Unconditional Respect???

When Emerson started talking about unconditional respect in the Love and Respect Live Marriage Conference DVDs I found myself saying “that’s not a thing”. I’m a guy, and I baulked at it, so I totally get why women say “no way”.

No way! © Piotr Marcinski | Dreamstime.com

Thing is, the Bible tells women to do this very thing:

…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” [Eph 5:33 ESV]

We are fine with the idea of a man loving a wife who has done nothing to deserve love, but we reject the idea of a wife respecting a man who “has not earned respect”. Why the double standard? How can we agree with one and reject the other?

Unconditional respect is an alien idea in our Western culture, but the writers of the New Testament saw things differently. Consider for example:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” [Rom 13:1-5 ESV]

This was written to people who lived under the thumb of the Roman Empire. The Romans conquered people and imposed their will. We would call them evil – but Jesus and the writers of the New Testament called for people to obey and respect the Roman government. The idea of unconditional respect based on position was the norm for early Christians. Unless asked to violate God’s Word, they obeyed.

Honestly, I cannot get my head around that. I do my best to do what the Bible says in this, but I do not understand it. I do not understand it with regard to government, and I do not understand it in marriage. However, while I do not understand it, I do see it can do amazing things. Give a man the respect the Bible says he should have, and he changes. Treat him as respectful, and he likely becomes more respectable. Like much of God’s way of doing things it seem backwards to us. And, like much of God’s way, it works.

Men need respect, and most men today are starved for any hint of it. If you give him what he is dying for, you become important. He will want to be around you, and he will want to build a better relationship with you.

To hear about this from a woman, try Living Ephesians 5: Wives, Respect your Husband by Nancy C. Anderson. Anderson wrote Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage, and contributed a guest article to The Marriage Bed.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and being respected really floats my boat!

In This Series:

What Makes Him Feel Respected? 
Unconditional Respect ◄ This page
Confronting to Connect 
The Respect Note 

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10 Comments on “Unconditional Respect???

  1. I get this Paul. As I understand it it comes down to loving our neighbors as ourselves. In our obedience to God we honor Him when we respect others. Is it too far to connect unconditional love with unconditional respect. I get the government thing too. I am appalled by the mud-slinging politicians do. Rather than compete with each other, as in marriage, why can they not complete each other? I support our government and pray for them even though they may not be who I voted for. It gives me peace and, who knows it may help make a difference. Prayer works. As I share with my kids and others, I will support the government so long as they are not going against God’s Word. When they do that then I do what I can to come against their actions.
    Dr Richard Norris recently posted…Questions Are The AnswerMy Profile

  2. If my husband behaves in ways that do not garner respect, I can still respect HIM. If the behavior is an expression of secondary emotions (anger) meant to hide primary emotions (hurt), I can hold him accountable in a way that helps him release his true feelings. I can speak my mind and share my opinion in ways that make him feel supported and in partnership with me.
    One of the ways I respect my husband is to insist on his respect toward me. We have an understanding of mutual respect in the way we treat each other and speak to one another. I expect my husband to tell me if I do/say something that makes him feel disrespected, for if he keeps that from me, he is in turn, disrespecting me.
    Women tend to have that intuition thing going on which helps us be resonant leaders. We are called to use those gifts to nurture respect in our marriages. We also have tendencies to use our gifts in destructive ways (nagging, complaining); perhaps the scripture passages about respecting one’s husband are meant to caution us accordingly.

    • Excellent comments – you get it!
      I especially like expecting him to show you respect. I think men respond well to this, because they understand it, and they can respect their wife wanting respect. If she is willing to put up with disrespectful behaviour he will think less of her, and that might allow him to justify treating her poorly.
      Using our gifts in destructive ways is a human thing, and those who understand are less likely to make a mess!
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Confronting to ConnectMy Profile

  3. Great insights Paul – I really like this blog.

    I’m living in the reaping of unconditional respect. This type of respect (aka submission) of a wife frees a husband. Frees him to love his wife the way God intended rather than what she thinks she needs/demands. Frees God to heal her husband’s heart from past wounds accumulated from life – she’s not his healer, Jesus is. Frees God to work on his character in ways that she hinders by getting in His way. God merely asks wives to step back (submit) and stop pushing and fighting with them, so He can expose the hidden heart – what needs the real work. I like what Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

    It was painfully humbling to realize and know that God could actually make Darrell into a better husband than I could with my earthly perspective.
    Robyn Gibson recently posted…Serving through sex (Part 2 – Serving is not submission)My Profile

    • Great thoughts!
      I agree – feeling respected allows me to love my wife better. I suppose it should not matter, but it does. And her letting God deal with me certainly makes a difference. I see wives who get between God and their husband, giving him shelter from what God wants to do with him.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Confronting to ConnectMy Profile

    • “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” OR a wife, OR children, OR a cat.

      Darrell is a finally very blessed man to have you for a wife.

      In my church and old friend was talking to another and said “We’re lucky to have….(whatever)” Another “more righteous” eavesdropping member said, “We don’t believe in luck. We believe in blessings,” to which my friend replied, “Well, aren’t we lucky to be blessed.” RIM SHOT!

      Dan recently posted…If Duty Sex Isn’t Her Duty, What Is? Part 2My Profile

  4. Paul, I really liked this statement you made:

    “Treat him as respectful, and he likely becomes more respectable.”

    A man gets a lot of his self worth from how his wife treats him. If she treats him poor, he is likely to have a bad self image and will act out of that in harmful ways. If he is treated well and respected, he will want to live up to it.
    Daniel Robertson recently posted…“Life is Short. Have an Affair” (With Your Spouse)My Profile

    • “A man gets a lot of his self worth from how his wife treats him.”

      True, but not what God intended. Eldredge calls it taking the problem to the woman. It puts us in a bad place, and gives her the power to hurt and manipulate us. We should get our self worth from God, and other men should be the primary human contacts for that.

      Of course knowing that and living it are very different things, and I am still working on it after 30 years of marriage.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…The Crazy CycleMy Profile

      • Wives feel the same way, they have the same battle because they get a lot of their selfworth from how their husbands treat them. So be careful how you deal with your wife (be loving and never stop dating her;)). As christians we need to see the truth about selfworth and rest on it – i think it has two aspects: 1. we are precious to God who redeemed us. 2. the more we obey God, the more we fulfill our God given roles as men and women, the more we feel good about it and we feel like real men/women regardless of our spouses response.

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