What does it mean for a woman to respect a man?

My favorite painting:
My favorite painting: “Godspeed” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900

Matt Walsh writes a popular blog where he sometimes talks about male-female relationships. I got the impression that he was writing too much about how to blame men, and not enough about the policies and practices that provide incentives for men to underperform, e.g. – mostly female teachers, unfair divorce laws, stimulus spending geared towards women, etc. So imagine my surprise when I came across this article about men and their need for respect.

Matt is concerned that men are hearing too many negative messages in the culture, and not getting enough respect for what they do right.

He writes:

These cultural messages aren’t harmful because they hurt my manly feelings; they’re harmful because of what they do to young girls. Society tells our daughters that men are boorish dolts who need to be herded like goats and lectured like school boys. Then they grow up and enter into marriage wholly unprepared and unwilling to accept the Biblical notion that “wives should submit to their husbands” because “the husband is the head of the wife.” [Ephesians 5]

It is a fatal problem, because the one thing that is consistently withheld from men and husbands — respect — is the one thing we need the most.

Yes, need. We need respect, and that need is so deeply ingrained that a marriage cannot possibly survive if the man is deprived of it.

Often, people will say that a husband should only be respected if he “earns” it. This attitude is precisely the problem. A wife ought to respect her husband because he is her husband, just as he ought to love and honor her because she is his wife. Your husband might “deserve” it when you mock him, berate him, belittle him, and nag him, but you don’t marry someone in order to give them what they deserve. In marriage, you give them what you’ve promised them, even when they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

OK really, one last quote from Matt:

Respect is our language. If it isn’t said with respect, we can’t hear it. This is why nagging is ineffective and self defeating. This is why statements made in sarcastic tones, or with rolling eyes, will never be received well. We have a filter in our brains, and a statement made in disrespect will be filtered out like the poison it is.

Men are notoriously reluctant to share feelings or display vulnerability. Many times, we keep those inner thoughts locked away — our feelings guarded and hidden — because we know we are not respected. A man will never be vulnerable to someone who doesn’t respect him. Never.

A man isn’t satisfied or content if he isn’t respected. If he can’t find respect where he is, he will seek it somewhere else. This can have disastrous implications for a relationship, but it applies in other areas of life as well. A man is much more likely to stay in a low paying job, a physically demanding job, a dangerous job, or a tedious job, than a job where he isn’t respected.

I’m only emphasizing this because I think it might actually be news to some people. Society does not permit men to be vocal about their need for respect, so the need is often ignored.

What I’ve found in speaking to women about this is that all the married and divorced women know about this need that men have. And by and large, they agree with it, too. But that is much rarer among single women, which is why men need to be ready to explain their needs and feelings. And women need to allow them to do that and then provide what men need in order to keep them performing.

Let’s take a quick look at the Bible, because that’s always a good thing to do when you want the truth about these things.

Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some women get scared by that, but they shouldn’t be, because women get to pick their husbands, so just pick someone whose leadership you actually respect. Believe it or not, it is actually very comforting to co-operate with someone who knows what he is doing, and has demonstrated that through his past decisions.

And now for my opinion about this topic.

To start, remember that men are supposed to be good at the following roles:

  • protecting
  • providing
  • moral leader
  • spiritual leader

If a woman sees a man – any man – working away at these tasks so that he can solve her problems with something more than confident promises about the future, that’s the time to practice respecting him. All men need to be recognized and encouraged in these areas, by all woman who care that men are masculine.

When I think of protecting, there is obviously the physical protection, but there is also the protection from lies and bad decisions. For protection, what I end up doing most is analyzing decisions for women and then giving my recommendation. I have 12 young people I mentor, men and women, who are in undergraduate or graduate school. My job is to make sure that they are not studying garbage subjects, and not wasting their summers. I am proud to say that the 7 women I advise are all in STEM areas, and that took some convincing. Why is this protection? Because women need to not starve, and they need to not feel pressured to settle for a guy because they can’t be financially independent by themselves. I am not a feminist, but I do think that women make better wives when they study hard subjects and do hard jobs. It shapes their character so that they are easier to reason with, less fun-focused, and more able to perform hard work without complaint. I also advise women not to waste money of pursuing fun and thrills when they are young, and instead advise them to save and invest it early. One of the young ladies I mentor just finished her BS in computer science, and just finished her first semester of an MS in computer science, worked as a TA and in the summers as a software tester, got an internship with a great software company for the summer, and she has an account with Fidelity, just like me.

When I think of providing, I think of the man’s ability to work for money. It starts in high school, in the summers or evenings and goes on right to retirement. I did a summer internship with a huge telecom firm when I was in my sophomore year of high school, so it is possible. A man should not rely on others for money, he needs to be independent. A man should not find paid work “boring” and “meaningless”. In fact, part of what it means to be a man is to do things that you don’t feel like doing, so that you can provide for others. A man does not spend his money on alcohol or travel or other entertainments. He will have plenty to spend it on when he gets older – his family or maybe charity. A man buys things for others that will help them achieve goals – solving problems for others with his earned income. For example, if a woman has surgery on both of her hands, and cannot lug the vacuum up and down the stairs to clean up her cat’s fur, then the man buys her a corded hand vacuum, which is much lighter for her to use every day, (he knows she has OCD and wants everything clean). Money makes a woman’s life easier, freeing her up to do more important things. It’s important for a man to get started early earning money, because earnings can be invested to produce a return. A man’s confidence about the future has no cash value. A woman’s feelings about a man’s potential future earnings has no cash value. Cash has cash value. There is no such thing as assumed future income, there is only a resume, which predicts future earned income based on the reality of past earned income.

A good moral leader is not just good at being moral and spiritual himself, but of convincing others to be moral and spiritual. He is able to present his views on moral issues in a convincing way, especially to non-Christians. He studies philosophy (in his spare time! not as a job because it does not pay!) and is aware of research that helps him to make his point about topics like abortion and marriage. He has an interest in current events and politics, and is able to talk about legislation, policies and court cases related to his worldview. He is able to solve problems that could impact a person’s ability to be moral or spiritual in the future. For example, consider that some people really do lose their faith when experiencing evil and suffering. A good spiritual leader advises a woman to not make plans that are likely to fail, so that she will never blame God for her own poor decisions. A good moral leader convinces a woman to be serious about marriage early, so that she is not tempted to become a single mother by choice later. Those last two cases are cases I actually had to face, and I won the first one (she dumped a complete loser of a man and married a really great one), and lost the second (she became a single mother by choice and had a fatherless son). But the point is that there is more to being a moral leader than reciting moral rules. And there is more to being a spiritual leader than reciting Bible verses. A good leader proves he can lead by pushing the people he leads into real world achievements.

These are the things that a good woman looks for in a man, and when she finds them, she accords a man respect in those areas.

4 thoughts on “What does it mean for a woman to respect a man?”

  1. I saw a movie the other night. It was called “War Room” and in this movie an old woman mentors a mother and wife on how to behave and improve her marriage by respecting her husband and praying positive things for him. In Titus 2 older women are supposed to teach the younger women how to respect and love her husband. We don’t have much of that these days. We need more older women teaching the young women like in the movie “War Room”. Just not blaming the husband for everything. Asking God to make her a better wife and mother and asking God to take the anger and hate out of her heart changed things around a lot. When she stopped yelling and acting nasty towards her husband he turned around. No one wants to be around someone angry and blaming all the time. I am a lucky woman. I read the Bible and I try the best I can to follow it. I give my husband his due place in our family as the head of the house. And my husband just told me I am a good help meet.

  2. You know also a lot of women don’t know what to look for in a man. I find young women who are only interested in how cute he is or does he have a lot of money. Before I decided to let my husband date me I watched for a year to see how he behaved. I watched him being kind to little children in our church. I watched how he treated the poor who came in our church. I watched how he treated the elderly in our church. After all of that I decided he was probably a really good man and I wanted to date him. I had a friend of mine tell me this. It is better to marry a man that looks like a donkeys rear than to marry a man who behaves like a donkeys rear. So young women in America today need to learn a lot and unfortunately many older women act more immature than the younger ladies. So many of us older women aren’t fit to be teachers. I hope this turns around.

  3. Over the past few years, in my church, I and about 400 men have attended several versions of, The Quest for Authenic Manhood. It is a VERY good and deep program and without exception enlightened most on what is expected of a husband, a lover, a father, etc. It is pretty much what is covered in today’s blog and several comments. Unfortunately the women in our church, and most churches, DO NOT get the woman/wife’s education on their obligations and responsibilities. All they study are the women of the bible, unfortunately just the stories….not how they should live. As a result they do not understand or care to live as instructed in the teachings.
    Not ever in my 13 year association at this church have I heard or seen a broken marriage testimonial where the woman has at least accepted part of her role in the marriage issue. It has always been the fault of the husband. I understand this is pretty much true in other churches.
    I have sent several letters and emails to the pastor of our “mega-church” in regards to this gap….but never a response from anyone.
    Something is wrong with that picture.

    1. Right, this is the problem I am seeing. I am very clear and comfortable with with my obligations, and energetic about preparing to perform them.

      I don’t see any rigor on the other side. Instead, women are expected to be feelings-led, and men are supposed to adapt to that.
      I find that it is much easier to communicate with non-American (immigrant) women about plans and goals and expectations. They are more interested in doing what works, and are more circumspect about their feelings.

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