Recently, while reading “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, I came across a statistic that absolutely blew my mind. According to Dr. Eggerichs, when asked which they would choose if they were forced to choose between their wife’s love or her respect, almost 80% of husbands responded, “respect,” without hesitation. As a woman, this was baffling to me until I considered my interactions with my husband. Until I considered what I had observed in the interactions of other husbands and wives. Until I considered the interactions I have observed between fathers and their children. Most importantly, until I considered Scripture.

Ephesians 5:33,

“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I have studied this text many times, but I believe I have studied it with a filter I didn’t realize was there. In the back of my mind was the thought, “Well, Paul used “respect” instead of “love” because “love, love” would just be redundant. But really, that’s what he meant.”

My logic was silly and flawed. As one would expect, when husbands were told to love their wives, Paul used the word “agape.” Yet when wives were told to respect their husbands, he used the word “phobia.” This word has several meanings, including to be in an apprehensive state, to fear someone or something, or to have a profound measure of respect for someone. It is the same word that is used repeatedly for the way we are to view God (1 Peter 2:17, Colossians 3:22). Ladies, we are biblically commanded to have the same type of respect for our husbands that we have for our God.

On the practical level, there are several lessons we need to take away from this revelation:

#1. God created our husbands. He knows what they need much better than we ever could, and He understands how they work better than we ever will. If God tells us to respect our husbands, it’s because He understands that they have a deep emotional need for our respect. We need to honestly consider if we respect our husband the way God expects us to.

#2. Satan also understands the way men work. When you stop and think about American Society over the last 50-60 years, what trend do you notice? Just consider two influential aspects of American culture: women’s liberation and sitcoms. Both are specifically and intentionally used to undermine and disrespect men. With women’s lib, men are unneeded and unwanted, and we as women can do just fine on our own. Thank you very much. Then, the vast majority of television sitcoms portray the husband/father as the bumbling idiot who is irresponsible, constantly creates problems, and needs to be saved by the composed, responsible, wise wife (or, at times, even the children!) What impact have these attitudes had? The American family is in shambles. Could there possibly be a correlation between the destruction of the American family and idolizing ideals that demean the core of who men are?

#3. This is truly a need for men, not a desire. In his book, Dr. Eggerichs followed this statistic with another mind-blowing statement. He said that in his experience, women feel entitled to their husband’s love regardless of anything else and that the idea of a woman having to earn her husband’s love would be infuriating. Yet that is precisely the approach we take with the wife’s respect for her husband. He must earn it, and the level of respect she gives him directly correlates with what she feels he “deserves.” Ladies, this is inconsistent and unfair.

First of all, that’s not what Scripture says. Just as the husband is commanded to love the wife, the wife is commanded to love the husband. God did not make this a conditional statement. But second, it isn’t fair or right to have higher expectations of our husbands than we do for ourselves. It’s not fair to expect them to love us even when we act unlovable (because we inevitably do at times) while refusing to respect them until they earn it.

#4. Do we respect our husbands in front of our children? The father/child relationship is what God has used to describe His relationship with His people repeatedly in Scripture. Sisters, the truth is that if we treat our husband like a bumbling idiot who needs us to save him in front of our children, that perspective will influence the way our children view their Heavenly Father. I confess that there have been times I’ve disrespected my husband in front of our kids. When this happens, I make sure to also repent in front of our kids. They need to know that it’s not acceptable for anyone to disrespect their father, especially not their mother. I certainly can’t discipline my children when they act disrespectfully if I turn around and argue with them, hide things from them, or treat them sarcastically.

Not only do we need to make sure we aren’t disrespecting our husband in front of our children, but we also need to praise him every chance we get. Our kiddos need to hear us talk about how wonderful, hard-working, wise, and kind their daddy is. I understand that not all husbands act this way all the time. But once again, we are commanded to respect him, not respect him when he earns it. The truth is that people become what we tell them they are. If we are continually nagging, belittling, and disrespecting our husbands, they will become men who are haggard, lazy, and grumpy. Yet, if we continually shower them with respect and admiration, they will naturally strive to meet those expectations.

Sisters, for most of us, if our husbands were forced to choose between us loving them or respecting them, they would hands-down choose our respect. This is how God created them and how He has commanded us to relate to them. We see our society living in rebellion against this command, and it’s not going well. Let’s make sure that our home is a haven from the world. Let’s make sure that our home is a place where our husband knows he is respected and admired. Let’s teach our children to respect and admire their daddy in the same way we want them to respect and admire their God.

May God continually bless you as you strive to honor Him in your marriage.

Lacy Crowell
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Lacy Crowell is the Dean of Students at Freed Hardeman University in Henderson, TN. She has been married to the love of her life, Jonathan, for over 20 years. They are blessed with four amazing kiddos whom Lacy has had the privilege of homeschooling. She has also served alongside her husband in full-time ministry for 15 years.  She is a graduate of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her great joy is working to help others become excited about studying God’s word, and helping couples thrive in their marriages. She is a member of the Come Fill Your Cup team and the author of two Bible study books for women: Proclaimed – Jesus the Messiah which is a study of the Gospel of Mark, and Pursued – God’s Plan for Intimacy in Marriage: a study of the Song of Solomon.