This week I heard a great piece of wisdom on my local Christian radio station from author Sheila Walsh. She was responding to a concern she receives from women all the time: My husband is not stepping up spiritually–how can I help him?
Sheila’s response to this common problem is not only helpful for women in difficult marriages but from women in good marriages as well: Focus on your husband’s strengths. Sheila explained that every day your husband has people tearing him down at work or judging him based on his performance, so the last thing he needs is one more person tearing him down at home. Instead, wives need to be intentional about focusing on the areas where their husbands excel, and REALLY affirm him there. Not only will it encourage him, but it will help change your own attitude as well.
I think this is excellent advice. And I admit this is an area in which I need to improve. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage and a fun friendship too, but boy am I quick to criticize! Sheila’s words were a great reminder to focus on the positive–and I am fortunate to have a LOT of positive things to focus on!
But for some women, this is a more difficult task. Some women have husbands who are incredibly far from God and there is no spiritual connection whatsoever. Other women are married to Christian men who bear no spiritual fruit at all. There is a disconnect between the man he is in church and the man he is at home. In those situations, it’s more difficult to find positive things to focus on.
All of this begs the question: How, exactly, should we affirm our husbands?
Before I answer that question, I have one caveat: Everything I’m about to say is null and void in the case of abuse. If your husband is abusing you physically, verbally or emotionally, your only priority is to get out of the house and go somewhere safe. Do NOT stay in a situation like that if you’re in danger.
With that caveat out of the way, I think there are a lot of guys out there who aren’t getting a fair shake. For all the talk about Christian manhood and womanhood, a lot of the lines are drawn in cultural, not Biblical ways. And that can put undue pressure on a husband (and a marriage) who is not masculine in traditionally acceptable ways. Not all men like to climb mountains or watch UFC or shoot guns. Some guys like romantic comedies and some guys like listening to Taylor Swift. So before you compare your husband to your pastor or any other “ideal” man in the world around you, the following list is the best starting point for affirming your husband. As you seek to build up your husband, look for the following qualities:
These attributes are collectively known as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) which means that each one reflects the very heart of God. Your husband may not be a theological giant, but is he kind and gentle? Your husband may not express himself emotionally very well, but is he faithful to you?
Of course, most men like to be affirmed in traditional male ways, but I would caution you against comparing your husband to the traditional male standard, and subsequently becoming discontent. Sometimes it is so hard to know what is godly manhood and what is Scriptural (and some “Christian” standards are in flat-out conflict with the above qualities). That’s why it’s best to start with the qualities explicitly presented in the Bible. And to be quite honest, those are the things I value most about my husband. While he certainly loves it when I tell him how safe and protected he makes me feel, the thing I value the most is how he lays himself down for me the way Christ does for the church–and this is usually in the simplest, most mundane, every day ways. My husband’s deeper, Christ-like character is what I admire most about him, and I try to tell him that often.
As Sheila Walsh said, our husbands have enough people tearing them down. It’s our job to build up our husbands. And I’ve noticed that the more time I spend affirming and adoring my husband, the more I fall in love with him!