In the process of understanding our relationship with our wives, what is the most important factor? Do we try our best to measure up to what we perceive as their expectations for us, or are we supposed to relate to them the best we can—putting our best foot forward based on what we read in books, or behaviors we see in other men we respect or admire? Maybe … there’s another way.
I never understood what Gwen saw in me. I don’t say that out of false humility, I am being sincere. Having said that, I know that she appreciated the love I had for her and the fact that I was not afraid to show it. I’m not referring to my frequent love pats or flirting glances when no one else was looking (although there is great value in that).
I’m talking about being her biggest fan even when her plan didn’t sound the best, or showing up on time to a function I really didn’t want to attend—without a hint of complaining.
Gentlemen, believe me when I say this—they inherently know if we want to be there or not, so there is absolutely no benefit in complaining, and a great deal of benefit in being there for our wives. And I mean really being there—excited about whatever it is you’re doing for her just because you’re doing it for her.
In 1 Peter 3:7 we are told,
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
We know in our hearts that our wives should be treated differently than anyone else in our lives. They are to be loved, cared for and protected by us. We are to give them the honor and respect they deserve as heirs with us of the grace of life.
The last part of that verse is intriguing, to say the least—so that your prayers may not be hindered. This ties in closely with Colossians 3:19,
Husband, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
We have been given clear direction with a not-so-mild warning—that our prayers may actually be hindered if we treat our wives harshly, don’t live with them in an understanding way, and don’t show honor to them. It doesn’t say honoring them, it says showing honor to them. If they don’t feel the honor, it’s not enough.
These instructions were important enough to include in scripture—they are important enough for us to incorporate into our daily lives.
Just before Gwen and I were married, I listened one evening to a James Dobson Focus On The Family episode where the topic was man’s role in marriage. Dr. Dobson mentioned something on that program that I applied to my marriage from day one, and never regretted it.
His advice was this—Never be harsh with your wife or tear her down for any reason! Instead, build her up—not just now and then, but always and often. When she embarks on a difficult task, encourage her and be her number one supporter—to her face and behind her back. And never, ever criticize her in front of others, including your children. If you need to offer constructive criticism, do so in love … really—in love. She’ll respect you for it.
Over the years I watched this change Gwen from a tiny bit timid, to someone who believed that she could do whatever God told her to do. She became sure of herself and touched the lives of countless women as a result. I do not take credit for this, but I could have squelched it with a harsh attitude, unsupportive nature or unkind words of criticism. Just the thought of that makes me shudder.