A pastoral word to critical wives...
(Tim, but written by Curt--an Evangelical Free pastor and dear friend of mine) I have noticed a trend that I find to be instructive and disturbing. Over the course of my pastoral ministry, I have been approached by a steady stream of women who are upset with the church and more specifically its men for not chastising their husbands for some spiritual problem or lack of spiritual qualities. Typically, I have taken such criticism to heart, admitting that we have not done enough to hold men accountable. Clearly, this has not been an area of strength in today's church.
But lately, my thinking has shifted. I have found myself being defensive about our church and its men. I see them as being faithful in modeling, and preaching, and teaching, and mentoring, and confronting, and offering assistance, and even hand holding when necessary. Time and again, they have given of themselves, often at the expense of their own families to help others. And yet, I've noticed that the criticism comes the next time as if no help had been provided or offered in the past.
Instead I now find myself often sympathizing with the husband, recognizing that I have just received the same sort of treatment from his wife that he has undoubtedly suffered under regularly. I am seeing such criticism as indicative of deeper problems: a rebellion against all authority and male authority in particular, an effort to deny or shift personal responsibility, a justification of sinful heart attitudes. Such a wife acts as if she is spiritually beyond her husband when in actuality her behavior witnesses a spiritual problem deeper than even her marital woes. I remember confronting one such wife and her attitude toward her husband, then being accused by her of unfairly blaming her the assumed victim.
I cannot imagine such a shaming approach by wives actually leading to improved marital relationship. Women who think it will do not understand men. Men don't tend to respond positively to being publicly shamed by women for their lack of manliness. I know I don't. The truth is that men yearn to be encouraged in their leadership, not beaten down by women because of their faults and failures, of which they usually are already keenly aware. The God fearing men I know are not generally in grave danger of inflated egos. The God fearing men I know need to be told by their women that they look up to them as leaders despite their faults and failures, rather than be told that they themselves would be better leaders if only God would allow it. Husbands are no different from elders in this regard. Women need to understand this; type A women need to write it on their hands in permanent marker.