First of all, in love, nothing can be done by coercion or force, neither by a man nor a woman. Well, you might save a person's life by force, without that person's consent, but that would be a rare case. You can only really "take charge" in a way that wins the respect of others if you do it in righteousness, that is, "only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile" (D&C 121:41–42). These qualities apply to both sexes though the context for the verses cited is that of men holding the priesthood.
Though I believe that men and women are complete equals, I also believe they have distinct ways of expressing themselves that are wonderfully different. I think that this is what keeps men and women fascinated by each other—all those differences keep relationships vibrant and fun. We are similar but different enough to keep our interest up while we try to figure the other out. I am always sad when I see a marriage lose that wonder between the sexes that can be so much fun. We lose the wonder when we stop carefully listening. When we stop listening, we lose respect, and when we lose respect, we lose sight of who we really are.
Some think I am blaming men for all the trouble in male-female relationships. That is not the case. I am focusing on men in this series, but I am not blaming them as the sole source of trouble. When relationships disintegrate, there are always issues on both sides, things that could be done better. While I do not believe men are solely to blame, I do believe they should lead in love, in purity and righteousness, and when they do not, it causes troubled hearts and sadness in a home, especially in a home based in the gospel.
I'll conclude by confessing what I really believe about men. I may be wrong about some of the aspects that I have explored with you in this series, but this is what I really believe. First, a foundational scripture:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).We men have a holy charge to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Nothing short of a total sacrifice by a man is sufficient to hold and keep his wife in trust and joy. You cannot "purchase" your wife at a discount and expect to flourish in happiness, love, trust and respect. A man must lay down everything if he wants a truly joyous and fulfilling relationship with his wife. I don't mean giving up who he is or what he likes to do, but giving up the natural man. The men I've seen who do this have great marriages, and the men who don't often struggle in their relationships with women. Every man needs to figure this one out on his own—he must personally discover how he can become a man of God.
This is what I really believe. Many men disagree with me, but those men often don't have very happy marriages either. At least those whose relationships I am aware of, and I am aware of a lot of them. What I see a lot of men doing is holding back their love and effort, waiting for their spouses to change before they offer themselves. But that is not what Christ did. He offered Himself up completely and out of great love, without holding back, before we had repented, "for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Romans 11:29.)
Now I have not talked about the main issues I see happening in women's lives that contribute to failed relationships. Perhaps I'll do that in another post or series. While I don't blame men for all the troubles and trials in male-female relationships, I wholeheartedly believe that men who take the lead in a truly Christ-like way win the love and respect and even adoration of their wives and children in ways that others cannot. It is a rare thing to behold, but it is awe-inspiring.
The apostle John taught us this: "We love him, because he loved us first." (1 John 4:19.) Love first and then you will see changes in others. Don't wait for the change in others before you make the sacrifices and changes you need to make in your own life. Love first and love will surely follow.
(See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)