What is Your Motivation Behind Your Disrespect?

A wife wrote to me with her objections saying, “Dr. E., because I care, I get disrespectful. My husband won't listen to me otherwise. My love is behind my disrespect.”

However, I will argue that it is impossible for a wife's love to be the motivating factor behind her disrespectful treatment of her husband.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that love “does not dishonor others" (NIV). That verse is foundational to read. Love does not show disrespect to another human being. It is not rude. It does not act unbecomingly. It is not ill-mannered. Such habitual disrespect is toxic, not healthy or loving.

That does not mean a wife agrees and approves of unacceptable and sinful behavior. It means that she confronts the unacceptable actions in a firm and truthful way, but doing so under control and with respect toward the spirit of the other person, whether a husband, son, father, or male clerk who blotched the order.

Let me illustrate this between a mother and her son. Recently as I exited a grocery store, a mother and grandmother entered the store with a boy around 8 years old. As I glanced at them, suddenly they screamed and cursed at the boy in front of everybody. I looked at the boy to see what horrible thing he might be doing. He was 10 feet away from them on his tip toes looking at the pastry section! He could smell the cakes and donuts.

As I watched him and them, I realized they found him disgusting at that moment in time. I am uncertain of what transpired before they came into the store, but what he did there for that 5 seconds paled in comparison to their verbal and emotional abuse.

He responded by turning back toward them. He did not run off, but walked back to them. However I could tell he had shut down on them. His spirit did not connect with them. I am sure he closed off emotionally to protect himself from their verbal harpoons.

I have seen these scenes before in grocery and department stores, as you have. I am convinced that some of these women wish to appear to all that watch them as responsible, caring and loving authority figures. They project that they are in charge and are being mature adults. In their opinion of themselves, I conjecture, they are good parents, not like those permissive parents that let their kids run wild. I can almost hear their inner script. "Not mine! Not here!"

However their dishonor of this boy was unloving, not loving, and all gazed upon the scene knew the truth. These ladies were taking their frustration, anger, contempt and poor self-image out on the boy.

I won't defend what he might have done enroute to the store. He could have been belligerent. But again, how much of an insurrection can an 8-year-old boy bring about? The punishment did not fit the crime.

I wager that if we had asked this mother and grandmother, "Would you say that you love this boy and are a loving mother and grandmother," they would say, "Yes." No doubt, they could claim they are loving as evidenced by their discipline of the boy in the grocery store.

What about in marriage?

Do wives give themselves a pass on their disrespect because they'd put this under the umbrella of their love for their husband? Do they confront him disrespectfully because they care?

What about their outbursts of anger?

Galatians 5:20 states that "outbursts of anger" are sin. Instead of referring to these outbursts as sin, should they label them as loving rudeness? Would they maintain that their anger and disrespect is caused by the husband who fails to be respectable?

I do not know of any good-willed, tender wife who would argue against Galatians 5:20 to justify herself. Most wives readily admit, "I went too far with my anger and disrespect."

Why are these gals so humble? 1 Corinthians 13:5 rings true to them. Love "does not dishonor others."

So what's the solution?

A wife must control her swings from contempt to love and back to contempt. She needs to have confidence that, when she speaks the truth about what causes her stress, she can do so with honor and respect.

Love honors others; that's the implication of 1 Corinthians 13:5. When a wife puts on respect, she puts on love; and when she puts on love, she puts on respect. Two sides of one coin.

When applied, a loving and respectful demeanor influences and impacts the spirit of her husband. Her demeanor affects his heart.

The tough words she must speak gets through to him more powerfully when delivered in a way that sounds respectful.

This is not tantamount to being nice. Some wives dismiss what I teach as nothing more than telling them to be pleasant and agreeable. To be respectful is to go along with a husband's selfishness.

But I reject that notion. A wife does not compromise the truth, ever. This is about the best way of delivering truth. When she resorts to rudeness, yelling, and threats, she undermines the truth. Browbeating a husband into submission does not work in the long term.

The most effective way to touch her husband's heart over time is speaking in ways that sound respectful to his heart, even though the truth is hard for him to hear.

-Dr. E