A few years ago I read a quote by Venerable Fulton Sheen, the great televangelist and prolific author of the 20th century, that made me think about how single women today can have a tremendous impact and influence when it comes to the men in our lives. Sheen’s quote goes as follows,
“To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. 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.”
In contrast to today’s hook-up culture, Archbishop Sheen’s quote sends a powerful message to women the world over that encourages us to heroically embrace virtuous living and thereby set the standard for civilization as a whole. In this way, we as women can “to a great extent” have a strong impact when it comes to ennobling men to greater character, virtue, truth, justice and goodness.
As a single woman, I’ve observed much when it comes to modern day dating and can say with confidence, “it’s hard out there!” Many of my single girlfriends lament about how difficult it is to find a good guy these days while trying to run the good race in a culture steeped in promiscuity and the secular feminist movement. Yet, Archbishop Sheen calls all women to cling to God’s precepts instead.
All too often, women fail to recognize their true value as children of God and instead, compromise their values and inherit dignity in order to feel valued and “loved” by the men in their lives. In failing to recognize their worth as “more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 3:15) in the eyes of God, women forsake the opportunity to grow in personal holiness and also deny the men in their life something to aspire to.
While there are already many women leading virtuous lives, there are also many who stray from what God wishes for us and suffer the pain and confusion of living outside of God’s will. When this happens, the opportunity to set the bar higher for men is instead lowered. In Proverbs 31:10, the Bible speaks of the unique gifts of women whose virtuous traits inspire their family. It refers to her as an “unfailing prize” bringing about “good, not evil” and “girt with strength while also reaching out to the needy”. In Psalm 31:28, her husband and children “rise up and praise her” and the husband “extols her” because of her noble attributes.
Sadly, today’s media and culture offer little in the way of encouraging such virtues. The popularity of books such as 50 Shades of Grey (a soon to be movie), magazines such as Cosmopolitan, and popular TV series like Sex in the City present confusing images of womanhood where seduction, less than modest dress, and ongoing sexual innuendo are presented as the norm. Such morality-free views of today are often assumed by women without serious reflection on the ramifications for themselves, their relationships and society as a whole.
Beyond this, there seems to be an all-out attack on God’s intended role for men in today’s culture. Demeaning television ads and sitcoms widely promote bumbling portrayals of men who are seen as incapable of being family leaders, future husbands, fathers or boyfriends. This is contrary to just a few decades ago when men were largely regarded as highly competent, respected role models who provided for their families and loved ones.
Known for portraying Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, actor Jim Caviezel has said of his wife Kerri, “I married a woman who is much better than me, I’m very fortunate to be with her and I know I’ll be happy with her the rest of my life.” It is my feeling that deep within the hearts of men across the globe is a desire to meet someone who challenges them to greater virtue, goodness and holiness and whom they feel lucky to be with. Do all men seek this? No, not all, but I am certain many do.
Sheen asserted that in any society, it is the role of women who set the standard for civilization. In his popular 1950’s show, Life is Worth Living, Sheen once proclaimed that “an honest and noble man seeks to be deserving of the love of a virtuous and noble woman and that the cultural barometer of moral exceptionalism resides solely in the heroic disposition and attitude of virtuous womanhood.” He also continually pointed to the perfect example for women to follow as a role model. By looking to Mary, the Mother of God, and finding in her the secret of living our true femininity with dignity and personal spiritual advancement, we can also inspire the men among us to a more noble, virtuous and faith-filled way of living and loving.