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Marriage
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What Does the Lack of Goodwill Look Like in a Man?

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I always prefer to assume goodwill in my audience. Calling someone goodwilled is not the same as calling them perfect. Clearly all of us are broken, sinful, and capable of mistakes daily. But I believe the vast majority do so with goodwill in their hearts.

Unfortunately, though, that cannot be said about everyone. So what does the lack of goodwill look like in a man? One clear example I have unfortunately seen in the twenty years I have been speaking and writing about the Love and Respect message is the man who tells his wife to read the book and apply it but has no intentions of applying God's call on his life as the husband. Woe to husbands such as this:

My husband recently discovered your book Love & Respect and asked me to read it because it best explained what he has been trying to tell me for a long time. Reading your book has truly enlightened me. . . . My husband said he noticed a big change in me and how happy he was about it. I, however, saw no change in him over the months. In fact, the way he treated me made me think that he did not read your book. One day I asked my husband if he read your book. . . . He told me that he knew from the title and the summary on the book that this was a book that I needed to read. There was no need for him to read it . . . I was crushed!

The husband who chooses to ignore everything I have said to him in my book and conveniently quotes Ephesians 5:33 against his wife, telling her what God tells her to do, is such a person who lacks goodwill. Never would I go into battle with such a man, because he would shoot me in the back!

Sadly, this selfish, evil-willed husband gives reason for some women to make the claim, “The Love and Respect message enables abuse!” But to these ladies I would simply ask: When someone hits another person over the head with a hammer, who is the abusive one—the hammer or the one wielding it in a way it was never intended? The hammer is not the abusive one in this scenario; the person using the hammer is.

Similarly, when a man hammers his wife with the Love and Respect message, the book and the scripture it’s based on are not abusive; the husband is abusive. Abusive, evil-willed people will look for ways to take even God's Word and judge people in very unloving and unholy ways. We who are goodwilled and innocent must be discerning of those who misuse and mislabel the Word of God.

Another wife wrote me:

My husband is currently reading your book, and my question for you is in reference to "stonewalling." My husband goes weeks without speaking to me. The most extended period was eight weeks. For the first ten years of our marriage, he averaged 3-4 weeks without talking to me every three to four months. This has escalated to 1-2 weeks every two months. I finally reached my limit of this behavior. I consider it emotional abuse. In reading your book, he now thinks this behavior normal and considers it "stonewalling." My question, are there boundaries with "stonewalling"? At what point do you have to consider it abusive behavior?

Yes, this husband is correct that I teach “stonewalling” as a method men use when in conflict with their wife. When they do so, it is because they are feeling disrespected and sense their blood pressure rising. Out of love and honor for their wife, they will stonewall and withdraw for a time so that they may calm down and not unleash in anger toward their wife. 

However, what I also teach relentlessly is that a male may withdraw to calm down but then he must come back to his wife in fifteen to thirty minutes to talk about what upset him. But apparently this husband heard “a few minutes” and has applied it to mean “a few weeks.” No! This is not an act of honor, but an act of emotional abuse!

This again illustrates that this woman married a man who refuses to act in goodwill and with common decency. The problem is with this man, not with the teaching that a husband is to love and a wife is to respect. A man stonewalling for eight weeks to teach his wife to show more respect is comparable to a demolition expert blowing up his million-dollar home to kill an annoying fly.

I predict that the husbands of these wives who wrote me above were either clearly this way before their wives married them, which begs the question, why did these ladies even marry them? Or they deceived these women, which led to them marrying fools who lied to her about being men of goodwill who loves God’s will. 

But the Love and Respect message in Ephesians 5:33 is not the culprit. The husbands are the culprit. This is clear. They refuse to obey God's command to them. This has everything to do with their rebellion against God's Word for their own lives and everything to do with twisting God's Word against their wives. How pathetic.

The Goodwilled Husband and His Unhindered Prayers

Federal agents will tell you that they don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see the fake money, they recognize it right away. In a similar way, when discussing what the lack of goodwill looks like in a man, I believe it most helpful to show what the goodwilled man looks like. Read this story to discover such a man:

Two and a half years ago my wife was ready for a divorce. This was at least the second if not the third time I had driven her that far. This time I was convinced it wasn’t entirely me and she was being unreasonable. I told her I was going to our pastor whether she joined me or not.

I sat across from our pastor, by myself, bringing him up to speed on the previous seventeen years. All the scars, all the pain and why I was feeling justified in my “it’s not me this time” attitude. Pastor Mike did what any good pastor should; he turned to the Bible and gave me a better perspective of marriage, more from God’s view. Many of the same passages you’ve been using to illustrate what marriage was intended to be.

One of the key points he made and you have used is how my prayers could be hindered if I wasn’t loving my wife. This motivated me to join one of our men’s small groups. My hope was for them to hold me accountable and pray for our relationship. I worked diligently at repairing my relationship with Jesus because I know through Christ all things are possible. Jesus began teaching me how to love my wife.

Was this husband perfect? Far from it, to his own admission. For one, he had driven his wife to the edge of divorce multiple times. Second, he held a very self-righteous “it’s not me” attitude. 

But would a husband who lacked goodwill go see a pastor for marital help? No, he’d go see someone like a best friend he felt confident would reaffirm for him his notion that “it isn’t him” . . . if he’d even see anyone at all. Would an evil-willed man join a men’s small group and ask them to hold him accountable and pray for the marriage? Not a chance!

Whereas the first husband threw Ephesians 5:33 and the Love and Respect message at his wife and held the attitude of “You need to do this, you need to do that,” the second husband took the Word of God shown him by his pastor and told himself, “I need to do this, I need to do that.” The difference could not be clearer!

The goodwilled husband above mentioned how his pastor told him that if he wasn’t loving his wife then his prayers could be hindered. This is in reference to 1 Peter 3:7, which says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

     “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”    

— 1 Peter 3:7 NASB

In continuing his story to me, he shared how his obedience in being the loving husband Scripture calls him to be affected his prayers in a very personal way for their family:

Ten months later we were doing very well when our oldest son Ryan was diagnosed with cancer. He was twelve at the time. The Lord blessed us with many wonderful events after He brought us through the initial emotions. . . .

Our son has tested cancer free for a year now and our marriage is the strongest it’s ever been. We relish our time together and give each other individual space when needed. We enjoy classes like your series because we can laugh at ourselves and say that was us, we’ve been there, but we like it better where we are now.

Scripture is clear when it tells husbands that when they do not understand and honor their wives, their prayers are hindered. For the first two husbands above, I do not believe God will hear their prayers. For what they have been doing to their wives is a direct violation of the apostle Peter’s admonition and there will be serious consequences in the spiritual realm for their actions. They must be taken seriously.

In answering the question “What does the lack of goodwill look like in a man?” certainly we must observe whether he is throwing Scripture at others’ lives or if he is humbly seeking to apply it to his own life. But we must also look at his prayer life. Does it appear his prayers are hindered or blessed? We cannot disregard God’s word to us in 1 Peter 3:7.

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is it healthy to assume goodwill in a person, until actions show otherwise? When was a time when you misinterpreted someone as lacking goodwill in a situation? How did events escalate in a way they shouldn’t have?
  2. Emerson wrote, “When a man hammers his wife with the Love and Respect message, the book and the scripture it’s based on are not abusive; the husband is abusive.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
  3. The second husband showed his goodwill when he went to his pastor for help. Think back to a recent conflict with your spouse. What was something he or she did that revealed their goodwill, despite your disagreement with them?
  4. Why would a husband’s prayers being answered be contingent on him showing honor to his wife? Have you seen this play out in your own life?