Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Encouraging Men to Be Gentlemen

Leslie Basham: Carolyn McCulley learned something about men and women while setting up for church.

Carolyn McCulley: I would cart these crates in every week, and my pastor would see me every week and say, “Carolyn, put that down. One of the guys will come along and get it.” I would always think in terms of expediency. “I can carry it. In fact, I loaded this into my car to get it here.”

It’s not a matter of capability; it was a matter of allowing a man to take this initiative and extend benevolence toward you to honor you. It took me such a long time to understand why that was an honor and not an inconvenience.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, February 4.

Nancy is continuing in a series she began last week called A Vision For Biblical Womanhood.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In this series on the complementarian vision, that is how women and men are created by God—to complement one another rather than compete with each other. We’ve examined that from a number of different angles. We’ve seen how God created the woman to be a helper to her husband and her husband to provide godly servant leadership for his wife and family.

We’ve looked at that complementarian role between men and women in the context of the church. Then in the last session we talked about how there are some applications for men and women to live out their masculinity and their femininity in relationship with one another in other relationships outside of the family and even outside of the official church context.

Today I’m joined by my friends Holly Elliff, Kim Wagner, and Carolyn McCulley. You’ve heard them before on Revive Our Hearts. We call these conversations “table talk” as we get together after recording sessions and we talk about what we’ve just talked about and how we can apply this and flesh this out in real life situations.

You women represent different seasons of life. Two of you are married. Carolyn and I are not married. We can share how this looks for single women and for married women. But I want to talk today just about some practical ways that we can live out these complementarian relationships, how we can encourage and affirm men in appropriate ways.

Let me just start by going back to an illustration I gave in the last session. I quoted Peggy Noonan and her Wall Street Journal article written shortly after 9/11 where she talked about being one of the women who, decades ago, reacted when a man wanted to help her with her luggage, I think it was on an airplane.

Holly, you and Kim and I were at a conference together and we were checking out of our hotel with a cart full of luggage. We had a little experience where you harkened back to this session I had just taught.

Holly Elliff: It was really pretty comical because my first tendency is toward independence. But as we were rolling this luggage cart out, there was a pastor who was a local pastor here that I knew in the past, and he and his wife were coming out of the building. As I was getting ready to load things into the van, he walked out and said, “Let me do that for you.”

After hearing Nancy just recently talk about that illustration about Peggy Noonan and about her saying “no” to this man who wanted to help and the whole complementarian issue . . . I had just sat for hours listening to that teaching, and my first tendency was to say, “We’re fine.”

I turned to Nancy and said, “I should probably let him do that.” I turned around and said, “Cliff, that would be great if you could help us load these bags.”

It sometimes takes a responsive humility to just let a man help me, even though I could have put those bags in the car.

Nancy: There weren’t any super-heavy bags.

Holly: No.

Nancy: Except for mine.

Holly: It wasn’t like I was struggling to get them in the car. But I had to choose to yield my right to load that luggage myself because he had offered. It was a respectful thing for me to just say, “Thank you so much for your help.”

Carolyn: Now I can imagine some would be hearing you and saying, “It’s an act of humility? I don’t get it. And what’s wrong with independence?” It’s not so much independence as it is that sense of self-sufficiency. When a man notices another human being needing some help, that’s a wonderful thing. We’re trying to encourage that in young men, to take notice of people in their needs.

So when that happens, it’s an act of humility that says, “I want to receive something from someone, not as a sign that I am weak and dependent, but as a sign of ‘I’m being offered an act of courtesy.’”

There’s a temptation constantly to be like, “No, no, I don’t want to trouble you. I just want to do it on my own.” Because sometimes it is a little inconvenient to be served. Sometimes you have to wait, and you have to wait to be served on a timing that is good for them.

So it makes us harness our own tendencies to rush through life and be impatient and do things on our own timetable. But it’s a benefit to allow people to grow, especially to allow men to serve us.

Nancy: We commented after that little incident there. We had just been in the middle of this complementarian series. We had just been recording it and discussing it and said what a wonderful thing it was that this man was living out mature masculinity by observing that there were women here who were carrying luggage, packing it into a van, and taking initiative to say, “May I help you? May I serve you?” And that our role as women to encourage him as a man was to affirm that initiative.

Had we been quick to say, “No, thank you” or, “We can handle it,” graciously; we could have said that graciously. But had we been too quick to reject his offer, does it diminish his motivation the next time to observe a need and to take initiative?

So you saw this very beautiful picture of male initative and woman responsiveness outside of the context of marriage.

Kim Wagner: And although he was serving us by lifting our bags physically into the van, which we could have done (we loaded it when we left), we were serving him in allowing him to walk in masculinity before us and to be respectful and honoring of him and allowing him to do that.

Carolyn: It was such a huge effort for me to learn this principle. I can remember my pastor seeing me lug in the crates that we used every Sunday to carry in all the reception materials because we’d have a little coffee reception after church, and I was responsible for setting it up.

I would cart these crates in every week. And my pastor would see me every week and say, “Carolyn, put that down. One of the guys will come along and get it.” And I would always think in terms of expediency. “I can carry it. In fact, I loaded this into my car to get it here.”

It’s not a matter of capability; it was a matter of allowing a man to take this initiative and extend benevolence toward you to honor you. It took me such a long time to understand why that was an honor and not an inconvenience.

Nancy: Let him be a gentleman.

Holly: I do think it goes back to the whole mindset of allowing a man to be who God has called him to be. It does not mean that I cannot do it; it means that I choose to allow him to fulfill some of his God-created initiatives.

Nancy: I think one of the important places where we have opportunity to demonstrate biblical femininity is in the workplace. I know that for Kim and Holly, your primary workplace is in the context of your home. But Carolyn and I are in a workplace outside of our home.

Carolyn, you’ve written and talked quite a bit and have helped me think through some ways that in the workplace, in non-romantic relationships, that we can exhibit biblical femininity and in the process, encourage men in their masculinity.

Carolyn: I had to learn this the hard way. I think it was one of the primary lessons when I first came to work at Sovereign Grace Ministries. I thought I was going there to serve, to bring whatever capacities and skills I had. And God was, I think, setting that season, those early years aside to teach me some hard lessons about pride and self- righteousness and femininity.

I had been in a position before I came to this job where I was rewarded for selfish ambition, for being pushy, for being aggressive. I brought all of those skills and tendencies with me and expected to be applauded at this job. And when I wasn’t, I was kind of shocked, like “What is happening?”

I came to understand that my bosses wanted all those skills, but they wanted them demonstrated in a feminine way. I had received feedback at times about how intimidating I could be because of the strength of my opinion and how verbal I could be in expressing that opinion.

I was served by these men faithfully who would bring it to me time after time about how contentious I could be. Now, that could be discouraging because here I am at a ministry and aren’t we all supposed to float around like angels and have no conflict?

No, no, it’s a group of redeemed sinners working together, and so we get to bring observations to each other a lot. And I was on the receiving end of a number of them.

So one of the ways my boss showed me that I could be helpful in his leadership was to be supportive of his decisions, especially in a group context. We would often be out with clients for lunch or another meal and I would make my opinion known as to my preference for restaurants in such a way that it left the whole group looking at us like, “Whose decision is going to take place?”

He kept bringing this to me, and I didn’t quite understand because I thought, “Well, don’t you want my opinion? Don’t you want my input?” Finally, he showed me that the impact of it was, “Look, if I make a decision and you disagree with me in front of all these people, I’m going to look like I’m just running roughshod over you and I don’t care about your opinion, or that I can’t lead. If you can bring this to me in private, this would be so much more helpful.”

It wasn’t a matter of his personal preference or his ego. It really was a group dynamic. I saw that one time when we were all at a Christian retailing convention. We all walked to lunch. We were in New Orleans, which prior to Hurricane Katrina was always very redolent with its odors.

We went around a corner and we encountered this smell that was coming from this restaurant, kind of like greasy food and cherry Lysol disinfectant over it. It really was quite unappealing.

Kim: Sounds great.

Carolyn: Yes. And my first thought was, “Wow, what a stench.” So what came out of my mouth was, “Wow, what a stench;” no filter at all. The group came to a grinding halt, and they all stopped and they looked at me like, “Well, now she’s expressed an opinion about the place where we’re going.”

My boss just looked at me and graciously said, “Okay, let’s find another place.” At that moment I realized, “That’s that thing. That’s that thing I do. I put him in an embarrassing and awkward situation by not supporting his leadership, by doing it in public.”

I could have come alongside him and said, “I wonder if this place is all that clean. There’s an odd smell emanating.” I could have done it in private and given him the opportunity to change. But instead, I just blurted it out.

Those are those subtle cues that men pick up on and that women think, “Why is that such a big deal?” But it’s our small little verbal jabs and barbs that make men go, “She’s not really supporting my leadership.”

Kim: We can so easily make men look like they’re idiots. We have the ability to do that as women without even realizing it. That’s why we have to be so intentional about honoring and respecting them.

Holly: I think there’s a spirit of meekness that we have to learn because it’s not innate in us. And that, my husband says, means strength under control. So it’s not that I have no opinion. It’s not that I have no ability to do that or to make those decisions. But I choose to allow the Lord to control what comes out of my mouth or what my response is because it brings Him more honor that way.

Nancy: Carolyn, let me back up to something that you said a few moments ago. You said as a non-Christian or maybe even as a young believer that you came across as intimidating to men. Did men ever tell you that?

Carolyn: Yes. I actually did hear that on a number of occasions and sometimes in a dating context, which added the additional layer of condemnation and weirdness. I didn’t understand what they meant because I thought, “Well, we’re having a discussion. You lay out your ideas. I lay out my ideas, and now we negotiate.” I had no idea that to some people that’s a stressful and contentious environment. I just thought I was stating my opinion.

It wasn’t until I was about maybe six or eight months old in the Lord and I was visiting a married couple. I was describing a dating relationship that I was having at the time. As I discussed this man with this couple, the way I described him was harsh, and it was unkind, and it was self-righteous. I wasn’t even trying to be that way; I was just stating the facts the way they were.

The husband got up and wandered away and then he came back and he said, “Whoa, I am so glad I did not know you as a single man.” I just stopped and looked at him and thought, “What did I just say? Why did you just say that to me?”

He said, “Your tongue is so sharp. I would have just run from you.” That’s when the idea first began to bloom in me that there’s something about the way women speak, especially the way they speak of other men that men pick up as being intimidating. That was the first of many lessons over many years, and things that I’m still even learning today.

Nancy: Just that whole concept would be disturbing to those who come from a more feminist background. What you often hear them say is that it’s just men are intimidated by successful or competent women. But I’ve heard you express, Carolyn, that that’s not the essence of what men really find intimidating. What is it that they find intimidating in women?

Carolyn: It’s that harsh, critical spirit that’s unyielding, that they feel like they run into a brick wall if they encounter you. It’s not only just a brick wall but kind of a prickly, blood-drawing brick wall.

It’s not a matter of competence. It’s a matter of arrogance.

Holly: Kathleen Parker, the syndicated columnist, had a great comment here a couple of years ago, an article. She said, “Men haven’t turned away from smart, successful women because they’re smart and successful. More likely they’ve turned away because the feminist movement that encouraged women to be smart and successful also encouraged them to be hostile and demeaning to men.”

The feminist movement itself, the philosophy, at the basis of it is the desire to control, the desire to have my own way, selfishness. The way of Christ is the way of humility. So when we’re out to get our own agenda accomplished, many times we, as women, will do it in whatever way we need to. If that’s verbally assaulting the man, if that’s verbally attacking him, if that’s what we need to do to get it accomplished, we’ll do that.

Holly: I do think it’s very important for us as women to ask the Lord to really give us perspective on how we come across to the men we’re around, whether or not what comes out of us is gentle and encouraging and uplifting or, Carolyn, as you said, whether there is something in us, in the way we communicate or speak, that makes a man want to turn and run.

Nancy: I know, Carolyn, you and I have had a lot of conversations over the years in our ministry work environment about ways that we can encourage and lift up the men around us with our words and our spirit, or ways that we can deflate and pull them down.

I just love some of the things you’ve written about this subject, some of the things you’ve taught me about how to do this in an effective way in the work environment.

Carolyn: I think there are small gestures that we can make to encourage male leadership. One of the ways we can do it is by asking a question rather than making a bold statement. And that’s what I was trying to head toward earlier.

It’s not that my boss didn’t want to know my opinion about the restaurant. It was the way I was explaining it and doing it in a group context that caused embarrassment for everyone involved, trying to figure out which decision to follow.

I have learned over the years the importance of asking a question. I’m not good at this. I’m still trying to grow in it. But there’s a way that I can speak where I summarize something and it just comes out like “whap”, this announcement from on high. And it communicates the fact that I think I have all the information that I need and therefore I can now display my discernment and everyone can thereby learn from my knowledge.

Nancy: It can have the effect of making other people look like they don’t have a clue.

Carolyn: Right.

Nancy: And like there’s no recourse. There’s no discussion. I’m right and God has just spoken and what are you going to do about it?

Carolyn: Or you can ask a question for information. In fact, you reinforced this to me years ago when we met one evening for dinner. I asked you a lot of questions about how you operate in ministry as a woman because I had just come through this intense season of what I call the refiner’s fire where I was seeing the pride and the self-righteousness in so much of what I was doing.

I have recycled so much of your teaching and that private tutoring, that private mentoring that you gave me that night. You were the one to teach me the importance of asking a question. And then my own care group leader, my small group leader back at church continued to reinforce this. I can still bring an opinion or an idea or a bit of counsel to a man in a situation, but I can do it by humbly asking a question rather than just spouting off.

A real question, not just a statement with a question mark at the end, but a real request for information can communicate a desire to make room for a man to lead. So, for example, in a situation at work where I may have the responsibility for a certain project and I’m seeking the input of the men I’m working with, it’s very easy for me to start off a statement by saying, “No, I think . . . No, I think we should do it this way.”

Why the “no”? Why don’t I say something like, “That’s an interesting idea. What would you think if we approached it this way?” The asking a question leaves room for the fact that you could be wrong, which displays humility, and also leaves room for men to lead and make a decision even when you might have the responsibility for an area.

It’s one of those ways in which we get to demonstrate what Dr. Piper was referring to earlier, the ways you can demonstrate femininity in differing relationships as appropriate.

Just by encouraging and asking questions, rather than boldly stating your opinion.

Holly: If you’re a wife listening at home right now, I hope you have not tuned this out because everything that Carolyn just said can be wonderfully applied to your husband and your marriage as you try to approach him and have a conversation. So many of the things we do shuts the door before the conversation even starts.

Nancy: You know, so much of this—wherever we’re applying it—as a married woman, as a single woman, in the workplace, in the church, in the home, goes back to this whole concept that we read about in Philippians chapter 2, verses 3-8.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

To some women, I’m sure that this kind of conversation sounds a bit like a death. It’s a death to my own ways of thinking, to my own desires. But we know as we look at Christ that He didn’t stay on that cross, that beyond the cross God exalted Him and gave Him an elevated place, the most elevated place in the whole universe. The end result is that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

That’s where the pathway of humility always leads. Yes, it does sometimes lead us to lay down our rights, to relinquish position, to be willing to be sensitive to the needs of others, to not have to always be the first one to speak or the one to get the last word. But what’s the result? Christ is exalted and God is glorified. And that is worth it all.

That’s what we’re after when we talk about this vision of biblical manhood and womanhood, complementing one another, not competing with one another, drawing out the best of one another. Then we as women are blessed; men are blessed. Our relationships are healthy and wholesome. And most important of all, we reflect to the world the glory and the beauty and the wonder of the redemptive relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His church. And that’s what glorifies God.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving us a picture of what biblical femininity looks like in a day-to-day life. She’s been talking with some friends: Carolyn McCulley, Holly Elliff, and Kim Wagner.

We didn’t have time to air that complete conversation, but you can hear it when you order the series on CD or MP3 CD. It’s called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood. It will give you a solid biblical understanding of a woman’s calling at home, church, and in society. And it will help you learn how to live out that role practically.

Order A Vision for Biblical Womanhood at or call 1-800-569-5959.

If today’s conversation has been encouraging to you, if you don’t usually hear enough discussion on how to follow God’s plan for you as a woman, then consider immersing yourself in this topic in October. We believe the time is now for women to gain a new understanding of God’s unique calling for them.

That’s why we’re gearing up for the True Woman ’08: National Women’s Conference. Join Nancy along with John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada and other speakers, encouraging you to embrace God’s important role for you as a woman. For details on joining us in Chicago this fall, visit

In anticipation of the conference coming up in October, we’re calling this the “Year of the True Woman.” You may be wondering, “Is this really such a big deal?” Well, Nancy will address that tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.