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The Dreaded "S" Word

 
 

 


By:
 
Lee J. Langley, M.S., LMFT 
    
Should wives really submit to their husbands? Biblically speaking, the answer is, of course, YES! But, the "S" word causes many wives to bristle and I believe this is due, in large part, to issues of semantics. In order to understand why this biblical submission is so effective and necessary in marriage, we must first define the term. 

For the purposes of this discussion, we shall define "submission" as the wife VOLUNTARILY placing herself under the care of her husband. The key here is that the wife makes this choice of her own volition in accordance with her understanding of Scripture and relies on the husband to lead the family. She accords this respect to her husband with the expectation that the husband will not take advantage of the vulnerability she demonstrates.

 
It is important to mention that submission does not involve the wife exposing herself or the children to domestic violence, substance abuse etc. In such situations,  it might be the case that a separation and outside expert help is required to maintain safety.
It is important to mention that submission does not involve the wife exposing herself or the children to domestic violence, substance abuse etc. In such situations,  it might be the case that a separation and outside expert help is required to maintain safety.
Interestingly, marital strife often occurs when the wife makes her submission contingent on the behavior of her husband. Of course, it seems natural that submission/respect would only be offered after it was earned, but the real key to a wife successfully utilizing what I call the power of submission is found in her unconditional respect. And, as you might imagine, this can be much easier to discuss than to actually implement, especially when the husband has acted hurtfully toward his wife in the past.

The opposite side of the marital coin, so to speak, is the husband's "leadership" role in the home. When a husband embraces this type of biblical leadership, it means that he takes on the heavy mantle of responsibility for the caretaking of his wife and the family. It means that he is the one to make the final decision regarding issues of importance to the family, but that he is never to make such a decision without putting the needs and desires of his wife and children ahead of his own.
Of course, most wives would feel more sanguine about submission if they could be assured that their husbands would abide by the aforementioned description of leadership. The irony is that a wife's godly submission actually brings out the best in a husband, as he is encouraged to put his wife's interests ahead of his own and put selfishness, pride, and ego aside. On the other hand, a wife's nagging, complaining, and criticizing will likely make him defensive and cause him either to shrink back from his appropriate role as leader or result in harsh attempts by the husband to assert control in the relationship.

This battle for power within the marriage is very damaging to the fabric of the relationship and is what usually leads people to seek counseling from someone like myself. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, in his book, Love and Respect, identifies this problem as a lack of LOVE (a husband's loving behavior toward his wife) and/or a lack of RESPECT (respectful behavior of the wife toward her husband). In over 18 years of counseling hundreds of couples, I've run into very few issues that did not have this battle for control/power at the heart of the problem.


So, the Bible has it right...and that's really no surprise at all.
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