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Monday, December 16, 2013

What Headship is not: the Nice Guy, the Dictator and the Loser.

I've mentioned before that the top Google searches that land folks on my blog consistently fall into one of two arenas.  The first is something like "my husband refuses to lead." The second, following closely behind in number of hits, is "my husband acts like a dictator" or something similar.

These two errors on the part of husbands point directly the dual edge sword of headship that I discussed in my last post. That is that husbands should follow Christ's example of being both strong and good in their role as head in their marriage.

I'll re-post the chart I developed for my last post below:

I proposed last time that the biblical model for your headship as husband is found in being both a good leader and good lover. Growing in your capacity in both the strength and goodness dimensions of your marriage is key to growing in Christlike headship.

My understanding of the biblical model for marriage is that you, as husband, have the role of head, "as Christ is head of the church." Being head is not a role you must earn or work for, it's yours by the fact that you chose to marry. I don't know why, but this is how God has ordained it. You are head even if you don't accept it or your wife does not acknowledge it. (If "head" has too many unhappy connotations, you can also use the words leadership or authority to describe this role).

Looking at the chart above, there are three ways in which your headship can fall short in the strong/good arena. These are worth watching out for, because we all fall into them from time to time.

The Nice Guy

Feminist indoctrination not withstanding, there are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, more wives come here looking for how to help make that happen than for any other reason.

I'm not making excuses, but the widespread push back against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to stand up and take their leadership role seriously are what I call "Nice Guys."

Society and the church have churned out Nice Guys by the millions. They are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat or risking trying to lead.

Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men don't realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. And their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It's not a formula for a passionate and intimate marriage and certainly not a lasting one.

It's Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today, because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group:

The Dictator

Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.

In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.

Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures about wives being submissive to their husbands, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love and lay down their lives for their wives.

The Loser

The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.

This kind of husband is self-centered, but lacks the guts to act on it, at least openly. He doesn't care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself.  He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way, but refuses to confront things head on.

The loser refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He is controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.

The loser doesn't refuse to lead because he in incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn't care.

 - - - - -

I hope and pray that Nice Guy, Dictator, and Loser do not describe the way in which you act out your headship role in your marriage. In order to make my case clear I have described these non-Christlike behaviors in husbands in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship.  I know because I've done them all from time to time.

There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. It's called grace!  God is for you and for your marriage. His desire it to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the strength and skill to lead well and for a revelation of who Jesus is. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. These are the prayers Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 1 and 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage. These are the keys!
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:17

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Ephesians 3:17-18

 Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you screw up and slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.

My point in stating what headship is not is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it.

A note to wives ignoring the headline and reading this post anyway: it is not your job to browbeat, manipulate or judge your husband if he happens to fall into one of the non-Christlike quadrants, even occasionally. It is not your job to correct or coerce him. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Don't even think of forwarding this to your husband!

Your job is to concentrate on your role in your marriage. In a few weeks, in a Wives Only Wednesday post,  I'll be looking at two dimensions of the your role in your marriage. You'll definitely want to check back for those.


Unknown said...

You have a lot of good insights. Thanks for taking the time to write and helping others in marriage! However, I do have to disagree about the point at the end about a wife not correcting her husband. The Holy Spirit will use her many times to encourage, exhort, correct and even rebuke her husband. She should never allow her husband to walk in a sinful and destructive manner. She also needs to follow Matthew 18 as a Christian woman when offensive situations arise in the relationship.

Scott said...

Hi Jeff and thanks for the comment.

I agree with you on the encourage and exhort part, but maybe not so much on the correct and rebuke part. Unless it involves some blatant sin (as you point out), it's a dangerous path to take. Most husbands will not respond well to correction and rebuke, especially form their wives. In fact it usually has the opposite effect of bringing him around.

In the case of headship, where a husband is not walking fully in his role, it is much better for a wife to concentrate on walking out her role in a godly way than to try to "fix" her husband. Like I said, I just haven't seen it work out well.

BTW I give the same advice to husbands about not trying to coerce or cajole their wives into submission. Coerced submission isn't really submission at all but subjugation and oppression. Likewise, if a wife pushes her husband to lead more like she wants him to, then she is still leading, and thereby usurping his role.

Now let me be clear that I am not saying wives should silently endure abuse or harsh treatment from their husbands.

Of course this is s complex issue and every marriage situation is unique. However, in short, when it comes to marriage roles, I find that loving encouragement works much better than a critical rebuke.

Shelley said...

I came to find this from the corresponding post about what submission is not. I found myself lacking in many areas. My husband, however, fits his biblical role nicely. I am a blessed woman. I was thinking of sending him this link as an encouragement. He gets easily discouraged with himself, unfairly, I might add. Would it be unwise to forward it to him in this light?

Shelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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