I love it when watching a movie gives me relationship advice! Recently, I exercised to the first half hour of the movie “300,” starring Gerard Butler and Lena Headey. As I wrapped up my exercise, I realized Lena’s character, Queen Gorgo, had provided me with an example of feminine strength and beauty in her relationship with her husband, King Leonidas. It was a profound bit of relationship help that I wanted to share with you (because by sharing it with you, it sinks deeper into me!).
If you haven’t seen the movie or don’t remember World History details from sophomore year, it deals with a time in history when various Greek city-states faced obliteration by the Persians. Sparta was one such city. Her king, Leonidas, chose to sacrifice himself and his 300 armed “body guards” to stave off the Persians at the passage of Thermopylae, the only way to access Greece; rather than watch Sparta burn to the ground. It was a heroic stand that might have persuaded the Persians had not a treacherous Greek citizen showed them a hidden goat path that led the Persians into Greece behind the Spartans.
The first half hour of “300” sets the viewer up to understand the battle to come and just what Leonidas and his three hundred men are sacrificing. They are giving up their lives, the comfort of their beds, the companionship of their wives, and the privilege of watching their sons grow into the same kind of warriors as these fathers. Heading out to face 10,000 Persians, their own chances for survival don’t even exist.
During the opening segment, we witness King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo as a power couple. Clearly, she is his most trusted advisor. She is a proud and wise woman with as much intelligence as beauty. The chemistry between the two works on film, giving you a sense of their couple-ness in a short amount of time.
When King Leonidas leaves, neither of them reveals their anguish. They are strong for each other in their good-byes. As the king walks away, Queen Gorgo calls to her husband, “Spartan!”
He stops and turns to look at her, “Yes my lady?”
She continues, “Come back with your shield, or on it.”
“Yes, my lady,” he answers, and then continues on with his men. They will never see each other again.
As a woman, when the Queen calls out to Leonidas saying, “Come back with your shield, or on it,” I wince. It seems cold, almost heartless. How can she say such a thing when they both know he will come back on it?
But when she says it, she accomplishes at least two things. She calls forth his greatness and his masculine desire to defend and protect. Also, in spite of what it costs her, those words honor the decision he has made and those he will make in the days ahead – even though it will mean the loss of him as well as making her vulnerable to the lechery of a power hungry rival.
And so the relationship between the two of them and especially this particular scene teaches me that honoring my man’s greatness and his masculine desire to defend, protect, and provide for me and those he loves is good for both of us. In my life, Joseph isn’t likely to find himself defending and protecting to the point of sacrificing his life. But when he defends, protects, and provides for me, he expresses his masculinity in ways that feel good and right to him – it is an expression of love. My appreciation and respect for his masculine expression gives him my love in return in a way that he can see, hear, and feel at the depths of his being.
Here in the 21st Century, the avenues available to men to defend, protect, and provide are not as readily respected as in an earlier era when that activity could mean the life or death of a family and community. It is easy for wives and children to shrug off the ways husbands and fathers show their masculine pride. It has become routine for women to expect their men to learn how to relate to them the way they and their girlfriends relate to each other. But these habits hurt relationships.
On the other hand, women who genuinely respect their men and show it tend to have more fulfilling and satisfying marriages. They call forth the greatness in their men and are loved, cherished, and respected in turn. It’s a beautiful give and take that makes the differences between the sexes work for both.