And the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33
Here’s a little secret about my journey towards becoming the wife God desires me to be:
When God first showed me my HUGE mountain of sin (it was WAY more than just a “plank” in my eye) – and I saw for the first time that I had been a very controlling and disrespectful wife – I had NO CLUE what to do and where to start.
I always thought I had been respectful. I mean, I didn’t scream at my husband, call him names, threaten divorce, cuss at him, assassinate his character, hit him, destroy his possessions, throw things at him (except for that ONE time our first summer when I threw a clean pair of panties at him from across the room. But they did NOT hit him!).
I didn’t even trash him on Facebook!
(Of course, we were married before the internet existed.)
Suddenly, I knew that I had NOT been respectful. I read in Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs that men need respect the same way in marriage that women need love. I was extremely convicted. Love and Respect gave me six areas to focus on respecting in my husband’s life. But I needed WAY MORE DETAIL than that book had to offer.
I needed “Respect 101″ or “Respect for Dummies.”
Seriously! Yes. I was that clueless.
I asked Greg what was respectful and what was disrespectful to him – but at that time – he was still very shut down and had been feeling disrespected for so long (and never said one word about it) – he wasn’t sure and couldn’t verbalize what was respectful and what was disrespectful to him.
I obviously had no idea. After my 14.5 years of disrespect and control and my total blindness to all of it.
I was so frustrated, feeling like I was walking blindfolded through a field of land mines – never knowing if what I was about to say or what I had said or what I had done or wanted to do would be respectful or not.
That is why I am so passionate about two posts where husbands have shared with us
If you haven’t read them – definitely check them out!
HOW I WISH I HAD THOSE LISTS 19 YEARS AGO!!?!?!
There are some things that are clearly disrespectful and clearly respectful to almost all men regardless of culture or age or personality. But then each man has his own definitions about some things. Some men feel disrespected if we pack their suitcases for them. Some men feel disrespected if their we don’t pack their suitcases for them. Some men want to figure out directions on their own and never want us to say, “Oh, I think that was our turn.” Some men would feel very disrespected if we knew that he was missing his turn and said nothing.
So, what is on the list is not as important as what is important to your particular man. But these lists give you a great place to start.
The lists in those two posts are long. Why do they have to be so long???
When I was learning about disrespect and respect – I had a famine of information. There are so many men with differing views on what is disrespectful and what is respectful, that I wanted to include a number of things on each list because I think that extra information may be really helpful. So many things that men feel disrespected by are things that most women, even Christian women, do all the time and have no idea that their husbands are wounded by their words and actions. If you have not read these lists before, it can be pretty shocking and surprising at first.
HE DOESN’T DESERVE MY RESPECT!
Be sure you can respect your guy before you marry him! Only marry a man who is totally committed to Jesus!
Many women feel this way. And they are right! Their husbands may not deserve their respect. But this is not about what he deserves. In fact, respecting our husbands has NOTHING to do with our husbands and everything to do with our relationship with Jesus. This is about my willingness to obey God’s command to me as a wives and about God’s Spirit being in control of me.
This is about what JESUS deserves. He deserves my wholehearted obedience, reverence, awe, worship and devotion.
Husbands could just as rightly say, “But she doesn’t deserve my love!” And they would be right, too. We are ALL sinners. We don’t deserve anything good from God or each other. But this is God’s design for marriage – for husbands to focus on loving their wives the way Christ loves the church and for wives to focus on respecting their husbands and honoring the husband’s God-given leadership the way the church reverences and honors Christ. That is what marriage is to be a picture of – the relationship between Christ and the church. What a lofty and holy calling! (Ephesians 5:22-33, I Corinthians 11:3, Titus 2:2-5)
RESPECT IS NOT INTUITIVE FOR WOMEN –
- Disrespect for men and for husbands and almost any God-given authority has become “normal” and “mainstream.” Many women under 50 years of age have NEVER witnessed a woman respecting her man well. And many women grew up today with fiercely independent, controlling, disrespectful mothers. (My mother actually wasn’t disrespectful at all. My personality is much stronger than hers – maybe I didn’t relate to her as much as I did to my dad? I was also the dominant twin and learned to be controlling there and from a variety of other issues).
- We have been bombarded in the culture and media with flagrant disrespect for men, husbands and fathers – and also teachers, police officers, government officials, pastors, bosses, etc.. Respect used to be part of the fiber of American culture – but it was thrown out decades ago.
- We all have a sin nature – just like Eve. God said – as He explained the consequences for Adam’s and Eve’s sin – that she would “desire” her husband but that he would “rule over her.” The word for desire there is really a “desire to control.” So in the sinful, fallen state – women want to control their husbands and dominate them. (There are also women who become passive, subservient, voiceless and opinionless – “doormats.” Being a “doormat” does not honor God either and is not what it means to respect and submit to our husbands) And in the sinful state, men tend to either dominate their wives harshly or unplug and become passive and do and say nothing – like Adam did as Eve was listening to Satan and decided to eat the fruit.
- Also part of our sinful nature is to rebel against God Himself, God’s Word and all God-given authority. Our sinful nature does not like submitting to Christ. We want to do things OUR way. We believe that we know much better than God.
So we are – in our sinful nature – hardwired to want to control our men and to disrespect them.
Learning to become a godly wife involves disconnecting all those old circuits and allowing God to remove our sinful heart and mind – nailing it to the cross with Christ. Our sinful nature is now dead and buried with Jesus. We are no longer slaves to sin anymore! We can put on our ”new man in Christ.” And now we can be “slaves of righteousness” Romans 6.
It is only when we are “living by the Spirit” that we have the capacity to obey God and the power to walk in obedience to Him.
THIS FEELS “WRONG”
At first, it will feel VERY awkward and foreign to stop saying all the negative, critical, disrespectful, rude, hateful, judgmental, scolding, bossy words that have been our native tongue for all our lives. Even the sighs, the eye-rolls, the angry tone of voice and the body language that drips with contempt has to go! This is part of “dying to self” as we follow Christ. That old self and all those VERY DEEPLY INGRAINED HABITS have to die. They don’t go down without a huge battle! But not only is it important for us to get rid of these sinful ways so we can become the wives God wants us to be – but this is part of becoming more holy. This is how God uses marriage to refine our character and faith.
Some disrespectful things I needed to stop:
- telling my husband what to do and how to do it
- assuming I was always right
- assuming I always knew better than my husband
- berating my husband and criticizing him to others
- undermining my husband’s authority as a father
- looking down on him as if I was so much “more holy” than he was
- assuming he wouldn’t/couldn’t lead and taking over myself
- being impatient and expecting him to answer me within 10 seconds
- judging my husband and condemning him
- nagging him
- trying to decide his priorities for him
- insisting on and forcing my way
- praying for God to change my husband and ignoring my own mountain of sin
At first, I realized that almost every word out of my mouth to my husband – and many times to other people – was sin. So I got really quiet.
I didn’t have wisdom yet. And when you don’t have wisdom – it is better to be silent than to say something hurtful, unkind and hateful!
Eventually – there will be a total heart change where our old thoughts are dead and gone and we have new hearts and minds that think and speak like Jesus as we pursue Him and seek Him and desire Him above everything and everyone else!
Then, I began to discover things to say and do that were positive and respectful:
- thanking my husband for all that he does for me and our family
- appreciating his every effort
- seeing that God sees my husband and I on equal footing – both wretched sinners in desperate need of Christ. Any good in us is from Him alone.
- looking for the good in him and focusing on that – Philippians 4:8
- praising the good in him
- speaking highly of him to others
- standing with him in unity and upholding his authority as a father
- understanding that he didn’t have evil motives towards me – that he is a man and he is DIFFERENT from me. He is not me. He is not a woman. He is different – but that doesn’t mean he is wrong. And I can actually learn to appreciate the differences and savor them.
- smiling a genuine smile of adoration at him
- appreciating his masculine approach and wisdom
- using a friendly, pleasant tone of voice and facial expressions
- praying in private about him with an attitude of respect for my husband before God
- waiting, stepping down and allowing him to lead. Waiting. Lots of waiting. More waiting than I had ever done in my life.
- being receptive and responsive and open to him spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically
- placing myself under his protection and leadership
These things also felt awkward and foreign at first. But, in time, with MUCH prayer, much seeking God, much dying to self, my learning to set all my faith in Christ not myself or my husband – and much practice – after about 2 years or so – I began to feel like I had a clue what it meant to respect my husband and not to disrespect him.
It is like learning a new language. It takes time to become fluent. That is ok!
GOD’S WAYS LEAD TO LIFE
I have discovered that when I obey God and completely yield myself to Him in total trust and faith – He blesses me with His supernatural peace and joy. Even in the midst of trials and suffering.
What is it that most makes your man (if you have one) feel
You can try asking him to tell you 3 things for each – but if he wants to share more – that is great.
But this is about what he needs and his perception of feeling respected/disrespected by you. If he shares – don’t turn on him and say, “Well, you do X, Y and Z to me!” Don’t defend yourself or explain yourself. Just listen. Thank him and go pray about it.
If you do ask him – and he doesn’t want to answer. Don’t push him! That is fine. He may not feel safe enough to answer these kinds of questions yet or he may not be sure what he thinks. That is ok! Check out those posts about respect and disrespect and ask God to show you anything He wants you to change.
- Commit to compliment him in front of other people briefly 2 times in the coming week!
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A MAN RIGHT NOW:
Observe the interaction between other people. Watch for disrespectful things women, in particular, say to men. Notice the way that the men react. It is very subtle sometimes – just a clenching of the jaw, or maybe they leave the room. Watch for words of respect for men this week and if you see someone respect a man, watch his facial expressions and body language. What do you notice?
- Commit to briefly complement two Christian single men this coming week on things you sincerely admire in them if God gives you an opportunity.