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Honor and Shame in Marriage

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  • Honor and Shame in Marriage

    Some thoughts on an honor-shame dynamic in marriage.

    The link can be found here.

    The text is as follows:

    Does an honor and shame dynamic help you understand your marriage? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    One of the most fascinating areas in Biblical studies today is the work of the context group in understanding honor and shame. Honor is basically your view of your self combined with the views everyone else has of you to judge your rating, as it were, in society. Shame is being thought of lowly in society. In the ancient world, honor and shame were everything. You would rather die with honor than live with shame. I think much or our thinking is still unknowingly honor and shame based, though we are moving more and more towards an individualism that causes each of us to be a god unto himself. Our high school culture for instance could be like this where we have peer pressure. People do what they can to fit in and not rock the boat. Deviancy is viewed as something to be shunned.

    How can this apply in your marriage?

    My wife recently had dental work to get a wisdom tooth removed. Honest question here. Who will you allow to stick something in your mouth? Would you let a random stranger do such? No. You leave that to people that you do trust. You could let your spouse give you a passionate kiss along those lines or you could let a friend place a bit of food for you to try in your mouth, but the fact that you let someone have that kind of access indicates a degree of trust. You let a dentist do that or a doctor stick something like a tongue depressor in your mouth because these are people who have the ability to do things that need to be done. It's not because you think they're particularly good people. (My wife thinks I'm great after all, but she's sure not going to let me remove a wisdom tooth from her mouth.)

    So let's apply that further. For a husband and wife, what is being given is total access to one's body. That means that person who you are giving that access to is one that you are giving a high degree of honor to and worth to. (In fact, some marriage vows have said "With my body, I thee worship.) You do not get more vulnerable physically than you do with sex. (This is also one reason rape is such a devastating evil) While a man has to be vulnerable, there can really be no doubt that the woman is the one who is making herself the most vulnerable. This means the wife is showing her husband a high degree of honor. A good husband then is to honor that commitment and treat his wife like the treasure that she is.

    This also impacts how we interact in public. If one person says to do something in public and all things being equal, the other disregards it, the one who made the request is shown to the rest of the world to be someone not even honored by their spouse. Now I am one that does believe in male headship, but that means my wife is to be treated like a queen. If a wife thinks her husband is the head and disregards him in public, then the message received by the public is "So this wife doesn't think her husband's requests are worth honoring. Why should I pay attention to this person?" (This is also a reason why I think all things being equal that if a parent sets a requirement and the child does not follow, the parent needs to follow through with the consequences they said they would follow through with.)

    If a wife does in fact honor her husband (And keep in mind a wife is never to break the law of God) in public, then she will improve the way that her husband is seen in public. Of course, if you don't hold to male headship, you can say that goes both ways, and a husband in turn most honor and respect his wife in public, meaning he must be careful to not hurtfully belittle her. In the marriage relationship especially, each person should make it their point to show the other how much they care for them. (And keep in mind for we men, respect actually means a whole lot more than love.)

    Marriage is hard work, and the best way to make it work is if both parties give 100%. Perhaps a mindset outside of our own has a lot more to teach us.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

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