Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Modern Moral Myth

I was watching a movie tonight with my family. It was, as movies go today, an inoffensive movie. There are a couple of scenes that are objectionable, but I imagine that most today would not consider it a dirty movie. (That's not really the point of this post anyway.) The movie was called, "What Women Want" starring Mel Gibson.

Here's the storyline. Mel is a bigwig at an ad agency - a typical male-chauvinist playboy. He has no morals or character, having grown up at a strip club where his mother worked. Through an accident, he gains the ability to hear what women think (so many jokes here, but I best move on.) While using this gift to undermine his new female boss (Helen Hunt), he falls in love with her and becomes a new, honest, monogamous man.

And that's the part that bothers me. It is one of the most pernicious myths of the modern world. It goes something like this: Man (or woman) grows up enjoying the promiscuous lifestyle, sleeping with as many women (or men - the myth goes both ways, but I am stopping these parentheses) as he possibly can. Then, one day, he meets a pretty young thing who completely changes his life. Suddenly, her love makes a new man of him. He settles down and devotes himself to her forever, giving up the playboy lifestyle, transformed by the overwhelming power of her love.

It makes for great fiction, but we must remember that it is fiction -make believe. Falling in love does not magically change a man or woman's character. The book of Proverbs, which I have devoted much of my life to tells us that life's choices have consequences. "You will reap what you sow."

From the earliest moment a boy realizes that girls are not yucky, he begins to sow the seeds that will develop into his character. The man he is when he is 35 is being developed when he is 15. If a young man treats women as sexual objects, if he is predatory and unfaithful in his relationships with women, if he makes foolish and sinful choices as a man, that produces a character flaw that will follow him into adulthood.

Years later, he meets a woman and falls in love. He wants to be a different man and live monogamously. But there is a problem. When he enters that relationship, he brings some baggage with him. He brings his own character - the fruit of the seeds he planted in his teenage or college years.

I heard a statistic today (unverified) that 80% of American husbands have cheated. What do we expect? We spend our teens and 20's sowing seeds of licentiousness, lust, immorality and waywardness. Do we expect we can then reap a harvest of monogamous, faithful men? A playboy does not magically change when he walks an aisle.

If you want to be a good husband when you are 30, start when you are 15 by rejecting pornography that objectifies women. Treat women with respect and moral uprightness. Walk in moral purity during those tumultuous, tempestuous teens and twenties. Then, when you walk down the aisle, you will reap the harvest of the seeds of honor and fidelity.

In the month we celebrate Valentine's day, we will be inundated with silly, sappy love stories. Watch how many perpetrate the myth of the man "changed by love." As you wade through the honey and syrup, remember a few things:

1) The person you will be tomorrow is shaped by the choices you make today. Choose wisely the seed you sow.

2) Women, your love will not change the man permanently. He may reform for a while, but character will out. Unless God changes him, he will be what he was. Disavow the foolish notions of the power of your love to whip him into shape. You can't change him. You will have to live with the character he has built (again, these truths are just as true for men as for women).

3) People CAN change - but only by the power of God and His Word. It is HIS love that will change hearts, not yours. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the consistent application of the Word of God, character can be changed over time. But it will not magically happen just because you walk the aisle.

I usually craft these essays a little more carefully than I did this one. This was just me venting a little, after I got upset watching that movie (in between fits of laughter).

I hope as you enjoy the love stories of Valentine's Day, you will have the wisdom to separate myth from reality.

1 comment:

Traveler said...

I have seen this movie and couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong with the message of the movie. You have pinpointed the problem very well.

I have heard the saying: what do you get when you sow wild oats?

More wild oats of course.

Telling young people they need to sow their wild oats before they settle down just isn't good advice.

Thank you for a very good devotion.