So, What Does Being the Head Look Like?

July 31, 2013

in Headship/Submission, Links to good stuff, Reader Requested, Series

Recently I’ve written a about what headship is not. I have stated true headship must flow from love and be rooted submission to God. Okay, but what should headship look like?

Man carrying wife © imagerymajestic | freedigitalphotos.net

To some degree, it will vary from couple to couple because of things such as unique gifts and callings, past experiences, and current season of life. However, there are some basic principles. The husband who is exercising headship well will do the following:

  • He seeks the best for his wife. Not what makes her happy, but what God wants for her.
  • He prayerfully seeks God’s will for his wife and their marriage.
  • He sacrifices for his wife.
  • He works to expose and nurture the gifts God has given his wife.
  • He knows when to shut up and let God do a work in his wife’s life.
  • He protects his wife from harm, including harm she would do to herself.
  • He listens to his wife, working not only to hear her, but also to understand her perspective.
  • He learns his wife’s needs, dreams, and her fears.
  • He seeks ways to communicate so his wife understands him.  (Including her love language.)
  • He is fast to forgive, and quick to extend grace. He gives the benefit of the doubt and refuses to operate based on assumptions.
  • He understands providing for his wife means far more than bringing home a pay-check.

For another good look at the issue of headship, try Submission to authority by Robyn of “up with marriage”. What she describes seems it would be over the top for some women, but as she says, it is what works for her. There is a lot of good stuff in her article, but the following stood out to me:

“Finally, a word of caution: to want to have authority over your wife’s power is a good and godly thing; but to want to make your life easier or to just get your way because you are stronger and bigger, or thinking you are better or more privileged in any way just because you are the man, is not the way of the Lord – it is the tradition of men. This is the seed of feminism: men following the tradition of ‘wearing the pants.’

Satan twisted the direction and purpose of the authority God gave men because he could not diminish it, so men hated the power of femininity and abused women, seeing them as less valuable.  Women, being responders, have merely reflected that twist of direction and purpose; but they move in what they are – power – so women are usurping the masculine authority that originally hated their femininity.

Satan subtly shifted the direction of authority and power in marriage so that husbands and wives would be at each other instead of one synergistic unit directed at him.”

I have long said feminism is a wrong response to a real problem. Many men treated women in general and their wives in particular in ways that were wrong, ungodly, and just rude. Oppressed groups do not stay oppressed forever, they eventually they rise up. If most men had been good, loving heads, feminism would have been a big flop. 

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28 comments
A Heart to Know
A Heart to Know

Paul,

I don't know if you saw the reply I left in response to another comment...

On the tail of your authority/headship and submission series, I think it would be hugely beneficial to do a series on "How to Disagree in a Biblical, God-Glorifying Manner" -- how to resolve conflict, when to "agree to disagree", how to address offense, etc.  I see it so often that couples don't know how to argue in a productive manner... which seems to be THE big stumbling block in marriages when it comes to headship and submission.  The pitfalls end up being making accusations, insults, not asking questions, making assumptions, etc. (all those bad habits we need to acknowledge and unlearn!)

(As a side note, it might create useful guidelines for commenters - helping to keep commenting focused on intelligent, productive discussion.)

Jeich
Jeich

Paul, thanks for your work. The only thing we can control is our own actions and we have to make every effort to be at our best. We don't have any control over how people respond. If we men take our leadership position seriously and focus on our actions, we increase the chances of success. That doesn't guarantee success. I look forward to your blog along with others as part of an injection of positive thought in my day. You are spot on. We are the head whether we like it or not so we better try our best to be good at it and let God take care of the rest.

janna94
janna94

Paul, I think you did a good job.  But I want to say that I read Robyn's "Submission to Authority" and I liked it!  I could see myself in her, although I've never been a feminist, and I could see that the same actions that her husband takes, would be effective for me also.

bls4teams
bls4teams

Awesome Paul, a great reminder of who we are as husbands.  Part of the problem is too many times we as men and husbands allow others and other things to get in front of the most important team husband and wife first,  Followed by our family which includes our children.  Our role to be a good husband and a good father which includes being a teacher, coach, mentor, encourager, corrector and yes leader.

Our guide should be from Christ as he took the church and us as his bride giving all for her and God as our Heavenly father.  A Dad that keeps the door open always for us to come boldly in and possibly sit on His lap and make our requests known.  Never to busy, never too tired always where you know you can find Him and always ready and willing to listen, now that is a Dad.  Husband and Dad to look up to and follow by studying the word.  It is all about unconditionally giving.  Its a kids game .... follow the leader.

Upwithmarriage
Upwithmarriage

@Oldschool Husband Yes, OsH this is a true statement, as far as I can tell for my interpretation: "Your reasoning is if men are good, then of course women will be good because they are only reacting to men's evil."  Women are responders - we respond with what we are - subjection/submission. Submission responds to it's [her] authority - because it is human impossible to reflect -- nothing.  Bible commentator Rashi says:“If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer].If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenedgo] for strife.”

You don't subscribe to this dynamic because you favour equality in authority of husband and wife.  Therefore you see wives as equally accountable - exactly like her husband.

I believe wives are accountable, but it is different than that of a husband.  If you look at when the eyes of Adam and Eve were actually opened to sin, you can see this.  Eve ate first, yes.  But her eyes were not opened until her husband ate too, THEN their eyes were opened.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband I did not say it would not have happened, I said it would have been a flop. There are always those who want to overthrow something, but history shows they never get any traction until a significant minority are upset about the situation. 

bls4teams
bls4teams

@Oldschool Husband @Upwithmarriage Personally, I see the point being muddied and made complicated.  Jesus came to make it much simpler, sure there was the sins and the law, but follow me in and with Love, Christ gave himself, even when we were yet sinners.  Jesus made a way because there was no other.  Love conquers all, so love your wife and yes I do believe she will love you back.  Love others and they will see the Christ in you.  You are trying to keep score and if you try to, no one will win and then Satan is victorious.  Again follow the Leader, Jesus. 

bls4teams
bls4teams

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband 

Because we are not Loving and making it simple!  Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened.  Not for judgment which is what man seems to want to offer along with a side of condemnation.  If we would stand up and share Jesus' Love we could win people to God.  It is not that difficult, yes we all sin and fall short, but God forgives, forgets and moves it as far as the east is from the west.  But we on the other hand......KISS! 

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband "The bottom line in Paul's teaching is if men were doing there jobs then women would be doing their jobs."

No, I am not teaching that. If men did their jobs, I think women would be far less likely to be out of line, but they are still sinful and would still sin.

My point on feminism is that if men had been doing a fairly good job, not enough women would be willing to "rise up" to have seen what we have see. Yes, some would have tried to do the same thing, but they would have had very little success. 

Feel free to disagree, but please don't change the meaning of my words.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband "It's very important to make the distinction.  Woman is no less a sinner than man."

I think I am very clear about that. See What I Believe.

By the way, I thought you left because you "can't stomach the teaching"?

janna94
janna94

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband 

I just wanted to say, I have been following TGH for a month or two, and I haven't seen any red flags that points to him twisting Scripture.  I see that what he writes is pretty much right on, and though my husband is not a blog reader, when I see something that is speaking to where we are now, or to those around us that we minister to, I forward the post to him.

I may be out of place to say this, and if I am, I'm sorry... but what turns me off and what I see that does go against Scripture is the argumentative spirit of the OsH or Thankful Husband, or whatever name that you want to argue under.  If you believe TGH is wrong, share it once and then let the Holy Spirit convict him, but to continually attack with arguments... where is that seen in Scripture as the right thing to do?  It seems that you believe you have all the right answers, but your "presentation" reminds me of those that Jesus said, "Woe to you... you are like whitewashed tombs". (Mt. 23:27-28)

A Heart to Know
A Heart to Know

@Oldschool Husband

You are the expert on your own wife - praise God for what He has worked in your marriage!  But... no two women are the exactly the same, no two men are exactly the same.  God in His wisdom, made every marriage unique, and Paul the expert on his own wife!

I think Paul is sharing his beliefs and what has worked in his marriage, on his blog.  Paul (& Lori) are a blessing to many, many couples out there who can identify with them and whose marriages are strengthened by their ministry!

If you believe there are marriages out there that are similar to your own and would be strengthened by what you have to share, it would be a much more honorable use of your time to start your own blog where you can share your beliefs and what has worked in your marriage in a positive manner vs. spending all your time criticizing Paul and making accusations. 

2 Timothy 2:14

"Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers."

Your words are a ruin to the hearers (on this particular blog). By attempting to stir up contention, you create a negative atmosphere on an otherwise very encouraging blog.  It doesn't seem like Paul & Lori's beliefs are a good fit for you and your wife.  Perhaps it would be best to not read it any longer - save yourself the frustration.

A Heart to Know
A Heart to Know

@Oldschool Husband

"Because you agree with Paul's teaching on marriage you see a problem with what I'm doing."

Incorrect accusation.

It's not WHAT you're doing, it's HOW you're doing it that is so disturbing and contrary to the Bible.

It's always okay to disagree with someone else's opinion or beliefs, or as you say "have a problem with Paul's view".  It's always okay to share your own opinion and beliefs, but it is NOT okay to judge people, insult people and make accusations.  I don't believe God is at all pleased with that kind of behavior.

We are commanded to be kind to one another, and use our words to edify and impart grace to the hearers.  We are to speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We are commanded to encourage one another and build one another up.  Your words are not kind, they are not encouraging, they are not respectful, they do not edify.

If you can't disagree or share your opinions in a respectful manner, it would be appreciated if you kept them to yourself.

A Heart to Know
A Heart to Know

@Oldschool Husband

"How to respond to such untruth in what you would consider an uplifting way?"

I'm sure there are a lot of books out there that can instruct you in how to disagree in a manner that is God-glorifying.

But better yet, Paul, perhaps you can write a post/series on this topic?  I'm sure it would be beneficial to married couples as well as your blog commenters.  Probably fits nicely right along with the authority and submission posts...

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband Life was not as you suggest sixty years ago, and Leave it to Beaver was as much a Hollywood fantasy as most sit-coms today.

In those days we all thought we were a "Christian nation." We were not, but it made us feel good to think we were, and those who were not knew to keep their heads down. There were business and social perks to going to church. When there are reasons to go to church that have nothing to do with God, you get folks who don't care about God in church. Then you have a bit of leaven leavening the whole lump. The truth get's watered down, and untruth gets mixed in. You have folks who are not following Jesus pretending they are, and then when they do all manner of wrong things it gets blamed on the church.

I would say the worst abuse of women in the church was by pretend Christians, but they were allowed to carry on because they claimed to be part of us and "we have to stick together". So, rather than working to be the kind of men, fathers, leaders, and heads the Bible calls us to be, we settled for mediocrity and selfishness. This stirred up women, and sin found an opportunity.

Even then, the church could have acted rightly and made a difference. Sadly we saw the wrong response as the problem, rather than a symptom. We attacked the symptom, but ignored the underlying root. We fell for Satan's trick, and look what it got us. Like Adam, we blamed "The woman God gave me" rather than taking ownership of our failures.  

One of my concerns is the growing incidence of women who try to live the "Good Christian Wife" role for ten to twenty years, then give up and file for divorce "without warning". Many of these women looked, for years, to be the kind of wife I think you want women to be. They seemed to be submitted - but they were playing a part. Eventually they could not keep it up, and they cut and ran. Often they throw out God in the process. This is becoming an epidemic. 

In my mind the problem is that what these women are trying to be is not completely correct. Much of it is right, but there is enough distortion that many can't keep it up, and others will just stop trying. Because they have been told this is how God wants a wife to be, they think they can't be what God wants, and that drives them from God. The reality is they can't be what man has said God wants them to be, which is a very different thing.

It is much like the Pharisees did to the Jews in the time of Jesus, adding laws to what God said until no one could do what was expected. Jesus condemned this, and worked to set people free from the laws of men.

Headship and submission in marriage are biblical concepts, and they are as valid today as they were when Jesus walked the earth. The problem is when we add to, or alter what the Bible says, or when we change the balance found in the Bible. Clearly you and I differ on this, each thinking the other is adding, altering, or changing the balance.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband "We both think you are about 1000% too optimistic when it comes to both the female gender and the modern's teaching on marriage in the church (which you endorse)."

If I endorse those things, how come the people who do write me nasty emails? Any egalitarian would tell you I am NOT an egalitarian!  

You act as if there are only two options, and if I am not in your camp I am in the other camp. You see only red and blue, and when I wear yellow you call it blue because you know it's not red. Makes a real discussion impossible.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@A Heart to Know @Oldschool Husband You are very right that we are all unique. I am touching on that either this Sunday or next.

It is easy to teach what works for you, and to assume it will work for everyone. I know that, and I fight it. I'm sure I do it more than I know, but hopefully not all the time. I give advice that would not be the best option in my marriage because I know where we are unique, and what is more common. (I recommend against giving appliances for Christmas, but my wife loved it when I gave her a vacuum one year.) I try to give a wider look than just my life, and that is part of why I do all the links on Sunday. 

You are right in that no marriage blog (or book, or counsellor) is a good fit for everyone. If a man is on the verge of being abusive, he does not need to read about how the problem with marriages is that women need to learn to submit!

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @A Heart to Know For what it's worth I believe everything you say here, including the comment on house payment.

I understand that you feel what I am saying is dangerous, and I respect you saying so. I'd do the same - and have. 

I'm frustrated that my words don't seem to be able to change how you see me, but oh well. Maybe when we sit down at Classic for a cup of coffee.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband

First on the numbers. That 72% was true in 1975, but not now. It spiked when no fault divorces started, and has dropped ever since. Best sources I can find now put it at 2 women for each man, which is 66% female.

I've never thought who files has anything to do with who might be more at fault. If divorces were only filed for biblical grounds, then the one who filed would be the victim, and their spouse the one who's wrong. Of course that is not how it happens.

Why people say they divorce is always questionable. Abuse is a documented issue in almost 30% of divorces, and the woman is far more likely to be the recipient of abuse. (Yes, men get abused too, but at lower numbers.) Until recently adultery was far more common for men too. (Now it's about even, some studies even put women ahead.)

If you remove all the divorces for abuse and adultery, you actually have more men than women filing - which may change with the changes in adultery figures.

And all of that proves nothing!

Divorce is caused by sin, and both sexes have plenty of sin. Sometimes it's the sin of the one who files, sometimes they file because of the sin of their spouse, and usually it's a mix of the two. Often the root causes are so old and obscured that no one knows the real why.

I do think women are less likely to stay in a marriage they think is irrevocably broken. That may sound like it's blaming the husband, but it's not. If she is unwilling to try, or is unwilling to do what's needed to make the marriage work, then she sees it as irrevocably broken, but it's her limits that are the issue.

I've seen plenty of marriages that could have been saved if the man had woken up five years earlier. Again, that does not mean he is at fault, but it does mean he had the power to do something that would have changed things and saved the marriage. In many cases what he needed to do was stop being passive. Stand up, be a man, be the head, and keep lovingly doing it till she responded. Other times what he should have learned to communicate, or to be less critical. or to stop spending hour on porn. Still other times he needed to confront her sin(s) and keep lovingly pushing her till she either repents or leaves.

Why am I putting the responsibility to initiate change on the man? Because God made him the head! He leads, she follows, it's how God made them. Granted she may choose not to follow, but women are far more likely to follow their husband than vice versa.

Thanks for asking me to clarify!

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband @A Heart to Know "I am admitting that I was Paul, except I did it in person to person and not on the internet 10-12 years ago.  He and I would of aligned on about 100% of what he says."

Except that I'm not static either. A couple of decades ago I was closer to what you are now, but not completely.

How do you feel about the term "the loyal opposition"?

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Oldschool Husband @TheGenerousHusband I assume no one, male or female, needs to be told their spouse is selfish, sinful, rude, and so on. We all get that. Often we play it up and make it worse than it is.

Most of us, male and female, also do play down our own sin and failings. This is where we need a good mirror!

I suppose ultimately this is about how I want to be dealt with. I like books that make me aware of where I am falling short. I don't mean I enjoy them, but I appreciate that they give me a better look at my imperfections because that makes it more likely I will deal with those things.

My goal is to grow up, to be a better man, husband, father, friend, and servant of the Most High God. I know I am surrounded by sinful people, but I choose to focus on me, not them. I have far more power over me than I do anyone else, and frankly I don't care that much about how bad others are, and if they are worse or better than I am. I know I am deeply sinful, and I know I need to deal with that.

The bottom line is it does not really matter if I am better or worse than my wife; I am sinful, and I need to deal with that. She is also sinful, and she needs to deal with that. If she is more sinful than I, that does not make me any better, nor does it change the fact that I am sinful and I need to work on me. I am starting to understand why Paul (the other one) said he was the chief sinner. I think he refused to see himself as better than anyone for fear he would give pride a foothold.

As for who is reading here, I do not think they are not nearly as clean as you suggest. The desire to be right with God does not directly correlate with being less sinful- look at King David! I know that the majority of the men reading here have chosen to look at porn in the last 60 days. Some once, some daily. Some don't fight it, some do. (Did a survey on this last November). I know there are men here who have physically hurt their wives this year. Some did it intentionally, most by allowing themselves to get too close to the line, making an "accident' all but inevitable. I know there are men here who have been to a strip club recently. I know there are men here who are on the verge of committing adultery. Are there fewer of those men here than in the general population? No doubt. Are there fewer than in the church? No doubt. But they are still here, and they need to hear both about their sin and the grace of God.

Perhaps my failing is not showing enough grace to men. Maybe you see a lot of grace towards women and little towards men and that is why you keep telling me I think women are better or less sinful. I need to think and pray on that.

Jeich
Jeich

One of the best leadership books I've read is called "The Way of the Shepard" by Dr Kevin Leman. It echoes many of the same thoughts. Thanks for the great blogs Paul!

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