Stand By Your Man
By Kelly J. Stigliano
Sometimes “standing by your man” can be unbelievably difficult. Even Tammy Wynette knew it back in 1968. However, as her famous lyrics stated, you can indeed “show the world you love him . . . keep giving all the love you can . . . stand by your man.”
Whether your husband is the pastor of a church, a board member, a Sunday school teacher, or even the owner of a small business in the community, he has an invisible bulls-eye on his back. There will be times when the whole family is under attack by Satan. Those are the times our husbands need a steady, mature helpmate, not a hysterical, over-emotional little girl. Those are the times when our faith is tested.
In contrast, those are also the times when spiritual growth takes place. Our reaction to difficulties can support or weaken our husband and his leadership. Eventually someone will attack him and when that happens it will be our time to shine. Like Tammy said, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.
Several wives of men in leadership - church and secular - were surveyed about the attacks they’ve witnessed, how they dealt with the situations and how, in retrospect, they wished they’d handled themselves. These wise women are eager, to share their experiences, lessons, and hopefully keep other wives from making the same mistakes they’ve made during adversities.
When Sandra’s husband lost his job at a large engineering firm it seemed that everyone had advice for them. Many couldn’t understand why he didn’t get a job at McDonald’s while he was job searching. The arrows began to fly. Sandra graciously listened to the opinions and the unasked-for advice and told their many “counselors” that he was seeking God’s will. They didn’t seem to understand that it takes time to get before the Lord and hear answers to difficult questions. They apparently forgot that writing, e-mailing and faxing resumes, visiting companies, and making follow-up phone calls all take time. However, Sandra spoke softly and respectfully, even when it didn’t come naturally; even when it hurt.
Michelle and Beth both had to watch their husbands endure attacks from family members. Michelle was devastated as she watched her husband’s relative go from a recipient of their love to the plaintiff in a court case against them and their family business.
Similarly, Beth endured the pain of watching a family member take advantage of her husband in their family business. Consistently dipping into the money pot and sidestepping the IRS eventually caught up with her brother-in-law and, ultimately, hurt her own family. For many years she held her husband up through battle after battle. His refusal to confront his brother frustrated her. (Tammy sang it ? sometimes men do things we don’t understand.)
The largest struggle for both Beth and Michelle was learning to keep their mouths shut. Learning to not speak about the situation unless their husbands wished to discuss it, and then to be good listeners, was a tough but invaluable lesson.
Trudi, Becky, and Tina are all married to men who are teachers and principals in education, where attacks come from all sides. Parents feel teachers are too strict, co-workers feel they aren’t strict enough, and the administration just wants everyone to get along, often backing the parents for fear of litigation.
They have each been in the center of conflicts where students tell stories to their parents, who believe their every word. For these educators, not having the support of the school board can be devastating, leaving them to feeling alone on the battlefield. Being a sounding board for their husbands; offering positive comments; being a cheerleader with unwavering support – these are lessons learned through years of ongoing stress in this volatile field.
Is the ministry different? Although Christians often feel that if only they could be leaders in the church, their lives would be smoother. Sadly, that is rarely the case. Even missionaries suffer attacks. Wendy realized that being foreign missionaries would be extremely demanding, but they committed to it nonetheless, knowing that God had called them. However, when she saw her husband under attack, Wendy became very defensive and controlling. She has since had more training and experience and is more mature. She believes she would react differently now, holding her tongue so she could be her husband’s strength.
Charlotte’s husband entered the clergy over 30 years ago. She has learned the power of prayer and public support. (Remember, Tammy sang that we should show the world we love him.)
During one especially difficult attack, Charlotte’s husband’s authority and spiritual calling came into question and several board members called for his resignation. One lone board member challenged the others as to whether or not they had prayed about the situation. The unhappy board members eventually left, and Charlotte’s husband remained faithful to his calling. Amy’s husband also serves in the pulpit. The previous leader had remained in the church and had mixed emotions about the transition, so Amy’s husband became the target of his predecessor’s hurt and anger. Amy became defensive, adding to the stress. However, denying her flesh, she tried to be supportive and encouraging. She listened and was empathetic. She didn’t push him to talk.
People they counted among their closest friends betrayed Deborah and her husband. Exposing confidences damaged their relationships with others, hurting them deeply. Being driven to their knees, searching Scripture together, and being one another’s biggest cheerleader kept them strong throughout their trial.
When dealing with attacks, all of these women agree on several things. What you tell your children depends on their ages. They will surely sense tension in the home, and not saying anything will add to their stress. However, details, names, and your inner feelings are best kept to the adults. Meeting your husband’s basic needs during attacks will help him on many levels. Keeping him well fed and sexually satisfied does miracles for his spirit, soul, and body. (Tammy reminded us of that in her song as she said to keep giving all the love we can.)
All of these veteran leaders’ wives agree that prayer is invaluable, not just during adversity but during the good times, as well. Praying for and with our husband is huge. It will bring us peace, protection, and power. Reading the Scriptures alone and together gives us strength and stamina to endure, and satisfaction knowing that God is in control.
When asked if, given the choice, if they would choose leadership for their husbands or not, all agreed that when a man is called to a leadership position, it is because he is qualified and gifted. Not being selfish, they would never stand in the way of their husbands helping others.
Situations, faces, and names may change but the attacks continue. Leaders are the targets when anything goes wrong. Ultimately they are responsible. After they take the abuse from board members, co-workers, or subordinates, they come home to us. It’s our job to take the invisible arrows out of their backs. Our choice of how to act or react will have a lasting impact on our marriage and family.
As we grow older we tend to “wise up” to the reaction thing. It’s never pleasant to watch our husbands be attacked. It’s natural to want to strike out or jump to his defense, but exercising self-control in these situations will make a huge difference to all those around us.
Their best advice to new wives of leaders is to pray for him; support him and his decisions; accept that he will go through difficult times; remain committed and compassionate; keep communicating; understand that leadership can take time away from family; maintain strict confidentiality, and be sure of your own calling – know who you are in Christ. It isn’t just our husbands who are called into leadership, we are also called!
We must know who we are, take care of ourselves, be patient, and show discernment. Most importantly, we must remember Tammy’s advice, “Stand by your man and show the world you love him. Keep givin’ all the love you can. Stand by your ma-a-n!”