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Blog / How to Raise Boys Who Respect Girls: An Interview with Dave Willis

How to Raise Boys Who Respect Girls: An Interview with Dave Willis

Dave WillisHow can parents biblically and practically raise a generation of sons who are champions, encouragers, and respecters of women? What are the principles parents need to teach their sons so they will become men who break the pattern of thinking and acting that lead to the #metoo and #churchtoo atrocities?

Bible Gateway interviewed Dave Willis (@DaveWillis) about his book, Raising Boys Who Respect Girls: Upending Locker Room Mentality, Blind Spots, and Unintended Sexism (Thomas Nelson, 2019).

Explain what you mean when you write, “We’ll be helping our sons reclaim true manhood when we teach them how to respect true womanhood.”

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Dave Willis: Our culture has lost sight of the beautiful distinctions God had in mind when “…God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NLT)

Many kids are being raised with a misguided, secular worldview that says there’s no distinction between the genders and gender itself is a man-made construct. The Bible reminds us that both manhood and womanhood are part of God’s design. Having a respect for God’s original and timeless plan for authentic manhood and authentic womanhood is a starting point for respectful relationships between boys and girls.

How do you respond to someone who believes “one person’s demonstration of respect is another person’s sexist condescension”?

Dave Willis: This is a great question. Sadly, our world’s warped view of issues related to sex, gender, and respect have indeed caused many Christians to take a passive approach because we’re afraid our “respect” will be taken as a form of disrespect. Chivalry is now often misrepresented as a form of sexism instead of a form of respect. I talk about these issues in much more detail in the book, but here are a few starting points:

  1. Remember that one of the truest signs of maturity is the ability to disagree with someone while still remaining respectful. Our world has lost sight of this, but as Christians, we need to lead the way. Even when others misrepresent our words, actions, or motives, we should still strive to be peacemakers and rise above the noise.
  2. Remember that “The Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12) doesn’t mean we literally treat people exactly like we want to be treated. Jesus taught us to treat others with enough respect to value their preferences ahead of our own. A misunderstanding of the The Golden Rule would say, “I would want someone to do (fill in the blank) for me, so I’ll do (fill in the blank) for them.” What’s a better approach is to say, “Their preference seems to be for me to not (fill in the blank), so out of respect for them, I’ll honor their preferences as a way to show them my respect.”
  3. Be consistent with your kindness. People are often skeptical of your motives when you first show kindness, but as you consistently show kindness, they know your respect is real.

How did Jesus model respect for women?

Dave Willis: Jesus is the best example in all of human history for how a man should show respect to women. There’s an entire chapter in Raising Boys Who Respect Girls about how Jesus interacted with women in such a radically respectful way. He broke down so many cultural barriers that had kept women silent and he elevated their status through his words and his actions. Here are just a few examples in the Gospels of where Jesus intentionally showed respect to women despite the widespread disrespect toward women in the broader culture:

  • Jesus’ longest-recorded one-on-one conversation was with a woman. (The woman at the well, John 4)
  • Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. In all the recorded examples of Jesus raising someone from the dead, this little girl is the only person Jesus took by the hand. (Luke 8:50–56)
  • Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. (Matt. 8:14–16)
  • Jesus healed a woman who had suffered with a bleeding condition that had ostracized her from society for many years and made her ceremonially unclean by the rigid religious standards of the Pharisees. (Mark 5:26–32)
  • Two of Jesus’ closest friends were sisters named Mary and Martha. (Luke 10:38–42)
  • Jesus stood up for a woman who had been caught in adultery, and he ultimately saved her from death by a public stoning. (John 8:1–11)
  • Jesus heard the pleas of a desperate widow whose only son had died, and he raised the son back to life. (Luke 7:11–17)
  • Jesus healed a paralytic woman who had been overlook and outcast by others. (Luke 13:10–17)
  • Jesus praised an impoverished widow for her generosity and elevated her as the standard of giving to which we should all aspire. (Luke 21:1–4)
  • Jesus praised the persistence of a widow and described her as a model of the faith and persistence we should have when praying to God. (Luke 18:1–8)
  • The Gospels record that women were the first to discover the empty tomb even though at the time, a woman’s testimony wasn’t valid in courts of law. Jesus allowed women to be the first witnesses and validated their testimonies about him.

What is the biblical standard of manhood?

Dave Willis: The biblical standard of manhood requires selflessly and courageously taking responsibility for the well-being of others. If we remain self-focused and self-indulgent, we’ll remain forever in a state of immaturity and what the book of Proverbs calls “foolishness.” The path to wisdom (and the path to true manhood) requires a rock-solid commitment to protecting and providing for the people God has entrusted to our care.

The Bible’s mandate for manhood often also requires putting our own lives on the line for the protection and well being of others. Christ himself is obviously the ultimate example of this, but there are many examples of this principle in the Old Testament as well. I love the way Nehemiah summed up this challenge when he told his men before a battle, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14 NIV)

What does it mean that modern culture objectifies girls and women and, in practical terms, how can parents teach their sons to not objectify them?

Dave Willis: Our culture has celebrated and profited from the sexual exploitation of women and girls in so many different forms. We see it in the constant TV ads and billboards showing women and girls in sexual poses and/or limited clothing. Females have been treated as a sexual commodity by so many in marketing and entertainment, not to mention the atrocities that are happening in the porn industry.

In this climate, men need to fight not only for their own sexual purity, but we also need to teach our sons to defend all women as if these women were part of our own families. Paul’s admonishment to Timothy to treat young women as sisters with all purity (1 Timothy 5:2) is the standard for all men who want to respect women and not objectify them.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Dave Willis: I have so many passages and stories that resonate with me. The book of Proverbs has shaped my views about relationships more than any other book. The Gospels have shaped my view of all aspects of life as I try to follow in the example of Christ. One of my favorite Bible heroes is Joseph from the Old Testament. The story of his life (recorded in the book of Genesis) shows such wisdom and faith in the face of so many obstacles. Joseph is a man who showed such deep respect for men and women even when those individuals weren’t necessarily deserving of respect. The respect he gave wasn’t a reflection of those people’s character, but a reflection of his own faith and his own character. His story has always inspired me.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?

Dave Willis:I promise I’m not just saying this to kiss up to you guys, but I LOVE Bible Gateway. As a pastor, I’ve put together countless sermons over the years, and I’ve had access to all sorts of resources, apps, and websites for sermon prep, but I always find my way back to Bible Gateway. Your site and App make it so easy to navigate God’s Word. I’m truly grateful for your ministry. I’m one of the millions who’ve been deeply impacted by your faithfulness to the Word. Keep up the great work!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Dave Willis:Thank you for allowing me to share the heart behind Raising Boys Who Respect Girls. As a dad of four boys, I’m so passionate about this message. I truly believe we have the power to change the world for the next generation by helping our sons learn to embrace the beautiful gift of true manhood which will help them be great husbands and dads someday. That would be such an incredible gift for the next generation of men and for the next generation of women.

Raising Boys Who Respect Girls is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Dave Willis is a pastor, author, podcaster and one of the most widely-read relationship bloggers on the internet. He and his wife, Ashley, work together to create marriage and family resources as part of the ministry of MarriageToday. They have four sons ranging in age from preschool to high school, and their family lives near Dallas, TX. Dave is the author of The Naked Marriage, The 7 Laws of Love, and Raising Boys Who Respect Girls.

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Filed under Books, Discipleship, Family, Interviews, Men