’t look at anyone but his wife as romantic potential. A whole office wall plastered with photos of your wife is not going to convince anyone else if you do not think about yourself as off the market.
Three. “Keep eye contact simple and short.”
This is an irritating one. I’ve had so many conversations with married men, even as a married woman myself, where eye contact is kept brief and extremely limited. In my experience, the most effective cross-cultural way to express trust and honesty is in direct eye contact and a gentle but steady gaze. People who shy away from eye contact send signals that they cannot be trusted, that they are lying, or that you are somehow unclean for them to look upon. This is true in most cultures of the world. It is standard human habit. It is standard human interpretation. Keeping eye contact limited thus is a very good way to alienate people and cut your witness short by sending vibes of untrustworthiness or judgmentalism.
Four. “Keep conversation general and professional.”
Now this, this really narks me off. “Be polite but very intentional in your conversations. If needed, again, always be ready to bring up something about your wife or family. Pull the pin, aim, and extinguish.”
There are two points to make here. A good Christian man is going to steer away from gossip and slander. At work, not only is gossip unprofessional but it is also not Christ-like. General and professional conversation often fits the bill, sure, although keeping a hard rule about only general topics being acceptable eclipses all opportunity to express care for another person. A good Christian man who loves his wife is naturally going to mention her at some point in conversation, because she is on his mind, because she is second only to God in his life. So great, talk about your wife. But to bring her up in conversation like a grenade you are about to throw at your target is not healthy, not helpful. To “pull, aim and extinguish” conversation with a single woman purely because she is single and a woman is not merely rude, but is a poor witness for Christ.
Five. “Talk about your wife and family often.”
What is most dear to your heart is what spills out. If you are married, I really hope that your husband or wife is the most dear person to you. I hope that they naturally come up in conversation. “What did you do over the weekend?” “My wife and I finally went to see that movie she’s been dying to see. It was great to find a sitter and get away. Hey, did you know there is a new coffee place open in town? You should check it out sometime. They do that Mexican hot chocolate you like.” Not a big deal, not private or particularly intimate information, simply your heart spilling over, both in loving your wife’s company and in caring enough as a brother to remember that your single female co-worker has a weakness for a certain drink. It’s the same with talking about God. If nobody where you work knows you are a Christian, you’re probably closeting away too much, or your conversation is not as God-honoring in general as it probably ought to be, maybe because God really isn’t that important in your life to begin with. What is most dear to your heart is what spills out. What is in your mind is what will be on your tongue. We hurt people by expressing ourselves with biting words that have started in our minds and come out unfiltered. We have the opportunity as Little Christs to spill out the fresh air of Jesus on our breath, and married people have the opportunity to spill out the fresh air of a healthy married relationship, where two people are joined by mutual affection, consideration, and fidelity, and who actually enjoy each other. How refreshing! By all means, talk about your wife and family! But please, please, don’t “pull, aim and extinguish” your fellow humans. A very sure way to send a judgmental witness on a consistent basis is to use your wife as a conversational shield behind which to hide from available women you inevitably encounter in life.
After initially reading the article I have just broken down, I expressed my disgust to a married woman friend. I told her plainly how demeaning I found the entire piece. I said, single women are not all gagging for it, and for men to universally presume that a single woman is A: out to hook a married man, and B: so pathetic on her own that she is willing to misconstrue the slightest glance or friendly talk as being a come-on is grossly insulting.
She disagreed, and expressed that she found the article to be merely a list of practical ways in which a man can set some boundaries in order to keep himself pure, and which she thought may be especially helpful to men who struggle with these issues.
No big deal, right? We can have differing views. I mean, at the worst, I could take this as a Romans 14 issue, where the man of weak faith is a vegetarian. As I told another friend recently, just keep holding out the bacon. Someday they’ll realize that bacon really does go with everything.
My problem with these practical boundaries is very simple. You are treating the symptoms. You need to treat the real issue at heart.
The need for a wedding band, for pictures of your wife at work, for minimized eye contact, for generalized, brief, and impersonal conversation except in the case of talking about the wife and kids are all symptoms of a heart problem. These quick remedies cannot cure a diseased heart any more effectively than over-the-counter cough medicine can cure pneumonia. The problem is lust. The problem is not seeing women as equals, as sisters.
We are called to be Little Christs. That is what “Christian” means. Little Christ.
So start with Jesus. How did he treat women? He was single, too, not tied down in marital fidelity to one woman, although you could say that his ministry was his marriage and he still wasn’t an available man. But sex and availability wasn’t the focus. Jesus had relationships with women, many of them close ones, and yet he managed to steer clear of temptation, not by averting his gaze or bringing up his ministry in conversation any time things got personal, not by wearing a ring, not by keeping his conversation strictly “professional”. Jesus loved them.
Think about them. The woman at the well, with whom he talked, alone, while the disciples were elsewhere, presumably avoiding uncleanness by associating with a Samaritan, a Samaritan woman, and a black sheep in her own community (John 4). Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Suzanna who traveled with Jesus and the male apostles (Luke 8). Mary the mother of James and Joseph. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus (Luke 10). The woman who suffered years of bleeding, presumably menstruation that would have rendered her permanently unclean, who touched Jesus’ robe and was healed (Mark 5). The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with tears and her personal store of perfume, which at the time would have been saved for her someday husband and was a very expensive item, drying his feet with her own hair (Luke 7). Jesus not only allowed these women to experience forgiveness and healing from his hands, but permitted them to travel with the disciples, stayed in their houses, sought them out for conversation, taught them, included them, loved them.
Men of the church of God, I challenge you to embrace this aspect of Christ. Can you start looking at your sisters in Christ as sisters? Can you start viewing women whose lives are not yet given to Christ’s redemption as potential Christ-sisters, and at the very least as equals worthy of the same respect you would afford a fellow man? Can you talk to them, seek them out, encourage them? Can you provide a shining example of a faithful married man, show them the kind of husband they can aspire to find for themselves someday? You have the power and the ability to yield great good in the church and in the world. You can bring closer unity and trust between brothers and sisters in Christ. You can show other men what manhood looks like. You can lead by example, offering friendship and genuine love for your sisters, who as sisters pose no sexual threat to you or your marriage and so all concern there is effectively annihilated. Take God’s own advice from the bible and treat women older than you as mothers, women younger than you as sisters (1 Timothy 5), “in all purity” the way you would actually treat your own mother and sister. You would not avoid their gaze, nor shy away from hugs or benign physical contact, nor would you suspect them of trying to climb into your married trousers. You would be either amused or insulted on their behalf if anyone else suggested your family members had any other designs toward you than of pure sisterhood in Christ. You would set any accusers straight in their thinking, not join them. Be the trustworthy older brother, peer, son, whose discernment and opinion is valued and sought by women of all ages. Act not out of self-protection, assuming the worst in other people, but out of love. This is your cure. This, men of God, is how you heal your heart.
Or, you can choose symptomatic treatment. It’s easier, I grant you. It comes more naturally to the sinful human nature. Be suspicious of other women, married as well as single, both inside and outside the church. Don’t trust attempts to get to know you on a personal level. Avoid all intimacy. Avert your eyes. Focus on the idea that all interaction with anyone who is not also a heterosexual male is an open gateway for sexual sin, and concentrate all your efforts in life on purity to the degree that all you can think about when you talk to a woman are the body parts at which you shouldn’t be looking. Tattoo a wedding band to your finger while you’re at it, just in case your ring needs to come off, and make sure that your wife’s name is worked into the design to make extra sure you don’t forget who you married. Women are all out to get you, don’t forget. Single women, especially, want to bring down your marriage, degrade you, and have precious little respect for the sanctity of marital fidelity. Such protective measures are safer.
It’s better to be paranoid than sorry. Right? What’s the worst that could happen?
One. You will cause division in the church. You will set men apart from women, split the church of God right down the middle, aiding chauvinistic views that keep women in “their places” so you can avoid all temptation, placing them as culpable for any thoughts and feelings of yours that are less than holy, and preventing them from exercising effective ability to serve, honor, love, or teach you anything.
Two. You will send out a negative witness to the world. No matter what you do, it’s all witness of one sort or another. If your witness is not a positive one for Christ, it is a negative one that tells people to steer clear of Christ. You are ambassadors of the kingdom. You can embrace either the power to bring about outstanding change in the hearts of men by the hand of God working through you, or the power to cast aspersions on the church of God by your alienating behavior to the female half of the world. In a world where for thousands of years men have been the top dogs, you have the opportunity to be heard more loudly and clearly than many women still tend to be afforded. If you cannot embrace this advantage and prefer to stick your ostrich head in a sand dune, there is a good chance that…
…three, you will be passed over. God will be glorified, but you will not be the instrument he wields to affect great advances for his kingdom. You may not be as effective in your community. You may not be sent to the mission field, or you may go and end up alienating half of the community in which you serve. You may find that people generally avoid seeking your advice, especially women, because you come across as judgmental or chauvinistic, or both.
And four, your heart problem will not go away.
Treat older women like mothers and younger women like sisters, in all purity.
1 Timothy 5 verse 2