A roll of the eyes. A side-ways glance. A secret gesture. A behind-the-scenes mocking. Blowing off a request. Ignoring. Slighting. Avoiding.
Some people have made the above a modern art-form of spousal warfare. It may be done in public, for the approval of other men or women, or it may be done in the privacy of your own home. It may even be done in front of one's children. The question is...why?
As a business person I see this quite a bit in my day-to-day dealings with employees. You make a simple request as their employer and you get a snicker, a roll of the eyes, and later you learn they were complaining to another associate about the request. "I am not going to clean the restrooms...I am a licensed professional...I didn't go to school so that I would have to clean the bathrooms!" Later, you will discover that either they "sucked it up" and cleaned the restrooms or they just refused and will wait to see if you hold their feet to the fire. It seems that the art of avoidance has reached epic proportions! Of course this happens both from the rank and file to the leaders in management.
I have always appreciated people that were straight-forward and "frank". While some may be put off by this directness and bluntness, I have always preferred the more direct route. This of course has caused me no little trouble, but it has also been a great blessing. My team, my children, and of course my wife, all know exactly what I am thinking and know what to expect from me (most of the time!). I have been nicknamed the hammer for being so direct and blunt, unfortunately, this can also be seen as conceded, prideful, and egotistical. I continue to learn how to be a better leader, while at the same time being clear and forthright.
This desire for "frankness" has also led me to question why so many spouses willingly "throw their spouse under the bus"? Why do we attempt to make our spouses look bad, silly, and out-of-control? I see this quite a bit when I am mulling around with other men. Some men have developed the idea that it is somehow manly to belittle their wife in public. (I also have seen many wives do the same thing, so ladies, you are not off the hook!) I have been part of uncomfortable discussions that are revealing disturbing details of homes that are less than ideal Christian homes where there are constant passive-aggressive power plays. Why would any man (or woman) want their spouse to look bad? What about the whole, two in one flesh thing? Isn't your spouse a reflection on you?
In business I hear many managers complain of troubling associates. They complain that Suzie isn't doing her job, or Tommy never comes in on time, or Joe refuses to learn a new program. Then comes the question, "Well, what are you doing about it?" You get the shy, "Well, I yelled at them." or "I told them once about it...but they just won't so I gave up." or better yet, "I wrote them up and stuck it in their file!" (Of course, they never showed the associate the write-up and never discussed it with them...how helpful is that!? All of this is avoidance, the inability to confront a wrong. Ultimately, it is a fear of disapproval and a lack of compassion for the person. Leaders must learn true compassion, that is, to suffer with the person, while at the same time confronting the bad behavior, and coaching them to the established goals.
It is no different in the home, albeit, when you add love, you add a whole new dimension. As men and fathers we must always have true compassion for our charges, that is our wife and children. We must learn to suffer with them, but that doesn't mean taking their place. Sometimes we must allow our spouse, (or children) to go through a time of suffering in order to grow as Christians. Pregnancy is a time when the mother must suffer, and yet the father is often powerless to "change" anything. This does not lessen his need to be compassionate to his wife. He must suffer with her internally. This compassion does lead to better leadership and he can then serve in his manly capacity to alleviate what suffering he can. This compassion also has a very important role in leadership.
Compassion in leadership, particularly in the home means that the husband and father will have a solid understanding of the suffering taking place in his domain. He will not slough off the little battles that his wife goes through every day to cook, clean, and tend to the children. He will understand how much she does, how hard she works, and how much she suffers. This compassion helps him to know just how much his manly leadership is needed. His exclusive devotion to his wife leads him to be a bastion of strength, fortitude, and decisiveness. She needs him to make decisions, set goals, and guide the family through the turbulent waters of the modern world. She needs him to be bishop, doctor, manager, friend, mentor, guide, and of course, totally devoted to her. What she doesn't need is someone that mocks her and tries to make her look bad in front of his friends.
Ultimately, when a spouse belittles the other spouse in front of others, he or she is flaunting their own failures. They are bragging about how poor of a spouse they are and how sickly the home current is. They are saying that leadership in the home is lacking, both spiritually and physically. The be-littler is saying, "I am a failure and my home is a mess, isn't that funny?!" No, I am sorry, it is sad...let's pick up the reins and try again. After all, practice makes perfect and giving up accomplishes only failure.