Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Words He Can Hear

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Leslie Basham: If you're a wife, do find that your husband needs you to deflate his ego sometimes? Here's Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti Feldhahn: The male ego is the most fragile thing on the planet. What’s happening when you are puncturing him that way, it's not that he's started out with this inflated sense of self and has somehow been brought down to ground level; what's happening in his heart is that he's started below ground level, and he’s just dug a tunnel somewhere. But we have a responsibility to build him up and lift him up in just the same way we want him to do with us in other areas of our lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 2.

One of all-time most popular series Revive Our Hearts is called “For Women Only.”

That’s also the name of a book by Shaunti Feldhahn, who just released the ten-year anniversary edition of that book.

When this series aired on Revive Our Hearts a few years ago, a man made a comment on the listener blog at He told us he’d been to many marriage conferences, seen all kinds of videos and books on marriage, then he said this:

Please hear me when I say that I have heard NOTHING more powerful and hopeful to me then today's message. Each day, when I wake and venture into the world, I can handle almost anything that life throws at me, even to the point of being diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. But my wife's criticism, lack of support, lack of trust, and lack of respect for me, leaves me utterly and totally broken inside, filled with deep, deep pain.

Does that reflect your husband’s heart? Think about that question as we return to that original series, "For Women Only."

Nancy: Our guests this week are Barbara Rainey, the wife of Dennis Rainey, co-founder of FamilyLife Today. Barbara, thank you for being here and adding to this discussion some of the wisdom and understanding God has given you on this matter of understanding men and responding to them in a godly way.

Barbara Rainey: I’m delighted to be here, Nancy.

Nancy: We’re joined by Shaunti Feldhahn, who is an author. More important than that, she’s a wife and a mom. She loves the Lord, and she’s written a terrific book called For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.

As a group of women, we’ve been sitting here talking about what men think, what they feel, what they need. I thought it would be good if we could ask a man to comment on this subject because they really know what they think.

So we picked up the phone, Shaunti, and called your husband, Jeff. Jeff, you’re in Atlanta, and thank you so much for joining us here. You’re a brave man to join these women on Revive Our Hearts.

Jeff Feldhahn: My pleasure, Nancy.

Nancy: Shaunti has been bragging on you, Jeff. You are her hero. She thinks the world of you. I love to hear a wife talk about her husband that way.

We want to ask you, as a man, to help us as women understand what we need to understand. What are some of the things—you live with this woman who has written a book about men—what are some of the things that help you as a man really feel respected by Shaunti? How does she live this out in a way that’s a blessing to you?

Jeff: Okay, I think I can do that. And I can confirm that she really does live it out.

Shaunti: Maybe now I do.

Jeff: What she’s saying in there, she has put into practice. Over the last several years, I’ve been involved in a startup company, trying to get an idea and a product to the marketplace. It’s been challenging on a lot of different levels.

I’ve thought numerous times, This may be what I feel God has called me to do . . . this may be what I’m really passionate about . . . but I could go get a job back at a big law firm and provide for the family in that way so we don’t have to question every month whether we’re going to be able to pay the mortgage.

So, like a guy, I thought a lot about this and went and talked to Shaunti. She just said, “Absolutely not. This is what we feel God wants us to do. This is what you’re passionate about. Look, sweetheart, I waited tables when I was in college. I was pretty good at it. I love writing, but I can go wait tables if that’s what we need to do so that you can keep doing what you feel you’re supposed to do.”

I mean, that right there—I have never doubted trying to keep going with what I feel I’m supposed to do in life, because I know that she’s behind me with it. She was willing to sacrifice what she really loves to do—write—so that we could provide for our family.

Nancy: So she’s really been a cheerleader for you?

Jeff: Wow. Total. Total.

Nancy: Have you always felt that way, or . . . ? (laughter)

Jeff: I think with a lot of things in life, we all grow into learning about ourselves and learning about one another. Hopefully as I’ve grown in learning about Shaunti, she’s grown in learning how to respond to various things from me.

Like a lot of guys, I come up with an idea. It could be on anything from doing yard work or landscaping or business-related things. I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I don’t necessarily share with Shaunti that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this idea.

I’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea on this.” In the past she may have gone, “Well, why don’t you do it this way?" or "Why don’t we do this?”

Nancy: What does that do to a guy?

Jeff: Well, in my case it was like throwing a bucket of cold water on the excitement of the idea.

Nancy: Which she certainly didn’t mean to do.

Jeff: No, of course not. She’s just trying to be helpful. She’s a critical thinker; she’s smart; she has opinions, and she shares them.

But she has learned about my particular style. Now she’ll say, “That’s interesting. Would you like me to discuss that further at some point?” She creates a safe environment for me where I can say, “Yes.”

Then I’m less defensive. I’m less thinking that she’s going to shoot down my idea. She’s going to try to add value and bring something that I hadn’t thought about to it.

It really is a sense that she knows I need to feel that what I’ve come up with is valuable. She always has felt that, but sometimes in communicating her thoughts . . . I’m looking for opportunities for someone to say, “He’s not that smart. He’s not that bright. He’s not _______” because of various things.

Nancy: There are plenty of people in the world who will tell you you’re not that bright.

Jeff: Oh, absolutely! Absolutely.

Shaunti: What I have found, honestly, is that so many guys go through life with sort of a secret insecurity. This issue of how we as women communicate with them is such an enormous part of how they think we feel about them. We may absolutely respect our husbands or trust our husbands but have no idea that we’re going through our day communicating the opposite.

Nancy: So, Jeff, when you feel that Shaunti does trust you, that she respects you—when she affirms you—tell us again what that does for a man.

Jeff: When I know that, I have confidence in dealing with all sorts of other people that might not know me as well. I feel like, “You know what? I’m smart enough. I really am. I can compete in the marketplace.”

Nancy: I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but does it motivate you as a man to treat your wife in a different way than you might have otherwise?

Jeff: Yes, it totally does. I have seen in her that when she sees a response that’s not particularly great to some discussion we’ve had, she says, “Hmm, how can I learn to do this better or approach this differently?”

When I see she’s doing that, of course, I want to reciprocate. I want to do the same.

Nancy: Well, that’s God’s way. Men love their wives; wives respect their husbands. Each one feeds on the other, and together they become more one, a greater reflection to the world of Christ’s relationship with His church, which is what it’s all about.

Jeff, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy workday to help us women out. We need to listen to men and to learn from guys like you about how we can be more effective at ministering grace to your lives.

Thank you for being a part of this discussion with us. Thank you for being Shaunti’s husband and giving her the freedom to write this book and for letting her be here with us in Little Rock this week to talk about this subject.

Jeff: You’re most welcome, Nancy; it’s my pleasure.

Nancy: Well, Barbara, we’ve been listening to Shaunti’s husband, Jeff. They’ve been married about ten years, and God has been so gracious to teach them some of these things along the way. You’ve been married thirty-some years now.

I hate to call you this, because you look so young, but you are an older woman than many of us, and God has given you a lot of wisdom and perspective that younger wives really need to listen to. As you listen to Jeff and Shaunti talking here, what’s going through your mind?

Barbara: In the conversation, one of you said something about asking permission to share your opinion. That’s something that I learned early in our marriage, and I think it’s something we as women just don’t think to do very often with our men.

When Dennis and I were first married, I remember listening to him speak, and he would ask me afterwards, “How did I do?” I would always tell him that he did a good job and find something positive that I could compliment him on.

But I remember saying, “Do you really want me to tell you what I think? Do you want constructive criticism? What kinds of things do you want to hear from me?” When he was ready to hear that, then I could say, “You know, I think you need to correct this” or “You need to change that.”

But by asking permission to offer constructive criticism, then he gives you the right to say that, and he invites that into his life. Sometimes I think we as women have the tendency to want to just dump our opinions and our thoughts.

It’s a practice I’ve followed through the years, and still when Dennis speaks—and this is thirty years later—he’ll ask me what I think. I’ll tell him, “Well, when you’re ready, I’ve got some thoughts for you that might make it better next time.”

When he’s ready, then he’ll ask me. I think it’s a wise woman who will practice giving her advice—because her husband really does want her help. She just needs to be careful that her help is at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way and with a good spirit.

Shaunti: That’s such a good point, Barbara, because one of the things I learned as I was writing the book was sort of a surprise. Jeff and I were watching this old movie called The Natural, with Robert Redford—a wonderful baseball movie. There’s a scene where Jeff almost jumped out of his seat and said, “That’s it! That’s exactly how every man needs his wife to treat her husband.”

It’s the scene where Robert Redford has been in this slump, even though he’s “the natural” at baseball, and he just feels like he just can’t do anything right. Everything is going wrong.

Finally, one day his old flame comes to the game, and she can’t help herself—she just stands up in the stands. He sort of feels that something has changed, and he hits this grand slam, and it reignites his game.

Jeff said, and several other men since I shared this illustration have said, “That is exactly it. She stood up and supported him, period. She didn’t try to get down in the batter’s box and say, ‘Oh let me show you how to do it. Let me do it for you.’ She let him do it.”

Guys feel that what their wives are doing a lot of the time is trying to do it for them, implying that they can’t do it for themselves.

Nancy: Even in little things . . .

Shaunti: Absolutely.

Nancy: Like finding directions or wanting to stop and ask.

Shaunti: Exactly. The guy wants to do it for himself. Again, we women don’t understand that what we’re conveying purely is a lack of trust.

Barbara: The whole issue is, do we support our husbands or not? That’s what respect boils down to. Are we supporting our husbands in their role that God has given them in our marriages?

It says clearly in Scripture that the husband is the head of the home and the wife is to support him. I think that wives have such great power in our husbands’ lives, and we so underestimate the power that we have to help them become all God intended them to be when we support them.

Nancy: The power for good or for bad.

Barbara: That’s right. Unfortunately.

Nancy: If a man’s wife believes in him, he thinks he can conquer the world, and he’s motivated to be all the man God made him to be. But we’ve also received some emails from men here at our ministry saying, “My wife has effectively torn me to shreds. I’ve retreated in my workplace. I’ve retreated into the Internet,” in some cases into pornography . . . things that are not justifiable at all.

But I remember one man quoting those verses from Proverbs about, “It’s better to live in the corner of a roof or in a desert than with a quarrelsome wife who tears you down” (21:9, 19; 25:24, paraphrased).

Barbara: That is so true.

Shaunti: I often hear from women about this who say, “Well, I just feel that my husband doesn’t love me. I’m not feeling the love from him day in and day out.”

Often I say, “You know what? I’ll bet there’s more than a 50% chance the reason is that he is not feeling respect from you is that you, without realizing it, are spending all day every day tearing him down. He is not going to feel built up to be that loving husband you most want.”

Whereas if you say, “Okay, I’m going to make the choice. I’m going to watch what I say; my eyes are open to this. I’m going to spend time building him up, showing him and demonstrating that I trust and respect him.” I’ll bet you anything that things will dramatically turn around in your home .

Nancy: Shaunti, we’ve been talking about some of the revelations you’ve realized as you were doing this survey, and it’s kind of related to the respect issue. Tell us what that second revelation is.

Shaunti: It’s basically that even though our men go through their day looking very confident, they actually walk around with this secret insecurity inside, basically feeling, I’m really not sure what I’m doing, and I hope nobody finds out.

We are usually quite surprised to discover this. Once we understand it, we suddenly understand the really radical importance of affirming our men.

Nancy: Now, I look at a lot of men and they seem to be really confident. They’re leaders; they’re gifted; they’re talented. But you’re saying you’ve found that many, many men who appear to be really confident have this kind of internal insecurity.

Shaunti: It’s not just that they are internally insecure, which they are. There’s a companion to that, too: Men go through their day feeling like they are always being watched and judged and that people are going to find out they really don’t know what they’re doing.

As one man told me, “That feeling doesn’t just stop when I walk through the door at home. As a matter of fact, it’s even worse sometimes at home, this feeling of, ‘I really don’t know how to be a good husband or a good dad.’”

So that’s even more where our role is very important to build them up.

Nancy: One man you interviewed shared a story with you about how he had spent years under a wrong impression of being judged based on something that had happened to him when he was a young person.

Shaunti: It was really interesting. This is a silly story, but it illustrates this insecurity perfectly. He said,

When I was in college, I drove a transit bus part-time to earn money. If nobody was on board, I would kind of drive a little too fast.

One day I came hurtling around the corner, and there was an elderly man standing at the bus stop, and he was shaking his head at me. I thought he was disapproving of my driving, and it irritated me.

Twenty years later, I’m living in New York City. I’m standing at a bus stop when a bus approaches, and I shake my head at the driver to tell him, "No, I don’t need your particular route."

Suddenly, it hits me that this is what that elderly man was doing all those years ago—just telling me, "No, I don’t need your route." But I had built up this thing in my head that he had examined my performance and found me wanting.

The man I was interviewing said, “You know, this is a silly example, but it’s what every man does.”

It is funny, but I originally thought, “Okay, this is an interesting story.” I read it to another man the next day, and before I even finished reading, it he was saying, “Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I feel all day long.”

Nancy: Now, Barbara, you’re married to a godly, competent man. He’s the leader of a major Christian organization. Yet even men like that need to know that their wife thinks they’re doing a good job. They need the affirmation they get from their wife.

Barbara: And they don’t need it just once. They need it over and over again. They need it on a daily basis.

Nancy: So what happens if you think, at some point, that he’s not doing a good job? How do you communicate that in a way that doesn’t tear him down?

Barbara: Well, I think we can communicate something we think he may need to work on in a positive way. We can communicate it in a respectful way. So much of it goes back to our attitude.

The attitude of my heart is going to determine what comes out of my mouth, the tone of voice I use, the way that I say it . . .

Nancy: The timing . . .

Barbara: There are a lot of different things that play into that, if my attitude is one of respect and one of really caring for him, I need to have compassion on the load God has given him to carry, rather than being critical. So if I approach him with compassion and with an attitude that knows he needs respect, then the words that come out of my mouth are going to communicate that.

I may ask for a time when I could express how I’m feeling. Or I may say, “I’ve got some thoughts. Would you like to hear them?” He may say "no." So I say, “Okay, that’s fine.” But usually he’ll come back around because he really wants to know what I think.

Nancy: And of course, so much of this is a matter of focus.

Barbara: It is.

Nancy: If you get your eyes focused on the negative qualities—if that’s what you’re talking about, if that’s what you’re pointing out—you start to see everything through those glasses.

Barbara: Absolutely.

Nancy: That’s why we’ve been giving this 30-day challenge, which we’ve done a number of times on Revive Our Hearts. Here’s the challenge, in case you haven’t heard it:

  1. For the next thirty days, you cannot say anything negative about your husband—not to him, not to anyone else.
  2. Every day for the next thirty days, I want you to say something you appreciate or admire about your husband. Say it to him, and say it to someone else about him.

I think that little exercise will show you how important this thing of affirmation is to your husband. It will change your focus so you’re not just concentrating on the things that need to be fixed, the things that need to be changed.

Listen, we’re all this way. We flourish, we blossom under encouragement. If someone’s always pointing out our flaws, our negative points, what does it do to us?

I remember hearing somebody say to me once that I had the spiritual gift of deflation. That was not a compliment!

Shaunti: No, it’s not.

Nancy: That’s not a spiritual gift you want to have. It’s not a gift at all.

What happens, Shaunti, Barbara, in a marriage? What does it do to a man when his wife, the person he most wants and needs affirmation from, instead “punctures his balloon”? When she deflates him?

Shaunti: I was interviewing one man about this, and this is what he said, which I thought was perfect:

Sometimes I think that women feel, "He’s got such an inflated ego—he needs to be taken down a peg!" No way. The male ego is the most fragile thing on the planet.

It’s not that he started out with this inflated sense of self and has somehow been brought down to ground level. What’s happening in his heart is, he started below ground level, and he’s just dug a tunnel somewhere. But we have a responsibility to build him up and lift him up just the same way we want him to do with us in other areas of our life.

Barbara: If our husband does have an ego that’s overinflated, or if he is thinking too highly of himself, it’s really God’s business to knock him down a peg. It’s not our responsibility. [When we assume that responsibility], we’re saying that we know more than God does, that our opinion is more important, and that we’re right and need to exercise our authority and act like God in his life.

Shaunti: Something that to me was such a surprise was somewhere around 85% of men actually don’t feel that way [don’t have an overinflated ego]. They feel like they started below ground level. It’s secret; it’s just in their hearts.

So most of the women out there listening, their husband is not in that situation at all.

Nancy: Shaunti, you talk about creating a “safety zone” in your home for your husband. What does that mean?

Shaunti: It’s basically recognizing and having our eyes open to this, and being a safe place where he feels like he can share his struggles and we’re not going to jump all over him. Instead, we will do everything possible to affirm him.

When men go out there into the world, they feel like they’re fighting this lonely fight. As one man said, “I feel like I go out every day into the boxing ring and I fight the good fight; I’m under the glare of the lights; it’s really lonely, and I get beat up. When I come home, I want my wife to be there for me in the corner. I don’t want her to be beating me up in my corner.”

Leslie: Does your husband come home to encouragement or to more rounds of fighting? Shaunti Feldhahn has been talking to Barbara Rainey and Nancy Leigh DeMoss about our role as encouragers.

One of our listeners has been learning about the power of encouragement. She took the 30-day challenge Nancy Leigh DeMoss explained a few minutes ago, to refrain from criticizing your husband every day for thirty days and to say something to encourage him each day during the same time period.

And Nancy, I’ve heard you say that hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear from women who have been changed by this challenge.

Nancy: That’s right, Leslie, and I love reading those emails. Here’s one example from a woman from Louisiana:

I am only on day seven but already my husband has been extra sweet and has taken me on a sudden trip and has planned another trip for next week.

I cannot imagine what further changes and realizations God will bless me with in the next twenty-three days!

Now, I can’t guarantee that if you take this challenge your husband will take you on a surprise trip, but I can guarantee that you will be changed by this challenge.

I know that's true because over the years we've heard from thousands of women who've written to share with us what a huge difference it has made in their lives.

And now, our team has created a booklet full of helpful suggestions for how to make the most of this challenge. It’s called 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband. Each day,this booklet will spur you on with a quote from a woman who has taken this challenge. Then you’ll read a practical suggestion on how to show your husband respect. If you're not sure how to come up with 30 ways to encourage your husband, this booklet is just what you need.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts this week, we’ll send this booklet. And you’ll also receive the newly updated For Women Only by our guest Shaunti Feldhahn.

Ten years after releasing For Women Only, Shaunti has done some new research and added some new material to the book.

Just ask for the two resources when you call with a donation of any amount. Again, we'll be glad to send you Shaunti's book, For Women Only, and the booklet, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband. Give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at

Leslie: Does your husband know that you’ll love him for richer or for poorer? Shaunti Feldhahn and Barbara Rainey will challenge us with that question when we return tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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