Editor’s Note: This series on respect is based on Ephesians 5:33 where wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Yes, the husbands are commanded to love their wives, but we’ll leave that for someone else to discuss (this is a site for ladies, after all). We’re figuring out what respect looks like and what it doesn’t look like. We’ve discussed The Need for Respect and Respect in the Bedroom. Last week’s article was fun (who doesn’t want to learn about how to enjoy sex with your spouse more often?) but this week, we may have some sore toes. Just remember, sore toes can be impetus to grow… and get those toes out of the way! )
Think for just a moment about some of our culture’s favorite TV shows. How are the men portrayed? The typical TV father is a bumbling fool who doesn’t actually care much about his kids or his wife. He’s self-centered, oblivious of those around him and has to be bailed out of a jam every episode. Now what about the women on TV? The typical TV mother is always cleaning up after her husband’s messes– both physical and otherwise. She is smart, savvy and sassy too. She’s a slave to her family, yet she’s hugely unappreciated and all she really wants is a few minutes of peace and quiet with perhaps a bubble bath thrown in. In our society, men are not seen in a positive light at all. Even back to the 1949 radio show “Father Knows Best” it was clear that Father did NOT know best. “Check your brain at the door, hubby, and just rely on mine. It’s plain yours isn’t working,” seems to be the general sentiment. Sadly, many even in the church have absorbed these ideas to such an extent husbands can do no right. In short, an atmosphere of total disrespect reigns. One of the primary ways we see disrespect is in what comes out of our mouths.
Sometimes you’ll hear husbands and wives teasing each other and it sounds like they’re having so much fun. “Isn’t that cute?” I used to think to myself. “That’s so nice that they can tease and still know they’re loved.” But then, there’s that nagging doubt in the back of my mind about something said to me and I wonder, “Were they really joking or did they meant it?” It’s been said that if you tell a lie long enough, it’ll be believed. If you call your husband a nerd or a dork or… whatever… even in jest, he may very well start to wonder if you mean it. Even if he never does wonder, it certainly does nothing to build him up. Consider Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The word here for “unwholesome” refers to something that is useless, of no value, harmful, even rotten. “Edification,” on the other hand, is a word about building up, strengthening– it’s a construction word. What good does our teasing really do? If someone teases you, do you want to wrap your arms around their neck and tell them how what they’ve said makes you feel so warm and fuzzy? Not usually. Worse, it can sit in the back of your mind, rotting away. It certainly isn’t strengthening… and it isn’t respectful either.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a hard habit to break, but try this. When your husband says something and you’re tempted to say, “You’re such a dork” (or whatever it is you say to tease; “dork” was always mine), instead just smile. Maybe hug him. Or say, “You’re so cute.” Sometimes those things that we love to tease them about are really quirks that make them unique. So choose to build him up about whatever it is instead of teasing.
Really, I can’t think of a single time when yelling reflects respect. I’ve heard women yell at their husbands the same way they yell at their children. Same tone, in the same breath, and sometimes even the same words addressed to husband and child. Yelling is something many of us are conditioned to do. It’s how we grew up, it’s what our peers do with their kids, it’s what we see on TV… it’s just how things go… but that is not an excuse for not changing. Did you ever have a boss yell at you? It feels like they don’t care that you are a real person with real feelings. To them, you’re just an employee, just a cog in the wheel. Can we really expect our husbands to feel valued and respected if we yell at them? So next time you feel like yelling at your husband, remember that old trick and count backwards from 10. Still feel like yelling? Do it again, and again, and again, until you can speak respectfully to your husband. Recall that our respect for our husband isn’t based on his worthiness (sometimes it may seem he deserves to be yelled at), but based on a command from God. So do whatever it takes to be respectful.
Treating him like a child
Frequently in young mothers’ conversations, there are comments like, “Better go tend to my children… especially the big one.” Or someone else will say, “Sometimes I feel like I have TWO five-year-olds.” The wife settles disputes between the husband and the children, tells him what he can and can’t do, gives him “the look” when he steps out of what she considers the bounds. Really, there isn’t much to say here except DON’T DO IT. Don’t treat your husband like a child. He isn’t one. Not only is it disrespectful, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. People have a tendency to rise (or fall) to your expectations so if you treat him like a child, he very well may act like one. So what to do? First off, don’t refer to your husband as one of your children or compare his behavior to a child’s either to him or behind his back. If there is a dispute between your husband and a child, leave it to him to settle and if you have an issue with the outcome, discuss it privately, out of hearing of the children. Don’t give him any kind of look and remember that you don’t make the limits or rules for your spouse. He’s a grown up; let him be one.
What you say to others
Here’s an example given at the Focus Press Marriage Retreat that’s too good not to share. A couple walks in late to the dinner party. The husband apologizes to everyone and explains that the dishwasher had broken and was leaking on the floor, so he had to do a quick repair job. A woman seated at the table pipes up, “Huh! Well, I bet that’s nice to have a handy husband! I wish Larry here was handy. Last time our dishwasher broke, you know who fixed it? ME! I did. He couldn’t fix a thing!” We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. Larry’s strength clearly isn’t in fixing household appliances, but it may be in listening with a kind ear and a ready shoulder for crying on. Guard your husband’s weaknesses; don’t announce them to the world. I’m not a great housekeeper. I’m working on it, but right now it’s a weakness. I would be mortified and humiliated if my husband teased about it or loudly wished for someone with that strength. Remember the “Golden Rule” (Luke 6:31).
Again, let’s consider Ephesians 4:29. Does it build up others for you to disparage your husband? It really can’t be said often enough (even if it is bad grammar): don’t talk bad about your husband… to anyone… ever.
All in all, respecting our husbands with our mouths can be summed up in two Bible verses:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31
By Erynn Sprouse
Erynn and her husband, Jeremy serve with the Patrick Street church of Christ in Dublin, TX . Her husband is the pulpit minister and evangelist. Erynn is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to their four-going-on-five children (Jaden, 7; Isaiah, 4; Isaac, 4; Ean, 22 mo’s; #5 due in September). They are 2003 graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.