Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Being Cautious About Authors

It has been on my mind for a long time to caution ladies about following authors and their advice on marriage and child-training.

It might be safer to read homemaking and housekeeping books than marriage books.

There was a book published a few years ago that some of the home schoolers latched on to and followed. I ended up with several copies of it because people began sending it to me.  It divided husbands into personality types and then applied problems to the personality type.

I couldn't find any Biblical evidence of labeling people this way, and have seen over the years how easy it is to mis-judge someone based on a few quirks and characteristics.

Someone who seems at first to be very dynamic and knowledgeable may not be that way upon further acquaintance, and another person who seems quiet and steady and wise may be the opposite beneath his exterior.  

Ladies married a number of years also find out that people are in different stages of growth and personal development throughout life, and may increase their wisdom and abilities over time. They may be labeled one way at first, and given another personality label at last.   We may find the so called leader may do better as a follower and the adventurous person may become more comfortable with things remaining the same in his life.

People change as they adjust to adversity and change their character as they learn and grow.

Throughout history attempts have been made to revive the pre-Christian secular practice of typing personalities. In the 1970's a marriage book by Tim and Beverly LaHaye wrote of four basic temperament types (using ancient pagan philosophy, which they do not admit in the book). Since then, others have written books using the same beliefs, not really knowing what fleshly things these temperament types are based on. Further research on this can be found here http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/lahaye74.html

The problem with books on marriage is this: there is never a book about your own mate, and no one can understand your marriage completely excepting you.

The wife is the best expert on her husband, herself and her marriage.

This is also one reason there are so few posts about marriage on this blog and I don't actually recommend any book. I believe the principles in some books may be helpful but I still think the wife is the best "book" for her marriage. She knows more about her husband than any book or counselor. She is the best advisor and counsellor for her husband.

While there is nothing completely wrong with reading a book on marriage, I think it's better to look at it with interest but to be careful not to put your faith in it as a cure for your husband. In the end, it is the wife who has the knowledge to manage her own marriage.

I realize many women lack confidence or are puzzled at the behavior of their husbands, and are searching inside marriage books for answers. These answers may help, for awhile, but the wife is the deciding factor in what goes on in the home.  If she is a real helper, she will tell her husband when something is not right, when something has to change, and what she won't put up with. 

Women who seek counselling usually discover the counsellor knows only what you tell them about you. They have not lived in your home for the last 5 years and do not know your history or the habits of the husband. Eventually, most wives discover that they actually have the ability and the key to creating a happy home life, and that counselling sometimes makes things worse, especially when one person knows how to manipulate the counsellor.

The best counsellor in a marriage is the woman. I say this because women are relationship-oriented and the thing that is most on her mind is how to keep love and peace and happiness in the home.  

There isn't anything wrong with discussing a problem with someone who can help find solutions, or with someone who has some marriage experience and has been through some difficulties and learned from them.  Ultimately though, it is the wife who will know what she wants in marriage, and can relate that to the husband.

In the Victorian era when familiy sensibilities dominated the culture, the husband and wife's behavior toward each other would have been observed by extended family, and someone would have got a good talking to from a father, brother, grandfather, mother, aunt, etc.  Today, without this kind of support for each other, women, often in desperation will seek help from the reading of many books.

However, no matter how much good knowledge these books contain, you, the wife, know more than you even think you do, about what is happening with you or your husband.

Particularly in some of the more recent marriage books published new in the last 20 years, is a lot of scriptural error regarding marriage.

There is a misplaced sense of submission and a misunderstanding of headship, often pushed to an extreme, in these books. One author even wrote that wives must never do what they really want to do, but only what the husband wants her to do. There is no scriptural  evidence for this, yet many authors wrest meanings from what would have otherwise been beautiful Biblical concepts, into unyielding rules that make one or both mates unhappy.

Another common point of error in these new religious marriage books is the teaching that a husband is "prophet, priest and King" in marriage. Only Christ is prophet, priest and King. 

Some of these errors are caused by a misreading of the Bible, and a lack of knowledge of the "sense" of words used in scripture.  It is always good to dig deeper and learn the meaning of words and the sense  in which they are used, because without that understanding, it is easy to teach error. The sense and intention of words in scripture is another study in itself. 

So this is why today I say "Watch out for those authors" and take their writings as opinions, and be sure to investigate the teachings both scripturally, historically and with a discerning eye before you follow them. 

When an author uses a verse from the Bible, be sure and read what it says before and after that verse, to get the full meaning of it. I have seen some people rely only on what a preacher says but never look up the surrounding scriptures to see if he is preaching it in its full meaning.

There are no two people exactly alike, and so, in marriage, the husband and wife can often solve their own problems without books and counsellors.  If the wife would remember to be a good "helper" and speak up when she sees her husband doing something wrong, and will help him stay on the right track by reminding him what makes her happy/unhappy, (no one else can do it) she becomes a better counsellor than any book or therapist.

I know I could say a lot more about this, but today my message is "Please be careful not to follow any marriage or child-rearing book whole heartedly." 

When you read scripture, remember that the sentences were not originally numbered into verses like they are today. They were more often read as paragraphs.  Sometimes these authors take one verse or sentence and highlight it, without the surrounding sentences. In reading about marriage on the Bible, it is good to remember that no one verse should contradict any other teaching.  So, when an author writes that you have to go along with everything your husband wants, to take into consideration what the rest of the Bible has to say. 

Also remember that men are not zapped with some special spiritual superiority just because they get married. If they make a foolish decision, it doesn't become wise just because they are a husband. This is why a marriage needs two people. The wife has to learn to be a good help meet. If her husband is falsely leading the family in the wrong way, she has to help him find a better way. There is a reason the Bible calls a woman a helper fit for him. It is not about helping him plow a field or construct a house, as some authors insist. It is about helping him succeed as a person, make good decisions, and do what will benefit them both the best way. 

While it is great to read of other people's observations and books about marriage, it is wise to be cautious about using their experience and advice in your own marriage. The wife often has the answer to marriage problems but lacks the confidence to do anything about it because of a false sense of submission, but God never intended submission to become passivity or for people to use it to their own detriment.  I know many people who, through misguided submission, went along with very unwise decisions and lost their happiness in the home. 

 Women used to have a lot of spunk and be able to manage their marriages, but a generation seems to have skipped observing how grandma handled grandpa, and how they interacted with each other. Lacking that, we have turned to authors for our knowledge.

You, as a wife, know more about your husband than anyone else. It is okay to tell him what you need or what bothers you.  Some authors offer bad advice to refrain from telling the husband anything that bothers them.

It would take many more pages of discussion to explain this, but for now, I will repeat the warning about embracing the teachings of some of the recent authors on marriage. Some of the newest authors have taken their inspiration from other books that read more into the Bible than is there, advising things that are not right.

Solomon said,

Ecclesiastes 12:12  And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Added: where there are sound principles, common sense, and time worn values I recognize from our great grandparents who also were Christians, I accept books on marriage, but with caution. In spite of anything a good marriage book says, the wife knows her husband best. Those books that are well balanced and not teaching one-sided deference or acquiescence, I do not object to. However, even the oldest marriage books and commentaries regarding marriage must line up with scripture. The recent flood of religious marriage books  are heavy on the psychology and religion of "patriarchy." I never went along with all that when the bloggers began touting it, because I wasn't sure of it and had not heard of it until blogging began. I don't believe the scriptures teach it above all other spiritual teachings the way this movement does.


Mrs. White said...

This is very good advice!

Being Refined said...

Thank you! Wonderful advice!

becky said...

Excellent advice! We get wrapped up in authors and not the Word

Lynn Maust said...

I know exactly the book to which you specifically are referring.....and as of today I am going to throw it out. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Lydia...this is a hugely important topic....I like your repeated comments that only YOU know what your husband and your marriage needs....you know him the best, if you are paying attention to him. What a blessing this lesson you have written is for the new year ahead.

dorcas showalter said...

I also know which book you are refering too, but for me it helped save my marriage. Having grown up in a home where my mother "ruled the roost", I did not have a biblical example of how a wife should be. And our marriage almost died, my husband and I both came to our marriage with misconceptions on marriages, mine from my parent's marriage, his from his parents. I do not agree with everything in any book, except the Bible, but God used that book to help me win my husband back and to become a gentle, strong godly wife. The quote "n the home. If she is a real helper, she will tell her husband when something is not right, when something has to change, and what she won't put up with", I cringed a little when I read it because I have done the same, and I have watched other wives tell their husbands also whats gonna change, and what they aren't gonna put up with... and maybe that has it's place, but I think the 1 Peter 3 would not give the idea that a wife does that. I know wives that said I am not going to put up with this and this, and this and this is going to change, and ya, stuff did change, except not what she thought or wanted. For a gentle, strong woman endears a husband and a woman CANnoT make a man change. But she can become joyful, kind, reverencing,... to her husband. That wins husbands because its God's way, whereas I think that a wife can share a concern to her husband, and then let it. Not say this and this is to change, I am not putting up with this... of course there is extremes, like I would not watch porn with him if thats what he did, which is not. I and many of my friend's marriages have been changed to God- honoring marriages because of that book. And one of my favorite quotes of hers is "No man has ever crawled out from under the critism of his wife to become a better man.

Lydia said...

HI Dorcas,

Everyone seems to have their favorite marriage book that they feel speaks to them the best. I'm sure you will agree that although helpful, not everything by an author is infallible. I think it's good to keep in mind, as you said, the Bible comes first. What I hoped to bring out was that when an author teaches one aspect of marriage, the reader should look up what the rest of the Bible has to say, and not follow everything the author says. I believe also that some recent books plagiarized good, sound, older books, and over emphasized some of the points. Time and Beverly LaHaye resurrected the ancient typing of personalities, which had long been abandoned, and so when these marriage books come out with the tempersament types, I feel a caution. There isn't anything in the bible that connects that to marriage. If both partner era life according to 1st Corinthins 13 and other scriptures, and if they realize they are accountable to God for the way they treat each other, there will always be an accountability. Other things in marriage books, such as elevating men to something highe and more holy than husband, can be carried too far and used to take advantage.

Lillibeth said...

I don't think this is advocating a put-your-foot-down rule the roost type marriage, which wife would be horrible to live with! But, men are not mind readers! They don't understand hints and aren't always in tune with the household. Sometimes they have to be told. For example, what if you had a husband who was neglecting the children every evening and just sat around and played video games or something equally as dumb to relax? Would you not go to him and say, "honey, our children really miss you and they never get to talk to you. Can you see how your relationship with them will suffer if you go on this way?"
Perhaps the wife could suggest an alternative plan for relaxation that wouldn't turn him into a zombie and make enough time left for the kids. Seems to me that would be the loving thing to do, to open his eyes to see something he hasn't seen is happening. And yes, it's a "you can't go on this way" type of conversation, but it does not mean that you put your foot down ON your husband, you just opened his eyes up a bit:). Some people would consider the husband so superior that they would say he could do whatever he wants and it would be sinful to object (what if it was something worse, something that hindered him from heaven. Wouldn't you say something? Would you have him go to hell and say "at least I was submissive"). I think the article is cautioning against those who advise that you should NEVER tell your husband anything because he is your superior morally, spiritually, intellectually, etc. The wife isn't superior either, but she may see needs he doesn't. And anything done in anger or conceit is just plain the wrong way to do things, and I believe that all readers of this site would agree that no woman here wants to be a shrew!

Lydia said...

That comment might prove my point that the wife knows her husband better than any book report counsellor.

Lydia said...

Being able to tell your husband what is needed is assuming of course that the husband is a reasonable and kind human being who can be appealed to and whose pride doesn't take priority, a man who loves his wife enough and cares about her enough that he will recognize her good counsel and wisdom. Not all men will have the upbringing and the sense to be reasonable and so not all books will "work" with some hardened cases. For some, the application of some marriage books advice will be very helpful. For others, it won't. I'm just saying watch those authors and read with a discerning eye.

dorcas showalter said...

Yes, definitely read all books other than the Bible with a discerning eye, yes, yes!!!! And to always compare what we read with what the Bible says. I also know wives that should read that book and apply some things in there that throw it out and refuse to even gain from it what they need. But yes, every husband is different and what works for one good chance won't work for another. And I also am concerned with many "new age" ideas that are infiltrating very much into Christian lives, books, blogs...

Martin + Rosey said...

I'm so grateful to hear your thoughts regarding these teachings. I agree, biblical submission is such an important teaching... but it is not some magical thing where if a wife is perfectly silent and submissive, a marriage will be forever perfected! When I was less mature and read this book, I think I had false hope, and applied the teaching in an almost superstitious way... and was certainly disappointed. Although I was such a raging feminist at the onset of our marriage that perhaps a drastic swing in the direction of submission wasn't entirely a bad thing... but wise submission does not neglect truth and pretend all is well when it clearly isn't. We must abide in truth and love.

Martin + Rosey said...

I'm so grateful to hear your thoughts regarding these teachings. I agree, biblical submission is such an important teaching... but it is not some magical thing where if a wife is perfectly silent and submissive, a marriage will be forever perfected! When I was less mature and read this book, I think I had false hope, and applied the teaching in an almost superstitious way... and was certainly disappointed. Although I was such a raging feminist at the onset of our marriage that perhaps a drastic swing in the direction of submission wasn't entirely a bad thing... but wise submission does not neglect truth and pretend all is well when it clearly isn't. We must abide in truth and love.

Lydia said...

Yes that is very well said!

Lydia said...

I appreciate that insight, Dorcas. There is a lot of "old age" psychology in sme of thes marriage books, marketed as some new discovery.

Polly said...

This is excellent advice. I have read very few marriage books over the years (I can think of two off the top of my head). 18 years of marriage and we're very happy. There's no formula that creates a "perfect" marriage, and there's a lot of room within a relationship for nuance and growth. I think that reading too much marriage advice can sort of cheapen the relationship itself, because one or both spouses might start to wish their spouse would do more of x, y, or z. Instead it's so much better to appreciate the person right in front of you, to understand how they work, and to figure out how to live harmoniously and happily together. This is where wisdom comes into play, I think: it takes wisdom to study your relationship, to look at the histories of each person (how they were raised v. how you were raised and how that impacts decisions now), to consider what the Bible says about how we treat each other, and then to apply it all to real life!

Lydia said...

Its nice when the husband and wife feel free to be themselves with each other. It's not so comfortable when they try too hard to follow a marriage manual. As you said, it is a matter of getting to know one another and maturing enough to treat each other with courtesy.

Mary Sorensen said...

VERY well said, Lydia. Thanks for posting this!


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