Discovering the Mind of a Woman – part 1

If you are a clueless jerk married to a sinless woman, who loves being shamed, bullied, and guilted into changing your evil ways, I’ve got the perfect book to poison your marriage. “Discovering the Mind of a Woman” by Ken Nair should really be retitled “Shaming and Bullying Men into Worshipping and Serving their Wives.” It contains very little insight about discovering the mind of a woman. It is much more about shaming men into becoming more “Christlike”. It demonstrates no understanding of the gospel-based mindset, and no understanding of the purpose of the law. It is deeply coercive with a heavy hand, and in addition shows no understanding that all have sinned, and all are saved by grace. The theology in this book is utterly atrocious. It is a book full of Christian-ish legalistic tripe (and not very accurate at that) but it is not really a Christian book at all. There is no love for or emphasis on Christ and Him crucified as the central foundation of the marriage relationship. Instead women are viewed as largely infallible but mindless and helpless, and men as monsters that control them like puppets.

Don’t get me wrong – men are monsters. Women are monsters too. People are monsters. Whoever you are, if you have married someone, you have married a monster. You are not really going to understand your spouse until you take a “low-anthropology” view of them. You could take Mr. Nair’s queue and press your man’s nose in his fallenness, setting the ambiguous standard of “Christlikeness” over his head as the standard by which he constantly fails. Christ is a very very good example of how a man should live. However, apart from the scandalous grace of the gospel this creates an impossible standard to live up to, and also casts Jesus as a feared example more than as a trusted savior. What men and women need, particularly within a marriage, is more than an example. We need a savior. If we cast Him only as an example, we have set the stage to relate only through judgement, fear, and failed expectations. If we cast Him as savior, we have set the stage to relate based on mutual forgiveness, and love that does not require perfect Christlikeness. These truths, which are essential to the Christian experience, are completely absent from the book.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at the book itself. Here is the outlay of the chapters:

1. A Discovery that Changed My Marriage
This is a story of how the author had a transforming moment, where he realized he had been a selfish jerk, and he realized he should stop doing that. This is the core message of the book.
2. Men who Made the Commitment
This is the story of five other men who were selfish jerks, who realized they should stop doing that. Stopping the jerk behavior is labeled “Christlikeness”. He’s a heavy user of the “clickbait” technique of using lists to draw you into reading stuff.
3. Four Male Prejudices
1. Women are impossible to understand.
1 Peter 3:7 says you can live with your woman in an understanding way. If you don’t you won’t be able to pray. Saying so threatens our traditional Christian ways — meaning that the traditional Christian marriage has a complete jerkish oaf in the role of the husband. If you are fleshly you will go the extra mile to do your job or fix your car, and that will make your relationship with your wife deteriorate. So do a crappy job and let your car rot guys, so you can have a great marriage!
2. Women are the Real Problem!
Christian men usually say, “My wife doesn’t respect me. She’s not submissive like the Bible says she ought to be. I’m putting a roof over her head and her car runs. What’s the problem?” I know that is my problem in my marriage. I’m constantly worried about whether my wife respects me. Not. I’m worried that my wife will come to her senses and stop respecting me, which is the only sensible response to me. I don’t deserve respect. I am a sinner saved by grace. If I receive anything from my wife at all, it is the unmerited gift of God. You know what this truly Christian low-anthropology high-grace mindset produces? Humility and gratitude. And it does it without browbeating or coercion – just the presentation of the good news of salvation. Men who really are just complete old-school jerks like this probably do need to be slapped, but that is only to use the law to wake them up to their need for mercy and grace. This need for a slap isn’t going to end, and this need for grace isn’t either.

The other problem I have with this section is that it has a very shallow application of the law, so it does not produce a real sense of humility and dependence on grace. It simply shifts a “can-do” attitude over a bit, leaving a harmful pride in place. The old man has not died, it has simply shifted its efforts to be a less obvious kind of jerk.

3. Women are inferior to men
Men speak in a way to imply that women are stupid. They ought to stop doing that. He gives an extremely weird exegesis of Genesis 3 to prove that men are equally as fallen as women (by which he seems to mean that men only are fallen), along with an anecdote about some arrogant pastor that thinks he is smarter than his wife. My joke about this is that if men are the head of the woman, it is because God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Here’s the thing: in some areas, such as my programming work, I do happen to know more about it than my wife. I don’t bring her into the details of why my angular.js site is persisting its factory variables when I’ve explicitly cleared them and changed the context. It isn’t an issue of smartness or superiority. She is brilliant with money, with organization, with reading people, with administration, and she is the most talented musician I know. She is also a top notch thinker and theologian. I talk through almost all of my posts and all of the chapters in my books with her. In fact I consider her to be much smarter than me on many issues.

Now, does that mean I am perfect about never getting short with her or thinking in some circumstances that I’m right? Am I always right or wrong about all of those things? I am not about to claim that I will ever be capable of that level of perfection. Furthermore, I am not going to saddle her with the need to be infallible in the way this book implies that women are.

4. Men are supposed to be “the boss”
If men are the boss, it implies that the husband can disregard his wife’s needs while abundantly taking care of his own. We have a story of a farmer who purchased the latest tractors but refused to fix the plumbing in his own house. So, we are given another “you’re a jerk – stop doing that!” story, cast as a profound Christian solution. He says that women want their mate to be the spiritual leader, but they need to know that their husband is looking to God as the final authority.

And you know what? This is probably true. Of course I would not have the incredible hubris to speak for all of women, as to what they want. However, how is this to happen? He casts the solution as a “deeper commitment” to God. He says there needs to be no excuses for such prejudices. And yes, he says, the solution ultimately is more Bible reading, prayer, and mentorship. Again, this is all just shifting pride. The only way to accomplish the thing that the law demands here, is mutual belief in Christ and Him crucified. I look to Christ for my view of my wife. I see her as one whom Christ loves and died for. In Christ I can see her sin as utterly sinful, and her redeemed person as utterly eternal and wonderful. I see her as an eternal creature, in Him. I can only hope to see these things by grace; my own wisdom or discipline or counsel could never merit such a view.

4. Husbands that Wives Love to Love
This starts with another anecdote of a husband who is involved with gross immorality, whom the author forced to write down the account of his shame and then tricked him into handing this damning document over to his wife. This is his version of “counseling”, I suppose. It turned out beautifully in the book because she was eager to love him and make up with him while they waited for his AIDS test results to arrive. What an unbelievable story, and not in the way the author intended! Wow!

I have to pause here and say, I’d like to hear about this couple a year or two later. He expects that a man with this level of addiction can just stop on a dime because he has been shamed. The wife is also offering a bloodless, crossless, Christless forgiveness. It isn’t even clear exactly what going on in her mind to say that she “forgives” him. I think it is pretty obvious that it is conditional acceptance. The idea is that, having come clean, your wife can take you back, as long as you stay clean. This is the nature of bloodless forgiveness. There is no supernatural resurrection persistence that overcomes and outlasts your shame. There is no place for persistent grace that allows for a long-term view of a person’s healing – which means there is no healing at all. There is only dramatic microwave turn-on-a-dime appearance of change, as the condition for acceptance. If you doubt that, ask yourself what the author would have said if the guy in this story confessed, “I can’t change! I don’t know what to do! I’m a slave to sin.” And the wife (understandably) said, “if he can’t change, I can’t live with him. I want a divorce.” There is really no discussion of the scandal of real grace. Down the road, without scandalous grace and real costly mercy at the center of things, I can pretty much guarantee that the rosy future implied by this book is not what happened. The guy got engrossed in porn again at least and either kept it secret from his wife or else lost his marriage. He has no basis from Mr. Nair to expect any degree of mercy.

So, following this little anecdote (which seems to be utterly disassociated with the points in the rest of the chapter), he goes on to give us 6 desirable qualities of a man. I’ll just list them here and give a general response.

  1. He can walk in and out of the house without causing damage.
  2. He will open his heart to her.
  3. He is sensitive to her and other people
  4. He is thoughtful enough to remember the things important to her — and is creative and imaginative in doing them.
  5. He does things with her — he is inclusive, not exclusive.
  6. He believes they really are one.

The oneness is listed as things like oneness in disciplining children, oneness in driving habits, oneness in making financial decisions, and oneness in including God. All of this boils down to the idea that men should stop being jerks, and start reading their Bible more. And they should make sure their spouse sees them studying the Bible more. Or the husband should convince his wife to force them to spend more time reading and praying together. Because husbands are clueless jerks and women are sinless spiritual giants.

As before, I’m going to say, these things are great. I think Confucianists and Muslims and Jews and atheists would all agree in their way. I think that we should all be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. The question becomes, what if a guy does not seem to be able to control his heart to be able to open up to his wife? Maybe he can’t open up to anyone. Maybe he can’t control his ability to have love and affection for her. So these things do not sound like solution, they sound like condemnation. They are impossible and frightening and serve only to drive him to more despondency and helplessness and severe condemnation. I have been personally driven to the point of considering suicide by this kind of advice when I went through my years of marital stress. Here is the thing Mr. Nair simply does not get: the law is only diagnosis. It is an X-Ray. He is able to accurately say – “you are a broken jerk. Stop that!” That’s the law. It’s right. All of you guys out there need to love your wife in the same manner and to the same degree as Christ loved the church. If you nod and say yes I will slap you. It is meant to be such a high standard that there is always room for growth, always room for improvement. It is rooted in the idea that we are first loved by Christ, and that we have a powerful and enduring and genuine redemption in Christ’s blood. So, you can try and fail, try and fail differently, and try and fail differently again. You are still greatly loved by Christ.

There is another huge point to consider here. You will never understand the way Christ loved the church if you do not first hear about and believe His love for you. You have to know the love of Christ if you are to give it. If you press the idea that the important thing is to follow His example, and that your redemption is a secondary and unimportant concern, you will never enter the realm where any of this is even remotely doable. You have to have the understanding at the outset that you and your wife are both profoundly sinful. The way you love as Christ loved the church is this: you love a sinner. You delight in mercy. You are not shocked when your own or your spouse’s low anthropology manifests itself. In Christ you have a basis to persist in love, to forgive without violating justice.

The assumption with Christ’s love for the church is always that the emphasis is on the sacrifice. This usually translates into doing the dishes and such. It so grandly misses the point. The emphasis is on love! It is the excitement over the treasure that caused the man to sell all he had. We want to emphasize the sacrifice, but Christ emphasizes the treasure. Grace opens the door to really love a person whom you know is imperfect and offensive. It opens the door to real persistent reconciliation and forgiveness, not mere conditional acceptance. Mere law, even accurately and wisely given, can only diagnose. It is no basis for a sound marriage. Grace is the air that love breathes, and real love delights to forgive and delights to spend time with the other and delights to respect the other and delights to lift the other up. It easily ignores and forgives the other’s faults and embraces the one that the law says ought not to be embraced. This is the love which Christ has for the church, and this is the love we are empowered to have for our spouse in Christ. The real secret to all of this is by grace, to see your spouse as the pearl, not the sacrifice for the pearl. You will hate your wife if she is the sacrifice you must make. If you love her, it means she has become the pearl you gladly sell everything to get. And this is the crushing law that tells you that you need grace – because only Jesus loves your wife that way. You, husband, are a scoundrel and an idiot and a sinner. She married you anyway. Here is where you start: Jesus loves you anyway. He died for you. Get that straight.

I’ll continue with this later. We have more chapters to work through.

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  1. I considered suicide myself. Having heard I could mess up and He would leave me. And that came from a statement from king David and other scriptures but I didn’t realize it was old covenant. Thank God He already said He’d never leave me nor forsake me. It just didn’t make sense with the mix of law and grace I’d been taught.

  2. Wow, it is great to read all of this. I was given this book years ago by an in-law relative. It took me about 2 years to read it, partially because it’s laid out so poorly, and partially because it’s all law. I kept asking myself, “Why is this guy telling me to be ‘Christlike’ but then he never tells me about Christ? Or grace? Or forgiveness? Where is the Gospel in this book??”

    Thanks for this review and breakdown. I look forward to reading the rest of your review. To all others, I simply advise against this book (unless you want the heaping coals of the law poured over your head page after page!).

  3. Vintage McNeely here. Based on your assessment of the book, I think it will not work well on my Kindle. The one thing that came to mind reading the review was it was written by another “Chrisitian” author that believes the gospel is only for the “saving.”

  4. What a shame how you defame this teaching! This book was the beginning of my husband’s exit out of a lifetime of porn. May the Holy Spirit enlighten your minds to at least not keep others from the type of long-term mentorship recommended by the Christ Quest Institute which takes marriages through the long, painful healing process. This is not a question of law. It’s a matter of one sinner walking alongside another as their minds are renewed by the washing of the Word, all based on the foundation of Jesus’ sacrifice. Perhaps if you listened to your wives’ responses to the CQI teachings on growing in our Christian walk within sacred marriage, you might not be so sure of your [mis-]understanding here.

    • “It’s a matter of one sinner walking alongside another as their minds are renewed by the washing of the Word, all based on the foundation of Jesus’ sacrifice”

      Actually, if that was what this book was about I would enthusiastically endorse it. I don’t recall reading that part in the book. I do appreciate your point – I just wish this book had made that point.

      “Perhaps if you listened to your wives’ responses to the CQI teachings on growing in our Christian walk within sacred marriage, you might not be so sure of your [mis-]understanding here.”

      I’ve been married for 26 years, and we’ve been through some terrible rough spots. It was the message of the gospel truly applied to each other, huge scandalous real grace and forgiveness in Jesus’ blood, which has become the bedrock of our relationship. That is indeed the biblical message, the beating heart of the New Testament. Jesus died to save sinners.

  5. Jim, we’ve been married 32 years; my husband was a deacon and church leader, and heavily involved in porn for 31 of those years, living in the delusion that this was his only sin. I agree that the book is not a compilation of Nair’s teachings, rather it serves to get men’s attention, hopefully to challenge them to start that walk towards putting to death the sin nature through the power of the Holy Spirit in the community of other believers. A crucial point is the Holy Spirit working through the wife to help the husband see how he is not like Christ – in your terms his low anthropology. As the Lord transforms him to become more like Christ, the husband is capable of caring for her spirit (becoming her true spiritual leader) and leading her to become more Christlike as well. You and your wife are well along that path. May your rewards continue to be abundant in Him and may your example encourage others.

    • Very interesting. My dad introduced me to porn at a very early age, and even kind of insisted that I become interested in it because he was afraid I wasn’t interested enough in women. I know he regrets that now. So I self-identify as a porn addict, and no matter how long I succeed at fighting it, I know I will always have that fight, just like an alcoholic or a heroin addict. Here is the thing – something like 2/3 of Christian men use porn. According to a study done by the Barna Group, it breaks down like this:

      Pornography Viewing 18-30 31-49 50-68 over 68
      several times a day 9% 10% 2% 0%
      at least once daily 20% 11% 6% 0%
      several times a week 34% 17% 17% 4%
      several times a month 12% 21% 13% 13%
      at least once a month 4% 8% 11% 11%
      a few times a year 3% 10% 16% 16%
      less often 12% 20% 24% 54%
      never 7% 3% 2% 3%

      Read the article here.

      Now, does that make it OK? Of course not! It’s horrible. It’s damaging. It’s destructive and it’s reprehensible and shameful. Don’t I know it! There is one antidote, and one antidote only: real grace. Knowing that God has compassion rather than harsh judgment and hatred, and that the blood of Jesus works for this particular sin, and not only for more acceptable sins, is the key for people to come to the throne of grace when they need help in their time of need. We don’t go to the throne of grace once we’ve cleaned up – we go to the throne of grace to get cleaned up.

      In real life that means grace in community. It means guys who will hear your confession without threatening to publicly shame you and take you down. It means healing, not threats. It means forgiveness, real forgiveness. It means taking the sin seriously, but taking grace just as seriously. It means transparency with everyone when the time is right in all kindness. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance, and that is nowhere more true than this issue. I think if more churches were based on the real gospel, we would not have guys secreting away in shame with their addictions for 30 years pretending to be righteous. Ironically, gracelessness and hard-line demands for transformation have the net effect of causing people to pretend at righteousness. Grace alone creates the kind of community where healing and lasting repentance are possible.

      Love covers a multitude of sins. A bruised reed He will not break. I think that the guys in my congregation whom I know are probably partaking of this need to know first that no matter what, God has compassion for them. He wants to help get them clean because He loves them. I don’t know that it is good to parade their shame publicly and discount their whole life as a sham. Love covers a multitude of sins. It is entirely possible that in some cases their marriage may really be over. If they are using child porn or something like that don’t think I’m saying that they shouldn’t be reported as a danger. But even then they need a huge measure of compassion and a reassurance that their life may be a train wreck because of their addiction, but God is not going to abandon them or withdraw His mercy from them.

      I have seen that some women have some kind of glee in finding this stuff out and nailing their guy’s failure with a public shaming as some kind of public justification that they have been harmed or wronged, and I don’t find that to be a response from faith. Sin is damaging, shameful, wrong, and sad. We live in an age where it is available at the touch of a button. We have to first have grace and compassion and real gospel thinking if we are going to speak meaningfully to this generation.

  6. The message the book tries to convey to men is indeed appropriate and good, as God’s law is good. However, the author fails to identify the one and only motivator for true change of hearts: grace. Instead, Nair motivates through guilt, shame, fear, embarrassment, etc. I believe this is what Jim has been explaining in his review so far.

    This is a problem which goes well beyond this book. It is a problem which has infiltrated the modern American protestant church, and it is causing problems and despair! The only power to transform lives is the grace of God. Only when we know the limitless love and grace of God will we be able to respond in loving thanks to our great savior.

    • JW, I totally agree. People misunderstand my beef with this book. It’s like saying, do you like the spaghetti and meatballs I made you? And you say, sure, but there’re no noodles or meatballs. Then they say, “What, you hate spaghetti sauce?” Not at all, but this isn’t spaghetti and meatballs. The law is perfect and good, but we need a path for real forgiveness when we fall short of its goodness. This is the question Christianity solves.

      It says, when you fail, God is still there for you. When you sin, it is not the end of the story. When you are wretched and shamed and miserable and a horror to the world, God persists in loving you. When you fail again, He still loves you. If you killed Him He would raise from the dead and find you and forgive you. That is the message of the gospel. It isn’t “fix yourself.” It isn’t even, “God empowers you to get fixed.” If you then fall into Romans 7 land, does that mean God forsakes you? It does if Christianity = “be fixed by God’s power.” the true message is, “you are eternally loved and accepted no matter what.” Ironically, this is the fix. But if you make getting fixed the idol, you are still worshipping the law and not God. It is only one-way love, 1 John 4:10 style love, that will save you. You have to believe that God’s love is bigger and stronger and more stubborn than your addiction to sin. His love will, in fact, win out. You will stand holy and blameless before Him, by His power and sanction.

  7. Thanks for these well thought through responses. My daughter sent me a copy of the book discussed above. I believe that her motives are certainly in the right place.
    However, by buying into what Ken Nair writes in this book, it exposes her sense of simplistic thinking as well as an “all or nothing/black and white” approach to addressing men, women and the real challenges of marriage in 2019.
    I have decided to read the book (assuming I can get through it) and openly write what I find helpful and redemptive in one tablet and what I really struggle with in the other. After one chapter, I have three notes in the first tablet and eighteen in the later.
    It appears that the author wrote a book on understanding the mind of a man nine years before he wrote this one. I am disappointed so far, after one chapter, that he does not suggest that couples at least read both of them together to attempt to find a balance.
    I come to this discussion having been a marriage and family therapist in private practice for more than 25 years and being married more than 42 years. I don’t think Ken has the training, both secular and sacred, that I have enjoyed. Perhaps, he would come to different conclusions if he had been training in family systems and theology.

  8. Good review. I was actually in the program for six years. The first few I bought the idea that I could improve which of course is true. Then it became ridiculous. My wife took it as her job to tell me where I was wrong all the time. Nair said listen to her. She was just as fallen as me and that went horribly, giving her the idea she was always misunderstood, never wrong. Not all wives were like that, but several fell in that category and things were terrible for us in that boat. Most of us like that left.

    I’m out, thank goodness. I know I’m commenting about 6 years late.

    • Jeez, what an amazing story! I’m sorry I took so long to approve it. I pray you are in a more grace-full place with your wife and within your inner man. Blessings to you.

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