In my years of working with married couples, two of the most common complaints I hear from wives are:
"My husband just won't step up and be the leader of the home."
"My husband always demands his own way."
On the surface, these two complaints seem contradictory, but they're not. In fact, they're two sides of the same coin and they represent two aspects of the same problem: Unhealthy leadership from the husband. This then begs some follow up questions.
If a guy is really being a leader in the home, doesn't that mean he should be the one expecting or even demanding his own way? Isn't that what leadership means or is the very notion of male leadership in the home an antiquated and sexist tool used by generations of men to perpetuate mistreatment and misogyny toward women? Should there really be any distinction at all between the responsibilities of a husband versus those of a wife? Shouldn't we just speak the language of the culture and use the gender-neutral term "partner" to replace the old-fashioned notions of "husband" and "wife." Is writing a blog on this hot-button (and often politicized) topic going to get me a bunch of haters tweeting cuss words at me?
These are complicated questions, but I'm going to do my best to address them (even if you decide to cuss at me on twitter). I don't have time to dive deep into all of these questions in this one article, but I want to spend some time talking about the role of husbands as leaders in the home.
We live in a very confusing era for husbands and for wives as well. For men in the modern era, many are confused about what their role should be in the home. They wonder if showing respect to their wife means having to abandon the biblical mandate of male leadership as an outdated command written specifically for a different era and different set of cultural norms.
Many men aren't sure what being a "husband" really means. They've seen a lot of negative PR in the news about men in positions of power misusing their authority and men and boys are tempted to react to the trending stories of sexism by distancing themselves from any form of male power, authority or leadership. We as men are abandoning our responsibilities as leaders because being completely passive seems to be a better option than being a domineering and abusive man like the terrible examples we've seen from so many fallen celebrities, politicians and pastors.
As a quick side note here, I fiercely believe we should be outraged by the mistreatment of women and girls in any form. It should sicken and enrage us and prompt us to action. In fact, I'm working on a book right now called "Raising Boys Who Respect Girls" and as a dad of four boys, I take this very seriously. If I raise sons who are outwardly successful in every measurable way, but they are secretly disrespectful to women, then I will have failed as a father. With that being said, I still think healthy leadership from husbands in the home is more important now than ever before.
I believe much of wives' frustration over their husbands' unhealthy leadership and much of the widespread male confusion over what we're actually supposed to be doing as husbands could be solved by a quick refresher course on what the Bible actually says on these matters. Men, I want you to pick up your Bible (or the Bible app on your phone) and spend time studying this on your own. Read the Book of Proverbs. Read the book of Ephesians. Read about the example of Jesus in the Gospels who is the perfect "Bridegroom" of His bride, the Church.
You are not the head of your household. Christ is the head of your household and as you submit to Him and follow in His example, your responsibilities as a husband will come into clearer focus.
As you submit to Christ as the head of your home, you'll be stepping into your God-given responsibility as the primary leader within your home. You might be wondering what "leader" actually means. It does not mean you get to be the boss in a worldly sense. It means you have some unique roles and responsibilities that will help your family thrive.
What you'll see in Scripture is that God is calling you to be a "Pro." You might never be a Pro athlete, but you can and must be a "Pro" in your home. I'm fairly short, slow and I have love handles, but I'm still living the dream as a "Pro" and you can too! You don't have to be rich, or brilliant, or athletic or handsome to pull it off. You just have to be faithful in three specific responsibilities that all happen to begin with "Pro."
1. Be Proactive
Passivity is the opposite of healthy leadership in the home. I'm reading a powerful book by Navy SEALS called "Extreme Ownership" which outlines how those brave warriors take on an extreme level of accountability, responsibility and "ownership" over their missions and over the well being of all those serving in their unit. We as husbands must be proactive in taking on this same mindset in our family's future. We can't just sit back and wait for life to happen. We must be leading the way in our faith. We must shape our family's future through our prayers, our sacrifices, and our words.
2. Be a Provider
We as husbands are called to work hard to provide for our families. This doesn't only mean financial provision. In fact, some have abandoned our families in the pursuit of career accolades while convincing ourselves we're just being good providers. Your family can do with less of almost anything if it means having more of you. We must provide ourselves. We must provide our time. We must provide a Godly example of authenticity even through our many mistakes and imperfections.
3. Be a Protector
We as husbands and fathers are called to wage a battle against all the forces that would harm our families. This doesn't just mean being willing to fight the bad guy who breaks in your home or having the courage to chase away the mouse that scares your wife in the kitchen (I've actually failed at that challenge before)! It means we must also be willing to fight not against flesh and blood, but as the Bible instructs, our real battle is against evil itself. We need to lead the way in our prayers and our actions so that as we follow Christ, our families would follow us and together we'll find protection in our Savior's arms.
Men, we're going to blow it sometimes. We're going to make mistakes. Your family doesn't need you to be perfect, but they desperately need you to be present and to be a "Pro" in these areas above. You're called to be a leader in your home. You might not be comfortable with that, but God hasn't always called us to comfort. Have the courage to lead by example.
Never think your leadership responsibility is an opportunity to bully, manipulate or mistreat your wife or children. We will be held to a high account for the way we steward this responsibility. Remember that Christ-like leadership serves others instead of demanding to be served. Christ gave His life for us willingly laying down all his rights for the sake of our good. That's the kind of love and leadership our families need from us. If we're following Jesus, we'll always be headed in the right direction and we'll earn the trust of those who are following our lead.