Question: If a man says something in a forest, and there is no woman around to hear it, is he still wrong???
This joke has always cracked me up, but now I feel a little guilty laughing. Why? Because I have just finished a book (Yes, Susanne, another book!) called Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.
My cell group of 7 couples which meets in a home on Sunday nights is doing this study together. We have texts, workbooks and DVDs, the whole she-bang.
Let me see if I can boil down the thesis a bit. If you read Ephesians 5 carefully, quietly tucked away in the verse 33, you'll find an admonition to women to respect their husbands:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
For years, sermons/books/teachings have emphasized husbands loving their wives sacrificially, probably as an answer/antidote to unfair chauvinism that has plagued the sexes since Time.
But the author shines a spotlight on this mystery: women need to be unconditionally loved, while men need to be unconditionally respected. He recounts the survey of 400 men (which I'll summarize clumsily) in which 74% responded that they would rather be alone and unloved in the world than feel inadequate and disrespected.
Women, on the other hand, place love above all else. We can't help it. It's what we do. We do not have to be commanded to love our husbands. It's in our nature to love him. It's not in our nature to respect him, necessarily.
Of course, each gender craves love and respect, but Eggerichs claims that these respective needs are not equally felt. Because people (mainly women) do not understand the male need for respect, couples get going on what he calls "The Crazy Cycle," wherein the male responds unlovingly toward his wife, who feels unloved and therefore responds disrespectfully (with contempt) toward her husband, who feels disrespected and therefore responds unlovingly. Round it goes. No need to try to point the finger to say, "He/She started it." Everyone's in this.
The phenomenon that keeps the cycle spinning is that age-old communication snafu. He uses the analogy of women filtering the world through pink sunglasses and hearing aids and men filtering through blue. If we never learn to "speak" or "hear" in other language (accepting maleness and femaleness without judgment) we'll just keep doing the same unproductive things we've always done with the same results, as the saying goes, perfectly illustrating the definition of "crazy."
In our culture, we are taught that love should be given unconditinally and that respect should be earned. Yet in God's economy, we humans deserve neither. However, we are graced with both, and so should we grace each other.
If at this point you're wondering about becoming a doormat or hypocrite ("How can I respect my husband who is 'doing time?'" for example) you'll just have to read the book. If you're wondering about how to break out of the Crazy Cycle, you'll just have to read the book. If you're wondering why sex is so dadgum important to men . . .
Well, let me add this one more little tidbit about sex. Men equate it with feeling good both physically and emotionally. It truly is a form of communication, a major one for him, and it validates his maleness.
Eggerichs states, "By way of analogy, a wife needs emotional release through talking. When that need is met she feels loved. When a man refuses to talk, that symbolizes he does not love her or care about her need. A husband has a need for physical release through sexual intimacy. When a wife refuses, that symbolizes to him that she does not care about him and does not respect him and his need. A wife [who refuses] needs to think abou thow unfair it is to say to her husband, 'Have eyes only for me.'" So, imagine how you would feel if for three weeks, or more, your husband simply refused to talk to you. Would you be a happy camper?
There is a lot of truth in this book, and I have learned from it. There is also a lot in this book that made me bristle. Even my husband said that the author seems to come down heavy on the women, but I think that's because he believes men haven't been given their due time in the spotlight in this respect (no pun intended). At times, the author's voice is condescending and patronizing, and his examples of couples who have successfully bettered their marriages (one after the other after the other) are tediously simplistic and too perfect. Nevertheless, it's worth picking up, I guess. Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic.
Finally, one interesting tidbit is that Eggerichs refers to the history of Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T--a feminist anthem--that was actually written by Otis Redding! This underscores another observation: the greeting card industy, mainly supported by women, sells almost every card on the premise of how much "I love you." You never see one that says, "Here are the reasons I respect you." He suggests you tell, or write, your husband about how and why you respect him.
Valentine's Day is almost here. Maybe it's time to write a new kind of love note: "How do I respect thee? Let me count the ways . . . "