Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

“Submissive Wives” Need Not Endure Emotional Abuse

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2014 Mar 18

Some weeks ago I shared three thoughts about submission in marriage. Today I want to expand a bit on the third point, “A husband’s authority over his wife is not absolute.” It read:

Just like the husband ultimately submits to God, a wife must make her ultimate allegiance to God, too. This means that whatever leadership her husband extends over the home is limited to what is God-pleasing and good. In other words, if a husband wants his wife to do something that is clearly immoral or unethical, the wife can echo the words of Peter in Acts 5:29 when he said, “We must obey God rather than men.”

So with this, we have certain bases covered: “leadership” does not equal dictatorship, and God is the ultimate authority in the Christian home.

But what about women who are the victims of emotional abuse? Is enduring that kind of mistreatment part of the biblical mandate towards submission?

That’s the topic we explore in a two-part broadcast, “Reclaiming Hope and Safety in a Destructive Marriage.” We recently reaired this broadcast from only a few months back – something we don’t usually do – because of the impact it had. After we originally ran it, we heard back from so many people that we immediately knew it had touched a deep chord.

Regarding emotional abuse, our guest, licensed clinical social worker and author Leslie Vernick, points out, “The Bible is quite clear that reckless words pierce like a sword…. God validates the reality of our harsh words on someone's soul, spirit and body. And I think we as Christians need to validate that, too.”

Obviously, emotional abuse can go both ways. Women can just as easily belittle and demean their husbands with their words. It’s just as wrong when they do it. But on this broadcast, we’re focusing our attention on the wives who are victimized by their husbands’ emotional abuse.

I think it’s important we do that because, while the biblical concept of submission is a good and even beautiful one, it is a term in our day and age that is often misunderstood and whose meaning is frequently distorted.

I hope you’ll listen to both part one and part two of the broadcast to get a full picture on this topic. I also want to leave you with some unequivocal words for those of you in emotionally destructive marriages. (And to clarify, I’m not talking about pretty good marriages that may have bad days, or even challenging marriages where a good measure of love and respect still exists. I want to address those of you who are in a truly bad situation.)

Men, it’s always wrong to inflict emotional abuse on your wives. It’s always wrong to treat her like an object you use, not a person you cherish, love, nurture and protect. Don’t stay there. Get help and be the husband God wants you to be.

Women, if you live in constant, chronic fear … if you’re being controlled … then that’s a red flag you’re in an abusive situation. You can – and should – respond and address these issues.

I pray that our broadcast helps both men and women identify abusive behavior and provide those “next steps” to put their marriage on a healthy course. You can listen to this important broadcast online or via our free app.

Also, please know that Focus’ family help specialists and counselors are here for you. Contact us at 1-800-A-FAMILY (1-800-232-6459) Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. MST or via email at help@focusonthefamily.com. If you’re in this situation, please… get help.

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