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 bullseye 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. 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.
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. (As Tammy sang, “sometimes men do things we don’t understand.”)
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. But being a sounding board for their husbands, offering positive comments, and offering unwavering support proved invaluable to their husbands.
Is the ministry different? Not always. For example, Charlotte’s husband entered the clergy over 30 years ago. 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.
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.
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. As supportive wives, 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.
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!”