This morning I had the privilege of participating in a conference call with a group of women learning to respect their husbands. The ministry that sponsored the call is the Annointed Wives Ministry and they hail from Chicago.
They are awesome. You should totally check them out above.
During the call, (and OH IT WAS EARLY… I was only half caffeinated, so I know any good came from God!) I was asked the most common question I get, which is, “How do I respect a man who doesn’t deserve it?”
The short answer is simply: you can’t.
But the Holy Spirit within you, can.
And before we get our judgment on, we need to remember that we’re as sinful as they come – we don’t deserve our husband’s love, either.
Both men and women crave intimacy in relationships, and while the way we go about it is different (proof God has a sense of humor, IMHO), we’re all pursuing that intimacy thing. We were made to crave relationship – but the relationship we crave is with Christ, and instead of filling ourselves with Him, we try to glean love from our husbands and our kids, and sometimes even our friends.
And the one who should leave? It’s not our husband, even if he’s behaving in a way that’s unloving or feels disrespected. It’s not us, even if we’re behaving disrespectfully, or if we feel unloved.
It’s the enemy.
And he’s playing a part in your marriage you are probably not even aware of.
The culture (and satan) would have us believe that we are a second-class citizen for choosing to respect and submit to our husbands – but if we will treat an employer or a traffic light with respect (submitting to the governing authorities in our lives) we should treat our husbands with that same respect – God holds him accountable for our families – check Genesis 3 for more on that.
Doing this doesn’t make us “less than” and no, I’m not saying your husband is your boss – rather I’m talking about how you choose to interact respectfully with someone else – why not choose to do that in your most important relationship?
Our husband also needs our help in doing marriage and family life – but we often get in the way of him receiving that help by setting up an environment where he is defensive.
Through criticism, we create an environment that fosters the exact opposite of what we’re looking for.
If we also buy the lie that to be respectful we have to be a doormat and we are not equally precious to God, then we foster resentment within ourselves, as well, which breeds contempt into the marriage, and according to research, this contempt is part of 100% of divorcing couple relationships.
What % of happily married couples have contempt?
So what does the Word say about criticism?
Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I’ve been studying criticism and defensiveness thanks to the research by Gottman, and have come to the conclusion that at the core of disrespect is criticism, the execution of the sin of judgment.
Since satan is known as “the accuser” and “the father of lies,” it would do us well to pay attention to this for a moment.
Criticism is accusation.
I’ve been reading a book by a PH.D. psychologist, Daniel Wile, (After the Fight – it’s full of meta-communication, so it might not be your cup of tea) and he explains that there are 5 levels of criticisms:
- Criticizing behavior: “you never do this,” or “you always do that,”
- Criticizing feelings: “you should feel this way instead of feeling the way you do”
- Criticizing character: “you’re irresponsible/unreliable/not worthy of respect/unloving/lazy/a bad listener,” or “that’s just an excuse,” etc.
- Criticizing personality: “you’re like this because your mother is like this,” “you have a personality disorder,” “you’re subconsciously trying to undermine me,” etc.” deciding we know why someone is the way they are
- Criticizing motives: “you don’t really feel that way,” “you’re just saying that,” “you’re trying to control me,” etc.
These are different than simple complaints, like, “I feel taken advantage of when I have to keep picking up your clothes off the floor, and I’d like you to try to do this yourself,” or even, “I feel afraid and nervous about our financial situation when I see charges on the credit card for things we didn’t agree to buy – I would like us to stick to the principles we set.”
Know that these behaviors fall into that category, and are what we see as the most common:
- eye roll
- lip purse
- eyebrow raise and a head tilt
- combined with statements that are about what WE think should happen or how the other person is. just. wrong. criticism-style.
- tone of voice that has a “you idiot” sound to it
- sarcasm (yes, I know, but MOST sarcasm is critical or disrespectful and is humor at someone else’s expense)
All of these things apply to conversations with ourselves, too. “I’m feeling nervous because I don’t like my teenager’s behavior and don’t know how to influence it,” versus, “I’m a terrible mom.”
The accuser is really good at what he does, isn’t he?
All of the above begins the cycle of defensiveness. We attack with criticism, or our husband does, and we respond defensively, which is often also another criticism.
Dare you today to STOP. Pray. Ask God, no, BEG GOD to help you stop being useful to the enemy.
ALL of those behaviors are disrespectful and the sin of judgment.
As I’m studying this, I’m becoming more and more aware of how often I criticize. I didn’t think I was a critical person, and honestly, haven’t ever been called that, but I think I might actually be.
I also used to think that because I also encourage people tons, that it was okay if I sometimes gave feedback that was a bit sharp – God’s revealing something different as true here for me.
How about you?
Know it is REALLY important to be able to influence your husband – of the cases studied by Gottman, of those who divorced, 81% of them had a husband who could not receive influence from his wife.
Understand that this is partly his issue and partly yours.
The natural response to criticism is to be defensive. If he’s consistently defensive, you will have little to no influence in your home.
And understand as well, that some men are just overly anxious and hyper-defensive, but you can still influence if you are respectful, even with them. I happen to think respect matters even more with them. And one criticism or emotional outburst will set you back years, so know that, too.
Dare you today to take inventory in the criticism department. Do you ascribe motives to people? Do you start sentences with “you always,” or “you never” – neither of which are true? And how’s your self-talk? The relationship we have with ourselves is vital to the relationships we have with others – how critical are you of yourself?
Understand that if your self-talk is overly negative, your outlook toward others will be overly CRITICAL.
Dare you to subscribe to the blog and keep moving forward with us. Next I plan to talk about being defensive – my guess is we don’t often even see the criticisms and defensive responses we dish to ourselves and others.
If we can do better in relationship by not casting judgment (criticism) and not responding pridefully (defensiveness) we can improve our relationships and move closer to that 5:1 positives to negative ratio DURING CONFLICT (it’s 20:1 outside of conflict!) that is present in happy marriages. Join me in this work? Would love to have you along for the journey! And I hope you’ll comment today and share where you are in all of this at the moment. 🙂
Love to you,