The Strong Marriage Check List: Item #4: Respect

Opinions differ regarding what a marriage needs to either become strong or stay strong. The following is from a list I compiled of ten essential characteristics couples need to build a strong and lasting marriage.


by Leslie De Morais

Item #4: Respect

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom,” says the best-selling author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray.

There may be times in your marriage when you think to yourself, “I’ve married a completely different life form! One from outer space!” This thought springs from the fact that men and women think and act so differently. It might seem as if your husband is from another planet!

In this age of acceptance and tolerance, you might assume it would be easier to adjust ourselves to one another in marriage. However, the daily challenges of seeing eye-to-eye with your spouse remain.

The quote from John Gray gives us a window into some basic understanding of what a relationship needs to function. Acceptance of each another’s differences is impossible without the first step of respect.

Respect and Love

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.                          – Ephesians 5:22-33 (NIV)

This well-known passage, which outlines the attitudes and actions God expects of us in marriage, is sometimes misunderstood. Words like submit, obey, and respect, are hot button topics for most women. Not taking the time to understand what the Bible is teaching us can cause our hearts to become stubborn, unbelieving or even rebellious toward God’s word. The dangerous consequences can result in either rejecting His standard for our lives or modifying it to suit our own ideas or lifestyle. Attitudes such as these nullify the Bible and our acts of worshiping God are rendered useless. (Read Matthew 15:1-9 to see an example of this concept.)

So why is respect such a difficult trait to develop in marriage? For most of us, we look at the concept of respect from the wrong end of the matter. We tend to focus on the recipient of respect instead of the giver of respect.

From a very young age, we are taught that respect must be earned. And to some extent, that notion is true. But does that mean we have free reign to disrespect those who have not earned our respect? I don’t believe so.

Respect Everyone

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

In a worldly sense, those who are elevated to a level of respect usually have a long list of admirable qualities and strong characters. These people are respected for their accomplishments and contributions. They inspire awe and high esteem. And we revere them for being better than ourselves.

An example of this would be my attitude toward particular styles of art. A friend proudly displayed an original painting she bought at a pricey gallery. It consisted of a thick brushstroke of black down the middle, a squiggly line of red and a yellow circle. Surprised at my lack of enthusiasm she asked why I didn’t like it. I replied, “I don’t appreciated art I can do myself.”

It is this same approach some people take when confronted with the idea of respect. If the recipient of the respect isn’t “better” than me, then how can I be expected to respect him or her? There’s a monumental problem with this rationale. What if half the world doesn’t pass your assessment of being better than you are? What about your husband? What happens if he doesn’t find himself in that coveted category of being better than you are?

Consider Christ

Let’s think about Jesus for a moment. Who walking the earth was better than him? Who was more spiritual? More loving? Wiser? More intelligent? Without sin? The answer is no one. Yet look at this incredible example of respect he leaves us to imitate:

53 Then they all went home,but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”         – John 7:53-8:11 (NIV)

Picture this scene. Someone “caught in the act” of adultery is most likely naked or at least scantily clad. Either way, it would make for an extremely compromising situation. Now imagine being in that predicament completely surrounded by men. Compound the circumstances with the fact that those men are religious leaders bent on condemnation. What does Jesus do? In a matter of a split second, he assesses the fact that the question posed is a trap. They are using the woman’s sin to condemn her and trap Jesus. Two birds with one stone!

Now, how can Jesus school these legalistic leaders and have a lasting impact on the woman? He shrewdly diverts the men’s attention away from the woman by writing on the ground. Envision that moment when all the men lean in to see what Jesus is scribbling in the dirt. Out of respect, Jesus is not looking at the humiliated woman. Because of him, neither is the crowd of men. Jesus goes a step further and causes each one of the men to look inward at themselves by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Who then had the courage to look at the woman after those wise words? I don’t suppose those men had the courage to even look at one another yet alone the woman.

Here’s a question for you: was the woman caught in adultery worthy of Christ’s respect? If you’d asked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, surely they would say, “No.” What about the onlookers? Were they worthy of Christ’s respect? Jesus could have shamed them because of their sinful ways, yet he gently reproved them by causing each one to examine his own heart and life. You see, the only person worthy of respect in this scenario was Jesus and he was the only one showing respect.

Respect for others is achieved when we comprehend that the respect given is based on a decision to be a respectful person. True respect is not dependent on another’s worthiness to receive it.

Your husband is not Jesus. He is imperfect, like you are. He has flaws, as do you. Why should you respect him? Well, hopefully you will respect him because you have decided to be a respectful person. Your decision just might inspire and motivate those around you to be people worthy of respect. But even if others do not change, you can imitate that in Jesus which is good and right and pleases God.


As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage.  With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!

 

Footnotes:

1 John Gray (born December 28, 1951) is an American relationship counselor, lecturer and author. In 1969, he began a nine-year association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi before beginning his career as an author and personal relationship counselor. In 1992, he published the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which became a long-term best seller and formed the central theme of all his subsequent books and career activities. His books have sold millions of copies. (Wikipedia)

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