Honesty may be the best policy but it exacts a high premium. Honesty is hard. Especially in marriage. Confrontation is not comfortable. And less so if you’re a Christ-following woman. Christian women often feel conflict about confronting their husbands so they fall into a pattern of dishonesty.
I have to admit that I have not always been honest with my present husband. And I was not always honest with my late husband. For different reasons.
With my present husband, I think it’s because I just don’t want to rock the love boat. We just celebrated our seventh anniversary. Peter is my lover, my best friend, my protector. We enjoy one another’s company.
Who wants to mess with that?
So, there have been things that have troubled me that I’ve just let go because I wanted to keep the bliss boat afloat. I didn’t want to do anything that would disrupt my happy marriage. But my husband needs me to speak up to him about such things, and when I don’t I’m letting him down.
Many women sacrifice honesty on the altar of peace. Unfortunately, the sacrifice sometimes comes back to bite them. Non-confrontation only brings a pseudo peace. It’s like calm waters with crocodiles at the bottom.
When we don’t confront for the sake of keeping the peace, we’re actually undermining true peace in our relationships. We’re creating an environment for anger and bitterness to seethe beneath the surface. Honesty may hurt a little upfront, but its healing properties are worth the pain.
The reasons for not being honest with my first husband were different.
He didn’t want my honesty and wouldn’t receive it because of his underlying distortion of a woman’s role in marriage.
My late husband was a man of God. He truly loved the Lord. And I loved him. He was a man that loved the downtrodden and the lost. He gave himself for the gospel. I hate to say anything negative about him, but our stories are entwined. I can’t tell my story without telling his, so those of you who knew him and loved him, please understand that I’m doing this to help women persevere in their own stories. Bill would probably say, Good job, honey, if he could get the message across the Great Divide.
Bill was raised in a culture where women and children were to be seen and not heard.
He never sought my counsel or even my opinion. He actually jokingly said one time, in the hearing of several people, that if he wasn’t sure which direction to go, he would ask me, “Marilyn, do you think we should go east or west?” If I said west, he would know he was supposed to go east.
No one laughed.
He believed that a wife had no right to ever, under any circumstances, argue with her husband. His definition of “argue” was to disagree in any manner.
Of course, I did disagree with him—often.
But the fact that I was not allowed to share my honest opinions with him; to challenge his actions in a calm, respectful, constructive way left me with a boiling pot of emotions that I could only release when the temperature got high enough to send them over the edge.
I can honestly say that I did not covet the “headship” of the household.
I didn’t want to be in charge. All I wanted was the opportunity to offer my opinion, and to have it seriously considered. All of my talents and intelligence and insights into the Word were available to my husband, but he didn’t avail himself of them.
I have to take responsibility for allowing myself to be demeaned and for not being courageous enough to be honest with Bill about behaviors that were destructive to me and to my children—and to him. I did him a disservice. He needed me to be stronger than that.
So what does the Bible really say about a woman’s place in a marriage relationship?
In Genesis 2:18 we read “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
A wife is a help that is meet for her husband. What does that mean? When you put together the Greek definitions of help and meet, you come up with a woman who surrounds and protects her husband on one hand, and stands against him on the other.
The Greek definition of “help” is to surround, protect, aid
The word “meet” is a front, part opposite; over against or before
Notice that “meet” doesn’t mean back, it means front.
It doesn’t present a picture of the man leading and the woman bringing up the rear.
The man and woman are face to face. She is the opposite part, over against her husband. This a face to face, nose to nose position. It’s two halves of a whole. Each is in a position to challenge the other. Men need their wives to “stand against” them sometimes.
But a wife is also her husband’s protector. How does that work?
For one, a husband needs to feel safe with his wife.
Here it comes. That Proverbs 31 woman we all love to hate.
Proverbs 31:11-12 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm all the days of her life.
The reason for confronting and being honest with our husbands should be to do them good and not harm. If it’s all about us, we don’t have the right motive.
One book every woman should read is Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich.
We understand the concept of unconditional love.
We’re supposed to love everyone, including our husbands, whether they deserve it or not. But respect? We tend to believe respect has to be earned. It’s given on condition of our husband’s behavior. Eggerich says that respect, like love, needs to be unconditional. The Apostle Peter agrees in I Peter 3:2
There is never—let me repeat it—never an excuse for a woman to be disrespectful of her husband.
I have been deeply and shamefully guilty of that many times. And I here and now ask the Lord’s forgiveness. Again.
A woman is her husband’s equal partner.
But does being equal mean we should assert our authority all the time? Jesus didn’t.
Philippians 2:6 . . . who (Jesus), though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (emphasis mine).
Jesus didn’t grasp at his equality with God. He didn’t insist on His rights as part of the trinity. He gave them up and came to earth to die for a world that didn’t understand or appreciate the gesture. Jesus surrendered His equality to the Father for love of a lost world.
In our age, everything is about equality. With Christ, everything is about surrender.
Confrontation should be as much for the other person’s benefit as it is for ours. Confronting out of self-interest and anger will only make things worse.
There’s a beautiful story in the Bible of a woman who confronted her husband and King David (who later became her husband). It’s the story of Abigail. It’s found in I Samuel 25:1-42. You should read it. I’ll give you the short version.
Abigail was married to a churlish (love that word) man named Nabal. He was mean and arrogant and downright evil. His name actually meant foolish, vile, wicked.
Imagine what Abigail’s life was like.
While David was running from Saul, (the king God said David would replace) he came in contact with Nabal’s shepherds. He protected them and treated them well.
David had a lot of men to feed.
He was in the wilderness.
Provisions were getting low.
He sent a message to Nabal asking for some food. Nabal not only refused, but he insulted David.
This did not sit well with the fugitive king. He headed towards Nabal’s place, promising to kill everyone who pissed against a wall (Bible’s words, not mine).
One of Nabal’s shepherds told Abigail the story.
Without telling her husband what she was going to do, she had the servants prepare 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already cooked, five measures of parched grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs. They laid them on donkeys and she set out with the servants to meet David. That was quite a peace offering!
When she found David, she got off of her donkey and fell on the ground before him, an act of humility and supplication. She apologized for her husband, acknowledging that he was as vile and foolish as his name implied.
She told David that if he avenged himself on Nabal and his shepherds, he would have blood on his hands, and he would regret it when he ascended to the throne.
That was pretty brave!
But notice her attitude. She humbled herself before David, and David responded.
I Samuel 25:33 And blessed be your discretion and advice, and blessed be you who have kept me today from bloodguiltiness and from avenging myself with my own hand
When Abigail got home, Nabal was having a big drunken party, so she waited until the next morning to tell him what she’d done. I can only imagine how afraid Abigail was that night. Nabal could kill her without impunity. She was his property. I’m sure she expected to die when she faced her husband.
I Samuel 25:37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone.
Apparently Nabal had a heart attack and went into a coma. Ten days later he was dead. God protected Abigail. A few days later, David sent word to her that he wanted to marry her, and she went from being the wife of a monster to the wife of a king.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that story!
Don’t go praying your husband has a heart attack!
The point of the story is that God blessed Abigail for her humble spirit in confronting both her husband and her king. She could have just let David take care of her husband for her and been rid of him, but she actually tried to save him. David thanked her for her good advice.
So what happens if we try to confront our husbands, and they don’t listen?
Should we take matters into our own hands? Demand that they change? That’s probably not going to work. We can pray. There’s power in prayer. Another great resource is The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
And, of course, we don’t live in the days when women were chattel. No woman should allow herself to be physically abused. For her sake, her children’s sakes, and her husband’s sake.
In conclusion, the important thing is that we are honest in all our relationships. Even when it’s hard. And that we’re honest with ourselves and with God. That can be the hardest of all.
Rebecca’s got a few great tips for you!
My mom hit the nail on the head when she said our lack of confronting for the sake of peace creates an environment for anger and bitterness to seethe beneath the surface. I would know. I spent many years seething.
In fact, my lack of healthy confrontation turned me into a raging maniac inside at times. Outside I may have looked fine—but on the inside—I was a volcano just waiting to erupt. And believe me, when I did, it was not a pretty sight.
And it didn’t feel very good!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Wow that hot lava felt amazing pouring over my body!” Ha-ha!
That eruption of painful emotions and pent up anger didn’t lead to the resolution I so greatly desired. It just burned up any hope I had of seeing change.
I’ve put together a little checklist, of things that eventually helped me break the eruption cycle.
1. I try to take a day or two to think about what I want to say and write it down. Sometimes, after looking at my notes, I realize how petty I’m being. Other times, I realize this is an issue that has to be addressed.
2. I remind myself my husband isn’t the enemy. The devil is the enemy. And I try to adjust my tone of voice to show that.
3. I ask myself, what is the goal here? Is this about an unfulfilled desire I have that I feel is my husband’s job to fill? Am I trying to get him to reach a standard that I have set for myself? Do I have a right to expect that?
4. I start the conversation by admitting my weaknesses and responsibility in the matter. Saying things like “This is how I feel when you say that” rather than “You make me feel like this when you say that” because no one can make me feel anything.
If you’re confronting in love and see no change or no potential for change after a significant amount of time, seek out help for yourself. Get counseling. Get therapy. Don’t insist that your husband gets it. Concentrate on you. Just go. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
I’ll be talking more about this later and will give you some resources to go to for help. And, of course, Pray!
Thanks, Rebecca. Great tips!
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I know you’ve both been down some tough roads, but they have brought you to a place called, “Wisdom City”!!! Really good stuff! Thanks, Girls!
Thank you, Judy!
I’m humbled and encouraged by your honesty. Thank you for writing from your heart.
A good reminder for me to be a more attentive listener and then being willing to act upon advice given.
I’m aware it hasn’t been easy for my wife to approach me at times. I haven’t always been receptive to her either. As I grow closer to Christ, I pray I understand the depth of her wisdom and need “confrontation” less. 😇
Thank you so much for sharing. We appreciate the men that read our blog. We all need to be approachable. We hope you’ll continue to read and comment. Thank you!
Marvin I so appreciate you taking the time to comment let alone read the article. I’m so glad you were encouraged by this. Even though it’s been from a distance I have seen you and your lovely wife walking in wisdom and leading your beautiful family together. You make a great team! Blessings! And thanks again. Rebecca