Wives are to love their husbands. There are many practical things to do to help establish an ongoing display of love. Next week we will talk about many of them. This week we will consider a major component in establishing a healthy marriage: respect toward your husband.
This scripture makes it clear that in our relationship with our husbands we must take care to show respect. Interesting that Paul calls for a husband to love his wife and a wife to respect her husband. Could it be that respect is a critical component in building your husband? Were you aware that women can have an active role in building men? You, as a wife, either build up or tear down.
Husbands need our respect. Theirs is a weighty calling: to work dutifully, to seek God on our behalf, to lead us, to love us as Christ loves the church. Responding with respect creates a safer environment in which he can carry out these duties. A loving, supportive wife is a treasure. A nagging woman who spews disrespect is far from that.
When we fail to show respect for his person, his words, or his decisions we are actively destroying his confidence. Negative comments and gestures tear down his sense of personal worth and value, stunting his leadership development. Often times I hear a wife claiming to want a stronger leader, complaining that her husband is not willing to be the head of the house. I guarantee that if a man is trampled on every time he tries to lead, he will be tempted to either shrink back or leave you behind. Neither one is desirable.
“But how can I show him respect? You just don’t know what he’s done!”
I know that some of you face very difficult situations; I don’t pretend to understand your dilemma. But I do know that what God commands us to do, He empowers us to do. His grace is sufficient. I don’t say that flippantly; I realize that for some women this is an extremely challenging command. My confidence is in His ability, not yours or mine. His love is present and available for a sinner like me — surely it can meet any other sinner as well.
“Why should I show him unconditional respect? He’s sinful, lazy, fallible…”
Exactly. Wives need to be taught to show respect because when a husband fails respect is not the natural response. The fact that your husband is a sinner is no surprise. You did marry a mere man. But his sin is not beyond the Lord’s redemption. Part of His redemption plan includes our display of respect. Our willingness to walk in respect toward our husband encourages, releases, and enlarges. When a man senses that his wife is respecting him, he walks more carefully and boldly. He is free to grow because he is free to make mistakes without being blamed, nagged, and scolded.
Am I saying that true respect never speaks a contrary word? Not exactly. I am saying that respect never speaks a nagging, belittling word. There is always room for an appeal to a decision, for us to voice an opposite opinion; Godly appeals are not belittling but are full of wisdom and encouragement.
Here is a simple chart comparing honoring and belittling.
|show respect for him||find fault|
|venerate (enlarge)||diminish (make small)|
|esteem (rate highly)||degrade|
|admire (highly prize)||devalue (diminish his worth)|
Showing respect is required both privately and publicly.
For instance, when you’re alone together he deserves to be given full respect. Don’t roll your eyes at his suggestions. Don’t jump in with a negative response before he has even finished his thought (and don’t jump in with a negative response even if he has finished his thought.) Don’t say, “I told you this would happen” if something goes wrong when you suspected it might. Why do wives expect their husbands to share their intimate thoughts and dreams if they are met with this kind of response? And why do we think they will become valiant leaders if we throw their failures up in their faces?
Now imagine this scenario. You are with your friends without hubby. Words slip into wrong directions and soon hubbies are being roasted right and left. You could jump in with that most embarrassing moment story of his, or you could join in by saying, “You’ll never guess what my husband does…”, or you might be tempted to voice your recent complaints. Don’t. Not even in jest, unless of course it is a story that has been previously approved by him. Sounds a bit extreme? Let’s remember “Do unto others”. When people tell a joke at my expense, it can hurt. When my failures become the brunt of humor, it can embarrass. It does not build. We can enjoy a good laugh as long as it in no way degrades or belittles or reveals sin. Love covers, love builds, love encourages.
Here’s another one: You’re visiting with a few other people and your husband endeavors to recount a story. A few sentences into his tale, you add a correction of his facts. He makes two more statements and another correction is made. This continues until he finally says, “Why don’t you tell the story — I never get it quite right.” Now, it may be that you have mutually agreed that he is not a good story teller. If so, that is fine. But if not, he may be feeling a bit put down. At that point you need to ask yourself, how important was it that the house was blue, not green? Did it really matter that the little boy was two and a half, not three? Maybe honoring your husband’s moment of story-telling was more critical.
When we show respect, we bring honor to him. When we cause shame, we are like the Proverbs 14.1 woman who foolishly pulls down her own house. So let’s remember once again to love our husbands by showing them the respect commanded by the Word of God.