Calling Something Respect Doesn’t Make it Respect

When I saw the title of Sheila Wray Gregoire’s 10 Signs You’re Respecting Your Husband Too Much post, I wondered how one could respect someone “too much”.

As I read the post, I realised the things Sheila was talking about were not really respect.

Calling Something Respect Doesn't Make it Respect

Some in the church have defined respect as blind, unthinking “obedience”. Any questioning is wrong and a sign of “disrespect”. Some use this perverted definition of respect to cover for leaders who are abusing those who follow them. The definition is also used to allow husbands to be something God never called a man to be.

Lori and I are (soft) complementarians. We believe God treats men and women a bit differently because He made us differently. Men are neither better nor more important than women, but we are different. God called men to servant leadership in marriage. Please, please see the word servant there, it matters! Servant leadership is not about getting one’s way; it’s about sacrificing for the good of those you lead. It’s much more about responsibility than authority and doesn’t make one infallible or beyond question.

I know some of you find it easy to respect your husband because of his actions. Others find it very difficult to respect their husband, again because of his actions. Beyond that, there’s what your culture tells you. Maybe you were taught to never doubt or question, or perhaps you have been told to challenge and fight every bit of male authority you can find. I don’t think either of those can be supported biblically, and I know neither of them results in the kind of marriage God wants couples to have.

Members of the CMBA have recently been discussing the issue of how women are treated. There are some really bad things going on out there, and some of it is done in the name of Jesus. All of us should be concerned about any kind of abuse, and that includes abusing women in the name of Christianity. Expect to see more on this in 2017.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I see far more responsibility than right associated with that.

Related Posts:
Enough is Enough | Gary Thomas
It’s Not Enough to Not Abuse: We Have to Cherish | Gary Thomas 

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9 Comments on “Calling Something Respect Doesn’t Make it Respect

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now. I’m so excited to see this topic come up! I’ve been a Christian for about 11years now, and some of the advice I’ve heard it’s just crazy. I actually swore never to do a marriage bible study alone again. Some of the advice just rings so wrong.
    I’ve been a fan of Sheilas for awhile now too. Her book To Love Honor and Vacuum was the first book i read that didn’t make women seem like second class citizens and when i found her blog i became a regular follower. I would agree that her examples of respect are not actually respect, but so often, people try to pass them off as respect. I’m looking forward to seeing more on this topic!

    • @Molly – Yeah, there’s a lot of garbage out there. What I don’t understand is the women who promote this stuff.
      Because this is an error promoted by the complementarian camp, I feel a responsibility to address it. I’ve done that a fair amount on The Generous Husband, but not very much here.

  2. Yes, Sheila got me to click for the same reason you did!

    To add a bit to your post, each person, male and female, desires respect to be clothed differently.
    One person may like a lot of verbal compliments and another wants actionable work that recognizes this persons needs etc.

    An easy way to learn how your spouse wants to be treated is to ask this simple question in a relaxed setting: “Honey, how would you like me to show you how much I (respect, appreciate, cherish, – substitute your own desired word) this week?” Then set about doing whatever it is they say.

    You have honest feedback from the best source!
    Jerry Stumpf recently posted…3 Pleasurable Secrets to provide security & become irresistible to your wifeMy Profile

  3. It seems to me that the problem with Gregoire’s post, which is a response to Emerson Eggericchs’ Love & Respect, is that Eggerichs AND Gregoire are operating under the idea of “unconditionality.” At least when it comes to husbands. After all, we are told that the husband owes his wife unconditional love, and both Eggerichs and Gregoire seem to accept that as a truism. Where they differ is over the question of “whether a wife owes unconditional respect” to her husband. Eggerichs says yes, Gregoire’s post seems to be arguing no. Reading through the following comments seems to demonstrate that their divide is mimicked by a wider audience.

    The problem is that the premise is wrong, to my way of thinking. Both “unconditional love” and “unconditional respect” are not called for. The call to love with unconditional love is an attempt to make a husband a better Christian than God. After all, He has conditions, like “repent” and “go and sin no more.” You know, things about following Him and serving Him.

    And if a husband’s love can have conditions (things like fidelity, etc,), then it is only to be expected that a wife’s respect might have limitations. On this point, Gregoire is correct; I’d be interested, tho, in finding out how far she would stretch it…
    CSL recently posted…A Quick PSAMy Profile

    • I think some confusion comes from what we mean by “unconditional love.” I find that term nowhere in scripture. But husbands are commanded to “love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.” The word “agape” is used in these verses. One of my Sunday School teachers, a Greek and Hebrew scholar, said that “agape” and its Hebrew equivalent “hesed” both carry the meaning to “act for the beloved’s good, at the lover’s expense.”

      Now I can’t possibly love my wife as perfectly as Christ loves, but He is my model, and it’s not an option or suggestion to me, but a command. And I can’t make her holy, but I can lead by word and deed in such a way as to bring her closer to the One who can make her holy.

      And my wife is to respect me. The word translated “respect” is “phobeo.” All psychological implications aside, the word means to revere or venerate someone. Again, it’s not a feeling of reverence, but actions. The instruction to wives to “submit” to their husbands is a military term, meaning to subordinate oneself to someone higher in rank. Now my wife doesn’t owe me the kind and degree of respect she owes Christ. But that’s due to me being a sinner, not because of my role as husband. And I have found in practical experience, when my wife has shown me respect when I least deserved it, it was used by God to correct me and draw me back to Him.

      We must remember that the Ephesians 5 discussion of relationships is set up by the command for all believers to “submit to one another in the fear of Christ.” The issues we face in our marriages, or with our children, or in our churches, would largely go away if we all consistently practiced this mutual submission, considering others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and owing nothing to anyone, except to love one another (Romans 12:8).

      So, yes, I owe my wife this kind of unconditional, unceasing, unselfish love. And she owes me this kind of unconditional, unceasing, unselfish respect. Of course, it will never be perfect this side of heaven, but with God’s help, we progress, being conformed to His image a little more each day.

      I’m so glad God shows us so much better mercy and love than many believers show each other.

      • @CSL @Bobthemusicguy – I agree “unconditional love” is an extra-biblical concept. What is really scary is the way some take it to mean I will love and support you no matter what you do. I knew a pro-life woman who “supported” a friend getting an abortion because telling her it’s wrong would have been unloving.
        Sin is sin, and it has consequences – including doing harm to a relationship.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Give a Year of TouchMy Profile

    • Hi CSL,

      I actually completely agree with you about the “unconditional” problem, which is the critique I was trying to make of the book. He’s saying that women need unconditional love, and men need unconditional respect. That’s not true. What all of us need is to look more and more like Jesus, and what God wants for all of us is for relationships that point us to Christ. Unfortunately, a lot of these books see “respect” and “love” as ideals in and of themselves, instead of seeing God’s bigger picture.

      But it goes further than that. As I was arguing in the post, you can say that you actually ARE giving “unconditional love” but actually give “tough love”, for instance, by refusing to give a drug addicted sister money or by telling a wayward spouse that they cannot continue to live in the house if they are having an affair. You can argue that this behaviour is actually loving because it is allowing them to reap what they sow (and I would agree).

      So even using Eggerichs’ logic, it is possible to give a wife unconditional love, even if she is behaving really badly, and still draw appropriate boundaries as God would have us do in order not to enable sin.

      However, there is no equivalent for “unconditional respect”, and this is where his work gets dangerous.

      I think we need to throw out the “love” and “respect” dichotomy and instead focus on acting like Jesus in all situations. I think that’s a better way to look at it. But the teaching that we’re often given regarding marriage is framed in this love and respect, and I just think it can be damaging.
      Sheila Gregoire recently posted…Our Ugly Christmas TreeMy Profile

      • @Sheila Gregoire – Thanks for showing up and commenting.
        I bet you get some pushback from suggesting we throw out something many see as a fundamental biblical command for marriage. The issue is how we define those words, and a lot of what I see has very little resemblance to the Greek or how the idea fits with the scope of the entire Bible.
        Paul Byerly recently posted…Protecting Her From FamilyMy Profile

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