Respect: A Dirty Word?


In my first post after my undeclared sabbatical, I spoke about how one influential blogger has apparently decided that men are pretty much second class citizens in Christian marriage, anymore. In reading her posts attacking Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect, you are faced with the undeniable fact that Madame DeFarge** embraces the teaching that husbands owe their wives “unconditional love” (after all, LYWACLTC™, don’t you know?). Readers of this blog will recall that in past posts, I have debunked the idea of unconditional love, but, hey,  it’s a major tenet of today’s Church, almost approaching the status of accepted orthodoxy. 

Be that as it may, in one of my Bad Teaching posts, I did demonstrate that the command for husbands to love their wives was accompanied by the command for wives to respect their husbands (this can be found in Eph. 5.33). I pointed out that due to parallel construction, either love and respect are both unconditional or neither is unconditional, that it isn’t a mix ‘n’ match set. It’s just not kosher to say that the husband has to love his wife unconditionally, whereas wives only have to respect their husbands conditionally. Nope. T’aint fair, t’aint biblical.

But this is exactly what Madame DeFarge argues on her blog. In fact, when one commenter said that while a husband’s love should be unconditional but it was alright to require a wife’s respect to be earned, Mme. DeFarge replies “Totally agree!” While Mme. DeFarge says that she is a new convert, her history shows that she has been undermining respect for husbands for several years. After all, three years ago, she wrote a post for her followers asking if they respected their husbands TOO MUCH.

“Respect Is So Yesterday!”

Although I am approaching 70, you don’t have to have a long memory to remember when respect was NOT a dirty word. It wasn’t that long ago that there were two books that were popular in Christian bookstores (even making the New York Times Bestsellers lists, I believe) for helping Christian marriages. First there was the men’s devotional, The Love Dare, written as a spin-off of the movie Fireproof, which challenged husbands to become more Christ-like in their relationships with their wives.

A couple of years later, Nina Roesner wrote The Respect Dare and created an on-line community and ministry around the idea that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. It seems that she and her readers have not felt the need to excise Eph. 5.33 from their Bibles.

I first heard of Roesner’s book and ministry six years ago through a fellow Christian blogger who decided to read and take the Respect Dare. Chris Taylor, of Forgiven Wife, shared with her audience that she had purchased The Respect Dare and was going to work through the 40-day devotional. She explained her reason for doing so:

I have always been very disrespectful toward my husband, and that is the real thing I want to change. I want to create a space in which my husband can grow as a man and know that I value and respect him as a man.

So the idea of wives respecting husbands was not, until recent events, a topic of scorn. There were respected (oh that word!) authors, men and women, writing about the need for love and respect in Christian marriages. Ah, good times.

Not Spouses, But Accountants?

Fast forward six years, and we now have Madame DeFarge and her following shouting “A la barricades” as they go after ministries and churches that won’t join them in their denunciation of Love & Respect.

As I noted in previous posts, the Church has become a feminized organization and I have documented the Church’s institutional denigration of men and masculinity; Madame DeFarge has upped the ante on men-bashing in Christian marriage and given full throat to those Christian women and beta males who want to lash men for being men.

The watchword in all of the postings by Madame DeFarge and in the comments from her devoted choir is earned, with the chant rising from all corners of the internet “Respect must be earned! Respect must be earned!” Over and over, Mme. DeFarge and her followers announce that they cannot, will not, respect a husband who hasn’t earned it.

As I was reading Madame DeFarge’s posts and emails where she lets slip her dogs of war onto Emerson Eggerichs, Focus on the Family, and husbands in general, one question arises in my mind that I find troubling in her entire crusade. Please pardon my French, folks, but

When in Hades did wives transmogrify from spouses into paymasters? 

Marital Earnings?

In order for someone to earn respect, there has to be someone else keeping tabs, totting up brownie points in order to determine when the candidate achieves his Respect Badge, right? After all, aren’t we told in Rom. 4:4, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”? For someone to earn a wage (in this case, respect), isn’t there a boss or foreman making sure that the worker stays on task, and that he earns his wage?

And then I realized just what Madame DeFarge was doing with her “Earn Respect” campaign. Although completely unintentional, she has been setting marriage relations back decades. As I thought about what I was witnessing in Mme. DeFarge’s undertakings, I remembered something that I had come across before, that some wives took it upon themselves to decide when their husbands had earned the privilege of having sex. Had the guy done enough choreplay to merit a roll in the sack? Had he been nice enough or obsequious enough to receive sexual favors, or not?

In essence, marriage was again being turned into emotional hostage-taking, a system of relationship transactions; “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Husbands and wives are to no longer be seen as lovers, but instead as business associates involved in marital commerce, with respect as the currency that keeps the goods flowing. (Hmm, now I am wondering about the idea of making daily/weekly deposits in Love Banks…)

I’m sorry, but to my way of thinking Madame DeFarge and her followers are reducing the Christian concepts of love and respect to business transactions, making Christian marriage merely a sanctified prostitute-and-john affair.

Wives, are you making your husband earn something from you? Are you seeing yourself as the person in your marriage who holds the marital pursestrings? Husbands, to you, as well, are you holding affection hostage against your wives? I’m sorry, but that isn’t Christian and it isn’t godly. And according to the Bible, your putting a stumbling block between your and your spouse means that you are putting a stumbling block between you and God. I’ll have more to say about that in my next post.


** Since my blogging hero, Paul Byerly of Generous Husband, acted like a Christian should and didn’t give the name of the attacking blogger, I am following suit. However, I find it cumbersome to be constantly referring to She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and so I am going to refer to her by the name of a character from literature whom she seems, to me, to resemble. To those of you who recognize the character Madame DeFarge, yes, I do believe that the name is an apt appellation for her.

Disclaimer: I am not a counselor, doctor, or pastor. For that matter, Wife says I don’t play well with others. My advice and comments come from my concern for hurting Christian husbands and wives. Someone once said to me, “Church shouldn’t hurt”, and I believe the same thing goes for marriage. I’m going to call ‘em as I see ‘em, but please, don’t take my word as gospel. Yes, read what I say, pray about what I say, but do your own “due diligence.”

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

7 responses to “Respect: A Dirty Word?

  1. sandi

    I couldn’t agree more so I shared this on my FB page. Withholding the name of this blogger is a nice gesture and maybe is a good idea so you’re not generating traffic on her blog. I’m really pretty disgusted by the distortion of the feminist movement. It’s been so bad for marriages and families. 😦


    • Thank you for your kind words, Sandi. I will confess to being a little too overpleased with myself for using the “Madame DeFarge” psuedonym for said blogger. I must be a terrible person to enjoy that. 🙂
      I was wondering why I saw Facebook as a referrer for that post. Now I know.


  2. Pingback: My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 1 | Hot, Holy & Humorous

  3. RickyB

    If love is unconditional and respect is earned, then does a wife need to earn respect from her husband? Is a wife required to love her husband unconditionally? The dirty little secret is that Madame DeFarge and her ilk will never address these issues because they are counting on people not applying them in reverse.

    The assumption going in is that husbands will naturally and unconditionally respect their wives because respect comes naturally to men and this is why the Bible calls them to love their wives. And the corollary is that wives are thought to be natural lovers so no one needs to tell them to love unconditionally because they will do so without being told. So no need to go there and we only need to focus on the unconditional love REQUIRED of husbands and the conditional respect SUGGESTED to wives.

    BTW – Nice to see you back to blogging, CL. Your voice has been greatly missed.


    • Ooohh, I love your first paragraph! Don’t be surprised if down the road, some of this doesn’t show up in a post of mine. I suspect that Madame DeFarge and cohort would parry any claims about earning love would be, “Husbands are commanded to love, not wives.” But then she weaves a tapestry of taradiddles to creates caveats and exemptions for absolving wives of actually having to obey Paul’s dictum on respecting husbands.

      As to your second paragraph, about assumptions, Eggerichs’s Love & Respect has as its basic assumption is the archetypal needs of husbands (respect) and wives (love). Madame DeFarge dismisses men’s need for respect but demands unconditional love from husbands from their wives. I think that, ultimately, relationships based on her vision will have to face crises. Yes, they can work, but only so long as both parties buy into it. But once doubt creeps in on the need for one to be the second-class citizen in the marriage, a crisis is going to be unavoidable.

      And thank you for your welcome. My output may not be prodigious going forward, but it will still be a monument to cantankerousness. 🙂


  4. M_Collins


    φοβέομαι almost always means “to fear,” often of our attitude of reverential awe toward God. But the word also means “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect” (BDAG). Hoehner says there is no philological evidence for the latter, but I suspect there is. Of course, it is not a mild form of respect; it would have to be a strong sense of respect such that fear would ensue if someone did not behave properly.

    (Bill Mounce was on the translation committees for the NIV and the ESV. His late father Robert was also on both committees.)

    When I read this description of respect described in Eph 5:22,33 I don’t necessarily see that it is “unconditional” in that it can never be diminished or altered. But I do not think a husband has to “earn” respect any more than a wife has to “earn” love. I think there should always be a baseline respect that a wife has for a husband regardless of what he does just like a husband has to have a baseline of love for his wife regardless of what she does. But that is not to say that sinfulness of a spouse will not alter the way that love or respect manifests itself. In some extreme cases where there is infidelity or abandonment, the most respectful thing a wife can do is divorce her husband. And the most loving thing a husband can do is divorce his wife.


  5. I came across your blog last week. What I have been struggling with and trying to articulate in my own mind (and book) to express for the last 5+ years, you have done with exceptional clarity in your posts about marriage. Thanks for taking your time and effort to supply truthful and sobering insights in an area where the greater church population has failed for the last 50+ years. Keep going.

    On the topic:
    Women have no Biblical basis to expect their husbands to “earn” their respect; and they certainly have no place to withhold any relational capital that is contingent on some arbitrary hurdle where the man must prove himself. This type of teaching opens a man up to being a doormat for his wife’s emotional swings and volatility. It places him in a futile position that emasculates his Biblical role in the relationship.

    It could be argued that the woman is the one who needs to earn “respect.” The woman of Proverbs 31 gives cause for her husband (and children) to praise her and to have trust in her. The combined qualities of trust and praise are components of respect.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s