Alice Atalanta writes a powerful defense of alpha males, and it’s worth reading for both husbands and wives. We get emails all the time from wives who long for their husbands to “take charge” and husbands who are afraid of their wives. Our culture — even our modern church culture — often views men as barbarians who need to be tamed by feminine virtues, which can create both emasculated men and bitter, overcompensating thugs. It’s true that God gave women an amazing array of strengths that men can learn from, but it’s also true that God created men with strengths of our own. As married couples, we need to embrace each others’ strengths and use them for the benefit of the marriage and family.

Here are a few “alpha male” traits that Atalanta identifies, and it’s no surprise that these are qualities that we see perfected in our Heavenly Father.

But there is more to it than just brute force and strength. As much as he may excel as an athlete or on the battlefield, a true Alpha Male also develops the capacities of character to temper, channel, moderate, and strategically employ this strength. Character – and what is traditionally referred to as “honor” – is central to the way that these men live their lives. Athlete Chad Howse, whose article “25 Characteristics of an Alpha Male” is Google’s top result for a search on the topic, hones in on these critical specifics: the Alpha Male, he writes, is “a man’s man, a warrior, a stand-up guy…he’s a leader, the guy others look to for motivation, inspiration…he’s the man women want, without intention the center of attention.” True statement applicable to all of those with whom I spoke. Other qualities highlighted by Howse, and consistent among my own sampling of Alpha types? Persistence, defensive capability, courage, humor, wisdom, humility, learnedness, thoughtfulness in speech, purposefulness, diligence, confidence, restraint, respectfulness, integrity, discernment, generosity, leadership, industriousness, and sincerity. In short, more the qualities of a Renaissance man than a brute. Hobbs’ scholarship supports this, as she considers the ancient Greek model of Plato’s ideal man, whose warrior spirit (Thumos) is tempered by reason – a topic she discusses at length as she is interviewed by Brett McKay on his ‘Art of Manliness’ podcast.

In addition to help from the Holy Spirit — which we should pray for — many husbands just need to feel some permission to act manly! Our culture denigrates manliness to such a degree that many men suppress their natural God-given strengths in an attempt to conform to worldly expectations — which are often feminine behavior patterns. Instead of being bold, the husband is timid, too fearful to express his needs and preferences to his own wife without coaching from strangers on the internet! (And hey, we’re happy to help, but you’ve got to add the final ingredient: courage.)

And wives, do you want your husband to take the lead? He’ll be much bolder if you don’t second-guess his decisions. How many times have you had this conversation?

Husband: Where do you want to go to dinner?

Wife: I don’t know, you pick.

Husband: Ok, let’s go to XYZ.

Wife: Eh, I don’t really want to go there.

Wives, if you want your husband to lead then you have to accept his leadership. That doesn’t mean that you make him guess over and over again until he gets lucky and picks something that pleases you! It means that you offer your opinion and then happily submit to his decision the first time unless you have some serious objection. A husband isn’t a good leader because he always picks what his wife would pick; being a good leader means making decisions that honor God and your family.

Husbands, are you bold in your marriage and family? Wives, what do you really want from your husbands?

Lately I have been hearing from more and more women a consistent desire that is burning in their hearts. They want and need their husbands to step up and be a spiritual leader to their family. They are weary of bearing the burden of leadership that they were not created to bear. We live in a time that feminism and equal roles are common themes in our households. But this is not what God has intended.

God has blessed us with a lot of scripture to help us fulfill our roles as husbands and wives. My favorite is Ephesians 5:22-33.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Scripture makes it very clear — God designed the husband to be the leader of the family. As most Christians learn, when God sets up a model of which to live by, it’s because that is the best possible way. It’s what will bring Him glory, how we will be happiest, and how our lives will function properly. Husbands, you are the leaders. Your wife is to be your helper, your counselor. Lead your wife lovingly and she will happily follow.

So wives, what do you do if your husband is not being the leader you need him to be?

1. Pray. Pray that God would convict him and guide him.

2. Equip him. We are the helpers, the supporters. Start by asking him to make the decisions, and then follow through with the decision he does make. You can also give him the tools and the encouragement he needs to be a good leader. Find a devotional the two of you can do together or with your family. Ask him to lead prayer at meals or bedtimes with the kids.

3. Encourage him. If he does step up and lead, it is probably out of his comfort zone to do so. If your first response is criticism, it will probably make him shut down. Encouragement will build up his confidence to continue leading. Keep in mind his style of leading might look very different from how you would lead. This is where you need to submit and surrender to his leadership.

4. Praise God. God deserves all the praise and glory. I think especially for women, it is easy to put our hope and faith in our husbands. But putting our hope in anything other than God will bring disappointment every time.

5. Don’t get discouraged. Leadership is a learned skill. He’s not going to turn into the leader you dream for your family overnight, and he might not fully step up at once. If he steps up, then falls back into letting you lead, keep praying and keep encouraging him.