January 22, 2008 by Stacy McDonald
Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, we have temporarily allowed anonymous comments. However, if you are writing anonymously, please use some sort of “name” so as to avoid confusion as we address the many different questions and comments here. For the sake of clarity, I will name the following anonymous writer, “Wondering.” This is what she asked:
“It has been suggested in your comments page that a woman should “talk a man up” – i.e. lavish praise on him. Should a woman do this dishonestly? Should I (for example) say “you are such a great guy, you spend so much time with us as a family” – when that is plain rubbish, he doesn’t?
Should I tell him I love his advances in the night (after ignoring me all day) even when I am desperate to sleep because I have work to do in the morning and many things to do, children to deal with and character issues to try to work out with my children – alone; [since] he refuses to take part in any child training or deal with deeper issues in our older [children]?
Do you think lying is the right thing to do?”
While there are many ways we can honor and build up our husbands, lying and flattery isn’t the way to do it. Scripture tells us:
“A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” (Proverbs 29:5)
We may feel like we’re doing the right thing by “flattering” our husbands, but if we are not being honest we could actually be a stumbling block to him and a hindrance in our own marriage.
There may be times when I should be silent over a particular weakness or struggle that my husband is experiencing, exemplifying grace and patience; but I should never encourage his sin by telling him he’s doing a great job in an area where he is in fact failing.
“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23, NKJV)
Yet, while Proverbs 28:23 is a wonderful truth, it doesn’t mean that a wife should walk around rebuking her husband for every area of weakness she sees in his life. A husband doesn’t need a contentious shadow snapping at his heels; he needs a loving, honest, Scripture-minded, grace-filled, merciful, forthright helper!
If we are overly critical and demanding, then we are guilty of being the contentious wife described in Scripture and we defeat our purpose and call to be a helpmeet to our husband:
“Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Proverbs 21:9, NKJV)
“Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” (Proverbs 21:19, NKJV)
“A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike…” (Proverbs 27:15, NKJV)
Still, we should not be silent in communicating honestly with our husbands in areas where we have been hurt or offended. It is very important to be truthful and forthright in making these things known to him. Men and women think differently on various issues, which make miscommunication likely if there is a lack of open and frequent dialogue. However, we should be careful of the spirit and tone of our communications.
“Wondering” also said:
“I have been told often by various “experts” on this issue, that I need to be more submissive, more understanding, more caring, more encouraging, more “enthusiastic for marital relations” etc etc etc; and that this would change my husband from being work obsessed and neglectful of his family.”
The whole focus here is problematic. Our primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are to glorify God by our actions and by our very existence, and this causes us to enjoy God. Often this also results in our enjoying the people and gifts He gives us, but this isn’t our purpose. Therefore changing others to please ourselves can’t be our primary purpose (focus) either – our focus must be on glorifying God
A formulaic approach to marriage is dangerous. It sets us up for failure and disillusionment. While we can certainly see that godly actions many times result in godly responses from others (Proverbs is full of this), it isn’t a guaranteed formula and it can’t be our “reason” for doing the right thing.
So please avoid teaching that focuses on “If you do xyz in your marriage, then you’ll have your husband wrapped around your little finger.” Recognize this for what it is: manipulation. Focus on doing what you’re supposed to do out of obedience to God. If we treat God’s concepts as vending machine answers to our problems, we’ll find ourselves constantly feeling “ripped off” and discontent. Always remember, God is in control – not us.
We are commanded to submit to our husbands out of obedience to God, not so that he will love us more or pay more attention to us (though it will certainly be more likely than if we are contentious). He is commanded to love us sacrificially, not so that we will better submit to his requests or treat him with more respect (though it is certainly more likely than if he is acting like a tyrant). We are to obey God regardless of what we “get out of it.”
And again, while there are times to overlook offenses, there are also times when we are called to confront a husband who is clearly in sin. So let’s discuss how to know when it is truly a matter for biblical confrontation of sin, and when we are simply being critical, self-focused, and demanding. In addition, how do we biblically confront a sinning husband in a godly and gracious way?