FEAR is a major part of our motivation to grab for control as women. We are afraid we won’t be loved. We are afraid we aren’t secure in the relationship. We are afraid we will be rejected. We are afraid we aren’t good enough. We are afraid we aren’t beautiful enough. We are afraid of so very many things! Lots of us learned fear when things were out of control and we did not feel safe as children. We also molded our image of who God is and His character from our fathers influence or lack of influence in our lives. I am going to share some extremely simplistic examples of ways our experiences in childhood may impact our view of God and our husbands. This really could be a book in itself, I am sure. It is obviously much more complicated than what I am about to describe, but hopefully these examples might be a bit helpful.
Our fathers were supposed to be godly examples of the character of God – that mysterious combination of power and gentleness, strength and meekness, holiness and mercy, unconditional love and justice. We learned from them what to expect from God and from men:
- Girls who didn’t have fathers in their lives, learn that God/men are not there, not reliable, not dependable, and often these girls develop a fiercely independent spirit and learn to trust SELF. These girls often struggle mightily with the desire to have a father figure and to be loved and accepted unconditionally and may not think it is possible for God or men to love and accept them or to be able to grasp what God’s character and love are like (or a godly masculinity is like) because they haven’t seen anything like it in real life.
- Girls who had abusive fathers or father figures in their lives learn that God/men are not loving, not able to protect them, not able to stop bad things from happening to them, that God/men have evil motives and they learn that they have to try to control things themselves or they are not safe. They will easily develop an extremely warped image of God and possibly an inability to see the good in their husbands. (These precious ladies are going to need extra specialized, experienced wife mentors/Christian counselors to help them work through the deep scars and wounds they have experienced. I have not been through abuse, and am not able to write from that perspective. My blog is not written for women in severe situations who have been through abuse, mental health issues, drug/alcohol addictions, infidelity. If you have experienced something serious like this, I pray you will seek godly, experienced, appropriate counsel. My blog may not be helpful for you. God can heal you, and His Word applies to us all, but my words may not!)
- Girls who had domineering mothers and passive fathers learn that God/men are not very active or involved in our lives and that God/men don’t really care about women and that God is not in charge, and men are not to have leadership in marriage, women are supposed to lead and men should submit to their wives. They also learn to be very independent and to take charge and to be in control in the marriage. They may develop a very warped image of God and masculinity.
- Girls who had very dominating, intimidating fathers may be afraid of God/men (in an unhealthy way), waiting for God to “zap” them if they do the slightest thing “wrong” and they may live in an unhealthy fear of God and masculinity, not knowing His grace, mercy, unconditional love and not realizing there is any safety or refuge in Him.
- Girls who had overly permissive fathers may not really consider God or His Words much (or her husband and his words) and just think about what they want and ignore God’s counsel/their husbands’ counsel, His wise boundaries that are there for our protection, His holiness and the gravity of their sin. They may not have appropriate healthy fear of God and reverence for God and may not have appropriate respect for their husbands God-given authority.
- Some of us had pretty godly fathers but still absorbed so many lies from the world (from school, our careers, the church, friends or the media) or from traumatic situations that we still developed a very warped understanding of God and masculinity.
- If our fathers seemed “weak” in our eyes, or “not in control,” or if they had addictions of some type, we may have felt that we had more wisdom than they did and that we were “the adult” in the relationship and they were the “children.” We may have this view of God and masculinity, as well when we are adults.
Whatever we believe about our dad and his character and his love for us, we tend to believe about God. Whatever our parents’ marriage was like, we have been “programmed” by living with them as we grew up to think that their way of doing marriage was “normal” and “right.” We often develop ideas about God and build our theology about God as children based solely on our experience with our earthly fathers (and, to some degree, our mothers):
- He doesn’t really love me.
- I can never be good enough for him.
- I have to be perfect for him to love me.
- If I could just make him spend time with me, I know he would love me!
- He hurt me again, I can’t trust him. I can’t trust men. I can’t trust anyone.
- He didn’t protect me. He isn’t able to keep me safe.
- He is so harsh with me. He doesn’t have my best interests in his heart. I can’t be honest or vulnerable with him. I am not safe.
- He ignores me. I mean nothing to him. All these other things are so much more important to him than I am.
- I’m never going to let a man treat me the way he is treating my mom. I’ll be sure I am in charge and never let a man hurt me.
- He has evil motives towards me.
Then, we end up believing these ideas we have about our fathers to also be true about God – no matter what the Bible says about God. We tend to believe our experiences with our fathers or father figures are more true than God’s Word. Unfortunately, every dad is a sinner – and even the best dads fail at some point or another. Sometimes we cannot shake the warped construct of God in our minds because we don’t even realize how deeply flawed our understanding of God is.
We may also have developed significant fear from having a mother who was very unloving, hateful or abusive – or from being abused by someone else emotionally/mentally/physically/sexually as we were growing up. Or, we may have had a very difficult romantic relationship in the past that created major doubt in our ability to be “worthy of love.” Maybe someone, even a pastor or a teacher, tried to use great fear and guilt to manipulate us. Or maybe we were constantly rejected by people we cared most about.
We also learned from our mothers how to biblically submit to our fathers and to those in spiritual authority over us and to God (and some of this we learned from our fathers, as well, how he related to God and those in authority.) If we did not witness our mothers respect and biblically submit to our fathers, we will have a much harder time learning to do this ourselves.
I am sure the possibilities are practically endless of all the ways that fear can become one of the biggest motivators in our lives. No matter why we have learned to do things out of fear, God calls us to learn to receive His love and healing and to learn to do things out of LOVE.
To become the godly women Christ desires us to be – we will have to be willing to examine everything we think we know about God, godly masculinity, godly femininity, marriage and living for Christ and trash everything that is not based on the truth of God’s Word. Then we will rebuild on Jesus Christ and His Word alone. Our lives require total renovation and transformation.
We also tend to take our fears and understanding of masculinity that we experienced with our fathers (or with prior boyfriends/husbands) and assume that our husbands are the same way. We want our husbands to make up for the things we were lacking as children or in an abusive relationship in the past – and to heal our wounds, many times. We easily turn our husbands into idols (something more important than Christ in our hearts) and lay certain expectations on them that they should meet spiritual and emotional needs for us that really only Jesus Christ Himself can meet. (We do need to some level of basic expectations of faithfulness, respect, love, honor, etc… But we want to watch for unrealistic, destructive, or unbiblical expectations.)
- He has to show me unconditional love all the time.
- He has to prove that I am his first priority in the way I think he should all the time.
- He has to accept me no matter what I do wrong.
- He should stop watching TV or working on the computer or working at his job and spend every possible waking moment with me and meet my needs for love, affirmation, romance and emotional connection.
- He should just know what I need.
- He should want to always emotionally connect with me like I want to always emotionally connect with him with words.
- He should want to pray with me like I want to pray with Him.
- He should be my hero.
- He should be like Christ.
- He should always have unwavering grace, mercy and forgiveness for me.
- He should never sin against me.
- He should never fail me, never leave me and never forsake me.
- He should …
- He should …
- He should …
And if my husband doesn’t do what I want him to do – I WILL NOT BE OK!
- I HAVE TO HAVE HIS LOVE.
- I HAVE to be his number one priority.
- I HAVE to feel loved and hear him tell me that he loves me.
- I HAVE to have more quality time with him.
Or I will feel unloved. And that is not acceptable! I MUST feel loved all the time.
Sometimes we also make the mistake of believing our feelings all the time, even when our feelings are not telling us the truth:
- If I don’t FEEL connected to him, we are not connected.
- If I don’t FEEL loved in this moment, I am not loved.
- If I FEEL lonely, I am alone.
- If I FEEL afraid, I have good reasons to be afraid and my fear is always justifiable. (some fears are justifiable, but some are not.)
Our feelings are not always accurate about these things!
THEN WE THINK:
- I cannot feel unloved. My worth and value as a person is completely dependent on my husband loving me the way I want to be loved. If he doesn’t love me the way I want him to, my greatest fear will come true!!
- My happiness and contentment in life completely depend on my husband doing what I want him to do when I want him to do it the way I think he should do it.
- My husband is responsible for my happiness, not me.
- I am not responsible for my own emotional stability, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, peace and joy.
- I will love him so that he will love me.
- I will be kind to him so that he will be kind to me.
- I will do things for him and give him things so that he will take care of me the way I want him to.
- I will tell him what to do so that he will meet my needs.
- I will make him love me the way I want to be loved.
- I will dictate to him and demand my way because I WILL NOT allow myself to experience my deepest fears of rejection and feeling unloved.
If he does NOT love me the way I want him to, I am totally justified to be hateful to him, to disrespect and hurt him because he failed me. I can sin against him if I feel unloved because “he is supposed to love me the way I want him to love me.”
AS I TRY MORE AND MORE TO CONTROL MY MAN TO MAKE HIM LOVE ME (OUT OF FEAR):
- I sabotage our intimacy.
- I sabotage his masculinity.
- I emasculate him.
- I disrespect him.
- I hurt him.
- I push him away.
- I become so prickly that it becomes increasingly difficult for him to love me.
- I smother him.
- I use negativity, criticism, lectures, ridicule, sarcasm, mockery, humiliation, manipulation, guilt, people pleasing or I play the martyr to attempt to control him if he will not do what I tell him to do.
- I dig in my claws and try even harder to force my way because I cannot face my fears. And I don’t even see that I am creating the very thing I fear the most myself. I don’t even see that I am foolishly tearing down my marriage and my husband with my own hands and my own words and attitudes.
- I become increasingly desperate, needy and clingy.
- I become insatiable.
Eventually, my husband realizes he CAN’T meet my needs, please me or satisfy me and he gives up even trying. It is not worth his time because I am going to treat him with contempt no matter how hard he tries. He can never measure up and he can never be perfect – he cannot be Christ to me. He can never make me happy and he feels like a failure every time he sees me. It becomes easier for him to shut down and try to be far away from me (or to respond in anger) because he does not feel safe, respected, loved, appreciated or valued with me.
My motives are not to love him selflessly with the unconditional love of Christ and to bless him and honor God. My motives are to make him give me what I want. My motives are selfish. My motives are fueled by fear of not getting what I want. This is not God’s brand of “love.” This is worldly, carnal, sinful “love.”
Tomorrow we will continue on to Part 2 where we will talk about facing our deepest fears and then in Part 3 we will talk about finding victory over our fears in Christ!