Skip to main content

Behavior Without Words

                   ( an excerpt from the book I am writing for my daughters )

When I was very young, probably twelve, I dreamed of becoming a marriage counselor.  It probably stemmed from the trauma I felt watching my own dear parents struggle through some hard years.  I could never quite get passed all the 'look deep into your past' malarkey tho, and from there, decided being a reporter would be so much more fulfilling. I imagined joining a news team that wanted to report only true and good things about situations. I would reveal the 'truth' and make the world a better place.

All those dreams were set aside as I got older and saw the world did not operate in this way and when looking into what my real hearts desire was, I discovered that I loved communicating.  I loved being understood and complimented on saying something of worth.  I loved how words could make everything all better and grow trust in friendships.  I loved how using words honestly to express the depth of my emotion would often spur others into expressing themselves more freely.  To identify with a friend in this way, made me believe I was a good communicator.

And then, I got married. I found out that everything I thought I knew about communicating was strictly from a female point of view and if I wanted to love my life and see good days, [1 Peter 3:10] I was going to have to figure out a better method of communicating with my husband. See, I was used to saying every little thing that entered my head and I was used to being commended for it. I was sure that if I had an opinion on a subject, and I did about most, I should give it, loudly and clearly. To find out that my opinion wasn't valued and sometimes not even heard was very disconcerting.

One evening, about nine years into our marriage and three kids later, I found myself alone in the bathroom, crumpled on the floor, with a Bible in my hands.  The family was all asleep.  I had just had another attempt at 'talking' something out with my husband and he had shut down and fallen asleep, mid-word. Again.  I was so weary of the pain and brain torture and had escaped to the bathroom, the only room in the house I could truly be alone to 'have it out' with God.

I demanded answers.  I silently screamed out my frustration to God and asked for something in scripture to tell me what to do.  I'd scoffed at people that said their Bible opened to the perfect verse for their times, but that is exactly what happened to me that night. With a flick of my wrist, it opened to 1 Peter 3. Maybe, because I had previously been studying verses 9-11 but I believe it was God who led me there.

Verses 9-11 were speaking to me in learning common courtesy. Verse 8 speaks of having compassion for each other and about being sympathetic and courteous. I was taking this already as a continuation to the previous verses on marriage, although this particular section was speaking to how all Christians should get along with each other. I was literally practicing verse 9 where it says to return insult with blessing.  If I felt insulted by something my husband said I would turn to him and say, "Bless You" as gently and calmly as possible.  It worked too, in a way. At least it stopped the flow of nasty feelings that were rising in my chest and checked the retort ready to fly out of my mouth. His reaction was more of a blink and a silent acknowledgement. I think he didn't really know what to make of it.

I was ready for more tools though, something more effective more quickly. So, God being the best teacher whom I believe has the perfect amount of humor to help the medicine go down, led me to verse 1.  First word?  Wives. Well, that was pretty direct and fast.  That was me right in the moment. He continued... In the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that... Wait, what same way? It reverts back to the previous chapter, talking about Jesus when they hurled insults at Him and how He suffered for us all.  It talks also about sheep going astray. That was me too.  Because I knew in that moment, that I needed a Shepherd to lead me.

 Back to the verse we left... So that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. That couldn't have been a whole lot clearer but my mind was whirling trying to believe it.  Really? After all these years of talking Lord, You want me to give up words?  How?  This didn't seem right that I should lay down and die and just shut my mouth when I thought I was misread or misjudged. Yet, that is what it said. Then I saw the phrase, may be won over, and I felt a little hope breathing life back into my soul.  Oh good, there is something I can do while my mouth is shut.  I can have good behavior.  Here was something hopeful, if a person knew how to behave; something I hadn't concentrated on as much as using words. I obviously had some work to do.

Always before, when I'd bump into this scripture, I'd see only verse 3 and here is what I thought verse 3 said. Do not wear gold or jewelry. Do not braid your hair in exotic ways. Do not wear fine clothing.  It's no wonder I didn't see the surrounding verses given in that context. Once I read the scripture, all of it at once, I began to see how it all went together in using Sarah, that old testament beauty, for a model of behavior. And she was beautiful.  Abraham lied about her twice trying to protect himself in case someone decided to kill him for her hand.  It wasn't her beauty tho, that made her such a treasure, it was the beauty of her inner self, a gentle and quiet spirit. That, and the fact that she did not give way to fears, instead she put her trust in God, calling Abraham 'lord'  Those examples are behavior tidbits and I want to show you how.

In the middle of our conversations, with me communicating so well, I doubt that my words were anything gentle or quiet in spirit. To begin returning insult with a blessing was a great way to start being gentle, but the quiet spirit wasn't something I was familiar with having.  I found that a quiet spirit isn't worried about the future or fixated on having things a certain way. A quiet spirit is calm, not dramatic. A quiet spirit can read the Word of God with more clarity and find more calm.  A quiet spirit seeks God's truth and lays aside feelings, especially strong feelings. A quiet spirit is looking for ways to create more calm and balance in her own home and isn't busy in other peoples matters.

Not giving way to fears, is key to calling your husband 'lord'. Women give many excuses for not properly respecting their husbands.  The common list:
                                               He doesn't deserve it
                                               I'm not going to be hypocritical
                               I don't trust he'll make the right decision without me
The list can go on and on, I'll just address three.   First of all, a man is born with the need for respect.  Respect is not a reward for good behavior. Respect is an action toward your man that is more than kindness.  Another way the Bible describes respect is reverence.  "See that she reverence her husband." Ephesians 5 :33.  Revere means to honor greatly, to treat something sacred.  This need for a man to be respected is as basic as his need for food and water and a few other things we won't mention here.  If you want to wait for a man to act worthy of respect before you can give it, that will pretty well cinch the whole thing up for failure.  Respect always works.  Respect breeds respect.  A good behavior to have, is to be the first one to give respect.  The wonderful thing about it is, you get to find out what is respectful to your husband.  Husbands don't come into your life as the men you were around while growing up.  He is an individual with a different past than yours.  What he associates with respect quite often is different than what your ideas of what it has meant all your life previously. Study what makes him feel like a man and on top of the world.  That's respect in practical terms.

Secondly, it is not hypocritical to do what our Lord asks us to do.  He tells the man to love the wife and the wife to respect her husband.  Men need to work at loving. Women need to work at respecting. Feeling it isn't necessary for doing it.  If you will just do it, results are sure to happen. One way to show your husband respect, is listening to his thoughts and commending him even if its not exactly how you think. You can be right in a very wrong way if you are forceful about pushing off your ideas just after he gave his.  He cannot be a leader if you don't keep your own 'better' ideas quiet and have a humble attitude about them.  He needs to be able to call the shots for your home and has a hard time doing that if you're constantly jumping in adding or correcting.

The last one, about trusting your husband to make the right decisions, was a big one for me.  I was so used to being independent in my thinking that I had little to no practice in trusting anyone in making decisions for me. I was not open to giving up what I believed to be right for the sake of my husband in his leadership roles. I didn't recognize my lack of submission in these cases and didn't see that I was afraid to lose control of what I thought to be right.  I was afraid if I didn't say what I thought, I would be the one to blame if something didn't turn out right in the end.

To give a few practical scenarios: It could be something as simple as buying a new car or a boat or a business, but it could also be decisions about whether giving to a good cause such as: an adoption close friends might be going through or a mission fundraiser the youth at your church might be having.  If when these kinds of circumstances come to you and your husband, and your husband doesn't feel you should give to one of these or any; then is the time to step away.  Assuming you have told him respectfully what your desires are for the situation, it is best to leave it in his hands.  Be at peace with how God leads him if the decision isn't what yours would be, and by all means, pray for your husband at this time, but do stop talking and trying to convince him of whatever it is you think you want.

 Quite often, I have found that when I wrestle with letting it go into my husband's capable hands, it is because I am giving way to fear of what other people will think if they find out about our decision. I am afraid of being judged. This kind of fear also disrupts the gentle and quiet spirit.

 Another benefit of letting the final decision with your husband is realizing after it is all over that his foresight was indeed the best and if you had been in the way, you would have never gotten to see his leadership in action the way God designed.  I believe God has given men a gift of foresight and strategic planning which works better than most women's ability.  Why?  Because quite often, we as women get our emotions involved and it gums up the workings.

Behavior matters. Sometimes, if not always, it matters more than the words we use for communication. We are all given different personalities.  Anytime I can't figure out what my behavior should be concerning a current situation, I have learned this is the time to be quiet and pray and search Scripture. I have never been disappointed in finding enough strength and wisdom to continue in learning what a gentle and quiet spirit is and how to not give way to fears. It is hard giving up my way to let God's way work, but therein is peace and calm.  There, is the beauty of the inner self that Peter was talking about.  And the curious thing about it is, how your respect does grow for that man of yours, once you find out what good behavior is in your own particular marriage. You are able to see his good leadership qualities in action and this makes you want to continue to behave yourself as God will continue to teach you. Having reverence for your husband becomes a little more doable as you become teachable. Micah 6:8  He hath shewed thee, Oh man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humble with they God?