Ever since Paramount released the Mel Gibson movie What Women Want a couple of years ago, interest seems to have skyrocketed in finding out the "inside scoop" on what the opposite sex truly wants and desires. Perhaps you have seen some of the surveys on this topic that have been circulating in books, magazines, and e-mails. What would you guess is at the top of most husbands' lists of things they want from their wives? Sex, right? That was my first guess too. In our current cultural climate, it's easy to assume that sex dominates every man's thoughts, hopes, and dreams. And it's true that sex does rank high on most husbands' want lists. But ask men what they want first and foremost from their wives, and the majority will not say, "Sex." They'll answer, "Respect."

The apostle Paul wouldn't be surprised by that response. In one of his letters to the early Christians, Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). In his heavenly wisdom, Paul knew what men and women really, truly want from one another. Most wives desire above all to be honestly and completely loved by their husbands. Paul recognized that men need to be reminded of that. Husbands sometimes get busy with their work or involved in their hobbies and lose their focus on loving their wives -- or at least become distracted from showing it.

Since I'm not writing The Power of a Positive Husband, I won't try to teach husbands how to love their wives. That would have to be the subject of another book. But since I am writing a book for positive wives, let me ask: Why do you think Paul considered it necessary to tell wives to respect their husbands? Could it be that we so easily slip out of respecting our husbands and begin nitpicking and dwelling on their weaknesses? Paul delivered to wives a divine reminder: respect, respect, respect. Respect is not only what a husband wants; it's what a marriage needs. A wife who shows respect to her husband encourages her marriage to run smoothly and allows her spouse to become all that he ought to be.

Notice that Paul didn't say, "If a husband loves his wife, then the wife can respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33 is not an "if...then" proposition. Even if a husband doesn't seem to do his part, a wife must still do hers. The good news is, when one spouse does his or her part, the other spouse frequently follows. As positive wives, we shouldn't wait for our husbands to show us love before we act; we must move forward and show respect anyway. Many times a loving reaction will follow.

A beautiful example of a positive wife can be seen in First Lady Laura Bush. A woman of principle and wisdom, Laura has an obvious respect for her husband, President George W. Bush. George W. has said of his wife, "She's always asking what I'm doing about this or that, but I think she trusts me to make the right decisions." Laura honors her husband with respect through the confidence and support she consistently shows him. She is a wonderful helpmate to our forty-third president and a great inspiration to the rest of us.

Respect Perspective

For most of us, respect is denoted by the kindness and reverence that we show toward another person or thing. It means we hold someone or something in high esteem. But the biblical meaning of the word goes further. Often I like to check out the Amplified version of the Bible to understand the full implication of a word or phrase. Here's how the Amplified Bible translates Ephesians 5:33 "Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]."

There now, that doesn't sound too hard, does it? I never suspected that so many actions could be packed into the meaning of one little word! What man wouldn't love a wife who did all this?

Let's look again at this passage and consider each phrase in light of the way we relate to our husbands. As you read the list below, substitute your name for she and your husband's name for him.

• She notices him.

• She regards him.

• She honors him.

• She prefers him.

• She venerates him.

• She esteems him.

• She defers to him.

• She praises him.

• She loves him.

• She admires him exceedingly.

How did you do? Personally, I fell a little short. My purpose in examining this verse is not to make us feel inadequate or overwhelmed, but rather to gain a well-rounded understanding of the attitude behind respect. It's an attitude that says we will embrace our husbands, no matter who they are or how well they stack up against our checklist of standards. It's an attitude that says we will respect our husbands unconditionally.

That's tough to do, I know...For now, suffice it to say that just as your mother highly esteemed your school art project -- not because the artwork deserved it, but because you made it -- so, too, you should esteem and respect your husband, not because he deserves it, but because he was created by God. He is your brother in Christ and your chosen mate. Respect may not always come easily, but it is essential to having a positive and meaningful marriage.

Of course, respect must be balanced. Respecting your husband doesn't mean you worship him (as can almost be implied by the Amplified text). There is a danger in being so wrapped up in your spouse that you begin to live for him instead of for the Lord. A healthy view of respect keeps God first. Your husband can never meet all your needs; only God can. Give God the honor, reverence, and respect due to his name; and give your husband respect out of obedience to God.

Excerpted from "The Power of a Positive Wife" by Karol Ladd © 2003. Used by special permission of Howard Publishing. For any other use, please contact Howard Publishing for permission. All rights reserved.