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  • MaryEllen McCloud

The Heart of the Matter

My father turns 80 years old this year. He is still the same man I have known all of these years. My father does not share many stories that he is utterly embarrassed about when it comes to his behavior. There have been a few times that he slipped the information over the years, and I am fascinated by the inner workings of who he is as a man and not just my father. Parents of this generation are far more guarded about their core, and the mistakes that they have made along the way. Even at times that I have directly asked him about certain things in his life, he has either avoided the topic or given a very brief answer.

One day, he was sharing about his teenage years. I was captivated because he usually only tells about the pranks he would pull on his brothers, but today was different, he was talking about himself. The story was about him and his cousins going down to the train station to look at the people coming and going. Train travel was still widely popular at this point in time. And here is where my father slipped and immediately wished he could take the whole conversation back. These boys were there to watch women get off the train. You see, when the women were getting off the train, they would lift their long dresses up to go down the steps. In doing so, their ankles would be revealed. Far from scandalous in today’s world, but in this moment, I saw the shame come across his face, and he quickly got off of the subject. He stopped talking about his past right then and there.

We have become a society that believes that if women dress this way, then men will not lust and fantasize. There was a time centuries ago that women with big hips were desirable to men. So women, in their long dresses, wore extra garments underneath to make their hips look feet larger. I know, still sounds stupid, right. Women can wear shorts or a skirt showing the exact same inches of leg, but be called two different things depending on if it is the shorts or skirt. Why do we choose to not fully address the hearts of our boys and men. I know there are plenty of books out there that speak directly to the male issues, but for some reason, we have accepted that they just can’t help themselves. Really?

We are now at a point in our world where women are falling into porn addictions and various other sins that for thousands of years were only considered male problems. Do we think nothing of women lusting after a shirtless man in open public? We can’t even turn on television without seeing women in dominating sexual roles. No longer are they lying down still thinking of the Queen. Do we now think that women can’t control their lusts too? Do we think that women have not had hormones and desires at all for thousands of years and just now started to? No, society has stated up until recent times, that women were not to behave in this manner, so they didn’t openly. Now, we see society with full expectations that women will express themselves in the same manner as a man. Your flesh can be controlled. If it were not so, God would have said so.

James 1:12-15

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Galatians 5:19-21

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:7

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

In my twenties, I often heard in church that women should dress in a way that will not cause their brothers in Christ to stumble. The truth is- this is a Heart issue, and even if you dressed women from head to toe, the hearts of men are still the same. You can still see the body form through normal fitting modest clothes or a berka. The mind can still imagine what is not seen. We must decide to be a people who will address the lusts of the flesh with everyone. Not pick sides and blame a person for someone else’s issues with controlling their flesh. When you change the heart, behavior then clothing will change as well. You have to speak to the heart first and not the outward appearance. We have told women forever that they must be desirable physically to a man. We can’t tell them one thing and then shame them the next minute. The beauty of women has always been at the top of the list. You can’t get new mindsets for all by shaming women. Condemnation does not do any good. Speak to their character and inner value? Well, has that really worked either? At the end of the day, women want to be desired physically by their man, just the same that men want to be desired by their woman.

If we are so consumed with women’s clothing, we should also have men consider the type of clothes they wear and lack thereof as well. In some cultures, women are always topless, and no one worries about the lusts of men. They do not view breasts in the same manner. After all, they serve a function first and foremost. My arm serves a function as well. What we are offended by and accepting of, is mostly dictated by our own environment and from that, our beliefs are formed.

I will tell you what is not acknowledged, and why we run around chasing our tails. God designed the male to be the pursuer. Is it not a turn off when we see women chasing after men? The man in the relationship sets the tone, pace, and atmosphere. This surely can be a good thing or a bad thing. For instance, during dating, the man will seek to win her heart. What we hear women grieved about after the wedding is that he slowly stops pursuing her heart, and she becomes a sex object and maid. Complacency will kill every relationship. We have been told that affairs for men come out of lusts primarily, and women out of emotional unmet needs. Well, even this is shifting, but at the core, there are many truths to why marriages fail. When a man stops pursuing the woman’s mind and heart, she will no longer desire him over time. I have heard so many men blame the lack of sex for the marriage fallout, but this is not at all why the marriage failed. The heart and mind of the woman was lost long before the sex became a symptom.

Speak to the men and women; boys and girls in your life. Teach them how to have healthy relationships, and how to overcome the pitfalls of the flesh. But remember, you cannot teach what you first have not done yourself. If we continue to not speak to the full problem, we can never expect to help anyone in the end. The lie is that men cannot control themselves, and women are to blame. This issue is far deeper and more encompassing than a simple cause and effect. We must care equally about the character and integrity of both men and women. We are, at the end of the day, only responsible for what we do, say, and think in the Eyes of God. No one makes us sin. We choose that all on our own, and God will judge us for that and not what another is doing around us.

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