But first, we conclude the discussion at the end of the previous post:
Let’s understand that word “character.” When it refers to human behavior, character is the way you habitually behave. It doesn’t just mean how you behave some of the time, when you try hard to do something you don’t usually do. Instead, it means the way you naturally react to a situation. It’s the way you usually behave. For example, if you’re habitually lazy, this doesn’t mean that you never work hard. It means that it’s your habit to avoid work whenever possible, and it takes a great effort for you to work hard.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but being habitually lazy is a very bad habit to have. Lazy people don’t achieve much in life, they rarely get what they want (unless they only want to be left alone), and other people don’t respect them. You should not want to have a lazy character.
And notice that character is based on habit. If you act lazily often enough, laziness becomes your habit. And when it becomes your habit, then you will either have to fight hard to change your character, a battle that will take a long time and much energy, or else you will just remain lazy for the rest of your life, and you will then be a failure.
And what can be said about laziness can also be said about the other bad character habits: greed, anger, impulsiveness (the inability to control your desires), pride (the desire for others to honor you), envy (the hatred of others for having what you want but don’t have), and so on. Once you have these habits, they are very hard to break, and they drag a man down to destruction. To be a good leader, a good man, you must have self-discipline so that you can control your bad habits and strengthen your good habits.
Virtue and vice
The official name for an especially destructive habit is a vice. But there is good news. The opposite of a vice is also something for which you can develop a habit. And the opposite of a vice is a virtue.
When we say a man has virtue, or say that he is virtuous, we mean that he has the habit of doing things well. He has developed strength of character so that he rarely does what’s bad even though he’s like all of us in that he’s constantly tempted to do what’s wrong.
And notice that vice is weakness, whereas virtue is strength. The very word “virtue” is derived from a Latin word that basically means manliness and strength.
We say again: if you don’t fight against your sinful nature, the part of you that doesn’t want to do what’s right, you will not develop virtue. You will develop vice instead. And it will drag you down. Neither God nor man will respect you. But if you’re aware of this evil tendency in yourself, you can fight it. You can ask God to give you the strength to develop virtue.
And how is virtue developed? By a process that’s easy to understand but hard to do: If you do the right thing often enough, it becomes a habit. And once it becomes habit, it’s much easier to do again.
This is easy to understand. We all know what a habit is, and how easy it is to keep on doing something that is your habit. But now that you know how much is at stake, you should notice and think about what you do. Everything you do reinforces a habit. If you do bad, your vices are reinforced. If you do good, your virtues are reinforced.
The word “integrity” literally means “one-ness.” If you have integrity, your mind does not have two (or more) opposing beliefs that are at war with one another. And if you hold two opposing beliefs, then they have to be at war with one another. Christianity and non-Christianity, for example, cannot get along. They can only fight until one side defeats the other. And during the war, the man who holds to these two opposing sets of beliefs will be weak and unhappy.
To have integrity, then, a man must hold to his beliefs even if most people around him disagree. Of course, if a man finds out that one of his beliefs is actually false then he must change what he believes. Integrity requires this. But if he sees no good reason to change what he believes, a man must constantly guard against the natural human desire to get along with the people around him by trying to be like them. If the people around you hold good beliefs and have good character, then you should want to be like them. But a man must be prepared for the possibility of having to hold his integrity despite his family, friends and neighbors.
If, then, you find that your family, or neighbors, or classmates, or co-workers, mostly hold to a false belief, how should you treat them? The basic answer is that you neither fight them nor join them. To be more precise, you fight them only when necessary, and you never join them in their false beliefs, even as you love them as the Bible says that you should. Since they are your family or neighbors or co-workers, you will have to get along with them. Usually, open warfare will only hurt you (and them) without doing any good, and joining them in false beliefs will only hurt you. You must interact with them politely, and with as much kindness as is possible, without giving your heart to their false beliefs.
But friends are a different matter. A friend is a person who is similar to you, and persons who are too different from one another cannot really be friends. Such people can be your acquaintances, that is, persons whom you know and with whom you do some things, but true friendship with someone requires a similarity of beliefs and characters.
Love, marriage and sex
You may not have much interest in girls right now. But one day, perhaps soon, you will. And this is as it should be. The interest men and women take in one another is an important part of the order of the world.
Men and women have a natural desire to be together. A man feels pleasure when he is in the company of an attractive woman, and the woman feels the same about an attractive man. To be sure, you will find many women to be not very attractive. And that’s OK too. You only need one woman to be your wife.
This pleasure that man and woman feel when in each other’s presence was designed by God to bring them into marriage. It is through marriage that the human race reproduces itself and the man and the woman develop their abilities and their personalities to the best possible degree.
It’s also true that there is a minority of men and women who never desire to marry. This is acceptable, if you really are one of the small minority who were made by God to be like this. Such people can live productive and worthwhile lives doing things other than marrying and raising a family. But most people are better off marrying.
The greatest pleasure that a man can find with a woman occurs through sex. Or, to speak more precisely, sexual intercourse. [The word “sex” has two basic meanings: the classification of male or female, and the physical acts of love between man and woman. Here, we speak of the physical acts.] This is not the place to discuss the mechanical details of the sex acts between man and woman. This is the place to discuss what it all means. If you don’t understand the proper meaning of sex, you can’t do it correctly, and you can be led into a life of sin.
Because sex is intensely pleasurable, it can lead a man astray. It can lead him to sin and, in extreme cases, it can lead him into living a lifestyle of sin.
One example of a lifestyle of sin would be homosexuality, in which a man somehow comes to desire sex only (or mostly) with other men. (And there are also female homosexuals.) But this kind of sex is sinful, as God informs us in the Bible. And, in fact, we do not need the Bible to know that homosexual sex is wrong. People of all cultures and religions have recognized the wrongness of homosexuality, even if some of them (ancient Greece, for example) had what might be called traditions of homosexual activity. Nations often have established traditions of sin, but the traditions are still sinful. It is only in the modern world, in the Western nations of Europe and the former European colonies, that there has been a movement to make homosexuality acceptable.
So the wise man keeps his sexual desire under control. Sex is something like food: while a proper amount of it is healthy, too much can make a man sick.
Sex is also somewhat like medicine: although a proper dose can cure sickness, the wrong medicine, or the right medicine taken in the wrong dose, can injure or kill you.
Sex is also somewhat like fire: while the controlled use of it can bring warmth and life, uncontrolled fire can cause great destruction.
The sickness, the injury and the destruction that can come through bad sex come in various forms: First, and most importantly, every such act is sinning against the God who made you and who has authority over you. Also, you might become emotionally attached to a woman who doesn’t care about you or who despises the God who has forgiven you in Christ and to whom you now belong. Your sex partner may become pregnant, in which case you must either put your own child up for adoption, or marry a woman who might make a bad wife (but yes, she might make a good wife), or allow the woman to raise your child with minimal contact with its father, or consent to an abortion in which your unborn child will be killed in its mother’s womb. You might contract a dangerous disease that is spread by sexual intercourse. You might cause your sex partner’s family or boyfriend (yes, some women have sex with someone other than their husband or boyfriend) to become enraged with you and try to harm you. And there are other evils that can befall the one who has sinful sex.
These are just some of the reasons why God has told us in the Bible that sex is only for a man and woman who are married to each other. Any other form of sexual activity is sin, and while sin can be forgiven through repentance and faith in Christ, it always causes damage.
So sex must take place only in marriage. But you must understand that in order for marriage to be good, love is not enough. It is not enough for you to have feelings of love toward the woman. When they marry, a man and a woman promise before God and the people that they will stay together in good times and bad times and that they will love one another even when they don’t feel like it. This sort of commitment cannot be based just on a warm feeling of love. It must be based on two people who have the courage and the character to stay married through all the troubles of life. And marriage has the best chance of success when husband and wife have many things in common: the same commitment to Jesus Christ, similar personalities (so that they do not constantly irritate one another), similar values (that is, the things they care about), the ability to be unselfish much of the time (for marriage means frequently not getting what you want), and so on.
So how should a young man choose a wife? As a Christian man you must, of course, marry a Christian woman. To marry a non-Christian would be an example of being “unequally yoked with unbelievers,” which the Bible warns against in I Corinthians 6:14. And this warning makes perfect sense: Christian and non-Christian have a deep disagreement that will lead to constant conflict.
But marrying a Christian woman is only the most basic requirement. There is much more to be said about choosing a wife. There is no definite formula for success, but we should emphasize three important points: Choose a virtuous woman, choose a woman who delights you, and choose a woman who fits you.
Since marriage is difficult, and since your wife (and you) will sometimes be tempted to hate her spouse or to leave the marriage, it is of the greatest importance that you marry a woman who has (the female version of) virtue. A woman who is selfish, or has a bad temper, or is greedy, or openly disrespects you, or is lazy, will make you a bad wife. Of course, most women will try hard to hide their faults while courting (dating) a man, but if you pay close attention to what she says and does, you can notice if she has defects of character.
Watch how she treats other people, especially her family. (While dating you, she’s trying to impress you, so she’ll treat you well. But watch how she treats other people.) Women who have a lot of conflict in their family are usually unhappy, but unhappy people are often experts at hiding their unhappiness, so watch carefully before you marry. Sooner or later, an unhappy wife will take out her unhappiness on you. Discover what sort of life she looks forward to: Does she want to be a wife and a mother or is she too ambitious on the job to want to take care of her family? Does she regard divorce, abortion and same-sex “marriage” (so-called) as the sins that they are, or is she willing to accept them? Although there cannot be a complete master list, these are the types of questions you need to be asking when you’re considering marrying a woman.
“A woman who delights you” means that you should indeed marry a woman whom you find exciting and beautiful. A man cannot marry just for practical reasons. But “choose a woman who fits you” means that you must be practical, too. Choose a woman who delights in letting you be a man by leading her. Choose a woman who wants to marry, be a housewife, and have children. Choose a wife who respects your personality and your interests. And so on.
And you should marry while you are young and choose a woman who is young, because marrying young gives you a better chance of a good marriage. For one thing, young people are more flexible and adaptable. Old people become “stuck in their ways,” but it is easier for a young woman, and a young man, to adapt to being married. For another thing, it is easier for young men and women to have children, both because it is easier for the woman to become pregnant and because children are a physically demanding responsibility.
You should also marry a woman who has never before been married, and who has no children. (These two used to go together, but unfortunately they no longer do.) If your wife has been married before she will frequently compare you with her former husband. And since it is easy to idealize a person who is not there, you will often look worse than him. Also, a woman who has been divorced once will find it easier to divorce again (that is, divorce you) than a woman who has never been married and therefore never been divorced. This is because people who divorce usually do so because at least one of the two spouses is too selfish to stick to their marriage vows when the going gets tough, and there is a high probability that a divorced woman is selfish and therefore will not make a good wife. (Yes, she might have been a good wife who was divorced by a selfish man. But why take unnecessary chances?) And there is also the fact that people who have sinned find it easier to sin again.
And if your wife already has children by another man, these children will probably not respect you as their father. This will make it harder to have a good family life, especially because your wife’s children by another man will constantly be leaving the house to spend days at a time with their birth father, leaving your home broken and confused.
It’s far better to avoid all this trouble by only allowing yourself to fall in love with, and marry, a woman who has no children or ex-husbands.
We say all these things because it’s easy to fall in love with the wrong woman. It’s easy to fall in love with a woman who would make a bad wife. There are many women who do not respect you, who want to be independent of you (that is, are selfish) in their marriage, who do not want children or to be housewives, who do not respect your Christianity or your other important beliefs, and so on.
Although these women would obviously make bad wives, it’s easy to fall in love with such a woman if she has other features you find attractive. For example if she’s beautiful, or if she shows delight in being around you, or if she has an interesting personality. And if you spend a lot of time with such a woman, it’s very likely that you’ll become emotionally attached to her even though you know that she’s a bad match for you. And this will mean that you will have wasted a lot of your valuable time, and that you will suffer a lot of needless pain when you do the right thing and break up with her.
Therefore you must “guard your heart.” This phrase, which has a biblical origin, simply means that you must guard yourself against doing anything that will cause you to become emotionally attached to a woman who is a bad match for you. She might be a good wife to another man, but you must stay away from her.
The greatest enemy of home life is divorce. Divorce doesn’t just separate two people who used to be together. A marriage is like a living thing of its own, and divorce kills this life. Marriage, according to the Bible, may only be ended when one of the spouses dies or disappears, or if one of the two is an unbeliever who does not want to remain married to a spouse who has become a Christian, or if one of the two commits a sexual sin against the other. And in the last case, divorce is not to be done unless the sinning spouse cannot be brought to repentance. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 19 that divorce is God’s accommodation to man’s sinfulness, rather than something to be a routine part of human society.
Divorce is always a violent act that harms both spouses. And it’s especially destructive of the children because it deprives them of at least one of their parents. In some extreme cases a divorce may be less evil than remaining married, but these cases are rare. Most divorces are the result of selfishness.
For these reasons, and more, God has declared in the Bible that he hates divorce.
Since our nation used to honor God at least somewhat, it was difficult until recent decades for a married couple to divorce. And this difficulty forced many unhappy couples to work out their problems and make their marriages happier. It used to be that obtaining a divorce required proving in a court of law that one spouse had wronged the other, and that the punishment for this wrong would be divorce.
But all that has changed. Nowadays, thanks to the liberals, we have “no-fault divorce,” meaning that anybody can divorce his or her spouse for any reason, even if the other spouse does not want a divorce and no wrong was done. And this means that if your wife is selfish or emotionally unstable the law will allow her to wreck your marriage for no good reason, if this is what she wants. [And, obviously, men are also legally free to wreck their marriages.] Since these laws will probably not be changed any time soon, it is of the greatest importance that you choose the woman you will ask to marry as wisely as possible. Avoid women who are selfish or emotionally unstable, no matter how attractive you may find them. And work hard to make yourself useful and even necessary to your wife. She will be less tempted to divorce a husband whom she needs.
As we said above, men are leaders. Therefore as a husband, you will be the leader of your family. Now, this does not mean that you will simply issue orders that must be obeyed, as a military officer does. The leader of the family will sometimes decide what will be done, and this is sort of like issuing orders. But this is just one part of leadership. In general, you will need to understand what your family ought to do, and then work to see that it gets done. And this may involve working to educate and persuade your wife and children that the right thing really is the right thing, if they disagree with you. And sometimes you will be persuaded that they are right, and change your mind. A good leader seeks to know and to do what is right.
A husband, as a leader, must have a balance of strength and tenderness. The leader who is too strong, who always demands to be obeyed without showing any respect for the beliefs and wishes of his subjects, will probably provoke his subjects to rebellion. But the leader who is weak, who doesn’t seem to have the power to help his subjects, is also not respected by his subjects, and they are again likely to rebel. As a husband and father, you will need to combine strength and action with sensitivity and respect for your wife and family.
One of the worst diseases of the modern age is pornography. This word refers to pictures or movies of naked or nearly-naked women or of sex acts, if they are intended to arouse your sexual desire. (And they almost always are.) The people who produce pornography know that feelings of sexual arousal are very pleasurable, and that men who lack self-control will be willing to pay more and more for pornography.
But pornography causes you to desire actual sex, and so it can lead you to have sinful sex with a woman who is not your wife. And even if you avoid this sin, pornography can lead you to develop a fantasy sex life that can be almost as destructive as a life of actual sexual sin.
Pornography is therefore evil, because the producers of pornography push men into sin in order to make money.
But even if you avoid the more obvious forms, there are other, softer forms of pornography. Pornography in the strict sense of the term (often called “hard core”) is usually hidden from easy viewing at special websites whose addresses you would need to know, or in books or movies that are not easily available. These pornographic sites or movies are known to be such, and most people make an effort to avoid them because they know them to be bad.
But there is a great deal of “soft pornography” contained within items that are regarded as normal. Billboards and other advertising often show nearly-naked women. TV shows and movies often show men and women having sex; although they don’t show all the explicit details, the viewer knows what’s going on. There is a great deal of sex-talk in everyday conversations. And so on.
And it’s fairly easy accidentally to stumble upon hard-core pornography. Many pornographic sites have addresses that are nearly identical to well-known and legitimate sites. Pornographic videos can be found easily on YouTube and other video sites. And the leaders of liberalism constantly push for easier access to pornography when they push for more “freedom” and “tolerance.”
For all these reasons it is of the greatest importance that you guard yourself against pornography. The greatest happiness in this life is to be had in a relationship with a good wife, and an important part of this relationship is sex. That is, sex is connected with one of the greatest goods that a man can have. But since it is one of the greatest goods, sex can become one of the greatest curses done in sinful ways, and pornography always tempts you to have bad sex.
Attracting a good wife
Besides avoiding bad women, you must attract good women. And this requires (among other things) that you become unselfish.
Young children are always selfish, the younger being the more selfish. This is because young children lack abilities and strengths. They rely on their parents and other adults for almost everything they need. It is completely understandable for a young child to be selfish.
But a selfish adult is a repulsive adult. If you are to attract a good wife, and to be successful in general as an adult, you must work hard to become less selfish. And the reason is simple: Nobody likes a selfish person.
This is not the place for a detailed discussion of how to overcome selfishness, but one basic point is the most important: In addition to your own needs, you must learn to honor the needs and the value of other people. As a child, you naturally concentrate on yourself and what you want. But to be a successful adult, you must learn to honor other people. Only in this way can you come to have the friendships and the marriage that are so important for living a good and enjoyable life.
Of course, it is OK to have your own desires and to get what you want some of the time. The point is, you must not think only of yourself.
The other basic way to attract a good wife is to be manly. To be masculine. And this largely is a matter of strength. This does not mainly mean physical strength, although physical strength is an important part of manliness. Instead, we mean the ability to do what is needed (including having self-control), and the desire to do it. An attractive man is skilled in at least one important area (carpentry, or auto mechanics, or computer programming, or playing an instrument, etc), and he is at least competent in all of the activities of normal life. An attractive man is also confident in all he does, without constantly bragging, for those who brag are secretly insecure, which is the opposite of confidence.
Sometimes truth hurts
Anyone who gives accurate advice on an important subject such as marriage will make some people angry. A divorced woman (or man) may get angry when they hear that most divorce is a sin. A woman who has had an abortion or a man who has approved of his wife’s abortion may become angry when we describe abortion as a sin. A married couple who have children by another spouse living at home may become angry when we describe these families as a situation you should avoid if possible. And, for that matter, an unmarried couple living together as if they were married will definitely get angry if we describe them as sinning. And so on.
This is how it goes whenever someone speaks an important truth. Sometimes truth hurts.
And because speaking the truth sometimes makes other people angry at you, and because we all want to live in peace, you will sometimes be tempted to not believe a truth that makes people angry. You will feel the psychological force of their anger, even if you only imagine the anger, and you may want to appease them by weakening your beliefs. “Maybe it’s not really a sin,” you may think to yourself. “After all, he seems like a nice guy and a smart guy. Maybe he knows something I don’t.”
But, of course, the reason he thinks it’s not a sin is that he’s done it. He doesn’t want to think of himself as a sinner. It’s not that he’s smarter than you (he knows that it’s not really a sin), or nicer than you (he’s too nice to make people feel bad by calling sin sin.) No, he acts as if it’s not sin because he doesn’t want to condemn himself. He doesn’t want to do what sinners (and that would be all of us) should do: Repent of his sin and have faith in Christ to forgive his sin.
So avoiding the anger of other people is a bad reason to stop believing something you know to be true. If you surrender to this temptation you will weaken your integrity. You will weaken your mind and your spirit. A man must have the courage to keep on believing what he knows to be true even when this truth is unpopular.
Although we should avoid unnecessarily hurting the feelings of those who have sinned, we should never let this sensitivity make us deny that sin is sin. We must not unnecessarily insult others, but we must also hold to the truth. And if speaking a necessary truth hurts, so be it.