Is your husband good?
"Well, perhaps he is," you might answer, "but we all know that only God is good. Even Jesus admitted that."
Wives: Out of all the personality types out there, you are married to one or the other of the following:
- The man who operates on the basic underlying presupposition that he is good.
- The man who knows that in any given circumstance, he must prove himself good.
I don't know what proportion of society comprises which group, but I am inclined to believe that for every type 1 man, there are at least four (possibly ten or more) type 2 men out there.
But of course the stereotype goes to number 1, just like the ditzy blonde girl who gets the stereotype. Everyone knows that only about 25% of blonde girls are truly ditzy, right? (See what I did there?)
Consequently, you might believe you are married to a type 1 man, but he might actually be type 2, and you have never noticed this significant fact.
So let me describe these men, and then I'll say to the wives of group 2 what you need to hear, IMHO.
These men range from narcissistic to borderline personality disorder to sociopathic. Though they might well despise the person whom they truly are (were he exposed) they operate, nonetheless, on the basic underlying presupposition that they are good.
These men, in response to the circumstances of their early upbringing, have become "splitters." You can google that word for a clearer understanding of the phenomenon. In the mind of the splitter, there is good, and there is evil, and the twain shall not meet. In their thinking, a good person does not do evil, and an evil person does little or no good. Therefore, if they perceive evil in someone's actions, they quickly conclude that person is evil.
Now, since this man wants to be good, he will tend to vehemently defend himself against any accusations of wrongdoing, because his mind rushes to the conclusive judgement of "Evil" if he is found to have done wrong. And there really is no defect here in his desire to avoid being judged as evil. For none of us wants to come under that judgment! The defect, rather, is in his analysis. Because he is a splitter, he cannot reconcile good with evil. He has not processed through, and learned the fact that sometimes good people do evil things.
The Bible comments on this topic:
And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there. I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
—Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 NIV
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
—Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 NIV
One cannot read the Book of Ecclesiastes without concluding that in this world, and in this life, good and evil are so intertwined that for us to bring judgement on any given person or circumstance is a God-given right to society at best, but an act of interpersonal futility at least.
But the type 1 man has not grasped this concept. He is therefore trapped in the continual effort to sustain his goodness by force or argument, thus he will always insist that he be found good. For every analysis, every court, every discussion, every argument has permanent conclusive ramifications in his mind. His mind is split. He is either good or evil, for he cannot be both. Therefore he will do any destructive work required in order to be found good. He is acting out of desperation, therefore he should be pitied first, reasoned with as far as possible, and accommodated as much as is convenient to our sense of compassion.
This is the reason that the type 1 man operates on the basic underlying presupposition that he is good. How else could he approach life? If he's not good, then he is evil. And since he has decided not to be evil, then he must be good. Therefore his only presuppostion is that he is good, and that is where his conscious thinking begins.
These men really don't mind carrying the burden of having to prove their goodness through their behavior. Most have a basic understanding of the principles of right and wrong, fairness, justice, compassion, etc.
The type 2 man wants to be good, as much as does the type 1 man, but he understands that good people sometimes do evil things, and that he is not immune to this human condition. He therefore strives to do good at all times. He, however, being reasonably well adjusted, knows that despite his efforts, he may fail. He therefore is not devastated upon the discovery that he has fallen short of goodness, and possibly done evil.
In this case, rather than being defiant, he is repentant. He promises himself to "get it right next time," and if he is wise, he has learned the importance of admiting his fault to others and offering them his promise of repentance.
So at the end of the day, this man knows that "he is not good, for no one is good but God, Himself."
What this man hopes for is that he is good enough. He is not split, so there is no contest in his mind between good and evil, though he doesn't think he's evil. He wants to be good, but he rightly discerns that he really has no claim to that title, for God will one day judge the right from the wrong in his life.
Meanwhile, his loved ones—especially his wife—stand in as the judges of his character. He knows he's not good. He hopes, however, to be found good enough. Good enough to be granted titles such as "good husband," "good father," "good worker," "good boss," etc.
To the Wives
Wives, you probably have very little appreciation or awareness of the power you have over your husbands, for society has taught you the stereotype. Since all men want to be successful, you probably think they think like the successful men think, like when Donald Trump couldn't think of when he had sinned.
But seriously, your man most likely doesn't think like Donald Trump thinks. He's likely far more humble. Trust me: he is.
Does your husband treat you like the stereotypical ditzy blonde? I hope not. But if he is in fact a type 2 man, have you been responding to him as if he were the stereotype—the type 1 man? Do you believe that he will do or say anything just to escape the conviction of wrongdoing? You may be correct in your assessment—he might be type 1—and if this is the case, then you may ignore my admonishment, and I pray for your situation, for it is not easy!
But most wives have type 2 husbands, though I fear they are failing to respond appropriately to their pleas. As he defends his own integrity, all you hear is that he must be found right, and good. This is because society has taught you the stereotype.
So here's my message to the wives. Listen carefully: Your husband knows he's not good. He doesn't need your assessment in order to know that. All he wants from you is to be found good enough. That's all. Is he good enough for you? Over the years, has he been good enough for you to now be happy?
Too many wives, I fear, have been taught by society that their primary duty is to keep their husbands in line with standards of right behavior. This seems noble, but it really is only destructive. It won't work if your husband is type 1 (for obvious reasons), and it won't work for the majority either, because the end effect is only disenfranchisement. As you correct his behavior or speech, your husband will only come under an increasingly destructive conviction of his own sinfulness, of which he is already aware.
Wives today have entirely forgotten that their husbands' primary motivation in life is to make their wives happy. Just so you know, wives, when you correct your husband's behavior on the basis of right and wrong, pretty much the only thing communicated is your own unhappiness.
It would be so much easier for him if you simply stated your personal preference. Then he would quickly know how to ensure your happiness. That would be easy. And you could get along together so well!
But when the wife says, "You should do [thus and thus] instead of what you did, because that would be the right thing to do…" the husband is confused.
- Firstly, he has been judged. He has been weighed, and found wanting.
- Though God is his judge, before whom he walks, is this now God's voice, speaking through his wife?
- When he did what he did, he thought he was walking with God, so is God now correcting him? Was his fellowship with God therefore a sham?
- Should he now acquiesce to his wife's desires? And if so, exactly how? Perhaps a [knowingly vacuous] promise to act differently in the future…?
- Or should he clearly state that he did what he did in the sight of God and men, perceiving what is right with God's help, and the perceptions of others be damned, he is sticking with his own convictions, come what may the repercussions.
Please stop criticizing him. In doing so, you are judging his character, and you are doing the opposite of what we all agree you should do. You should respect him.
The highest form of disrespect that a wife can show to her husband is correction or criticism.
Wives should resist the urge, no matter how obviously the correction is needed. That is, unless they don't care about their relationship.
Wives, if you don't care about your marriage, then by all means, correct your husband's behavior. Correct his speech. Tell him how wrong he is in dealing with situations of conflict. Let him know what would be the appropriate behavior. Inform him of his flaws. Make sure he knows that he is not making the grade; that he's not up to par. Give him a higher goal—one with undefined metrics, to which he can only measure up if he is lucky.
Or you could tell him your preference. Tell him what you like, so that he might provide it for you… as though it were something he could offer, and thus win your affection.
See the difference?
And here is a principle which I have concieved: How a wife can submit herself to her husband. It's really this simple. Try this out, and see how it goes.
Make a request. Ask your husband for something, on the basis that this is your preference—as though it were something he could grant, something reasonably within his grasp, which with some effort on his part, he could bring to fruition.
Then wait. Depending on the request, you may have to ask more than once. This is not evil or wrong on either your part or his. But patience is required.
But if you ever intimate that fulfilment of your request would be the right thing to do, you are disqualified. You are no longer submitted, for you have gone over his head and appealed to a higher court. He rightly is now under no obligation to deliver.
This is the essence of submission. If you appeal to your husband's sense of moral obligation, then you have forsaken any form of submission. Period.
Many wives have no such patience, and their continual invocation of some higher sense of right and wrong is simply indicative of their own unwillingness to submit to their husbands.
But God has designed the marriage relationship for happiness, not some kind of judicial bondage! Unfortunately, few married couples have been able to discover the happiness that could be theirs, due to societal forces.
Wives, most likely your husband is a type 2 man, though he is likely clueless, and still learning. He probably displays type 1 characteristics at times, especially when viewed through the lens of the stereotype which you have been given.
But at the end of the day, his happiness really does depend on your own. He knows that God will judge him for his own choices and behaviors, but until that day, he seeks your judgemental approval. He knows he will be happy in the life to come, for he anticipates a favorable assessment from God. What he seeks today is a favorable assessment from his wife.
Yours is the power to provide that assessment. Does his ultimate satisfaction depend on that? No, but should you therefore deny him of it?
This consideration has led me to ponder… what is it that prompts a wife to deny her husband the satisfaction of receiving the worldly award of "job well done?" I'm not sure, but I would like to invite the wives to consider this question. Why must you be your husband's judge? What keeps you from deciding for yourself that,
- "Though my husband isn't good, he's good enough." —or—
- "Although my husband isn't as good as God is, he's good enough for me to be happy. " —or—
- "Although my husband isn't perfect, if I'm honest, I know he wants to get it right, even though he seems at times to be totally incompetent, and I doubt whether he'll ever make it. I will therefore conclude that I should be happy to be married to a man who at least desires and strives to be a good man."
Your husband knows he's not good. He only hopes to be good enough. Only you can tell him that he is.
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and fools multiply words. No one knows what is coming—who can tell someone else what will happen after them?
—Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 NIV