“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” – Fulton Sheen
I’m not sure exactly when or where I came across this quote for the first time. I think it was my last year of college, but I can’t remember if I read it somewhere or if someone told me about it…I do remember the message though; it has haunted me since I first came across it. I actually had been mistakenly attributing it to a different author for a while until I found it again a few weeks ago (#oops).
In any case I am glad it showed up on my Instagram feed in early December. Not only because I could finally give credit to the right person for it (sorry, Mr. Sheen), but also because I was reminded of how essential this message really is.
Pretty early on I realized I had high standards for the guys I was interested in. I have what I like to call a filter, that well, filters out a vast majority of men. It was hard to put a finger on what exactly I was drawn to. Obviously there’s the physical attraction, but I realized that it never was enough on its own (which is why I had to turn down Zac Efron); there also had to be an emotional attraction (some people call it chemistry… or when you ‘click’… you can call it what you wish), among a few other characteristics I noticed were important to me. However, when it came down to it, there was something else that trumped all other qualities… and finally, I can put a name on it: character.
Yes, I like nice guys, the friendly, easygoing type… but what is even more important is that he is a good guy. Good and nice aren’t always the same thing. What makes a good guy? A man you can trust, who seeks to be better and help you be better.
Now, going back to this quote. The reason it is so incredibly important is because as women, we have a responsibility to challenge men. As Fulton Sheen says, we have so much influence on men fulfilling their potential. Women inspire men to do good, to be good. The second we settle for anything less than a good man, we enable them to reach less then their full potential… and stay there. Men want to aspire to a woman… to have to reach her; and we want them to because it is then that we feel we can entrust our heart to them.
When we settle; they do too, for less than what they could be.
I know what some of you may be thinking, ‘so you’re saying guys can’t reach their potential without the help of women?!’ or ‘so it’s our responsibility to help men better people?!’
Well, kind of.
No, it’s not necessary for a woman to make a man great; in fact Fulton Sheen was a single man (kind of comes with the territory of being a Catholic Bishop), however I’m sure that some woman, at some point encouraged him on his path to greatness… hello, moms are kind of experts at this.
It wasn’t just one man who lived in the 1970’s who said this. I’ve heard this message reiterated by men young and old today. In fact, in Nick’s interview for my ‘Ask Him’ segment one of the things he said he admired about women is: “how much women ultimately dictate men’s actions. How incredibly powerful they are in that sense.” From the horse’s mouth, my friends.
That is the beauty of men and women; we help each other. And as women we have to see our special responsibility lies in setting the standards for how we are to be treated by our male counterparts.
What does this look like?
- He is your friend.
- He makes an effort to spend time alone and with others together.
- He makes an effort to get to know and understand you.
- He takes initiative; whether it’s asking you out, planning the date or asking for your number, there are plenty of opportunities for us to let him lead.
- He makes an effort to stay in touch if you don’t live in the same city/state/country.
- He respects your morals and values.
- He encourages and supports you in your goals and aspirations.
- He makes you laugh.
This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but I think it’s a good starting point. Maybe to you this sounds harsh or unrealistic, there have definitely been times in my life when I thought so. However this quote reminds us that the standards we hold men to, especially the men we get close to, has a tremendous impact on ourselves, him and the community at large.
Of course we respond to men’s efforts with warmth and generosity; understanding that at times they will fall short as we do. We aren’t icy queens waiting for them to mess up, we’re loving sisters, mothers, friends, girlfriends, wives helping them as they help us.
I know this isn’t easy. Like, I know. I know what it feels like to be so frustrated that the guy you have a crush on isn’t enough; the frustration that he isn’t stepping up. I know what it feels like to just want him to be it. The temptation to let our standards slip because does it really matter if he doesn’t quite measure up? Or to let the fear of being alone or not finding someone who does step up overwhelm our intuition of what we know is right.
Let me be the one to tell you if no one else has, that it does matter. And if we do not hold men to the standard we know to be important… who else will? Fulton Sheen said it friends, and Nick reiterated it: as goes our standards, so goes civilization.
This is our calling and this is the importance of our standards.