Men talk a lot about needing to feel respected, but how about we talk about what they’re supposed to do? Husbands, love your wives…

Jim Pam Hug
Source: NBC Universal, and one of the most powerful moments I’ve seen on TV

It seems that as guys, we talk a lot about what we expect from our relationships. Some men talk about wanting to be feared in their home. I dunno if “feared” is the right way to go about it, but it’s something some guys put forward. Other men talk about how the woman in their life should respect them and treat them like a king. Still others put forward their rights as men who are meant to be seen as leaders in their own home.

I think demanding it is probably not always the right way to go seeking out the respect you desire. Men do really need to feel respected in their relationships – for sure. I think our ego drives who we are as men, and it is actually a real need in our lives to have it built up and taken care of.

I think because it’s so important to men, for fear of losing respect or not getting what they need, they are quick to jump on their “rights as men”. They’ll grab the research, they’ll be very vocal about their difficulties and concerns, and they’ll leave their partners sometimes little room to breathe or to be looked after themselves.

One of the most common techniques employed is to go searching through the Scriptures for how they should be treated in their relationships. And so, they find the passages about submission in marriage, about being  “the head of the house”, and about how wives should reverence and respect their husbands. And fair point, if you have a holy document telling you that the best way to live is to take the respect elements of men into consideration in relating to them, then they may find a winner there.

However, I think it’s very sad and even concerning that we stop reading where it gives some advice to wives and don’t continue on to what is expected of husbands.

Husbands, love your wives…

…as Christ loves the church… there’s a comma there, and the passage continues onwards. But even this part of the instruction alone I think means us men need to get our act together. If we want to start demanding our rights in marriage, we’d better have a real look at what they entail.

A tainted love

The truth is the way we give love to others has a lot to do with how we have received love ourselves. Nowhere does this become more evident, or destructive, than the way a man loves a woman. If your father was absent, it can leave a gaping hole in a child’s life. The male voice is often the voice of validation for both men and women, and when it isn’t present, or worse – it’s abusive, you can be left feeling completely unsure of who you are, or of what you should expect in life. This isn’t a dig at anyone who has grown up in those circumstances or is in those circumstances now – it’s just a part of reality we need to acknowledge.

It can also happen when you’ve had bad relationship experiences that your tendency is to become inwardly focused or bitter. Rather than being liberal or generous with your heart, you keep it quiet or cut it short.

Whichever way the waters get poisoned, our love capacity can be tainted.

And so a man who has had his love damaged or broken usually turns to aggressive behaviour to try to get what he’s been looking for his whole life. Or if he has found it, he will fight hard to keep it, or even fight her to make sure she continues providing him what he needs.

But if we’re running at a love deficit, it’s going to be hard to pour out the love we should for the people in our world.

The head of the house?

“The man is the head of the house”. We’ve all heard this expression before, haven’t we? What does this actually mean?

Cause I’ve seen some pretty ugly heads. I’ve seen some heads act fairly irresponsibly, and then blame their wife or children for their own mistakes. I’ve seen some heads abuse and belittle their partners.

In Greek, the world head used here is actually kephale. In truth, it was indeed used to denote heads of government. However, it also carries another mode in its meaning.

The life source.

Imagine if your head didn’t provide the body the life it needed. Imagine if instead of seeking to benefit the body, to bless the body, to give its best to the body, it dominated and tried to coerce the body in any way. It would be completely unhealthy.

And it’s exactly the same that happens when men take the idea of “headship” to mean “dominator”. That’s not what it means at all.

It means you look after what’s been placed in your care. It means you give your best to their benefit and blessing. It means you take parts of yourself and feed them through to areas that need it. Before insisting on your role as “head of this house”, how about taking some ownership for how the head should treat those in its care?

When she doesn’t deserve it

“Like Christ loves the church”. Man, that’s insane. How the heck can any man ever hope to do that? The good news is that we can. We have a standard to follow, and a helper to help us do that.

I dunno if you’ve noticed, but the church is one messed up group of people. I absolutely love it, don’t get me wrong. But how many times do the church, and more specifically, the people within it, make a mistake? We’re often act incorrectly out of uncertainty, we can be harsh with our words, we can be ungrateful, and we can act like we just don’t care.

Truth be told, this is sometimes what men also experience in their marriages. I mean sure, it takes two to tango, but it would be unfair to say that men don’t have to put up with just as much stuff at some points in the relationship.

But what does Christ do about this behaviour? He loves anyway. He sees all the faults, and accepts as they are. He sees the beauty in the person who is acting ugly. He sees past the erratic and confused behaviour and speaks to where the real struggle and hurt is.

Husbands, love your wives like that.

Glory and humility

This Scripture is crazy because this one little comparison actually brings up a whole bunch of other considerations for how a husband should love his wife. In acting like Christ, here are two other portions of Scripture that teach us more about what this should look like – “he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf”, and “he didn’t consider equality with God (glory) something to be grasped, but emptied himself”.

If there’s one criticism that is aimed at men more often than not, it’s that we are full of ourselves. We can be so consumed with our needs, our desires, our big flashes of glory. The model put forward to us here is that we should actually empty ourselves. Hey, maybe that achievement was great, but maybe your wife is actually greater. Not the fact that you’ve got her, but the fact that she’s her. Her existence is the achievement. That’s worth emptying yourself for.

Men develop broader shoulders than women physiologically, or at least in most cases. It’s because we were meant to carry things. We have a capacity for it. And your wife’s heart is one of them. Your family’s needs fall within your capacity to support and sustain.

If you want to be truly great, take on the form of a servant.

The power of your words

This “husbands, love your wives” Scripture continues on, encouraging men that Christ washes his bride with the word. On first glance, that is a very peculiar way to word it. It doesn’t mean you fill a hose with books and blast your wife before she need to go out somewhere. What it does mean is that our words can be used to bless her.

There are many examples of this in history and in our own lives, but one of my favourite examples of this is in the Song of Solomon. At the start of the song, the bride-to-be actually says “don’t look at me, my brothers made me stay out in the sun too long, that’s why I’m so dark”. After 7 chapters of her husband speaking life over her – calling out her beauty, praising every single thing about her – she is faced with an opportunity for insecurity once again. Her sisters come up to her and go “oh man, our sister has a flat chest, what are we going to do with her?”. Talk about a supportive family, huh? But after the encouragement of her husband, she turns back to them and tells them “well actually I am fully developed, and when my lover sees me, he will be satisfied”.

She knows that because that’s exactly what he told her. Specifically. Intentionally. In detail.

That’s the power of the words of a man. Instead of using them to tear her down or criticize as has been the case way too many times, what if we used them to speak life to the women in our world and see them become all they were born to be?

And hey, I’m all for men finding them respect they need. I think it’s actually super important that men are open and honest about their needs in that regard, and that we do all we can to look after them too.

But if we want to be men who are so well respected and all the rest of it, maybe we should consider our role in the picture. Husbands, love your wives. How much easier is it to respect a man who exemplifies that? It’s an attitude that starts when you’re single, and should continue on with you for the rest of your life.

Over to you – what do you think on the subject? Join the conversation, would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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