In a recent comment discussion over at the Peacefulwife Blog, a question developed that I thought was interesting. The commenter questioned that if he is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and God gave him the authority to be the headship of the family, how does a husband balance making a decision that he feels is best for the family without abusing his authority? The Peacefulwife and I each took a turn at trying to explain how we try to find this balance.
Respected Husband’s Take
So, the question is “Where’s the balance between just putting my foot down and abusing my authority?” The Peacefulwife was the dominant decision maker in our marriage. I was the passive husband. That being said, she really had always pictured that she followed the definition of a submissive wife as found in the Bible. It never occurred to her that she may not be submitting to my authority as the headship of the family. There were, however, times when I would not budge on an issue. Those were times when I knew that she was wrong or that it seemed her heart was leading more than her head. She would not like those decisions, and may grumble, pout, or explain all of the reasons she was right, but in the end she would respect my position.
Your role as husband is really a servant’s role. When you are married you really are two people connected as one that need each other taking care of the body. If one isn’t do their part it makes the other’s job harder and also hurts the union. It takes two people giving 100% to maintain the body at 100%. Some people like to think that sometimes they can give 40% if their wife gives 60% and they will be fine. Or they will give 70% while their wife gives 30%. It just doesn’t work out to keep the marriage at its peak condition.
When it comes to your wife, you cannot demand that she submit to you fully. She has to do that and has to be fully on the bus drinking the Kool-Aid for it to work out. The Peacefulwife chose a few years back to totally put her trust in me and respect me 100%. I never asked her to do this nor could I have made her. Since that time, her willingness to be under my leadership has made me a much stronger husband, father, and man. Her trust in me has given me confidence in my role beyond measure and our family seen such a positive direction in all aspects.
Your wife has to be the one to decide to put her life and her trust with you fully. The Peacefulwife has told me often that when she made that choice it was the scariest time in her life. In reality your wife needs to put her trusts in God believing that you will love her as Christ loved the church. This is a lot harder to put into practice than to read about.
God gives the greater challenge to husbands in His design for marriage. I think that just like wives can go too far one way and be controlling/ disrespectful or too far the other way as a doormat – husbands can also veer off course. Husbands can easily be tyrants or passive. Neither of those extremes glorify God.
I usually focus only on a wife’s perspective and what she can do on her own to honor God, but a husband can make submission, respect and cooperation SO much easier and more attractive for his wife by laying down his life for her and loving her as Christ loves the church. Not every wife has a husband like that. But I believe a wife’s obedience to God’s commands for marriage make it much easier for a husband to learn to be like Christ and a godly leader. I love how God honors one spouse’s obedience and can change a marriage even if only one spouse obeys Him. Of course, if BOTH are seeking to obey God together – THAT is how things work best of all!
A wife cannot be forced to submit or respect – it must be her gift, freely given out of reverence for Christ. And a husband cannot be forced to love or lead in a godly way – that must be his freely given gift, done out of his reverence for Christ. When the wife focuses in her own obedience, she and her husband are blessed. And when a husband focuses on his own obedience, he and his wife are blessed! God is so very wise and good!
I will say that in my own experience as a wife, before I really understood respect and submission (the first 15 years of our marriage) there were a few times my husband really put his foot down and I HATED it at the time. At the time I couldn’t understand his decision and thought he was trying to make me miserable. Now I am SO THANKFUL for those times he stuck to his guns and wouldn’t back down. Now I can see that one time I would have caused a serious family divide that may have hurt a lot of feelings if we had done what I wanted to do. And some other times I would have also created big messes that were unnecessary. Now I look back on some of his decisions with gratitude. Now I appreciate that God has given my husband wisdom that He has not given to me, and now I place myself willingly under my husband’s leadership and protection when before I didn’t and felt I was carrying most of the weight. That weight nearly crushed me.
My heartbeat for my husband’s leadership now is that I desire him to follow God regardless of my feelings. I want him to hear my thoughts, my desires and perspective. But I fully understand that HE will give an account to God for the decisions. The buck stops with him. So now, even if he makes a decision I don’t agree with, I only tell him my feelings and desires, usually once – and very respectfully. And I tell him, “I trust you to do what is best.” Many times, he does what I want because he loves to see me happy. But ultimately, I know that God is leading me through him, and I know now that I may be fighting God’s will if I fight against my husband’s decision. I also know that he can hear God MUCH more clearly. If I give him time, space and quiet to think about and pray about what God wants him to do, and if I give him genuine respect and admiration. If he truly believes God wants him to do something, I don’t want to be the one standing in God’s way. I would rather my husband upset me and lead in what he believes is God’s will than cave in to my emotions and do what I want just because I don’t like a decision at the moment. I appreciate feeling heard and knowing my husband takes my needs and desires into account. But I also love knowing the ultimate weight is on him, not me, before God. So I want to make his job as easy as possible. I have full confidence that my husband will do what he thinks is best for me and my family, and that gives me peace and confidence more than just him giving me what I want.
A wife may be able to appreciate decisions in the future looking back with hindsight that she may resist currently. Her emotions and perspective and feelings, and of course, her health, have to be considerations for you, but so does God’s voice. Ultimately, pleasing Him is the most important job a husband has.
If you are truly seeking God’s will and His best for your wife and your family, and you are speaking gently and lovingly and giving lots of reassurance of your love verbally and in acts of service, then I think that helps to prove that you are acting in a godly way.
If you are not considering your wife’s feelings or desires or perspective, or being selfish, malicious, harsh, hateful, cruel, ungodly or trying to justify your own sin then that, to me, would be abuse of your authority. If you see the fruit of the spirit and of love 1 Cor. 13:4-8 in your action and you are acting in love, not hatred, resentment, ego, pride or bitterness, those are good tests!