A woman asks, “How do you respect a man who has a habit of lying and going against everything the Word says. How does this work in an unequally yoked marriage? I have no respect for willful sin. I can respect free will choice, but not the sin and choices he makes to lead his family away from God.”
The question you ask is a common one and I urge anyone who feels this way to read through what we have written at loveandespect.com/blog and in the book Love & Respect. They will discover that we never tell a wife to respect bad behavior.
Who in their right mind would promote such a notion?
When I was young, I witnessed my dad attempt to strangle my mother. I would never support the ludicrous idea that my mom ought to respect that.
However, all of us as human beings need to answer this question: If a person is unlovable, does that justify my unloving, harsh and hateful attitude? Or this one: If a person is unrespectable, does that justify my disrespectful, rude and contemptuous attitude?
Wives have written to me about the many serious and sinful problems they see in their husbands but then they tell me of their discovery about how disrespectful their reactions were as wives and how ineffective.
- “I started to understand that whoever made a mistake first or when it happened wasn’t important but naturally my disrespect towards my husband since all the craziness started wasn’t doing my family any good.”
- “In my situation, my disrespect manifested itself more in my attitude, i.e. body language, rolling my eyes this type of thing. Which I now see is just as damaging as calling my husband ‘stupid’. The message really is the same. I guess I have justified my disrespect all these years, because in my mind I was not ‘speaking’ disrespect with words, so somehow I believed I was really using self-control in this area. How foolish I have been.”
- “My attitude.. has been disdainful and disrespectful… I have to make amends. I have to stop this. I cannot be another lost girl under the curse of my mother… but I let a bad economy and victim mentality drive my disrespect.
The point we make is this: we must confront unrespectable behavior truthfully, firmly and without compromise, but we must deliver that message in a dignified manner. Our disrespectful words and attitudes will never get through if we do so otherwise.
Sadly, today’s culture leans toward the notion that a person must earn respect. If we declare that a person is undeserving of respect, then the culture declares that we have every right to treat him or her with contempt and disdain in order to motivate them to become loving and respectable.
By way of analogy, this would mean I can be ugly toward an unkind person in order to inspire that person to be nice.
In your situation you ask the very question godly women asked the apostle Peter in the First Century. We can read his answer to the question in 1 Peter 3:1,2.
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
Notice the husband is “disobedient” so he does not deserve respect. He has not earned respect. Even so, God reveals that a wife wins her husband via “respectful behavior.” In other words, contemptuous and disrespectful attitudes and words do not win him.
Peter does not promote the idea that a wife ought to respect her husband’s bad behavior, nor that she must go along with his sin. Peter would never instruct a wife to accept the evil in which her husband is engaged.
Likewise, those familiar with the story of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts (5:1-11) will recall that Peter confronted Sapphira for going along with her husband’s wicked plan to lie against the church and the Holy Spirit. Peter would never have said to Sapphira, “Thanks for respecting your husband by respecting his wicked choice and going along with his iniquity.” Instead, she lost her life. Peter does not view a respectful attitude and words to mean giving a husband license to do whatever he wishes and that a wife ought to participate.
Instead, Peter calls wives to win their disobedient husbands with “respectful behavior” which means drawing a line in the sand but never rudely, disdainfully, or contemptuously.
Is this fair to a wife? No. Does this work? Peter tells us that if anything will win a disobedient husband, her respectful behavior influences his heart.
Listen to this wife:
- “I have been treating Chris as respectfully as I can, and I have asked the Lord to work all contempt out of my body language, facial features and tone of voice, and to work respect in. I am doing my best to win him back without a word… I am pleasant to him… Not always an easy thing considering all that has happened… But I know God has a plan, and this unfamiliar commandment to unconditionally respect my husband is playing a huge part of it. Is it working? Well, Chris finds little ways to serve me, whether it’s a little chore around the house when he visits, or purchasing items for the house without my asking him to, or giving me extra money for no apparent reason. This week he’s offered to finish a long overdue renovation project for me, and he’s asked me to accompany him and the children out for dinner this Tuesday. He always brings Tim Horton’s coffee for me when he comes, and in the evenings that he is here, he stays for an hour or two to talk to me after the children go to bed… I would chance to say that once Chris does find the Lord again, he will likely come home. That’s my prayer and hope.”
Simply stated, when a husband is unrespectable God reveals that her contemptuous and disrespectful demeanor will not win his heart.
Though respectful behavior does not guarantee winning him, disrespectful behavior pretty much closes the door on winning a husband’s heart. No human being responds to contempt.