Why Men Don’t Lead

One of the perennial complaints that Christian women have about their husbands is that they just don’t assume leadership in the home. The wife has a certain expectation that a Christian husband will be leading the family in prayer, Bible study, and other “spiritual” things, and the husband isn’t interested. What is the cause of this abdication? Why can’t men lead their wives?

Well, I’m sure there are many reasons that have never occurred to me, but a couple have. Of course some men might just be lazy bums. So I’m not talking about them right now. But why don’t some of the other men who seem to be quite capable of leadership fail to pick up the reins at home?

I believe this is one of the primary reasons why men don’t lead: because they know full well that if they ever tried to lead, there would be a big show-down, and they are just not up to it. They would rather have relative peace in the home and be accused of being a poor leader than deal with the big fight that would ensue if they ever did try to lead.

Some men know that they should lead their families, but they also know that if they ever tried to initiate something, their wives would be quick to try to steer it, quick to criticize and compare, quick to make “helpful” suggestions, quick to be disappointed. So it is simply not worth the ordeal. And if they succeeded in telling their wives to pipe down, sit down, and be quiet, then they would feel like they were being poor leaders because they were insisting on their own way.

The irony of this situation is neither husband nor wife is happy in it. When the wife pushes her husband to take the reins, he is put in an impossible situation: if he takes them, he is actually following her; if he doesn’t take them, he is being obstinate. And though she is pushing, she hates it when her husband gives in to her. And she hates it even more when he starts leading her in a way that is not what she wanted. In spite of this, what she really wants (though she doesn’t perhaps understand this) is for him to be a rock. She wants a man who will tell her to quit pushing, a man who will love her enough to insist that she pipe down.

My opinion is that many of the women who desperately want masculine leadership in the home would hate it if they got any. So if you are one of those wives who wants your husband to start showing some spiritual leadership, start trying to follow him now. And go along quietly.

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19 thoughts on “Why Men Don’t Lead

  1. It is such a blessing to many of us to hear this.
    I first heard a message similar to this on a taped sermon of your husbands….ten years ago I’ll bet, and I was so convicted.
    It is tremendously helpful for me and many other ladies to hear this message again and again, and I hope you will keep on teaching us.
    Thanks so very much for your great encouragement!

  2. *sigh*

    Right between the eyes…

    I have a wonderful husband who IS leading, but I have such a tendency to “fix” and “tweak” and, okay, I’ll be honest– “push–” things in the direction I think they need to go.

    I’m so grateful for this blog, Mrs. Wilson! You help us hold the course.

    Kathleen

  3. I prayed for years that the Lord would have my husband become more of a leader in the home, and now that He has answered my prayers, I have realized I should have even more faithfully prayed He would make me a good follower! :) Thanks for your posts. You are truly a blessing to the christian community- worldwide!

  4. Once, I was stuck in a tough spot submitting to my husband’s authority to do something that wasn’t sinful, but I felt was irresponsible and had a lot of potential for harm if things went badly.

    I felt very torn. I wanted to submit, but I disagreed. It festered.

    At a point when I felt very frustrated, I asked my pastor and for advice on how to submit in the midst of what had become a series of disagreements.

    He asked, “Have you ever sat in a board meeting where there was a disagreement?”

    “Yes,” I replied.

    “Please describe what happens,” he requested.

    “The board members who disagree present their case and it is noted in the minutes,” I replied.

    “What happens if the number of board members in favor of the measure outweigh the number of those opposing? Can they still proceed as a functioning board?” he asked.

    “Yes….” I replied, seeing his point. “But if something were to happen as a result of the decision, the minutes would reflect the arguments of those who voted in the minority.”

    “Correct,” he said.

    He said that a tendency he has seen is for godly wives to submit in a way, trying to do what they _think_ the should be doing, without asking questions or offering opinions.

    When trouble hits, there is a pattern set of not talking. Bitterness begins to set in, and it becomes harder and harder to submit, and then things just explode.

    Yep. Sounded familiar.

    He reminded me that, in God’s providence, I was my husband’s wife and that he needed me just as much as I needed him. By not sharing with him my thoughts and concerns, I wasn’t being much of a helper to him.

    He explained that, instead of silently stuffing disagreements into the bitterness fermentor, that noting my disagreements but staying on board with my husband’s leadership would make for better communication, build trust, and I’d be a little more useful to my husband than a place to wipe his feet 😛

    Much love,
    SJA

  5. You wrote “When the wife pushes her husband to take the reins, he is put in an impossible situation: if he takes them, he is actually following her; if he doesn’t take them, he is being obstinate.”

    I have never heard it put this way, but oh my gracious girl… you have hit the nail on the head. Well said indeed.

  6. So true. We have to truly be followers in order for our husbands to truly be leaders. And it’s helpful to me to remember (as a previous commenter mentioned) that different men have different personalities and thus different styles of leadership. Even though my husband’s leadership does not look like that of another husband, it does not mean that he is not faithfully leading.

  7. I’m not married, but I can see this want-to-be-lead-but-only-where-I-want-to-go attitude in my relationship with my father. This is great advise and insight into woman’s perpetual dilemna. I pray it will help me be a better daughter!

  8. My husband I usually pull in a double team quite well, but I can recall quite a few times when I’ve argued instead of going quietly – usually when I want to go charging off myself getting too busy, stressed, tired and leaving him to pick up the pieces when I finally collapse. I’m going to remember this next time he tell me to slow down.

  9. This is such a great post. And so good that it’s coming from a woman.

    It does feel so good to “let go and let lead” but darned if it is not difficult to not “tweak” as you say.

    I could say so much but simply, this was a great post. Thank you for the reminder.

  10. Years ago, I told an older friend, a woman in her 60’s, that I was upset that my husband told me to “get over” some emotional issue I had. My friend excused herself for a few minutes and then came back to tell me that I should “get over” whatever problem my husband told me to. She said she knew that it sounded easier than it was, but there were some things that were worth the struggle, and I would be a better woman for it.

    And in the ensuing months and years, she supported me by keeping me accountable in my process of “getting over it”.

    And she was right, it was worth the struggle and I do believe I’m a better, more spiritually mature, woman for it. It takes a tough person to be able to submit in the right way.

    I think that God made us women more emotional than men as a general rule, and feelings have their place. But we are so easily ruled by them, and through them (fear, anger, etc…) we try to rule others. Because of sin, what is a gift becomes twisted. If we respect our husbands, they can be a great gift to us as we grasp control of our hearts.

    My mom was not a Christian, and had many unkind things to say when I chose to put “submit” to my husband in our wedding vows. But looking back over her life and marriage to my dad, I have seen how submission to my father would have saved herself and our family a lot of pain.

    For instance, she was in control of the finances and sometimes joked how Dad could not figure out how to write out a check. For almost 40 years, she wrote out the checks for him to sign. When she was too ill to deal with bills, she finally gave the reigns to Dad, who not only wrote checks, but did a much better job with getting everything under control than she ever did. She finally told me that she should have given it over to him decades ago. I grew up hearing my mom’s fears of financial ruin, because she was too scared to tell Dad how things really were. It’s a stressful way to live.

    My husband is a ‘servant leader’ in the sense he wants to make decisions not based on selfishness, but for what is best for us all, and do the will of God. We discuss things, but although the decision is up to him, we both bear responsibility as a team. And throughout the years, it becomes more appararent to me that what I think is important isn’t essential at all. My husband has a clearer eye, I think, on all that.

    Thank you, Nancy.

  11. I married a man that is very different (in some ways) than my dad. I really respect both of them; however it was hard to get used to a new style of leadership…It was helpful to have wiser women (my mom for instance) point out that while my husband is quieter and more methodical than my dad, he is still leading us. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for good advice and a good husband!

  12. It was my daughter who showed me this article. What a shame that the daughter should ‘teach’ the mother. Many, many years of years of a prideful and stubborn attitude are difficult to change but God is stronger yet. My prayer is that He will consider me still worth changing.

  13. Speaking as a man whose wife enjoys this blog:

    “What is the cause of this abdication? Why can’t men lead their wives?”

    I am unwilling to relinquish the duty and obligation that men have to provide leadership and place it upon the back of those being led (wives). I am not implying that this is the dynamic of the article, just establishing that effective leadership does not have the leisure of allowing itself to be subject to emotional manipulation.

    Mrs. Wilson has been generous to husbands, and her admonition to wives is accurate. Nonetheless, the essence of leadership also includes full and undiluted responsibility for whatever befalls the ship. “My men performed excellently, any failures are mine”.

    The “why’s”

    1. Because they have been trained to be soft. Effective leadership (notice that I do not concede absence of leadership. Leadership always occurs; the only differential in play is the direction. Good, bad or indifferent, leadership is always occurring.) requires a determination to suffer the slings and arrows of displeasure. One cannot effectively lead if the goal is popularity. I am not stipulating harshness; the picture in play is firm resolve.

    2. Firm is, well, hard; “he set his face like flint”. Modern evangelical America embraces the “metrosexual” ethic (even though they would deny it vociferously).
    The American church-at-large has trained their men to relinquish all of the sharp edges that accompanies tempered steel. (Consider what it really means to lose one’s temper.)

    3. Leadership requires the willingness to provide and protect. Modern American men have been saturated with the ethic that it is the government’s job to protect their wives and children. Whenever human nature is given the choice of standing on its hind legs against evil, or simpering away reciting excuses about “taking the law into their own hands” or “being judgmental”, one can always bet on black. Depravity, rust, entropy and cowardice never sleep.

    4. Consider one of the highest commendations that God Incarnate rendered to a created being. The recipient of this honor was simply a man who understood lines of authority: when a decision has been made and the directives rendered, those in submission to that authority carry out the commands. The discipline required for that comprehension is called faith: When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Think about what it takes to make the Holy One of God marvel, and is this being taught in modern America?

    To paraphrase what Mr. Wilson has previously written; do not be surprised to see women in cockpits once you have seen women (regardless of gender) in pulpits.

  14. I stumbled upon this discussion while looking up Ms. Wilson and AM I SO GLAD. Being a man who just now has found GOD (or should I say GOD found me) at 52 yrs, I have a responsibility to my self and others. I’m divorced w 2 grown kids, but I have a great women in my life who has 2 kids in college and middle school. She is tremdously intelligent and strong willed. I have allowed her to basically lead our lives and in doing so things have been not so good, but are getting better since GOD came into my life.
    Reading Ms. Wilson’s message and the opinions of others I have realized that I have a great responsiblity. As Ms. Wilson notes there are a lot of men who are not willing to ‘distrub the peace’ in a relationship and I was one of those. I now know it is my place to lead and to disturb the peace if necessary. My Lady has alluded to needing a leader in her life and I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. As I said she is very strong willed and has made her own decisions about her life and her children for some time, but she still desires a leader in her life.
    Thanks to Ms. Wilson and to the others who have commented here on helping me to see the light.
    I need to stand up and take the reins of leadership, but not to forget to listen to the followers.
    Thanks.

  15. Thank you. I actually really needed to hear this today…. my fiancee and I had an hour and a half ‘discussion’ in my opinion, ‘argument’ in his, this morning about this very thing. He was not brought up my communicative parents, and his church has done little to train their young men to lead, so I feel that it falls upon me to tell him how it goes. But I was unsettled all day, knowing that I can never teach him these things. I feel very unqualified. You described how I felt about it exactly. Even if he should take my words and learn from them, I would still be unhappy that he had learned it from me….
    Thanks for the reminder that I don’t need to run my world. :-)

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