There is a story in the Bible just for men.
Well, maybe it wasn’t originally meant just for men, but it’s so typical, so like what happens every day between men and women, that I think every man should know this story and learn, lest they follow the same path and wreck the same havoc with the same mistake.
Here’s what happened:
A man took over a struggling business. For three years this man threw himself wholeheartedly into his work. He put in long hours, stayed up late worrying about what might happen if he failed. The man worked every connection, every possibility, every person he knew to come alongside him. He exerted his considerable leadership abilities, convincing the brightest and the best to come on board.
And he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His company’s holdings increased, making it the largest company in the world. He was lauded and applauded everywhere he went. Wealth poured in. People praised him.
He’d made it.
One day, the man decided to throw a party in celebration of his success. He invited everyone who’d contributed, from the most influential of investors to the lowliest suppliers. His entire board was there, each one looking smug and satisfied with the wealth of their holdings.
The press reported on his party with praise-filled reviews: “a tremendous display of the opulent wealth and glory of his empire.”
Part way through his party, and more than part way inebriated, the man sent for his wife. He wanted her to strut her sexuality in front of these business associates. To let the men there know that his success in the bedroom reflected his success as a man.
When she refused to comply, he went ballistic. He said things he shouldn’t have. One thing led to another and he ended up wallowing in his own mess. One of those stupid things a man wakes up to regret.
“But after Xerxes’ anger cooled, he began thinking about Vashti…”
Every time I read the story of Esther, I get stuck at the party scene. Something went terribly wrong and its what goes terribly wrong too often.
Somehow this whole group of smart, successful men managed to misinterpret the words of a woman who no doubt wanted to help. She knew he’d wake up the next morning embarrassed by his own lack of judgment. In reality, this wife’s refusal to make a fool of both of them was for his own benefit as much as hers. And she wasn’t in a position to whisper politely in his ear.
And so, here are some things I think every man ought to know about what every woman wants… ways to help you avoid the mistakes made by Xerxes. Though I seriously doubt any of you would be quite so off-the-charts foolish as he was, still… he misread his wife and lived to regret it. Keep these questions tucked in for when you need them— it might just make all the difference.
Three questions to ponder:
(before you do/say/start something you’ll regret)
1. What does she want for you?
Too many men think that women just want something from them. The reality is that good-hearted women, even when they come off as bossy and difficult to please, always want the best for their men.
Is she hinting and poking and suggesting something over and over? Instead of batting her words away like a pesky fly, take a moment to listen. She just may be on to something. Something that will improve your own life and relationships and ability to succeed.
A wise man actually asks her what she’s getting at. Nicely. Then he takes her words and thinks about it. She just may be on to something.
2. What worries her about you?
If you have a woman in your life who frets over some hidden flaw of yours, you are the luckiest of men.
I know it’s hard to see it that way, but here’s what most men don’t get: Women have a unique ability to see every one of your flaws and still admire who you are.
The reason she’s worried is because she knows and dreads the consequences you so blithely brush off. She’s not nagging simply because your flaw irritates her— she’s fussing because she knows your flaw may well sink you on your path to success.
And she wants you to succeed! A woman admires a man who is good at what he does and she knows she can help you.
When she corrects the way you relate to your kids or acts appalled at how you treated the barista behind the coffee bar, it’s because she cares about you. She knows that in this world a man’s success depends, at least in part, on how well he relates to people.
A wise man listens to all those worries and takes heed. Like a warrior consulting his scouts, he pays attention. Then he takes her worries to God and humbly listens.
3. What is she trying to fix for you?
It is instinctive in a woman to fix. She can’t help it, she can’t stop it. A good-hearted woman cannot fathom twiddling her fingers while one she loves suffers or might suffer or once suffered.
That’s why she offers advice so much— not because she thinks you’re less than adequate, but because she wants to help. She wants to offer her own strength to make you shine.
To make life better.
The problem is, most men interpret all those hints and suggestions and ideas for improvement as nagging.
It’s not. At least that’s not the way she means it.
And neither does it have anything to do with disrespect. Women offer each other advice all the time. It’s the way we love, the way we tuck our people in and make their lives more bearable.
A wise man sees the big picture and interprets all her fixing as her way of loving. He listens, hearing her words and all the loyalty behind them. And every once in a while he thanks her for being so passionate and fierce and wise and caring.
My advice to every young (and not so young) man is to regularly sit down and invite the woman who loves you to answer these questions honestly. Make her a cup of her favorite coffee, sit out on the back porch, and lean forward to listen.
She loves you. She cares how you come across. She’s probably more aware of how people respond to you than you are. Give her half a chance and she’ll coach you well and wisely.
From my heart,
PS: Girls, can you give us advice on how to say it right? How to be both respectful and honest with these men we love?