Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: A woman’s words may be more powerful than you realize. Here’s Emerson Eggerichs.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: Every man is devastated, and it takes him forever to get over it when he hears her say, “I love you, but I don’t respect you.” Women will break down and cry when they’re offended at the core of their being. Men get angry and go off by themselves.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 17.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Most of the letters and emails we get here at Revive Our Hearts are from women, but we do get some from men, and I find that many of those help give us, as women, insight into what the men are thinking, how they’re responding, and how we can be a more godly influence and blessing in their lives.

I appreciated the honesty of one husband who heard a program that we did on the subject of wives respecting their husbands, and he said,

I was so glad to hear this program. All I want is for my wife to build me up and to support me in my life. Growing up I was always torn down by my mom, and I was hoping to find a wife who wouldn’t do the same. Men want to feel wanted and loved. We have feelings, even though it is harder for us to show them.

I wonder if that man wasn’t saying out of the experience of his own marriage, “I’m not feeling respected in my marriage.”

Well, we have a man with us on the broadcast today to talk with us about this whole issue of respect and how when a wife respects her husband and when a husband feels respected by his wife that he is even more motivated to express the love that he’s commanded to give to his wife.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is a former pastor of many years. He has a pastor’s and shepherd’s heart. He has a ministry now called Love & Respect Ministry. He’s written a powerful book called Love & Respect. You may have heard him talk on other Christian radio programs, and yet I think we can’t hear too much today about the importance of this issue of respect as women.

Dr. Eggerichs, thank you so much for being with us on Revive Our Hearts this week.

Dr. Eggerichs: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy: In your book, you talk about a respect test that I think is something many of our listeners—I hope all of them who are married—will want to do. Tell us how a woman can do this test and how it might make a difference in her relationship with her husband.

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, a woman listening right now would say, “Well, I don’t feel any respect for him. He doesn’t deserve it. He hasn’t earned it.” So this is a huge issue. We’re not talking about the man deserving it, earning it. We’re not talking about him being superior. The Bible teaches that the husband is to love his wife, and we believe that’s because she has one driving need, and that’s to feel love for who she is.

In Ephesians 5:33, wives are commanded to respect their husbands. So there is a biblical command here. The culture endorses unconditional love toward a woman. There’s no debate there. But when you talk about respecting a man, some women go through the roof. They don’t feel . . .

Nancy: It’s really true, all through the culture. In fact, the whole man-bashing thing is very politically correct.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes.

Nancy: A man wouldn’t dare say things that are negative about women, but women exercise all kinds of freedom. Let me just jump in here and say our listeners, I hope, have heard me say, and if not I want to say it again: Man-bashing is not something I hope you will never hear on Revive Our HeartsWe want to learn as women how to speak in ways—not only to husbands, but to and about men in general—that are respecting them as men made in the image of God.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes.

Nancy: But as you’re saying, some women are in marriages where they feel like, “There are just certain behaviors on the part of my husband, there are things he does that are just wrong, they’re crazy. How do I respect a man like that?”

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes, and we distinguish respecting that evil behavior from respecting the spirit of the man. You can respect someone unconditionally for who they are deep within their soul. You married him, and that man is still there, and I hope your daughter-in-law still believes in your baby boy who she married, that he’s still there, although he may have an addiction.

A man is to love a woman who is anorexic or who has bulimia or obesity. What kind of a man would we think he is if he stops loving who she was because she has some difficulty from family origin?

We are very much campaigning on men giving unconditional love, and what we’re saying is there is also another dimension here, and that’s the unconditional respect for the spirit of the man—not his evil behavior. That’s absurd. We have to distinguish those two. You can confront a man for his evil behavior, doing so respectfully. When a police officer arrests somebody, they don’t scream words of contempt. They’re very dignified, very respectful, but you go after the behavior.

When I first started doing this, I realized how women just shut down. “There’s no way I’m going to show respect because I don’t feel respect, and I’d be a hypocrite, and I’d be a doormat.” 

So I thought to myself, “How do we get this message across?” I’d spoken to this one group, and they weren’t necessarily tracking with me—200 women. So I said, “Hey, how many of you would like to . . .” Now, I was first launching this because I didn’t know how women were hearing the word respect. They don’t respond to it like men respond to it. They don’t like it.

So I said, “Why don’t you do this? Test this out. You should believe it because the Bible teaches it, and those of you who love Scripture and are teaching the Bible, and you teach it all the time, you state this by faith. When it comes to your marriage, you don’t apply the very thing you espouse to others. There is some inconsistency with some women. You’ve got to take this word by faith.”

It says in 1 Peter 3:2 and in Ephesians 5:33 . . . the central teaching to women is that they’re to respect their husbands. Even so, I said, “Lord, what can I come up with that would help these gals believe this by experience?” Though that’s very dangerous, because it’s not always going to happen with everybody like this story is, but it’s a great illustration.

So we had several women volunteer, and I said, “Here’s what I want you to do. When he’s in his office tonight or his study, where he’s not doing anything, come into the room where he is and say to him: ‘I was thinking about you today. There’s several things about you I really respect, and I want you to know I respect you.’ Then exit the room. Leave.”

Nancy: Just leave it there?

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes. Just leave. So I say to women, “What’s he going to do?” “Well, he’s going to follow.” I said, “That’s right, or if he’s lazy, he’ll call you back.” So these gals volunteered to do this.

One gal wrote me an email, and she said, “It was just unbelievable.” He came home, and she said, “Can we talk?”

And he said, “What did I do now?”

She said, “No, no. This is good.” So she followed him up in the bedroom where he changed into his evening attire, and she said, “I was thinking about you today.” He was just looking into the closet, never focused on her. She wants to give the report to build rapport. She wants to connect, and he’s never seemingly engaged in that, but she said, “I want you to know I was thinking about you today. There’s several things about you I respect, and I want you to know I really respect you.” And she exited.

When she got to the doorpost of the bedroom, he screamed really loud, “Wait! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Come back! What is it?” He was so loud the three children in the other parts of the house heard Dad. They hadn’t heard him that animated ever. They came running because there had to be a pony in there. Right?

So they came into the bedroom and started jumping up and down on the bed, and the wife could not tell her husband what she was thinking. So the oldest child darted out and the others followed, so she tried to exit quickly with the children, but in a high whisper he said, “No, wait. Whoa, whoa, come back. What is it? What is it?”

Then she proceeded to tell him three things that she respected about him. It was like an out-of-body experience for her. You see, men respond to this language like women respond to love.

Nancy: You’ve called it the mother tongue of men.

Dr. Eggerichs: The mother tongue of men.

Nancy: Respect.

 Dr. Eggerichs: Exactly. Imagine if I was in Mongolia for five years, never hearing English, and one day I hear somebody say, “The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.” I’m in this village market area with a thousand Mongolians speaking Mongolese of some sort. I don’t know how to speak Mongolian, but I hear my mother tongue in the distance. I’m going to make a beeline for it. You move toward your mother tongue. It’s inevitable.

I was in India for three weeks once, in northern India, and I hadn’t heard English. Suddenly some Englishman in the restaurant is speaking English. I got up from my table and went right over to him.

Nancy: Which is what women want husbands to do—move toward them.

Dr. Eggerichs: Oh, yes. That’s right, and they’re expressing, “I love you. I love you so-o-o much,” X’s and O’s and all the love language, which is important at some level, but that’s your need.

What we’re saying is a man knows you love him, but he’s not assured you like him or respect who he is. You had a glow during the courtship and during the wedding, and you looked up to him, and you expressed words of belief in him and admiration.

But then he failed to love you in ways that were meaningful, and you got that dark, sour look—the angry look—and made the statements, “I don’t respect you. I love you at times, but I don’t respect you any farther than I can throw you.”

All of that would be the same as him saying, “I respect you more than anybody, especially since you got your old man’s $10 million inheritance, but I have never loved you, don’t love you now, and don’t intend to love you.” Every woman would be devastated, and it would take her forever to get over that.

Every man is devastated, and it takes him forever to get over it when he hears her say, “I love you, but I don’t respect you.” Women will break down and cry when they’re offended at the core of their being. Men get angry and go off by themselves.

So what we’re saying to women is, “You’ve got to understand. He speaks a different language.” Why? Because God made us male and female. Is that okay? But when you speak his language of respect, he softens and moves toward you to love, just as if he speaks your language of love, most women will soften and listen to him on his needs.

But back to the respect test: We have said when you show unconditional honor toward a man, he tends to serve. He just responds. It’s just the way God’s made him. In the book we unpack that with some thoughts.

Nancy: And he’s more motivated by respect than by your nagging him to do it. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, I think there’s an element of truth to that. Wouldn’t you?

So I think if women will . . . it’s a paradigm shift.

But what happened with this woman when she said these three things, he said to her, “Whoa. Can I take the family out to dinner?” Well, she was blown away because he never takes the family out to dinner, like my dad never took us out to dinner. It blew her away. Then she said, “Can we take a rain check, because the kids have soccer practice and different things?” He said, “Sure.” So she exited.

Fifteen minutes later, she said, he was down in the kitchen, and she heard pans banging. He fixed dinner. And she said, “Pastor, he doesn’t cook.” She was blown away. In fifteen minutes, two major acts of service.

Then three days later I get this email from her. She said, “Pastor, I’ve got to get this off to you quick. You’re not going to believe it—he’s in the laundry room.” True. This is the way it went down. Then she says to me, “Do you have any more respect tests?”

Nancy: Yes. We’ll take all those we can get.

Dr. Eggerichs: Exactly. “Keep this baby going. We’re on a roll here, pastor.” Then the last thing she said, “Literally, pastor, I think I’m going to get a cruise out of this.”

What we’ve said is there’s a crazy cycle we get on, and there’s what we call an energizing cycle. The crazy cycle says, “Without love she reacts without respect; without respect he reacts without love.” We’ve got to get off that. How? Getting on the energizing cycle.

His love motivates her respect, and her respect—here’s what we’re pointing out—her respect, not her love, her respect, this unconditional respect, his mother tongue, motivates him to serve, to love, to respond.

Will it happen every day, every minute? No. We live in a fallen world. He has bad days. You have bad days. You react in ways . . . but the point is, over the marathon of the marriage, and far sooner than just down at the 24th mile, there is clear evidence that he will soften if he’s got good will, just as when a woman is loved for who she is. She’s got to be one bad dudess to respond negatively. She knows she won’t, and we’re saying, “Trust us.” When you give him that gift in obedience to Scripture, he will soften.

Nancy: And you don’t have to wait to show him respect until you feel love from him.

Dr. Eggerichs: That is correct. The Scriptures assume that the mature one moves first.

I remember praying . . . because people say, “Well, I’ll do this if he does this,” and so the question always was, “Well, who moves first?” We’re always wanting the other person to move first because it makes it easier that way. I said, “Lord, how do I answer this?” The inaudible voice spoke, “The one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first in obedience to Christ out of love for Christ.”

Nancy: We’re speaking today to wives who are not feeling loved. You’re on a crazy cycle in your marriage, and the lack of love and the lack of respect are just fueling each other, and you’re wanting off that cycle.

Dr. Eggerichs is reminding us from God’s Word that the way to get off that cycle is not to wait for your husband to start loving you in the ways you want to feel loved, but the way for you to get off that cycle is for you to take the first step to begin demonstrating, verbalizing, expressing unconditional respect for that man—not because he deserves it, not because he’s earned it, not because you feel it, but because God has commanded it, and out of obedience to Christ.

You may want to start by taking that respect test that Dr. Eggerichs has been talking about.

Dr. Eggerichs, tell us just one more time what a woman can do, how she does that respect test.

Dr. Eggerichs: She can say to him, “I was thinking about you today. There’s several things about you that I really respect, and I want you to know that I respect you.” Then exit.

Nancy: And wait and see what happens.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes. Now, if there is deep suspicion, he may not follow her—if you’ve got huge conflict—because he sees this as a set-up. Just like a woman suddenly seeing a dozen roses there, and they’ve been in huge fights for six months. She’s cynical, but, oh she wants to believe, but she’s not going to let herself go there. That man wants to believe. I say to women, “Don’t, don’t, don’t—you may not get a cruise out of this—but don’t you conclude that because he didn’t offer a cruise that it didn’t work.”

If you’ve got serious problems, he may be a little cynical, but he’s cynical because, “This is too good to be true, and I’m not going to set myself up to get hurt here.” It is so powerful—so powerful—that he will scoff at it possibly, but don’t misinterpret that. You’re getting through big time here. Just trust me. Trust me.

Just as every woman says, “Trust us, sir. If you love on her, she might be a little lippy—‘What are you, drunk today or something?'" Don’t take that personally. She is feeling, "This is too good to be true. Don’t mess with my emotions."

Nancy: As you’re sharing this concept, as I was reading your book, I’m hearing the women that I talk to. I’m thinking of their emails where they’re listing for me the things that their husband does wrong. I read some of those emails, and I think, “Wow. That man must really be a mess.” Some of those women are thinking, “How do you respect someone who really isn’t a respectable man? I mean, he’s a couch potato, he won’t work, he’s addicted to this or that. How can I respect someone who isn’t respectable? How can God expect me to do that?”

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, certainly God’s Word is revealing that—just as husbands are to love their wives who are not loveable and who have issues that are also serious—he’s to be a loving man regardless of her performance. But many people think that if you show unconditional respect, what you’re saying is, “I’m going to roll over and let this person do anything and everything, I’m not going to confront anything, I’m not going to say anything, I’m not going to in any way differ.” There is a mindset that if you show unconditional respect, you basically endorse everything there is that this person is and does.

Nancy: And you’re not saying that?

Dr. Eggerichs: No. We’re talking about it this way. There is a distinction that needs to be made. It’s not about him, in that sense, and it’s not about his behavior. It’s about how you come across to him. The Scripture’s commanding you to put on respect—Ephesians 5:33, 1 Peter 3:2—those are the two most salient passages in all the New Testament to the wife about how to treat her husband. Those are the foundational passages.

Nancy: In 1 Peter 3, it’s actually talking to godly women about husbands who are either non-believers or they’re acting in ungodly ways. So it really does fit this situation.

Dr. Eggerichs: Well it does, and so if it’s to be applied to an ungodly man, how much more to a godly man? It’s describing the nature of the man.

So it’s how you come across. It’s not what you say, and it’s not about what he’s doing, per se. It’s how you come across.

Nancy: Tell us what you mean by that. Just really help us understand how we as women can come across in ways that are disrespectful and maybe not intending that.

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, as we’ve said before, when a woman feels unloved—because she’s what we call an integrated personality: her mind, body, soul, and spirit are connected—and so when she feels wounded (she needs to have this pointed out to her), the research points out she comes across very, very negatively to a male. Her eyes darken. There is what Dr. Gottman at the University of Washington describes as “the sour look on the face,” or as we’ve said before, the scolding finger.

All of those things are evidences in the man’s world that you are sending me a message that you do not respect me. And then you add to that the fact that the woman doesn’t feel respect, and even says she doesn’t feel respect, especially when he says, “I don’t deserve this disrespect.” And you say, “Yes, you do,” and he shuts down. It’s an axiom.

One of the reasons that he is this giant amoeba sitting there is he’s stonewalling because—if he’s got any degree of good will, then it’s, in my case (I would be a predictor here)—it’s because he feels you don’t respect who he is. He’s not trying to be unloving.

So it’s the way in which you deliver. That’s why we encourage women . . . again, when we talk about unconditional respect, you give him this gift of your delivery system. You give him the gift of the way in which you say this, and it’s not natural for a woman to do that when she feels unloved, and she also assumes he needs to know. This is why a lot of women think, “He needs to know that, well, the reason I’m reacting this way is because he’s been unloving.”

Yes, well, a lot of men say, “She needs to know that when I get angry and harsh that she shouldn’t personalize that.” Oh, that’s going to go over effectively.

There comes a moment when we have to say to ourselves, “Does my spouse have a vulnerability that I don’t necessarily have?” Men, though they have strengths, are very, very vulnerable, more than at any other level, to the feeling that you don’t respect them for who they are, just as a woman is extremely vulnerable to the feeling that, “You only love me for one reason, and that’s sex.”

There are certain things that just freeze a woman. “You don’t love me for me. What if I’m old and gray? Do you love me for me?” She will continually seek reassurance, “Do you love me for me?”

He has a need. He doesn’t voice it, but he’s still saying, “Do you still respect me for me?”

I am fully persuaded that most men proposed to her because of the glow. She looked up to him, admired him. He sees love through the grid of respect, and when that disrespect is there, he gets confused because he knows you love him, but you tell him you don’t respect him, and so he shuts down.

So the simple answer to the question: What is unconditional respect? What is it? It’s your delivery. “How do I come across? Is that which I’m about to say going to feel respectful to him or disrespectful?” And here’s why it’s unconditional: He may deserve the disrespect. He may deserve that, but I’m going to say something: negativity and disrespect never works. It works short-term. You can win that battle . . .

Nancy: . . . but lose the war.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes.

Nancy: So you suggest that women should ask, “Is what I am about to do or say going to come across to him as respectful or disrespectful?”

Dr. Eggerichs: That’s right, and “to him” is the key—not how you feel about it, but how does he feel about it? Just as we say to men, “You’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is that which I am about to do or say going to feel loving to her or not?’” “Well, she needs to know that I would die for her. Just because I get angry . . .”

“No, no, no, no, no, sir, sir, sir, sir. You’ve got to come to grips with the fact that she has vulnerabilities, and you need to come across to her in a loving way because she’s vulnerable to what she perceives to be lack of love.” So, too, a husband is vulnerable to what he perceives to be disrespect.

Nancy: In your book you talk about the whole issue of self-righteousness.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes.

Nancy: You were real honest in saying that this is something you see sometimes in women. Tell us what you meant by that.

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, by their own acknowledgement—and I was listening carefully—we see women as very righteous. We see them as godly. We see them as giving. Women are good, and what happens in marriage is that he sees her as righteous. She goes to Bible study; she does this; she’s always talking about Jesus. She’s just . . . there’s just a freshness about her a lot of times.

So he sees her as righteous, and he sees himself as unrighteous. He sees these dark-side issues. He struggles with issues that women don’t struggle with. He has issues, whether it’s pornography . . . there are issues out there that he struggles with that her nature doesn’t respond to. In fact, she’s repulsed by it. God made her differently, and she sometimes is taking credit, by the way, for things that God enabled her to have . . .

Nancy: Yes.

Dr. Eggerichs: . . . and she passes judgment. Here’s my concern: He sees himself as unrighteous. He sees her as righteous. And then one day she sees him on the Internet with pornography, and now she sees him as unrighteous. She takes a snapshot of that. It’s not representative of who he is—just like when she has PMS moments. He could take a snapshot of her throwing something through the window and put it on the front page. She’s incriminated, but that doesn’t represent who she is.

You’ve got to be honest here before Jesus Christ about who this person really is. We can all incriminate somebody if you let us spend enough time with them and take a snapshot that is slanderous in its truth, because it’s completely false.

Nancy: It can be true of even little things. He leaves a towel on the floor constantly, and that comes to her to represent his whole . . .

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes, because, “If he really cared about me, he would listen to me when I ask him to pick up the towel, and because he doesn’t, it must mean that I don’t matter.” Then over a period of time, the towel becomes the symbol that you really don’t care. That’s a huge judgment to pass on someone.

So back to my point on self-righteousness. He sees himself as unrighteous. He sees you as righteous. You see him as unrighteous because you catch him in something, and then one day—this is when it gets dangerous—you see yourself as more righteous than him.

The number one sin, Nancy, that Jesus confronted that was the most difficult for Him to confront was the religious, self-righteous person. This is because the religious, self-righteous person doesn’t see it. That’s why the Bible says Eve was deceived. I believe she was deceived in many ways in this area. Women are not always in tune with their sin. In fact, I asked the question in the book because so many women were writing on some issues.

Where does a woman sin today? She sins in response to her husband who isn’t as loving as he ought to, and so he’s really to blame. She sins when she feels exhausted with the children, and that’s just understandable.

We’ve made most of the issues that she struggles with psychological, and that doesn’t mean that they’re not, but listen to me here. He who is without sin is in a very peculiar position, because what happens—and here’s the point—is your husband isn’t going to open up to you. He’s going to feel judged. How can he confess, how can he share with you his dark side if he feels that you’re so much better? And if you mother him, that may be your motivation, but he sees that not as mothering but as condemnation.

Nancy: As you begin to express respect to your husband and you see what God does in his heart and in yours, I hope you will write us and tell us, as many other listeners have, what God is doing in your marriage and in your life. Tell us how He’s changing you as a result of your step of obedience in respecting the husband that God has put in your life.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Emerson Eggerichs, author of the book Love & Respect. To take Nancy up on the invitation to write, just visit our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, then click on “Contact.” If you’d rather make your comments more public, participate in our listener blog at ReviveOurHearts.com.

To encourage you to remember the important concepts you’ve heard today, we’d like to send you the entire interview with Emerson Eggerichs on CD.  We’ll send it when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts

You’re hearing the program thanks to listeners who want the ministry to continue and give to make it possible. In the summer, we usually see a drop in donations, so your gift will be a huge help.

When you call with your gift of any size, ask for the CD series Love and Respect. The number is 1-800-569-5959. You can also support the ministry by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. You’ll have a chance at the site to request the CD series. Nancy?

Nancy: Now, you may have felt some skepticism in your heart as you’ve been listening to Emerson Eggerichs the last couple of days. Maybe you’ve tried respecting your husband, but you feel like he isn’t responding. Tomorrow you’ll have a chance to get advice on that kind of situation. So please be back.

Dr. Eggerichs: Let suppose it "ain't workin'" at the beginning. Maybe you are married to a Judas. Both Peter and Judas denied the Lord, but there is a difference between Peter and Judas. This is where we go upward.

The Bible is clear that we do what we do as unto Jesus Christ . . . In fact, in Ephesians 6 Paul said, "Whatever good thing each one does is received back from the Lord." Here's where we encourage the godly, wise woman.

When you do this unto Jesus Christ, when you give out unconditional respect for your husband who is not loving (and we are assuming you are not in harm's way. If you are in physical harm, then you need to get out of that situation for the sake of the children and your own safety.) 

But when you do this unto Jesus Christ, there's a cha-ching effect in heaven. Women have no idea. Some of the women listening right now, you are holy in the eyes of God.

Nancy: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.