Have you ever wondered, “What does it mean to submit to your husband?”
Or do you just kind of skim over those verses in the Bible, like I used to do, back in the dark ages, when we were first married?
I’ve written on this topic a number of times, and I know it often sets the keyboard on fire dealing with email and comments here and on Facebook. I’ll be honest, I don’t like writing about it – the stance I take is neither egalitarian or complementarian, but what I term, “wholetarian.” In other words, unlike many in Christiandom, I don’t do what our ministry has referred to for a decade as a popular Western cultural habit of thinking we’ve termed, “the pendulum swing,” which we define as buying into the “extremes” or “black and white thinking.”
So you may have more questions than answers after reading this. Please note that I boldly state in Daughters of Sarah that wives don’t have to blindly obey their husbands. I did name the course, “Daughters of SARAH.” So I got a few questions about that. I answered a few of them here, too.
Here’s a bit of a break down:
I don’t take the position that neither husband nor wife is held accountable to God (denying the Genesis 3 account where God holds the man accountable for the family – by asking him first, and dealing with him last, and ignores the many verses on headship) – wives, we are also held accountable by God, but He starts with the husband. We are ALL called to obey God.
I also don’t take the position that a wife is to 100% of the time obey or submit to her husband, this position ignores the examples of Sarah, Abigail, and Sapphira, plus the behavior of the apostles, who did not submit to the authorities and quit teaching (to the point of martyrdom, I might add).
I’m hoping that today’s post will answer a number of questions dealing with the questions. I’ll give some practicals and lots of links for you to peruse as you wrestle with the idea.
And you’ll need to wrestle with it, because it’s an important issue in marriage.
And it’s Biblical. There are two verses in the Bible that specifically state a woman is to submit to her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33, Colossians 3:18-19, to name them. Ephesians 5:24 specifically says a wife should submit to her husband “in everything.”
The problem is this – when we take the entire Bible and boil it down to just a few verses as the end word on everything, we end up in crazy space. We miss the entire picture.
We miss the whole truth.
That’s why it is REALLY important to read the Bible daily, and learn the entire text – because 2000 years after it was written, we’re STILL finding scientific evidence that what is says historically, relationally, emotionally, psychologically, etc., is actually true.
Sheila Wray-Gregoire discusses the “submission” concept in a concise and clear way in her newest book, Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (Waterbrook Press, 2015).
I thought it was funny we both wrote “Change Your Marriage” books at roughly the same time.
But I really appreciate Sheila because she’s an actual writer, brilliant, even. I love her simple thought that captures my heart of submission: “This is my husband, and I love him, and I want to please him.” She also says this: “It’s often been used in Christian circles in a way that seems to suggest that husbands should be sergeant majors and wives should be lowly privates ready and eager to obey. That doesn’t sound like an intimate marriage; that sounds like a power trip.” (pg 95)
The other day, my husband’s car stopped working on his way to work. He called me, told me what was going on, and I dropped everything to go help. I would have done the same for a good friend. Actually, I have. There was no “obedience” or “submission” crossing my mind or his, however. Does that make sense? He would have done the same for me. He wouldn’t have “commanded” me to help, either. He asked. And I jumped to it – not out of fear or anything else negative, but because I could help and I wanted to because I love him. If he had “lorded over me”and made a command instead of a request, I might have still done it, I might not have. I would have asked God what He wanted me to do.
When my husband is kind to me, I don’t always ask God… maybe I should, but I ascribe good will easily, so I naturally just want to do what I can.
If I wasn’t able to help him, say he had called when I was just about to run carpool for kids to get them to school, I would have communicated that. He would have made a decision about whether to call someone else, or we would have talked options and worked out a different solution. I wouldn’t have fussed about “hierarchy in marriage” and “submission” and “obedience” but had an adult-to-adult conversation.
The problem with “blind obedience” for wives is that it isn’t Biblical. God doesn’t even demand it of us – He says we WILL obey Him if we love Him, however, in John 14:23. But the word, “obey” is for children to obey parents.
The other problem with obedience is that parental relationships between spouses are super unhealthy.
How could “the two become one” mean that an adult man needs a child woman to fulfill something lacking in himself? Not to devalue children in anyway, as they should be treated with respect and honor and not as property or they will despise us as parents (remember we’re not to exasperate or “arouse them to anger”) but how could a parent-child relationship even function as a marriage? Does that make sense?
The best way I’ve found to look at the entire submission concept coincides with something else Sheila says on page 99: “Treating marriage like a hierarchical relationship makes it sound as though wives and husbands are constantly at odds and someone needs to have the final say. It indicates that we’re in competition, not in unity.”
Here’s why that makes sense – “headship” does mean “source” (read her section on that – it’s really well done) but it also means “leader with authority” as there are no instances in the Bible of “head” being used without authority. The problem is how we look at the word, “authority.” It’s viewed as negative, with a connotation of opposing sides, like Sheila talks about. Management-versus-labor-style.
When marriages “work” you have a husband who follows the verses directed at him – he doesn’t treat his wife like she is his maid, slave, or servant, but rather his equal heir (1 Peter 3:1-7). He doesn’t dismiss or discount her opinions. He thinks about how his choices or desires effect her. He is concerned about her when she isn’t feeling good. He doesn’t increase her work load, but pitches in as a life-participant. He isn’t a taker, he’s a giver, also, in the marriage. He treats her as an equal heir to the throne of grace, he loves her well, putting effort into his relationship with her and the kids. A guy like that is certainly more easy to “follow.” But like he can’t “make you follow him” – you can’t “make him love you or lead well.”
So many women are in marriages where the husband acts like a dictator of sorts, ruling with fear and anger, refusing to be Christ-like. I have had several friends whose husbands behaved this way. It’s really hard for their wives not to hate them and at the very least, the marriages end in isolation – the opposite of one-ness. It makes submission difficult, but it doesn’t let us off the hook – we still have to be open to our husband, even if we are closed to his sin, if that makes sense.
1 Peter 3:1-6…the verses that refer to an “unsaved or un-following man” are those that start with “therefore” linking back to slaves and masters – implying that a wife married to a non-believer or a man who isn’t following is going to be dealing with someone behaving like Abraham did, putting Sarah at risk, where she was going to have to be BRAVE, and did what he wanted her to do, and didn’t sell him out – probably because she believed God and saw her situation as less important than Abraham’s protection, given what God had said to him. What is interesting is when her story is told, Genesis 21:12 is often left out, where God tells Abraham to do what Sarah has told him! 🙂 That’s a whole long discussion, btw, but we should also note that the first time Sarah didn’t rat out her husband when he lied and she ended up in a harem, she didn’t know for sure she’d be the mom of the coming nations. The second time, God had clearly told her she would be. So maybe the first time, she was being brave, and the second time she was wildly trusting God with the outcome.
But mutual submission existed in the Old Testament – and God was the one telling Abraham to do what Sarah told him to do. 🙂 It doesn’t negate the other verses, however.
There’s also another example that we need to be aware of, one in which a wife completely “disobeys” her husband’s wishes. It’s found in 1 Samuel 25.
The Bible describes the pair of Abigail and Nabal this way: The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; and we should also note that “Nabal” means “fool.” In a nutshell, David spends a bunch of time protecting Nabal’s property, and as is the custom of that day, he asked for provisions. Nabal has a rant and says, “NO.” David’s more than ticked off about this. One of the servants tells Abigail what happened, and she goes out with provisions herself, apologizes, and David decides not to destroy everyone in her home and calls her blessed. She also calls David to a higher level as a man, motivating him to do the right thing. He does and decides not to kill everyone. When she gets back, Nabal is drunk, so she doesn’t tell him what happened until the next day, and Nabal’s heart has issues (was it from the awareness that he just about got him and his household killed?) and then he dies.
So here’s a Biblical example of a wife who is strong, discerning, but doesn’t allow her husband to destroy himself or her family. She clearly doesn’t “obey” her husband – but God punishes him, not her!
Acts 5 begins with a story about how a man and wife lie and God strikes them both dead. The wife had the opportunity to tell the truth, but she went along with the lie, even though she knew the truth – and it’s interesting that it is Peter, the writer of the “gentle quiet spirit” verses in 1 Peter 1-6, is the one who verbally clobbers her for doing so, right before God takes her life as well. It’s also interesting that the chapter also contains a story about Peter and the apostles refusing to obey the leaders of the church and he says in verse 29, “We must obey God rather than men.”
I might be wrong here, but I think we can interpret God striking people dead as His not approving of their behavior.
At the risk of making you discouraged about what your husband is or is not doing, let’s talk about this practically. I admire Sheila’s stance on what to do if our husband is making poor choices. Common Christian thought is to go along with it, obey. But that thinking flies in the face of the above. As she so eloquently puts it, “Peter would have been the last person to say we should ever put a human authoirty in God’s place!” (pg 102).
For those of us who want to use the word “helper” as a second-class citizen status, we need to understand that in the original language, it’s used to represent God and the Holy Spirit, and if you really study, you’ll see that “helper” pretty much equates to “warrior” – but not as a warrior against, but one with – in other words, ON THE SAME SIDE.
I also love it that she talks about how “deferring to your husband is not the answer to every marriage problem.” Sheila says on page 109, “… I think that submission – ‘putting ourselves under’ our husbands and willingly pursuing our husband’s best – is the primary tool to attain this oneness. In humility, we become willing to think of his needs, his wants, his interests, his desires, before we think of our own. We pursue his best before we pursue our best.”
The problem comes in when he’s not leading like Christ loves the church, or when he isn’t a believer. If he’s lording over you by taking authority instead of receiving responsibility, he’s probably harsh and domineering. No one has an easy time following a “leader” like that. Dr. Larry Crabb deals with this beautifully, encouraging a wife to “be submissive” by being agreeable to her husband, but not to his bad behaviors.
This can be hard to do, but if you know who you are in Christ, if you are a woman of Strength & Dignity, it’s easier than you think, although your husband will not be a person who will be capable of building you up. Living with him can destroy your sense of worth to the point where you feel like dying – that’s why we have the Strength and Dignity eCourse (it’s free!) – you can sign up here and here’s more info about it.
So how does this play out daily? Here’s an example:
He doesn’t teach the kids the Bible or grow his own faith. Am I being unsubmissive if I do it? NO. We’re all called to disciple. You’re NOT being submissive if you demean, berate, dismiss, or treat him like a second class citizen because you know more about it than he does, however. Submission is like respect on steroids. Treat your husband well, regardless of whether or not he is right.
Bottom line: Above all, obey God. Stop being afraid of your husband (that’s Dare 2 this week!) and fear God instead – it’s the beginning of wisdom, so goes the Proverb.
Here’s a few more links for those who are itching for even more…
From Sheila Wray-Gregoire (Here’s her book on Amazon): (and when you check the post below, you should totally subscribe to her blog, To Love Honor & Vacuum!)
From Family Life & Me:
I tried to get to the questions submitted – and I’m sending this to you knowing I’ll hear from someone – the last time I wrote on the topic, I left out a verse that said nearly the same thing as two others and got a very long email from a “sister in Christ” who needed to “in love” “chastise” me for “maligning the Word.”
I’m not going to nail this topic perfectly – and I’m open to hearing where I’ve missed the mark and really want your thoughts about the subject. I look forward to discussion today – just be respectful! Majoring in a minor non-truth is also known as “nit picking” and it’s disrespectful, so treat me the way you’d like to be treated, okay?
I’m really thankful that warning is for less than 1% of my audience – just having a rough week and don’t have the bandwidth for a bunch of aggression, so be gentle and kind while we talk this, okay?
SO. What about you? How does all this play into what you’ve been taught? What do YOU think are some of the common “submission myths” out there?
Love to you,
To think that we might be causing some of the problems in our marriage should shake us to the core. Like I said to my two teenagers yesterday, “Both of you are contributing to this.” I’m not off the hook, either. I know I am responsible for my share of the problems in my own relationships.
Let’s go there. I know, scary, right? First, watch the video.
(But also know the good news is if we’re causing part of the problem – we can STOP.)
It’s legit. The main point is simply this – when we argue, unless the other person is uber-mature and humble, we force him to become MORE deeply entrenched in his position, instead of considering what WE want him to be open to.
The video is just the science behind this:
Instead of arguing, if we will have but empathy and compassion for another’s opinion or behavior, and give voice to our understanding of their position, we can then ask a thoughtful question that can turn others toward a completely different way of thinking so much so that they will even convince themselves their own position or behavior is wrong.
Bet you can come up with a bunch of verses on empathy and compassion, listening, being patient, kind, etc….
After chewing on those for a bit, you might want to read this to understand why defensiveness matters in your relationship with your husband, your kids, and even yourself. The video adds another “how to make someone defensive” tip to the list.
And if you find that you make others defensive a LOT, then you might want to read this to learn a quick way to stop. Read this to find out why it’s happening in the first place. If you are angry and resentful a lot yourself read this – because maybe, just maybe, you’ve stopped being his wife, and are acting like his mom. Or maybe you are just too critical and not compassionate enough toward yourself.
Or maybe you have a guy who is just plain angry all the time.
How do you know someone is defensive?
Easy. They are justifying their behavior.
They aren’t taking ownership about something they should not have done, should have done, etc., and are explaining why they did or didn’t do what they did or didn’t do. You bring a complaint to the person and suddenly there’s a bunch of defending going on, hence the word, “defensive.”
As my husband likes to say, “All excuses just diminish one’s character.” So as a result of the defensive response, you then feel even more resentful, bitter, critical, angry, hurt, whatever. So yeah – no empathy or compassion for you, only justification.
It’s toxic to relationships.
Toxic to the relationship you have with yourself, too. Seriously – think about it. If you are critical of yourself, then you shame yourself, you aren’t behaving in healthy ways. Don’t believe me? Check this post. Then start taking every thought captive – even the ones about yourself.
Today I’m wondering… and I have three questions for our deep thinkers here who want to respond….
1) What is the thing you want to change about someone else who doesn’t want to change?
2) Is what you are currently doing making them defensive?
3) If yes, what can you do instead?
So many times I see this with about 1/3 of women – the woman tries all the things… follows all the experts’ advice… but her husband? He thinks life is just great – and takes advantage of the situation…takes her respect, takes her love, takes her care, takes her effort, takes and takes until she finds herself depleted, hurt, and angry. Even if she knows God, she’s still not as mature as Jesus. She’s spent. Poured out. She’s ASKED for what she wants, and he still just takes from her.
So what happens?
She checks out. Letting him have her heart becomes too risky. So she puts her heart in a jar and chooses apathy instead. He might notice. If she separates, he notices and might try. If she’s emotionally distant, he tries harder.
Why? Because we are wired to pursue things we can’t have. We are easily disatisfied creatures.
And then, if she doesn’t respond, he often gives up, too – but sooner than she did. The hard thing is that by this time, her heart is hard. If it doesn’t soften, the marriage dies.
So today, I want to ask YOU a question.
Think in terms of the people you make defensive. Tweens and teens and husbands coming to mind…???
How often do we lecture others or “give information” as “help” … and is that actually helpful? If the point of that communication is to encourage change, are we effective? With them? With ourselves?
So for today, after you watch the video, I dare you to think of the last time you made someone defensive, including yourself. Were you giving information? Lecturing even? Did they (or you) start justifying or making excuses or explaining?
What question(s) to put them on the other side of the issue could you have asked instead?
- What do you want to change about someone who doesn’t want to change?
- What could you be doing to make them defensive?
- What question(s) could you ask instead?
And for extra credit, how is that respectful?
Think about this… have you ever argued anyone into the Kingdom? Or “won an argument” with your husband? If you win and he loses, you BOTH lose.
SO very glad you are here! 🙂 Can’t wait to chat!
Love to you,
Oh, and if you got this as an email forward from a friend who cares about you and your marriage, know we’d love YOU to join us on this journey. The road is long and hard, and often paved with tears, but worth traveling – and you’re not alone.
You can get marriage TIPS! articles and a free copy of my eBook, 101 Ways to Respect Your Husband, and other marriage info here. We promise not to share your email with anyone, ever. You’ll get just one TIPS! article a week, plus a blog post or two here and there.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:6-7
I pulled up to pay my ticket and leave the parking garage after my husband’s cardiology appointment.
The man asked me, “How are you doing today?” as I gave him my dollar. I paused. Then I lied.
“Fine,” I said.
He smiled. Then he said, “Have a good day,” and the gate opened. I turned my head and watched the yellow bar rise. In front of me was the garage exit…and I felt confused.
Why was the sun shining?
When my father died, I remember driving around, seeing people mowing their lawns, raking leaves, playing with their kids, and I thought, “Don’t they know something awful has happened? Don’t they know the world is forever changed?”
And this day, the sun shining outside that dark garage brought similar feelings to my heart.
The news from the doctor was not good.
The miracle did not come.
Part of me is terrified. The other part wars against the fear, white-knuckling my faith.
God is good all the time.
God IS. Good. ALL the time.
The words catch in my throat and my vision blurs. The tears leak out over the edges of my eyes like a too-full cup that just can’t hold one more drop.
I think I drove for a long while before I realized I didn’t know where I was.
I kept forgetting to breathe.
And then I knew I couldn’t go home.
My kids were at home. All of them. And I was in no shape to talk to anyone, let alone the people that will need me to be a broken woman of strength and dignity, smiling at the days to come.
I thought we had more time before the decision we needed to make would need to be considered.
More time before machines ran his heart and they operated (and excuse me but…how on earth is that even possible??).
More time to pray for the miracle.
And I felt very alone, as I drove, trying to figure out where I was, forgetting I could just push a button in my GPS and it would get me where I needed to go.
I wondered, “Who can I talk to? Do I even have any friends?” I think it’s called “going limbic” when your brain is so depleted of blood and oxygen by surging adrenalin that your body is ready to respond, but your brain operates on significantly less capacity – in other words, we become stupid. That was me at that moment.
I find it ironic that this is the state within which we often pursue conflict in marriage and family – it’s called the “fight or flight” response.
I couldn’t remember the names of any of my friends or who they were or even what they looked like. But the face of one finally came, and I remembered that she was my friend.
So I pulled over and texted her.
Are you home?
Can I come over? I need a friend.
You bet. I’m a mess and my house is a wreck, but come anyway.
And I was thankful. Thankful I had someone to talk to.
Thankful she cared more about me than appearances.
We cried and prayed together. Then I went home to my kids.
And on the ride home, I was so very thankful for her. I didn’t care that she was still in her workout clothes from the morning. I didn’t care what her house looked like. I honestly can’t really even remember those things – but I do remember her.
What I didn’t know at the time was that it was Him in her that wrapped arms around me, praying aloud for comfort, joy, wisdom, all the things…
More of Him, always, isn’t it?
As a really big and bad ugly week made worse by dreaded news came to an end, I clung to what I know is True.
And He is good. ALL the time.
And so today, I ask you to just join me.
Join me in knowing Him in the midst of our struggles.
Join me in seeking Him when we forget everything because we’re not feeling like uber-strong water walkers, but we’re instead fighting waves of grief and fear which threaten to coldly, sharply wash over us and drown us in the sea.
Join me as we cling to faith with our fingernails, knowing we are being tested, knowing He is with us, knowing He is trusting us with His absence, and remembering what is True.
I don’t know what the future will bring.
I don’t need to. We’ve made it through two pectus excavatum surgeries with two teen boys, and we’re getting prepared (whatever that means) for heart surgery for my husband, all the while, praying for a miracle.
Subscribe to the side, and pray for us all as we struggle through the sorrows of this world. Today, I’m taking comfort in this:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:6-7
And I choose for THIS NOW that I’m in, moment by moment, to cling to faith. To choose Life. Because He chose me. And He chose you.
In the last week I’ve dealt with more pain and sorrow with members of our ministry team than I would ever choose to. Alligator tear-style pain. Stop-the-planet-I-want-to-get-off-style pain. My heart breaks for them as we all undergo trials on this vertical growth curve given to those who choose to serve with everything they have.
And the simple truth?
We ALL need heart surgery.
It just looks different from person to person. Know what I mean?
Would just love to hear from you today. What struggles have you endured? What “heart surgery” has God performed on YOUR heart? As for me, I’m sure it’s being more loving, more patient, more kind, more gentle, less proud, less envious, protecting, hoping, rejoicing in truth, persevering-style.
And can I trouble you to please pray for us? Plus the ministry and our staff? Last week, when I shared what was going on with our team and all the struggles, a friend replied, “You must be launching Daughters.” I know He allows it, and He is good, but I confess, I’m not that big of a grown up sometimes and I weep for us and those I serve with.
Love to you,
Got an angry husband?
You know that heart-pounding-freaking-out feeling that you hate? That moment where he’s suddenly upset and you are surprised and then your own flight or fight response kicks in?
One thing that might help is simply this: create safety for him.
Know why he looks angry? He’s DEFENSIVE. He’s wired to be on the lookout for threats – and he thinks you just became one.
And you can do something about it.
Sounds crazy, right? Might even fit in the “Why is it me that has to do all the work?” category… but you have to realize that YOU are hardwired to deal with this more easily than he is. More on why that is here.
So next time, try this: create safety by getting rid of his fear.
“I might be wrong, but are you concerned that I think you did something dumb here? I’m not. I realize you were doing what you thought was the right thing. I appreciate you even handling it in the first place. What I’m wondering is how we can make the best of the situation now, and that’s what I’d like to talk through.”
So in other words, get rid of the fear by dealing with what may be the trigger – by stating clearly what you are NOT doing, and then stating what you ARE.
Fear is generated by the assumption of heinous motive to cause harm. Create safety by getting rid of it. State what you are NOT doing, then state what you ARE.
Be RESPECTFUL. It changes everything.
Try that today – it will require not taking things so personally, too! 🙂 That can be hard, but know most of our assumptions are just as wrong as his are! 🙂 And the Spirit will seek out what’s good and noble and praiseworthy, just to name a few things.
On another note, we’re pretty excited about something. We’re launching Daughters of Sarah in January – would love to have you be on the team!
You can find out more here – there’s an application – and it could end up giving YOU the entire set of videos – for free! 🙂 Hope you’ll come over and play with us!
Love to you,
A few days ago, I received this in reference to my post on dealing with someone who verbally assaults you:
My husband has in the past referred to me as ‘a piece of skin that he uses for sex’. I was so hurt about this but still chose to extend grace to him and continued the relationship with all its benefits. This only served to make him more comfortable with his viciousness towards me, he interpreted it as a sign of weakness. Just last week he told me several times that I was an ugly B – and that I didn’t know how ugly I was and that I needed to have plastic surgery. He told me he was too good for me and that he and his whole family spoke about he could end up with someone as ugly as me after all the beautiful women he had dated. His words have made it so difficult for me to feel safe enough to be intimate with him and because of that he is labelling me an unchristian wife for not meeting his needs. This is a man who has not apologized or retracted any of the disgusting things he has said about me for the 4 years we have been married.
At what point does the grace you are trying to extend to your husband just amount to enabling him to abuse you further? If a husband has by his words or actions caused division in the marriage, should this be overlooked and should the wife still cater to his every need while he goes on behaving badly? While love is unconditional, are we honestly expected to allow our husband to treat us in as degrading a manner as they feel like and then continue to extend the benefits of marriage to them while they completely ignore their responsibilities to the marriage? Is that really being the helper God intended for him….because as much as you say it’s not….it still sounds like you’re asking us to be doormats….
I cried with her.
And prayed for her.
But there is hope – he claims to be Christian. This beautiful girl is being verbally abused by the man who is supposed to cherish her. I don’t know what the other side looks like (there’s always two sides) but if this was me (and it’s not, so this may be worth what you paid for it, which is nothing) I’d confront him, Matthew 18-style. And I’d remember that God loves him, too, even though he is very unloving (to say the least) in his behavior. I’d also remember that his words were lies, inspired by the enemy, and that he was being useful to satan – but only if I let him.
Given his behavior, he sounds REALLY immature. So even the gentlest of respectful confrontations in response to another cutting remark, ie: “Honey, I’m sure you don’t mean to demean me with your words, but they hurt me and I feel diminished as a person when you say them. Please stop,” will probably only serve to make him more angry.
But it is worth doing, because he claims to be Christian. And this is what the Word tells us to do when a brother sins against us, and this man’s behavior seems seriously damaging. And sometimes, Love must be tough. Jesus-style.
I know that my communication suggestions upset and offend – but when have you ever argued someone into behaving like a Christian? Or becoming one? Either the Word is true or it is not. And if it’s not to you, then none of what I suggest is going to do anything but irritate you anyway. “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1. The entire book of How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie and The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute and a whole host of other communication and human relations books are based on these principles.
Smart negotiators do not stir up anger.
Smart communicators don’t either.
This stuff is all in the Bible, and in The Respect Dare, and in 12 Truths to Change Your Marriage (my new book).
It’s not “sugar coating” or “schmoozing” unless your heart is manipulative. It is called “good human relations” and it’s fifteen levels above “please” and “thank you.”
So when/if it doesn’t go well, she can escalate things to the next step in Matthew 18, which is to have the conversation in front of a witness. A counselor, another Christian man he respects, but SOMEONE ELSE needs to be there. And then she will need a ton of girlfriend time – because unless he sees the light from that encounter, he may get even more angry.
And then, when/if she sees his lack of repentance, and lack of change, she needs to involve her church leadership – as in their pastor, a wise elder or two, etc. She might be met with a beautiful outcome like this woman was when she confronted her husband about his pornography use. He also wrote a post about his experience.
Unfortunately, few women are brave enough to take this step. And few churches will handle this well. But they should.
He may respond with even more anger – but at least she’ll know what she’s dealing with. A growing Christian man will feel saddened for hurting his bride and likely change his behavior at step 2, often at step 1. One who may have head knowledge but no fruit leaves her with the “treat him like pagans and tax collectors” verse – which may mean “know what you are dealing with” but stay in relationship, or depending on her circumstances, if she is afraid (and men often become violent after the progression of verbal abuse) she may need to separate for a while (1 Corinthians 7:10-11) with the purposes of working on the marriage and restoration.
And sorry, no I don’t buy only the “shun” interpretation. This passage is in MATTHEW. He was a tax collector. Do the math.
I also don’t buy that it is only for “church discipline.” The original texts did not contain the headings that have been added. And yes, I know there are those that will disagree with me, saying that it is un-submissive for a woman to confront her husband’s sin. Bet Sepphira wishes she would have.
I’ve seen women called by God to endure the most horrific of circumstances, things we in the west don’t often face. Just a few days ago, Christian men were lined up and executed in front of their wives and children, who were then taken captive to be used as human shields in Iraq by Isis. Children are being beheaded. This is real. It’s been going on for weeks. Christians have always suffered persecution for their faith, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when it shows up even today, even in the average American home.
Yes, I’m tying these things together.
We are in a war. And I believe, sure as I’m sure I’m breathing, that this country needs an army of women to gently, quietly, bravely stand for the Truth, to be ambassadors for Christ in their homes. Jesus-style, with gentleness, kindness, boldness, and bravery, to model Him to others – especially these men who like think they are Christians (and may be) but treat their wives in such horrible ways (and worse – oh so much worse).
The answer is always the same – know God. Make your relationship with Him your number one priority. He will lead you into battle, whether it is on your knees in prayer (always), or in gentle confrontations with the man who says he believes but is mean to you and your kids, or whether it is leaving for a while so you can all be safe.
Let us not kid ourselves – we watching an age of persecution begin – and understand some of it is already hitting America. Pray for your husbands – that they fall madly in love with Jesus Christ. Know Him deeply yourself.
And while we are at it, please, please, pray for our sisters and brothers and their children in Iraq.
It is all part of the journey. I hate that sometimes. But I’m really glad you are here. I hope you are subscribed – I’m putting together a little video on conflict that I can’t wait to share with you next week! And I’m sorry that I didn’t blog specifically on Dare 29 this week. However, if you check the link (also referred to above) you’ll see how confrontation played into one woman’s experience of pornography addiction with her husband. It’s amazing what God did.
Would love to hear your thoughts on all this today…
Love to you,
There are many things you can do when you are verbally assaulted, and if you have an angry man you are married to, or you have regular disagreements with people, you are probably wanting to know how to disagree with them without feeling like a doormat.
Or maybe you are still wondering if you are “allowed” to disagree with your husband, according to the Bible.
If you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, none of this matters. If you don’t believe Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, died, rose again, and would do all of it for just YOU, none of this matters, either.
But when you do believe, you aim to please God. You live your life out of a heart of gratitude.
And if you are wondering how to respectfully disagree, check the exchange between me and the guy named, “thehaproject” and then look at the exchange between “Jean” and a number of different women on this post.
And understand if your husband is verbally abusive or beating you, I am not talking to you. You need to get yourself safe. I am speaking to others who are dealing with this.
Here’s the bottom line, based on my observations. Might be Truth, might be worth what you paid for it, which is nothing:
ALL people are deserving of respect, including our husbands. Being disrespectful during conflict, or “standing up for your rights” aggressively, however, FAILS in building relationship and in being heard.
Defensiveness breeds more defensiveness and heightens argument and disagreement.
There is another way. And that’s what The Respect Dare is all about.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions. (Are you listening and trying to understand before you disagree or “call him on it”?)
Proverbs 11:27 He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it. (Are you giving the benefit of the doubt and focusing on common ground, or are you looking to point out how the other person is WRONG?)
Proverbs 16:32 Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Do you have to solve it NOW, or can you calm down, pray, and then walk through things in a winsome way? Can you wait until God’s timing is right to deal with an issue or must you force the issue in your timing?)
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. (Notice it doesn’t say to verbally assault him back – we are to treat others the way we want to be treated.)
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Sometimes we are “thin” in our ability to love well. Our “love muscle” that bears with another is weak.)
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (We need to mature in our faith, and we need to reflect Christ’s character when we deal with others, and it will help them mature – are we getting in the way of another’s growth because we fail to do this? Arguing and defensive behavior makes other people more defensive.)
Galatians 5:22-23a But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Do you have these fruit in your life? The presence or absence of the fruit of the Spirit is EVIDENCE of our relationship with God. Got fruit?)
And no, we don’t have to be perfect – there’s only ONE Jesus. We will sin and sin and sin until we go Home. But will will also mature, and grow and grow and grow – if God wills it (Hebrews 6:3) and we do our part by studying the Bible daily, asking Him for help in knowing Him, praying, listening, and OBEYING what we are learning.
But here’s the thing – knowing that God wills whether people grow or not – can we recognize that the “immature person” we are dealing with is also there to deepen our faith and sharpen us?
We don’t learn patience, kindness, gentleness, etc., in the easy times, but in the hard moments when it is difficult to do so.
As for me, I find the above verses both convicting and encouraging. And the question I wrestle with sometimes too is this: Do I trust God with this relationship, knowing He means ALL things to work together to grow me up in the faith? In other words, this difficult person is in my life to help me grow in my relationship with the Lord…Do I believe what I say I believe? 🙂
And no, I’m not telling you to be a doormat. 🙂 Check the above links if you still think that.
I know, ouch. 🙂 For me, too, baby, for me too.
Several of you have asked me to write about how to deal with a “mocker” or “fool” or “scoffer” and I’ll be doing that soon. I’m glad you are here and would love to hear what you are thinking about all this today! Will blog on this week’s dare tomorrow. In the meantime, would love to have you subscribe or sign up for TIPS so you don’t miss a single thing! 🙂
Love to you,
Yesterday I asked women what they think of the marriage TIPS emails they receive from us. From the survey results so far, it seems like women generally love them and are helped by them, AND they are aching for more information about what to do with three major situations. Maybe you’ve dealt with them?
- an angry husband, and
- a non-responsive husband
- how to deal with being ignored frequently
My heart aches over some of the comments. The alone-ness, the invisibility, the lack of influence… it can destroy a woman’s soul when her heart is yearning to simply serve and bless.
So what have YOU found that “works” in dealing with these things? Feel free to share your story here in the comments, or here, on the “submit a story” page. I’ll run most of the submissions in the upcoming series.
If you haven’t taken our survey yet, and you receive the TIPS, we’d love to know what you think, too! It’s just 6 questions and we’d love to hear from you. Your answers are also confidential, like your email. Thanks for trusting us. 🙂
One of the other points clearly made about the marriage TIPS is that they’ve been hard to find – so we’re making it easy. You can now sign up on the sidebar to the right or at the bottom of this post. 🙂
I’ll share the full results of the survey next week. Am giving it a few more days to collect info for us. We’re interested in writing what you want and need, so I want to hear from as many of you as possible before I close it.
SO very glad you are on this journey with us! 🙂
Love to you,
Her husband is angry again.
He paces back and forth in the bedroom, looking for his belt, his hand running through his hair. His face wears anxiety. Worry furrows his brow.
“Can I help you with anything?” she asks.
“I can’t tell you anything because you will think I’m telling you that you’re a bad wife, so I can’t ask you for help finding my belt – and then you’ll just get mad at me because I didn’t put it away and I never pick up my clothes and it will be all about how I need to change and be better,” he says. His words fly out of his mouth with disdain and contempt, dripping accusation onto her heart.
She wonders silently to herself, a little confused, but familiar with the misperception toward her. She used to get upset at these outbursts aimed at her or whoever else might be handy, but she has been spending regular time with God for a long time, so her sight is clearer in this moment, and she can see what is true.
And what he says is not true. She has owned these things in the past, but that was nearly 20 years ago when his losing something would make her think he was irresponsible, or his comment would result in her feeling like she should be picking his clothes up off the floor for him. She realized years ago, however, that those attitudes were the sin of judgment – toward him and herself. They were sin. She’s been different for a long time, nearly two decades, actually, but he can’t see it.
She thinks maybe the accusations come from old tapes, but none originate from things she’s actually saying (or even thought) or how she actually felt in many years. She also usually does not feel inadequate at all, thankfully. She knows the Father’s Truth for her: she’s a sinner saved by grace, not perfect, but she also does her best, tries to improve, and makes mistakes and apologizes for them. She wishes her husband did not come up with these negative ideas about her, and sometimes, when she fields more than several from him in a day toward her and their kids, she is worn from the onslaught of accusation…but in this one moment, she knows she can’t control his thoughts.
Unfortunately, his words toward her nearly daily are negative. Prescriptive. Accusing.
His communication toward her in small ways repeatedly communicates he thinks she is insincere, uncaring, unloving, and even hateful toward him. He doubts her love and affection for him – and as a result, rejects her efforts toward him. But daily, she still keeps trying, obeying God in how she treats him.
At her core, she knows he doesn’t feel worthy of positive anything from anyone, not just her. She has watched him reject affection and kindness from others, attributing their behavior to heinous motives instead of receiving gifts of God’s love through His people. She feels sad for him. How alone must he feel? Her prayer for years has been that he deeply receive God’s love, fall in love with Christ and see himself the way the Father sees Him. So far, God seems to not be answering, or maybe she can’t see through her own hurt, too. She is not sure.
As her thoughts dwell on past failures with him, she begins to long for something different for them both for a moment. His words combined with the twist in her own thoughts begin the sting. Tears well. She begins to feel the accusation threatening to crush her heart. “What’s true, Father?” her soul cries out.
Love is true. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love speaks the truth, gently, with intent to restore.
So what is true? She knows he loves her, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. She knows she loves him, too, so in this moment, she will choose to act on that, instead of taking his words personally and being hurt by them.
And she doesn’t sense the leading to confront his sin against her in this moment. She remembers. The accuser wants to blame, to criticize, to judge. The accuser wants her to be useful to him. She knows that like her husband, she has also been useful to the accuser, the enemy.
She could join him now in blaming her husband and justifying her hurt – but that is also not being loving.
She refuses to receive accusation – toward herself or her husband.
She refuses the invitation to join the accuser in discouragement, despair, anger, hurt, and resentment.
She refuses the invitation to battle with her husband.
She receives Love.
She accepts that she is precious, even though someone is not treating her as such right now.
She accepts God’s invitation to join Him in a place of peace.
And her heart calms. She then invites her husband to join her in that same peace.
“I’m so sorry you are having trouble finding your belt – but know I’m just wanting to help. I’m not upset at all about you not knowing where it is… Please know I don’t feel responsible for your stuff, and yeah, I do put it away sometimes, but I’m not judging you or myself about your belt. Which one is it? Can I help you find it?” she inquires. “It’s not your problem,” he says, sighing, and wanders off.
She owns none of this and goes about her next task, wondering if her husband received her love, knowing he at least received the invitation to join her in peace. True, he refused her help, but he also refused to continue to be useful to the enemy and continue the battle toward her.
He who seeks good finds good will, but evil comes to him who searches for it.
In the midst of the many moments of a day, we are repeatedly presented with THE CHOICE.
In just a few seconds, we either choose to walk the path of the enemy, or the path of Christ. If we are “prayed up” and “read up” (meaning we’ve had regular devotional time with God – reading the Bible, listening to Him, and sharing with Him our struggles and requests) we have a greater opportunity to see things through what we call the Lens of the Holy Spirit – seeing the way God sees.
We are not as easily deceived.
It’s Philippians 4:8 in action: whatever is true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, and excellent – think about these things. That verse is the theme of our ministry, Greater Impact. It is also my “life verse” and has been instrumental in changing all of my relationships in positive ways, including my relationships with God, myself, and others, especially my husband. When I look at Dare 26 from The Respect Dare, I can see another verse coming to life in both the book, and the story above.
I also see the reviewers who criticize The Respect Dare on Amazon or on their blogs differently than I may have in the past. I just feel sad for them as they pen their own accusations. They don’t get it. They see respecting our husbands as being a doormat, when in fact, it is not. I wonder if they believe that demanding better treatment from anyone actually works? Has it for you? I know it has not for me, or others. Marriage provides a strengthening context where we learn to not be selfish, pull together, and are not alone – if we’ll but do it God’s way.
But when our heart is at war with God, no truth can penetrate. They misunderstand me and misperceive the words He had me write – I’m not endorsing second-class citizenship for women, but rather freedom from our own sins of judgment, which shows up as self-justification and blame. Love instead of hateful behaviors that destroy relationship. Speaking the truth in love, not lying to “keep the peace” – and in the lie, the peace is not actually kept, but rather the deceiver wins another round, causing anger within us as we betray ourselves, our God, and others.
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:10
The story in the book talks also about the Biblical concept of “submission.” There’s more going on here, however, than initially meets the eye. The more I come to know God, the more I understand that as we grow as followers of Christ, we naturally become more open to receiving Truth from other followers of Him.
I also fully embrace the Truth that women are not second-class citizens, but that we are told specifically to submit to our husbands because we are going to be less inclined to naturally do so. And submission isn’t what we think it is. I used to think the verse above in Corinthians meant I was to be a doormat and just go along with whatever anyone else said, laying down my own opinion. I used to think the concept of submission meant the same thing – except applied to my husband.
I was wrong.
Thankfully, God revealed that to me before I started blogging. 🙂
And lest you think I’m spewing heresy, understand I’m not the only one to claim this is true. Dr. Larry Crabb and others also speak to these in a number of writings.
What if “agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you” and being “united in mind and thought” meant that we wanted God’s best in the middle of a situation?
What if you could agree in such a way that you could still communicate that you had a different opinion without causing division?
THAT’S what I’m talking about here. Do you see the difference?
What if we were:
- OPEN to understanding that we are not perfect ourselves, and therefore OPEN to God’s Best, which might mean that we might be wrong, or that the “solution” was a combination of our husband’s thought and ours – not specifically either person’s alone!
- CLOSED to “owning” accusation from the enemy
- OPEN to whatever the solution might be because we are OPEN to God, and OPEN to other people?
Being “open” to other people means that we can disagree without creating division. Does this make sense to you? Do you see the difference from being a doormat and being agreeable while disagreeing?
It’s disagreeing in an agreeable way, if you will.
It’s being agreeable, even as we in an gentle but “open to the person as precious to God” disagree.
It’s caring more about the person than we do about being right, even if it ends up that God’s best sides with our opinion.
It’s submitting to God’s best first, and in doing so, submitting to peace, not battle, with our husband. Even if he is at war with you, your kids, or anyone (or everyone!) in his life. Even if this shows up as anger, which it often does. … So here are the 6 Ways to Overcome Your Husband’s Anger:
- Know the Father – daily time with His Word, the Bible, then listening and praying. It’s the most important 15-60 minutes you can spend in a day, even if it is broken out into 5 minute increments. It’s an investment that pays off more than you will know this side of heaven. It will teach you how He loves you – which deeply changes 100% of your relationships, especially your relationship with yourself, which spills over into all others.
- Obey His Word – even when you don’t fully understand it. I’ve struggled through submission, respect, grace, forgiveness, apology, love, etc., and still do – but trying to obey creates a vertical growth curve in which you can truly know Him – and you’ll start hearing His voice and seeing Him everywhere.
- Be Thankful – there’s no room in a heart of entitlement for peace. Failure to be deeply moved and grateful indicates a heart battling against others and God, a disagreeable heart, a heart with idols.
- Refuse to receive accusation or dish justification of your own behavior or blame towards others. Those are calling cards of the enemy. ANY TIME we are engaging in those behaviors, we are useful to him.
- Speak Truth in a gentle, open, agreeable way – like our girl above did.
- Daily create positive small communications in your marriage – take inventory and take action. Recent research by Shaunti Feldhahn indicates that the happiest couples believe the best about each other, instead of doubting sincerity, or hurling accusations about one another’s motives. Her research also indicates that it is the “little things” that matter most. We have a list of those for men and one for women to help you. The daily dishing of negatives usually involve contempt, which is present in most couples miserable enough to file for divorce, according to research by Dr. John Gottman. Bottom line? Assume the best, toss the rest, and daily dish small positives.
I’m glad you are on the journey with me! I hope you will subscribe to the blog on the sidebar – know we never give out your email to anyone for any reason. I also hope you’ll join us via email to receive tips about how to have a healthy and happier marriage:
Love to you! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this today!
“Hey, I just want to tell you something,” he said, motioning me to come closer.
I noticed he had tears in his eyes.
My heart started to pound.
I barely knew this man.
He was the wife of a friend.
Not a good friend, mind you, but a friend.
And I was a little nervous.
“Yes?” I smiled, not knowing what he was going to say.
“I can’t believe the changes in my wife. She’s always been amazing, but she’s so much more supportive and encouraging. Thank you for doing this class.” He paused…
“And somehow she makes me want to be a better man. Do you have a class for that?” he said.
I literally couldn’t breathe. I didn’t have a clue what to say to him.
“No, not now, but our ministry might, sometime in the future, we’ll keep you posted,” I said. “Any good you see is all God, by the way. I’m trying to stay out of His way!”
And then the emails started coming…
There was a mix – many from men who were hurting, many from men whose wives were different who wanted help becoming a “better man” or “loving her better” and I had nothing for them. So, I made this list of 101 Things a Man Can DO to Show Love to His Wife.
And the responses surprised me. It seemed like they all fit into one of these categories:
- Women or men who were offended that I would “teach men” (good grief :P)
- Women who wanted to complain that their husbands didn’t do the things on the list (I tell the gals NOT to read it, why go looking for reasons to be unhappy? To compare is to despair.)
- Men who were thankful to have something tangible they could do – which was the point.
Obviously I wrote it for the 3rd category.
And God seems to be adding men to our ministry activities – we’ll keep you posted as things start to grow. Debbie writes for both moms and dads on her blog – (you should totally subscribe!), we may have a marriage course for couples someday, and next week I’ll have a guest post from a male counselor we like working with.
But today, I’m sending you the list – NOT to be sent to your husband, btw, but maybe for you to share with a husband you know is struggling, or the men in your couples small group. And sometime this year, we’ll have a texting feature for you, so as a guy, you can get a small daily reminder of a thing you can do.
Let me know if you think that’s a good idea or not, K? And if you are around on Tuesday next week and are female, know you are invited to be part of our studio audience – and thanks to a special donor, we now have coffee!!
Praise Jesus. 🙂
Love to you,