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Is Respect Optional for a Godly Woman?

Many women, even in the church, think that the concept of “respect for husbands” is archaic, old fashioned and backwards and that their husbands “don’t deserve respect.”   We are not about to show any respect for our men until we believe our men “deserve” it – by our own definition.  That is, after all, what our culture teaches – “Respect must be earned.”  I actually believe that is true, to a point – in the secular work place.  But does it apply in marriage?  Does it apply to believers in Christ?  Is it appropriate for disciples of Christ to treat people without respect in any setting?
If someone (anyone) sins against me or is living in unrepentant sin – does that give me a free pass as a Christian to treat him/her with disdain, disgust, self-righteousness, rudeness, unkindness, hatred, angry words, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip and a judgmental spirit?
(Galatians 5:22-23, I Corinthians 13:4-8 and Romans 12 do a very good job of explaining how Jesus commands us to treat others with love – respect is part of that!.)

In our culture today, we often treat our husbands (as I did for many years) with disrespect, contempt, resentment and condemnation.   Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing this.  Sometimes we are just reacting to feeling very unloved ourselves and unintentionally disrespect our men – not realizing how very deeply we are wounding them.  And then we don’t realize that when our husbands feel very disrespected, they react to their pain by responding in ways that feel unloving to us (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs – Love and Respect).  When husbands feel disrespected – they feel unloved.  I know that is not how we want our men to feel!

But whether we are intentionally disrespectful or it is entirely unintentional, our disrespect wounds our men.  They NEED our respect and our Lord commands that we respect our husbands.  They may not “deserve” respect in our minds.  But the same God who commands us to respect our husbands and honor their leadership also commands husbands to love their wives.  I know I personally don’t want to EVER get rid of the “love your wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her” command for our husbands!  God definitely knew what he was talking about there!  I have learned that He knows exactly what He is talking about when it comes to what husbands and marriages need, too.
We need our husbands’ love even when we REALLY don’t deserve it – exactly the same way that our husbands need our respect even when they REALLY don’t deserve it.  (God does not command us to respect sin or ignore sin – just like He does not command our husbands to love our sin either – but we are to respect our men because they are our husbands, just like our husbands are to love us because we are their wives.)
My respect for my husband is not optional.  Not if I am a disciple of Christ.   It is a command of God:
  • “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:33
  •  Jesus says “Anyone who loves Me will obey My commands…. Anyone who does not obey My commands does not love Me.” (John 14:23))
Many women also believe that biblical submission is oppressive and that it is equal to slavery.  That is NOT at all God’s design, either. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:2-5)  Real biblical submission is a blessing from God to wives, husbands, children and everyone who knows that family.  It can only be accomplished when we are completely submitted to Christ and filled with His Spirit, seeking His glory alone.
Here is the world’s way – this is what I did for almost 15 years in our marriage.
I tried to carry all the weight and responsibility for the marriage and family and was stressed, worried, afraid and upset most of the time.  I felt like the only adult in the family.  I thought I had to do everything while my husband avoided responsibility and became increasingly emotionally distant. I worked full time until we had children, then worked 20 hours/week and also did almost all of the housework, all of the finances, all of the discipline for the children and all of the child care every moment that I was home while my husband sat in front of the tv, the computer or worked on renovations.  I was overloaded, overworked, stressed out and seething with resentment.
This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster in marriage.  As Bob Grant says, “There is no relationship resentment can’t kill.”
Husbands primarily need respect.
Wives primarily need love. (Dr. Emerson Eggerichs Love and Respect and Ephesians 5:22-33)
When both spouses get their needs met, marriage can be GLORIOUS and God-honoring.
Men and women are not the same.  Men do not need love the exact same way that we do.  The sooner we understand this and how different they are from us, the sooner we can learn what their needs truly are and how to meet them.  We often try to give more and more love – but it doesn’t work and we don’t understand why.  We must understand what our husbands need and give them what they need, not what we need.
  • The truth is that trying to carry a burden you were not designed by God to carry is oppressive.
  • The truth is that being consumed by worry and anxiety and fear every waking moment is oppressive.
  • The truth is that living by the power of the sinful nature instead of by the power of the Spirit of God is being a slave to sin instead of being a slave to Christ.  That is true slavery!!!  I will be a slave to one or the other – sin, or Christ.  For a little check of what it is like to have your sinful nature in control, please read Galatians 5:19-21.  When God’s Spirit controls me, I have all of the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure every day: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  That is FREEDOM!  That is blessing!  That is POWER!  (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • The truth is that putting anything before Christ in my heart is a certain path to discontentment, disillusionment, loneliness, disappointment, fear, worry and distress.  God will not allow me to find contentment and His peace in idols.  The ONLY place where contentment can be found is in Christ!
  • The truth is that living in obedience to God brings great freedom and joy that rises far above any circumstances.
Learning respect and biblical submission is a process and a journey.  It is a LONG, cross-country journey.  Not a sprint.  This is the process of “sanctification” – God uses this process to make me more holy and to make me more and more like Jesus.  It takes TIME.  He will use it to make me holy and mature, ready for His purposes.
(If you have SERIOUS problems in your marriage – drug/alcohol addiction, mental health disorders, infidelity, major sin, physical abuse – please talk to a godly, trusted pastor or Christian counselor ASAP!)
Don’t compare your story to mine or to anyone else’s!  God is writing your own story.  He will decide the timing and the outcomes.  Your job is to love and trust Him and to yield yourself totally to Him every moment of every day.  I can’t wait to see what He wants to do for His glory in your life!

16 thoughts on “Is Respect Optional for a Godly Woman?

  1. I think we [wives/disciples] get really confused when we think we have a choice to pick and choose certain commands. I know I have to obey the command, “don’t murder.” But then I don’t have to obey command to respect. If Jesus meant it as a suggestion He would have stated it as such.

    I get what you mean, because my mind used to work the same way. “Well, I always deserve love. He doesn’t always deserve respect.” When you get right down to the nitty-gritty of it, what this says is that I’m ALWAYS ‘loveable’ … but he’s not always respectable. Taken one step further – I never sin … this proves I’m always loveable. He does sin … this proves he’s not always respectable.

    It’s judgment. ewwww.

    1. Robyn,

      Exactly! I really believed that I was practically perfect for all those years in our marriage. I believed I deserved love. And I definitely judged my husband as “undeserving of respect.” Of course, I also had no idea what respect even meant! That made things much worse, because I wasn’t intentionally disrespecting him. I was mostly reacting out of my feeling of feeling unloved when I “should be loved.”

      Then I didn’t see my own PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, idolatry, disobedience to God’s Word, rebellious heart… It was VERY necessary for God to open my eyes to my MASSIVE level of sin – to understand that I didn’t deserve love and he may not deserve respect – but that is what we need! And it is what God commands. You are so right, God’s commands are ALL important and necessary and bring joy when we follow them!

      You hit the nail on the head!

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. I also believe it is passed down from one generation to another. I watched my grandmother do it to my grandfather, and then my mother do it to my father, and I was well on my way to do it to my own husband, but thankfully God saved me from it. He put a very Godly couple into my life that taught me about respect. The first time I read the book “Created to be his Helpmate” I didn’t understand it, but God kept working on me and I read it again and I made perfect sense. Me and my husband were so close to ending our marriage but because of Christ’s love for us we have a stronger marriage today then when we got married.

    1. Rachel,
      We learn so much about how to treat our future family by watching and imitating our parents. That is a huge part of whether we understand respect or not.

      I am so thankful you had a godly mentor!!

  3. I think part of the problem is that women have a tendency to not show respect to men simply because THEY’RE MEN. As in, they’re disrespected before they even have a chance to do anything right or wrong. The idea of showing respect is somehow an act of submissiveness that lowers a woman’s status, and thus something feminists today will not tolerate. The biggest lie I hear today is how feminists are about equality, but really it’s all about emasculating and demeaning men as much as they can. They truly hate us, and that hate has become so powerful that it’s permeated every aspect of our culture. The Bible is the only safeguard against this.

    What I found profound is how the Bible instructs men to honor their wives, to honor them as women (as unto the weaker vessel.) This type of honor is about respecting women for their femininity We compliment their beauty, we show chivalry, we perform hard labor where they can’t, we become their protectors, their leaders, their heroes. The world tells us this is sexist. The Bible tells us it is not. Thank God there are still some who eschews the world’s wisdom for what Scripture teaches us.

    1. Frank,

      Feminism has so permeated our entire culture, including the church, that many women under about 50 don’t even realize what respect is, in my view.
      Disrespect for men is now normal, you are absolutely right.

      It is in the media, and the women around us. When women get together, even Christian women, there is a tendency to complain about their husbands. This is not right – but it is so “normal” now that I don’t think most women even realize what is happening.

      In fact, a woman who doesn’t put her man down is “weird.”

      A woman who actually talks about respecting her husband is often shunned.

      And a woman who talks about biblical submission is treated with utter contempt.

      A woman who refuses to listen to other women run their men down will lose a lot of friendships.

      Our world has twisted the ideas of respecting our husbands and of biblical submission into some kind of inferior status, slavery, oppression, etc. And there is an underlying hatred for men in feminism – as well as a hatred for God, the Bible and any authority structure God has given in His Word. A great book for women about the history of feminism contrasted with God’s Word and His design is Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley. She was a very strong feminist who came to Christ as an adult. She took women’s studies in college, and she traces the history of feminism since the 1700s through present day. It is SHOCKING to me how deliberately the leaders of the feminist movements purposely attacked God, the Bible, and God’s design for marriage and family. I couldn’t read it without much weeping. We as Christian women need to understand the origins of feminism, the goals, the tenets of this movement, and how deeply entrenched heresy is in feminism. McCulley does a great job explaining the good that came for women – in the work place. But she also shows exactly the cost of this massive shift of our cultural beliefs and how to return to Christ.

      I mourn over the state of womanhood and manhood in our culture today. 🙁 We have lost some of the most precious things about godly femininity and godly masculinity. Not that those in generations past had things perfectly right. But we have veered so far off course now, that it seems we are determined to destroy ourselves.

      I pray that God will raise up a godly generation of men and women who will be courageous and strong enough to see the lies of our culture and to reject them and to rebuild masculinity, femininity, godliness, marriage, family, Christianity and our understanding of God and how we relate to Him on His Word of truth alone. When we obey God and His Word, there is great freedom, power, purpose, strength, joy, peace and abundant life!

    2. PS, Frank,
      When God revealed to me that I had been very disrespectful of my husband – unknowingly – I was SHOCKED! And, sadly, I had no idea where to begin. I didn’t know what was disrespectful or what was respectful. At that time, my husband couldn’t even tell me – he had been treated disrespectfully for so long, he wasn’t sure. 🙁

      That is one reason I write this blog. So many things that are disrespectful to men, women don’t realize men take that way. I have a post about what is disrespectful to husbands at the top of my home page and a post about how to show respect. Many women are totally surprised at the “little” things that don’t seem like a big deal to them, or things that they didn’t intend to be disrespectful, but that wound our men.

      Knowing what respect is and isn’t is REALLY critical for our ability to choose to be able to respect.

      I want to see us as Christian women learn to show love and respect for everyone.

      Another thing I have learned is that the level of respect and biblical submission a wife has towards her husband is a pretty good external indicator of the level of reverence and submission she has towards Christ.

      I was just as controlling and disrespectful towards God as I was towards my husband. I didn’t realize that, either.

      We must approach God with respect and reverence – and fear and trembling, knowing who He is.

      I pray God might use me however He will to be His mouthpiece to share His truth.

      1. Don’t forget there are single women who don’t know how to respect men as well. I struggle with this myself, in that while I’m consciously aware of what I need to do to be a good husband, I see too many women who have no clue what it means to be a good wife, and I get turned off by their attitude as a result. Marriage continues to decline, and new generations of people will wind up being completely miserable because what they were taught by an ultra-liberal culture isn’t quite bearing the fruits they thought it would.

        So while your message is tailored for married women, it’s also a message I think many single women aspiring to get married need to hear too.

  4. Respect is the most precious gift I can give my husband.
    I was raised by a single mom, my dad was in Germany in the army most if my life until I was age 14 and he passed away. I didn’t have the example in the home for how to respect/submit to a man. My husband sure got the brunt of that. I was so independent and strong willed when we married. I didn’t even realize I was hurting him by not respecting and letting him be the lead. He felt like a failure more than once because of my attitude etc. Back when I wasn’t showing him respect, I’d talk about him to my friends, put him down etc. when we were in public I’d embarrass him by correcting him etc. I loved him very much, but had no respect so I did behave differently. It’s a true act of God that we even survived our first 8 yrs of marriage. I took a bible study on a whim called ” the excellent wife ” by Martha peace. Wow can we say eye opener !!!!! I was so ashamed of how I was behaving. No having role models in the home I had no idea I was doing anything wrong. So I took the study and slowly started to change. Once that happened I began to appreciate my husband so much more. With appreciation came along respect then eventually submission. It all goes hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. The last 4yrs have been great. I’ve had more respect for my husband and with that he has felt more loved. The last 4 months have been amazing !!! I’ve gained a different level of respect and submission for him. I get a happy feelin with a smile, when I look back and see how far I’ve come. I’m hoping that by my example that our daughter wil have respect and submit to her future husband like I do her daddy. ( she’s 7, so I have alot of years to “teach” her). I respect and submit so therefore I’m respected and led. Much more love as well !!

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