R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find Out What It Means to…Your Man
RESPECT – we all know it when we see it and can definitely point out disrespect when it comes our way. But what does respect really mean? And what does it look like?
These are the questions that I have been asked as I have worked with and mentored women, especially those who are newlyweds and are just trying to figure out what it looks like to be the wives God wants them to be. After all, Ephesians 5 not only instructs women to submit but also to respect their own husbands.
So how does a wife show respect to her husband? Well…what better way to find the answer to that than to ask a group of husbands? Before you start picturing “I Love Lucy” re-runs, it might surprise you to learn how respect is communicated to most men. In an informal survey, I asked my married colleagues, ranging from a newlywed husband to a veteran of anniversaries, this one simple question: In one sentence, what does respect look like to a husband?
As I pressed “send” on the email, I expected to get a quick volley of responses. After all, this was their chance to tell us wives what they wished we knew. But instead, I heard crickets. And so I waited.
What I learned is that these godly men, like the rest of us, had a tough time explaining what respect is, but they could tell me what it is not. After a few lighthearted responses (my personal favorite being a video of James Brown’s It’s a Man’s World), the thoughtful responses I got offered a brief but insightful view into a husband’s world.
So, here you go, ladies. What does respect look like and how can we wives practically communicate it?
Let Him Make Decisions
This was by far the most common response. Now that doesn’t mean that we never offer our opinion, discuss the situation, or give input. But, at the end of the day, we should step back and let him make the final decision for the family. As one of my colleagues who has been married for over 20 years wrote, a wife who conveys respect will communicate something like: “Although I am grateful you seek out my thoughts and opinions, I look up to you and I respect your ability to make final decisions about our marriage and home.”
What if you don’t agree with a decision? That is where you still step back and let him make the decision out of respect and trust. The responsibility lies on his shoulders, not yours. They are called to lead. We are called to let them.
Speak Only Good of Him
This was the second most common response. One of our guys who has been married for just a few years said: “Respect is also seen by her honoring and representing her husband well in public to present him positively toward others.” Of course, that’s no surprise to us. The Proverbs 31 Woman has a husband who is praised at the city gates (v. 23), probably because she speaks of him in a way that leads others to respect him.
Another, who has been married much longer shares, “I do believe that when this quality is engaged, a woman will protect her husband’s reputation among his and her family.” He goes on to say that a woman who truly wants to show respect will protect him, even when he is being less-than-stellar. Speak only those things that build up and do not tear down. Even if he never sees or hears your words, the words you speak will plant seeds of either respect or disrespect in your heart.
Seek out His Opinion
This means valuing his opinion so much, that you seek it out, wait to hear what he has to say, and truly consider it. One of my colleagues who is fairly newly married and a new father writes that if a wife seeks out her husband’s opinion, that alone tells him that she values his opinion, thereby conveying respect.
Ask him what he thinks…and stop talking long enough to hear his response!
Consider Your Demeanor
Respect is often communicated non-verbally, especially with our eyes. I don’t know about you, but my eyes can say more in one look than my mouth can in a 10-minute diatribe. One of my favorite responses came from a colleague who has many check-marks on the anniversary calendar. He writes that he can tell when a wife respects a husband by the way she looks at him. She has “eyes that say ‘I look up to him.’”
Ladies, we communicate much with our eyes. (Those of you who have teens or pre-teens know exactly what I mean.) The eyes are the window to the soul. Your husband can tell if you respect him by what he sees in your demeanor.
My colleagues who have been married the longest went straight to the root of this issue. Respect starts with a heart of humility that is walking close to God. Out of the heart flow our actions, our behaviors, and even our non-verbal cues. As one man said, “I believe that the respect referred to in 1 Peter 3, has less to do with what they do and more to do with an attitude of the heart that is then reflected in the quality of the relationship that God uses to win the disobedient husband.” If we struggle with showing respect to our husbands, we need to realize it is not their problem, but ours. Our hearts are the ones that need to change so that our actions, our eyes, and our desires convey the respect we have been called to give.
Whether God uses you to show respect that turns the heart of a disobedient husband, or encourages and uplifts a husband who is a man after God’s own heart, we must recognize that respect is what our husbands want and need.
Tonight, you should ask your husband the same question. “What does respect look like to you?” You just might be surprised at what he says.
[Special thanks to the married faculty and staff guys with whom I have the privilege of serving.]