I recently was presenting a workshop on overcoming anger, and two moms brought up a point that may help all of us.
I stated that anger is an emotion given to us when we see something that is important and wrong. However, Ephesians 4:26 tells us, “In your anger, do not sin.” That is to say, anger is a special temptation to sin. We are often wrong in our understanding of how important and how wrong something is. We can be sinfully angry in how we address something.
But we also need to allow that anger, I said, to prompt us to realize we have a problem that we need to correct.
Then one of the moms brought up a specific application that was helpful to all of us. She talked about the times when her son, perhaps a tweenager or teenager, would speak disrespectfully to her. Hearing this, her husband would get upset and insert himself into the conversation to defend his wife.
Don’t Defend Your Wife
Her suggestion was to tell her husband, Don’t defend your wife. I thought her observation of the moment was quite helpful. By being sinfully angry and rushing in to defend his wife, the husband created two problems. First, instead of the child realizing he was wrong to speak to his mother, he became the victim of the dad’s sinful anger. His wrongdoing was overshadowed by the dad’s wrongdoing. Second, the wife’s respect in her son’s eyes dropped. She seemed like a person who could not defend herself. This is analogous to the high school teacher who cannot control the classroom and must constantly rely on the administration. (P.S. In my first year of inner-city teaching, I was that person!)
The two moms in the seminar suggested that in the moment, the dad should let the mother deal with the discipline situation herself. She knew she had backup in her husband if she needed it. But in the moment, it was not helpful to rush in from the other room and insert himself into the situation.
I agreed with her observation and thought of times I had done that very thing. In a desire to be an intentional dad and husband, I had inserted myself and confused the situation.
Do Defend Your Wife, But Maybe Not in the Moment
Having said that, we also need Part B of handling the situation. Dads do need to defend their wives. As sons grow bigger and tower over their mother, it is helpful to remind them that they are still to honor her. Moms may also have particular stresses that leave them particularly vulnerable to disrespect. As men, we should not be passive.
Later, when the situation is calmer, we could talk over what happened. In those calmer conversations I can try and dig deeper into my son’s heart to discern what is behind the attitude. But even as I help him understand what was going on in his heart, I could also express my defense of my wife calmly but seriously.
I do remember several times I had to remind my teenage boys that not only was she their mother but she was also my wife. They were not to speak to her disrespectfully.
Based on these comments in the workshop, I came away with a newer, nuanced encouragement for dads.
Dads, don’t and do, defend your wife.