Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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What Is a Woman?

Leslie Basham: Mary Kassian remembers when a wife confided this about her husband.

Mary Kassian: “I have made him into what I wanted him to be, and now I don’t like him.” She found that her husband had gotten passive and was just spineless. She began to despise the very thing that she had wanted him to be because she was emasculating him. She was taking away all the things that defined him as a male. Instead of supporting that and encouraging his manhood, she was emasculating him, and when he was emasculated, she was not attracted to him anymore.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, June 3. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Today we’re going to try and solve the eighth wonder of the world: What is a woman? While we’re at it, we’re going to talk some about what is a man, and how can we as women encourage women to be women and men to be men? Is there really a difference? Does it matter? How do we celebrate and maximize those differences in a godly way?

Our guest is my friend Mary Kassian, from north of the border. Mary is a Canadian. She is a wife. She has three teenage sons. She’s been with us before on Revive Our Hearts, and she has a great understanding of the Word of God and the ways of God. She also has done a lot of study in the history and the development of feminist thinking and ideology.

I’m so thankful, Mary, that you’ve been willing and able to join us this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Mary: Thanks, Nancy.

Nancy: Now, Mary, when I think of you, I think of a woman who is truly womanly. You are feminine in the best sense of that word, I think, and you’re also a woman who is very capable and knowledgeable. You’re a real student. You’re a researcher, and somebody has used the word “scholar” when they talk about Mary Kassian. You’re confident. You’re competent in a lot of different areas.

For some people, those two concepts would seem to not go together. They think, “If I’m going to be a godly woman, then I have to put down my reasoning, my logic, my abilities, and just not be a thinker.

Mary: And roll over.

Nancy: And roll over. Yet, in a beautiful way, I think, you demonstrate what it means to be a godly woman in a way that is strong and is pure and is wholesome and is distinctively feminine.

Now, you have three sons. You’re married to a man, and there are obvious differences between men and women. He is different. He is not like you. As you think about your home and marriage and family in general, what are some of the ways that, as women, we are different? How do we live out what it means to be distinctively feminine?

Mary: God has made us different. Male and female are different. Women are created in God’s image to reflect God, and male and female together reflect the image of God. We do that in different ways.

I believe women are more nurturing. Women are more relational—more focused on relational aspect of interactions. Men are more goal-oriented. There are numerous differences. There are differences in our bodies’ structure and physical capabilities. There are differences in the way we process information, in the way that we communicate, in the way that we think. But the difficulty comes when we see that as a negative thing. It’s a positive thing.

God has made men different for a reason. He has made them different. He has a different purpose for them. As we honor the Lord, we glorify Him by becoming who He made us, and that is male and female. He made us in His image, and we glorify Him by living that out on a day-to-day basis.

Nancy: And children need to be reared by not just two parents, but by a mom and a dad. In God’s ideal setup, there are contributions that each parent makes that are different and that need to be preserved.

As you and Brent parent your sons, what are some of the ways that, as a woman, you’re training your sons to be men? How do you train their view of manhood and their view of women?

Mary: In a sense, I have been training my sons all along how to interact with women on the basis of how they interact with me. With my sons, I will affirm them and say, “Be a gentleman and do this. A gentleman will carry that load for that woman.” So in practical situations, even when my boys were very young, I would say, “A gentlemen will go help that lady with her load.”

I taught my boys to open the door for me. Often when we approach a door, if they don’t remember, I will stand there and they will run into me. And I will just stand there waiting until they open the door and allow me to go through the door.

Another really practical way came when we ran into an instance where we had some young girls phoning our home. They were phoning and phoning, very aggressively pursuing my sons.

We talked about it—Brent and I—and talked about it to the children and said, “This is just not appropriate for these women to be so aggressively pursuing you. It does not set a good pattern for a future marriage relationship, where you are to be the spiritual leader in the home. So we do not want these girls phoning, and you speak to them about it.” So that was our first response.

Nancy: You’re training your sons to take initiative.

Mary: So our sons spoke to these girls about it, but it didn’t stop. The girls continued to phone. At that point in time, we stepped in as parents and said, “We want to teach our sons to take the lead in relationships. We will take a message and have them phone you back when they are ready to phone back.”

That didn’t help either, and these girls continued to phone. At that point in time, we blocked their calls, told our sons what we were doing, and said, “You need to be a man here. You need to exercise some leadership and grow into the role that the Lord has for you in your marriage.”

Nancy: Now, of course, by training your sons this way, you realize you are totally being a counter-revolutionary. This does not go with the flow. Even in the Christian world today, it’s considered very acceptable for women to be the initiators of relationships, and for guys to say, “I’m not going to initiate relationships. I’m going to wait for the girls to call.”

Mary: Yes. What I’ve found is that a lot of women who have entered into those types of relationships. What happens is, ten years down the road, they may get married. I think of one lady in particular who told me, “I have made him into what I wanted him to be, and now I don’t like him.”

She found that her husband had gotten passive and was just spineless. And she began to despise the very thing that she had wanted him to be, because she was emasculating him. Then, when he was emasculated, she was not attracted to him anymore.

Nancy: Now, I know some women think, “If I don’t take the reins, if I don’t jump in and take initiative . . .” Maybe it’s a single woman who’s wanting to get married, or a married woman who’s thinking about her own passive husband and saying, “These men won’t do anything. If I don’t stand up and do something, nothing will get done.”

Mary: That’s a really common concern, a common problem. I hear that a lot, Nancy, from women who say, “Yes, but if I don’t do it, nobody will do it. He won’t step in. He won’t step up. He’s just going to be passive.”

What I like to tell them is, “Well, if you step in, then there’s no need for them to do anything. Sometimes you just need to step back and pray, and allow there to be a vacuum, allow there to be a hole that needs filling.” Certainly, a woman can appropriately, at the right time and under God’s guidance, address that with her husband—her desire to see her husband filling that gap. But for her to rush in or for her to begin to criticize as soon as he makes a move and she doesn’t think it was the right one . . .

Nancy: He’s certainly not going to make another move soon.

Mary: He’s not going to make another move. That’s right.

Nancy: You know, Mary, it really is possible for us as women to affirm that sense of masculinity and leadership in the lives of the men around us. In fact, you shared a touching story with me last night of how you were able to do that with the father of one of your son’s friends.

Mary: Yes. My son had a 16-year-old birthday party and had numerous friends, 16-year-olds, coming over. That afternoon I received a phone call from a father whose daughter was coming to the party. He asked to speak to my husband, who was not home, and then he spoke to me and asked, “Who is going to be there? What will be happening? Are you going to be supervising?”

He asked all those questions, and at the end of the call, I said to him, “I am so grateful that you called. It just shows me how much you care about your daughter, and you’re exercising your leadership and protection in your home. I respect you so deeply for doing this, and I would encourage you to continue doing this. I would hope that more fathers would follow your lead.”

That evening, when Vanessa’s mom came to pick her up, she had tears in her eyes, and she said, “You do not know how much that meant to him.” He was so affirmed in his role as father and protector and leader by me just affirming that that was such a beautiful thing to do. So there are many ways that we can affirm the leadership of the men in our lives—not just our husbands, but the men around us.

Leslie: Mary Kassian has been giving all women, no matter what season of life, a vision for true womanhood.

A lot of women are looking forward to hearing Mary, along with our host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, at True Woman ’08. Seats at this national conference are filling fast, so I hope you’ll consider coming to the Chicago area October 9-11. For details, just visit

All week, some friends of Revive Our Hearts are helping us see what Mary’s message looks like in day-to-day life at home. We’ll hear from Carolyn McCulley, Kim Wagner, Holly Elliff, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: Mary has talked about another area where women can have huge influence, and that is the role that a mom has in helping her sons grow up to be godly and manly men. Holly and Kim and Carolyn, I know we’ve talked about the importance of a woman’s role in the lives of these young men.

Kim and Holly, you both have sons—five between you. What are some of the practical ways that you are seeking to influence those young men to become grown-up, godly men?

Kim Wagner: Nancy, I think it starts early. My son now is 17, but even as a youngster, I would do things like Mary mentioned—stopping at a door, allowing him to open it. Those were physical things I was teaching him. But a couple of years ago, I began teaching Caleb to take that leadership role in leading in prayer when LeRoy was out of town.

As he has started doing this. I have watched him grow spiritually to where, now, if he knows I’m struggling with an issue, or I’m having a difficult day, he will come over to me and offer to pray over me. So I’m seeing him take a leadership role in our home, even with him still being my son.

Carolyn McCulley: I appreciate the fact that Mary was being very direct about training her sons with regard to the relationships they have with girls. These aren’t just concerns that Christian women have. I was in a gym class where I believe I was the only Christian, and I was listening to women who were talking about how scared they are of the young girls in this generation—how aggressive they are in calling the home, and how aggressive they are in pursuing the young men sexually.

The stories were quite explicit. I was a little embarrassed to hear it, and I realized that those who carried the banner of feminism from one generation to the other are now looking at the results of it and saying, “It scares me.”

Nancy: Holly, you’ve got four sons and four daughters, so you’re doing a lot of training of both. What are some of the practical ways, as a mom, that you are helping your sons, who are at different stages of life right now—helping to prepare them to be godly husbands and dads?

Holly Elliff: Well, we talk a lot. I think keeping the door of communication open by not being so aggressive and oppressive in our sons’ lives is very, very critical. If your son can come home and tell you what he’s seeing in the girls that he’s dating, then you can counter that with truth.

Now, I’m very, very thankful that I have a husband in the picture who is there to exemplify that for my boys. But even if I didn’t have that, Scripture is so full of instruction for me as a mom about what my son is to be and what I am to be toward him. I do think we are to become students of that.

So if you’re s single mom out there with sons, you might want to go before the Lord and say, “God, would You allow there to be a godly man in our church who helps exemplify for my sons what they need as they grow up to be men.”

I do not want my sons to think that they do not have to go to the Lord first for that instruction. It’s going to come from me, but ultimately, what I have to do as a mom is continually hand the reins over, more and more, to my sons. So by the time he leaves my influence, as he goes out to do what God has called him to do—even as a college student, maybe at 17 or 18—my desire for him is that he has at his core, “What does God say about this?” That he does not just do that because it was engrained in him as a child.

He needs to understand that this is not just mom’s rule—because I could make a lot of rules. And if I make a lot of rules without teaching my children to have God’s heart, then what I will see is rebellion. We see that so often with moms and their kids.

You can put the reins on. That will work for maybe a while, but ultimately, that son needs to be raised to understand that God has principles for His life. As he responds in obedience to God, then more and more I can hand the reins to him. So my position moves from one of great influence to one of lesser influence as he is more and more influenced by God Himself as he matures.

Kim: When Caleb was about 15 and we first started allowing him to make some choices and decisions about things he was going to do, we would lay out, “This is our view of what you should do, this is how we feel about this, or this is what Scripture says about this, but we’re going to let you decide.”

I remember a couple of the first times we did that, he said, “Oh, no, please don’t make me decide. You just tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if I can go do this. I would rather you tell me that.” But over time, he has learned to go to God. As he’s learned, we’ve allowed him to make some mistakes where he’s seen the consequences of that.

Those of you who know Caleb know that he’s an avid athlete. He loves sports, but he was struggling with keeping up with a very hectic sports schedule. He also works a job on Saturdays, and he had a heavy, heavy academic load this year.

We sat down one afternoon, and we talked about it. I said, “Lay out everything on paper and think about what you are really getting out of this sports activity. What direction are you trying to head, and what are you trying to accomplish here in school?” I never said, “You need to give up baseball this season.” I wouldn’t say that. I allowed him to think through and process through everything. He made the decision on his own, and he said, “I’m going to tell the coach that I’m going to have to give up baseball this season.”

Holly: I think, too, that that doesn’t just happen at 15. To raise men, we start when they are boys, so that means at two and at three and at five and at eight. I am living out before my son the life of Christ so that my life is not contradictory, and he doesn’t have to wrestle with the hypocrisy of me saying one thing but doing another.

If he is constantly confronted with truth, and if I am living that out before him—so he knows that I make decisions based on God’s Word—he is much more likely, as he hits those teenage years, to also be a guy who thinks, “I need to make this decision based on God’s Word.”

It could be as simple as sending him to the Internet when he wants to go watch a movie, having him pull up the review, and read it himself. Then we sit down and say, “Daniel, what do you think about that? Is this a movie you think you can go to and feel right about it, after what you’ve read about it?” So it’s not just me saying, “No, you can’t go, and here’s why.” It is him becoming a biblical thinker so that he can become a biblical man.

Kim: I’ve done that with Caleb. As he’s reading the review, I’ll be in the other room. Once, as he was reading the review out loud to me, he stopped in the middle of it and said, “Well, Mom, I don’t need to read any more of this. I know I don’t need to go and see this.” That’s his desire, too. It is not that, “Mom, I know you won’t let me.” He says, “I don’t need to see this.”

Carolyn: And women want that in men. Women want to see that men will look at the Word and will step up and say, “This is the right priority; this is the wrong boundary.” We can’t nag them to that, but we can encourage them to it.

Nancy: Let me ask a loaded question here, because it goes to the other extreme of this issue. Mary talked about passive men, and I think that’s one of the things we hear about from many of our listeners: “My husband won’t make decisions; he doesn’t give direction; he doesn’t provide leadership.”

To what extent do you think that that whole issue could be related to women—whether moms of sons or wives—women who are being overbearing, domineering, and controlling? Think about this moms and sons thing. Where’s the balance there? Is it possible that some moms are being so controlling over these areas of their children’s lives that they are raising, in fact, sons to be passive?

Holly: Well, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

Kim: Statistics even bear that out.

Holly: In the same way, we see that in marriages where the wife is the aggressor and the husband becomes passive. I think there’s absolutely no doubt that that same thing comes into play as we’re raising sons.

Carolyn: I think that the legacy of feminism is this current crop of passive men. We’ve got a range that goes from passive—what we call the slacker generation—to this hyper-masculinity, which is just the raw, animalistic version, which is completely for gratification of self and the flesh.

Between these two extremes, there are a host of women who are very controlling and angry about the situation. They are not realizing that by being in the gap, right there in the middle, and being angry and bitter about it, they’re continuing to force men to the edges, to the perimeter.

I think that when we step in—when we see a need, and we step in and try to lead—we are forcing men to these edges. When we step back and encourage them to lead by asking a good question, or by offering some information—but not offering necessarily the exact decision—no matter how young or old a man is, there is going to be something in him that will attempt to take that initiative, to make that decision. As we encourage them, and as we are cheerful in following them in this initiative, we will see results.

I can’t speak as a married woman, but I’ve observed this so often in the lives of my friends. I have a friend who is going through a difficult situation. She married a man who made some unwise decisions before their marriage—not immoral, but unwise—and the consequences have come back tenfold in the marriage.

And it’s an area in which she was strong. She did not make these same mistakes, and she could have come in and said, “Honey, you know what, I’m really strong in this area. Let me take charge of this. You’ve been unwise.” But instead, she stepped back and encouraged him and followed him through a very difficult season where they lost their home and they had all sorts of consequences of this. And she never blamed him. She always built him up.

I can observe this. See, when you all live this out, it’s not just for the benefit of your marriages. Other people observe it, and they benefit from it.

I was at their home for dinner, and he was humbly talking about all the difficulties that have arisen and what they were going through. I watched my friend build her husband up at the end of it and turn to me and say, “Did you know he got an award at work? Did you know this about him? And did you know that?”

I so appreciated it, because while her husband was being transparent and requesting prayer, she was saying, “There’s more to my husband than this current crisis or fault.” She was following him, even though it was a very difficult trial to walk through. She followed him cheerfully and with much prayer, and it affected me. It impacted me, and I thought, “I want to be like that. In all my relationships with men, I want to encourage them.”

Leslie: Carolyn McCulley has a vision as a single woman to accept all God has for her as a woman, to embrace true womanhood. She’s been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about encouraging and affirming male leadership. Kim Wagner and Holly Elliff also joined us.

This helpful conversation ran longer than we had time to air, and I hope you’ll order the full interview on CD as part of the series, “The Makings of a True Woman.” The CD series includes Nancy’s interviews with Mary Kassian and the practical advice from our wise guests. Ask for the CD series, “The Makings of a True Woman” when you call 800-569-5959, or order at

The apostle Paul says that in Christ there is no longer male or female. So how can we talk about differences between men and women—equal in value, but different in roles? Mary Kassian will be back to talk about it tomorrow. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts. 

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


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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.