What if I said love is earned?Most of my life, I’ve heard people say that respect is earned. Would you agree?

What if I said love is earned?

I can hear some of you declaring, “But, Carrie! They’re different. And God tells us to love everyone.” Uh huh. But, since you brought God into it, what does He say about respect?

Or maybe you’re of the opinion that they’re intertwined, that one can’t come without the other. Are you certain?

Love and Respect

Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

Since my audience is primarily women, the side of the problem I’m addressing is common to women, and I myself am female, today’s post will have a heavily feminine slant. The truth is, as I think back over the years, I’ve heard far more women then men say, “Respect is earned.” Is that a clue to a deeper issue that we females have overlooked?

And I want to point out that this discussion in no way diminishes the love or respect men should have for women. I absolutely believe these principles need to flow both ways. However, I can only change myself, so that’s the lens through which today’s post filters.

Which brings me back to love and respect and biblical commands.

It is interesting that the Bible clearly tells women to respect their husbands—not love them. Ephesians 5:33, quoted above, tells the men to love and the wives to respect. Should that indicate to us that what love is to a woman, respect is to a man? That a woman espousing respect must be earned is the same as a man defending love must be earned?

Do we suggest by saying, “God is love,” that respect isn’t also a component of our heavenly Father?

Oh, some heavy, uncomfortable questions.

My Own Boys

I have a husband and two sons, and I’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to learn and understand them. I have a husband and two sons, and I’ve spent twenty-plus years trying to learn and understand them. Some days I’m better at this than others. But a key moment came a few years ago when I began to understand the importance of respect.

Now, let me say that I’m speaking in generalities here, and all three of the males in my home do not completely agree on this. We are all individuals, after all. But, their thinking is similar enough that I found this concept to be critical in understanding them.

Ladies, think about it this way. If I were to ask, “Do my boys (husband and sons) love me?”, I would confidently answer, “Yes.” I know they do even in the most troublesome moments. But I find it interesting that that’s the question I instinctively ask when I’m having difficulties with any one of them. You see, on a deep level, I know that I love them and that they love me, even if one or both of us are acting unloving in the moment.

But do they like me? Or I like them?

This is where the thinking gets a little split. In my female brain, like and love are intimately related. I know that since they love me, that even if I don’t like them in the moment, we’ll talk it out, deal with consequences, and quickly (or at least eventually) refocus on loving each other. Liking will return because of love.

But to my men? This is all interpreted very differently. Not liking them in the moment (including saying something negative or critical that infers not liking them in the moment) is the same as disrespecting them. And when I disrespect them, it’s the same to them as if they’d turned to me and said they didn’t love me. Oh, we’ll still talk it out and get back to a place of loving each other, but the hurt will run deep and the emotional consequences last longer.

As you can imagine, this has created some challenges over the years for all of us.

But What about Titus?

That’s a great question! Does Paul’s instructions in Titus 2:2-5 contradict or supplement Ephesians 5?

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

After trying for two decades, I still struggle1. Paul tells the men to be worthy of respect.

Interesting, right?

2. He encourages the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands.

Before you get too excited about this, you should know that the word Paul uses here for love is phileo. This is the brotherly kind of love, the love that says, “I like you.” Oh. Ouch.


Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners. ~Laurence Sterne

Perhaps God planted in most women the deep-seated ability to unconditionally love those closest to them, which explains why He commands us to respect and to like our husbands and children. It’s a skill that takes purposeful learning and practice. After trying for two decades, I still struggle with it.

But I’m getting better and more quickly recognize when I do or say something that conveys disrespect to the men in my life. I also more easily see it in others, which helps me to see it in myself and teach it to my daughter.

And that’s an important part, which both God and my boys want from me: Progress.


Read More

If this is a new concept to you or if you want to learn more, here are two books that helped me immensely.

Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs

Love & RespectBased on over three decades of counseling, as well as scientific and biblical research, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his wife, Sarah, have already taken the Love & Respect message across America and are changing the way couples talk to, think about, and treat each other. What do you want for your marriage? Want some peace? Want to feel close? Want to feel valued? Want to experience marriage the way God intended? Then why not try some Love and Respect.

A wife has one driving need–to feel loved. When that need is met, she is happy. A husband has one driving need–to feel respected. When that need is met, he is happy. When either of these needs isn’t met, things get crazy. Love & Respect reveals why spouses react negatively to each other, and how they can deal with such conflict quickly, easily, and biblically.


Mother & Son: The Respect Effect

Mother & SonLove is important but it is respect that is the key to your son’s heart.

As Emerson Eggerichs transformed millions of marital relationships with a biblical understanding of love and respect, he now turns these principles to one of the most important relationships of all, a mother and her son.

The idea of moms respecting their sons may sound alien to some, but it seems to ignite curiosity across the board. It is easy to relate to the need for all of us to feel a mother’s love, but is that the same thing as respect? Even for young boys, the effect of respect is nothing short of astounding when applied properly.

Moms yearn to learn anything that better helps them with their sons. After all, they love their boys, but many find them more difficult to parent than their girls, especially from age four and up.

What makes this all the more urgent is that moms are coaching fathers to love their daughters, but no one has said boo to moms on specific ways to show respect to their sons, at least not in a way that is applicable and fully explained. All realize that little girls need daddy’s love, but who is strongly promoting the truth that little boys (and big ones) need Mom’s respect? No wonder mothers feel left in the dark on this topic.


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