Back when I first started this blog I wrote a post on the topic of unconditional respect. That post came about as I was reading Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only. I have been going through the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and thought it would be a good time to return to the concept of unconditional respect.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word, by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. – 1 Peter 3:1-2
A common theme you see today in many places is the idea that respect must be earned. This isn’t some idea that is specific to men or women. In the workplace, there is the idea that a manager needs to earn the respect of his employees to get them to produce for them. In the military, there is the principle that a recruit must earn his stripes to advance his status in the ranks. The idea that respect should not be granted until someone earns it is pretty common.
Let’s look at another example. You go to a decent restaurant with your family and have a nice meal. Your waiter/waitress takes your order and gets your food out to you. The food is delicious but maybe there is something about the service that irks you. Maybe you had to wait a few minutes to get your drink refilled. Maybe it took a little longer than you would have liked to get the check or get the check back. Maybe the music was too loud. Maybe you had to sit at a table that wasn’t comfortable or in a bad spot. Since there was something about the service that didn’t meet your expectations, what do you do when it comes time to determine your tip? Do you tip on the low side because of your experience? Do you tip a pretty standard 10-15% no matter how the service is?
The problem in this situation is that if you undertip the waiter/waitress you may be making a statement on the quality of your experience, but you may be hurting a lot of people that you were not trying to. When you tip, not only are you tipping your waiter/waitress but percentages of that tip go to the busboy, hostess, bartender, and cooking staff. If your issue was with the waiter/waitress you may be hurting those other people at the restaurant that are trying to earn a living. Likewise, if your issue was with the hostess, you are lashing out at all of the others that are trying to serve you by undertipping. So, even if I don’t have the perfect restaurant experience, I will typically tip the standard tip. It could be said that my tip was pretty much unconditional. I chose to give the expected amount even if all aspects of my service was not great.
Just as an aside, I have a friend that worked in a restaurant while going through college. If we go to a restaurant he will typically tip well over the standard tip because he has been in that position and knows what it is like trying to “earn” a living through tips at a restaurant.
So, back to the topic of unconditional respect, when I tip at a restaurant it is showing that I respect the work of everyone at the restaurant and not an endorsement of the bad service of one person there. Dr. Eggerichs makes a comparison that a wife “can give her husband unconditional respect in tone and expression while confronting his unloving behavior and without endorsing his unloving reactions. He may deserve contempt, but that doesn’t win him any more than harshness and anger wins the heart of a woman.”
So, if we can believe that husbands should give unconditional love and wives should give unconditional respect why is the latter such a hard concept to grasp? My guess is that it is because men typically will not ask for respect whereas women will ask for unconditional love. Dr. Eggerichs explains that “women are much more expressive-responsive than men, who tend to compartmentalize their emotions. To put it simply, women are much more apt to show how they feel while men shut down.” It is hard to say that women should be at fault here for expressing their need for love or that they should be able to read their husband’s minds about a need for respect. A husband often feels trapped in his marriage because he hears that he is failing at unconditionally loving his wife and at the same time feels the pressure that he needs to earn his wife’s respect. It is a recipe for shutting down, becoming cold, and isolating one’s self from the pain.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:33
When a wife doesn’t feel loved by her husband it probably is that her husband is feeling confused about how to accomplish that task. He may respond in love at the start of marriage but if he isn’t feeling the respect from his wife in return his enthusiasm to express his love begins to wane. Full communication between a husband and a wife seems to need a two way street where each is giving the other what they need most. Unconditional love and unconditional respect seem to energize each spouse to give the other what they need most.
It is kind of like you are pouring in nourishment to each spouse. A husband or wife that is feeling fully loved or fully respected can find a lot of good things to do for his spouse. On the opposite extreme, if a spouse is starving for what they need they will have a hard time finding the desire to feed their spouse. Dr. Eggerichs describes unconditional respect’s impact on a man as “respect does something to the soul of a man.”
Sometimes when respect is brought up as a need for men people try to connect it with a need to be served, acceptance of abuse, or even more severe exaggerations of the term. This is not the type of respect that I am discussing. When a man is being respected he has a desire to serve his family with his life. He will seek to do all he can to provide, protect, and sacrifice for them. It is his way of providing love for his wife and family. When a husband is feeling respected he wants to do his best for his family because he is motivated by the belief that they have in him.