The Gift of Respect on Father’s Day

By Erin Smalley
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Amid the rush of family life it can be easy to let your words or actions show disrespect toward your husband. But what if respect, regardless of the daily pace, could be a choice and an overflow of your heart's appreciation for him?

Recently, my husband, Greg, and I were attending our weekly marriage group. The food was great, the company even better . . . but I have to confess that the teaching was difficult for me. Not because the teaching wasn’t great, but because of the conviction it brought to my heart.

The primary verse presented that evening was familiar — Ephesians 5:33 where Paul teaches: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” There it was, straight from the Word of God, teaching that men are called to love their wives and wives are called to respect their husbands. Now, don’t get me wrong, I thought I respected my husband most of the time. However, as I sat quietly with Greg’s hand in mine, I knew that this issue was something I wanted to really focus on during the summer months. I wanted to be intentional about respecting my husband, especially in front of our children.

Intentional honor

In all honesty, I don’t intentionally dishonor or disrespect my husband. However, in the rush of life as I try to balance a million things at once, I often respond to him in harsh tones or with body language that screams disrespect. As the teacher discussed how our children are watching our every move, the conviction that night in our small-group gathering drove deeper in my heart. I had to ask myself if I was leading our kids to ultimately think that my behavior toward their dad in those moments was acceptable.

As I reflected even more on the verse that night, I realized there were times that I even justified my actions or words. I’d defend myself by saying, “I just needed his help with the kids —now — not in 30 minutes! So I increased my tone to intensify my immediate need.” Or I’d clarify, “I was in a hurry to hang up because I had to pick up one of our kids from school.” However, it says in Ephesians that wives are to respect their husbands, and I noticed that it didn’t say if we have time or when we can think about it or even when it’s convenient. I realized that it wasn’t like I was premeditating disrespect or planning to be rude. I just let it happen in the craziness of my daily life.

As our small group closed for the evening, the facilitator asked us to contemplate what we could focus on over the summer months to strengthen our marriage relationship. Before he could even finish his sentence, my hand was in the air. I wanted to share what my focus would be for the summer. At the top of my list was to be intentional about respecting my husband. And my dear husband jokingly offered me a list of ways I could honor him — just to get me started on the right foot.

Practical honor

The Oxford dictionary defines respect as: “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.” After pondering this definition, it became clear to me that I would need to regularly recognize what I most admired about Greg. Maybe I’d even need to keep a list of character qualities, abilities and achievements that I loved about him so I could refer to it regularly. It made me think of Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I understood that whatever I treasured about Greg (whether it was his sense of humor, his amazing ability to connect with our girls or his great work ethic), then my heart would be there as well. I love the thought of that: I can respect my husband by making a choice, especially when I’m frustrated with him, and I can respect my husband as an overflow of the habit of my heart.

Maybe you, too, have become acutely aware of your desire to be more intentional in offering encouragement and respect to your husband. Maybe you would ultimately like to teach your kids to do the same. This Father’s Day, I cannot help but think there’s no greater gift for Dad than respect — both for the day and in the months that follow.

Here are a few things that might help with your endeavor:

  • Every day be on the lookout for one thing in your husband’s behavior for which you can praise him. It can be as simple as brushing his teeth. Or maybe it’s his faithfulness to go to work each day and be a great provider. Or maybe it’s simply emptying the dishwasher. If you look for praiseworthy behavior, you will find it! Consider writing it down on a list of what you most admire about your husband. Encourage your kids to do the same.
  • Offer your husband words of encouragement and affirmation — maybe even at the dinner table in front of your children. Consider inviting your children to share as well.
  • When you are alone with your kids, always talk positively about your husband. Tell them how much you appreciate their dad.
  • When you blow it by speaking to your husband in dishonoring ways, simply “clean it up.” Acknowledge that you were wrong and ask your husband to forgive you.
  • Commit to honoring and respecting your husband, regardless of what he does or does not do in response to your respect. He is worthy of honor because his value does not change based on his behavior. Scripture makes it clear that a person’s value does not change because of his or her actions (Genesis 1:27; Exodus 19:5; Isaiah 43:4).
  • Ask the Lord for strength and self-control and for His love to abundantly flow through you toward your husband. 

© 2015 Focus on the Family

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About the Author

Erin Smalley

Erin Smalley serves as the Marriage Strategic Spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry and develops content for the marriage department. In addition to her work at Focus, Smalley is a conference speaker. She presents with her husband, Dr. Greg Smalley, at marriage enrichment seminars where they guide husbands and wives in taking steps toward enjoying deeply satisfying marriages. …

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