This is another great guest post contributed by J.T. Anderson from SavingEve.net, offering a follow-up, counter approach to his previous article, The Satanic Persuasion Formula (January 20, 2018). It covers how a husband can foster the spiritual growth of his wife by (1) recognizing false beliefs that result from common deception, and (2) employing the proper methods of presenting the truth, which counters and corrects those false beliefs.
Readership: Men in LTR’s
The Bible teaches that an excellent wife is an asset that is “more precious than rubies”. (Proverbs 31:10)
But a woman is an asset to her husband only if she is properly moulded and led. The modern church does not teach men how to do this.
If a pastor exhorts men to lead their family at all, it will typically amount to encouraging the husband to lead a Bible reading and prayer time. While those are certainly noble habits to have, many husbands find their efforts yield disappointing results in terms of reforming their wives’ behavior towards “all forms of excellence”.
I believe the cause of this disappointment is twofold:
First, it is difficult to form the habit of leading a regular structured devotion time with the family. This is especially true when the husband comes home, tired from work, only to have to deal with more drama from the wife.
But, more importantly, I don’t think the structured devotional model aligns well with the Biblical prescription: [Emphasis mine.]
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” ~ Ephesians 5:25-27
Notice that the focal point of the passage is not about indoctrinating her on the basic tenets of the faith. Rather, it is about removing her blemishes. It’s more about what you take away than what you add.
A sculptor does not carve a beautiful statue simply throwing a bunch of pre-made pieces together and hoping it sticks. Rather, he starts with an unrefined stone and carefully decides where and how to chisel. His efforts must be precise and focused.
Likewise, a woman is not molded into a crown of glory simply by pushing her through a Bible reading plan. A skilled husband will carefully identify his wife’s blemishes and gently chip away at them with the chisel of God’s Word until she is made perfect.
In this post, I’m going to introduce a framework to help husbands change their wives’ undesirable behaviors.
The premise behind the framework is that it is easier to help people change their behavior by changing the underlying belief that causes the behavior, rather than attempting to correct the behavior directly.
I am an online marketer (copywriter) by trade. One of the most useful skills I learned in my training was how to “get inside someone’s head”, and identify the desires and beliefs that make someone tick. I found that this training has proven to be tremendously helpful in assessing my wife and effectively applying the Scripture to practical problems.
Case Study: “Embrace the Life You Have”
Since beliefs are intangible, they can be difficult to detect to the untrained eye (or ear). So I’m going to lead with a case study so you can see what it looks like “in the wild”, before we delve into the underlying theory.
I’ve chosen to analyze an article from Desiring God, by V. R. Risner, called, Embrace the Life You Have, (May 15, 2017). I chose this article because (1) it earned over 46K shares on social media, so it likely represents a common worldview of contemporary Christian women, and (2) it was written by a woman, so it makes a good case study for dissecting female logic.
So let’s dive in… (you can open the article in a new tab if you want to follow along.)
The first thing I’m looking for is “self-sealing logic”. These are any rationalizations designed to keep new ideas (e.g. the truth) out of her thinking. Self-sealing logic is the external clue that uncovers someone’s internal belief structure.
First, she opens with an emotional story about how she can’t do crafts anymore, due to her being diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. Since we’re looking for self-sealing logic we’re ignoring the emotional appeals for now.
Her first line of self-sealing logic is here: [Emphasis mine.]
“As a friend helps me rummage through these old boxes, looking at paintbrushes and canvas, rubber stamps and colored paper, a deep sadness settles over me. I miss those things. But I know they are part of my past and I can’t dwell on what can’t be undone.”
She is a disappointed dreamer. People who fail to achieve their dreams are faced with one of two unpleasant truths: (1) either they failed because of their own ineptitude, or (2) they pursued the wrong dream… which would mean they were foolish. Both of these attributions imply a low-status. She doesn’t want admit to being low-status, so she must rationalize in order to protect her self from painful reality.
Now, if she was only talking about being crippled and unable to do crafts, it would be a harmless belief. But it’s a setup for what comes next: [Emphasis mine.]
“This grieving isn’t particular to me. A few weeks ago, I spoke with three friends, all of whom were facing significant disappointment. One used to be an opera singer, but her vocal cords have changed and she can no longer sing as she once did. Another friend was looking forward to her youngest child going to school so that she could pursue the ministry she felt called to. But an unexpected pregnancy dramatically changed her plans and now her dreams feel beyond reach. The third friend has a special needs child and constantly wonders about her child’s future. As well as her own.”
“Like my friends, all of us face disappointments. Our lives look vastly different than we imagined they would. People dream of certain careers and accomplishments, but family issues or unexpected events make careers take a backseat. Young lovers believe they will have the perfect family, yet somehow their family doesn’t even resemble their vision.”
Notice that “pregnancy” and “family” are contrasted (negatively) with “dreams” and “careers.” She has provided a clue to the anti-biblical belief that needs to be exposed. Rather than acknowledge her spiritual sin, she closes herself off by saying “all of us face disappointments.” True, but many who follow Christ live joyful lives. But misery loves company…
Since she has rejected reality, she needs a belief to fill the void. How should she respond? She continues: [Emphasis mine.]
“This counsel from John Piper has been immeasurably helpful to me: ’Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.’”
For a woman, “weeping deeply” is a sign of high status. It’s a sign of being empathetic and emotionally “tuned in.” Then she makes herself to be the hero of the narrative by bravely moving on with her life. Again, a high-status decision.
She continues on, making a few more rationalizations that reinforce the above points. But the bottom line is this:
This woman values visible success more than family.
She believes that, like herself, everyone else who has pursued success has also been “disappointed.” Because to believe that the problem was with her would be too painful. By believing that living a disappointing life is just “the way it is” she protects her status. She is the hero who bravely perseveres.
But this belief is not working out well for her. She has both a low status by worldly standards (she failed to achieve her dream lifestyle), and she has a low status by Kingdom standards (she favors career over children.)
Notice how her motive for status was NOT the point she was making. She might even be unaware of it. Addressing a woman point-by-point is a sucker’s game. You have to read between the lines.
Her fundamental need is status. This is not unhealthy in and of itself. But she is seeking it in the wrong way. Her need for status needs to be directed towards becoming a “wife of excellence.”
Now there is a small chance I could be wrong. This is a judgment based on a single impression. But, as you’ll see below, you do not have to be correct 100% of the time to effectively expose the heart. You only have to draw attention to the issue that most likely needs to be discussed.
If this woman were my wife, I would do a reading and explanation of a passage like Luke 8:14: [Emphasis mine.]
“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”
Then, since status is her concern, I might contrast that passage with the image in Matthew 5:16:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Then I’d go through the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount to show examples of what it means to let our light shine. Then we’d reach the conclusion where Jesus says to build your house (i.e. your family) on the rock. This is what success means in God’s kingdom.
(Note that I did NOT choose any passages about the domestic duties of wives. Managing the home is simply the tangible manifestation of a belief. It is useless to teach on this subject unless the underlying belief is there to support the behavior. Once she believes, she’ll ask “how do I respond?” At that point, I’ll know that it is appropriate to move on to other details concerning domestic management and child rearing.)
After exposing her to this passage, I would then reinforce the truth in everyday experiences. I’d say things like, “that corporation won’t be there in eternity.” “Little things like this is how we build our house on the rock.” “What are you going to do with those paychecks in God’s kingdom?”
I’d just repeat those reinforcements until it becomes clear that her beliefs have changed. I’ll know her beliefs have changed when she either changes her behavior on her own, or she asks me for advice on what to do.
So now that you’ve seen an example, let’s get into the framework of how to do it.
Phase 1: How to Read a Woman (The Analysis)
When analyzing someone’s belief structure, there is a series of questions I ask. I do this before I even begin the conversation. This is the “hard work” part, but it makes everything else fall into place.
Here are the questions with explanations. (It’s a lot to cover but I’ll summarize everything at the end.)
Where is she using self-sealing logic?
Pay attention to her rationalizations. These rationalizations tend to fall into one of four categories:
- “I don’t want that!” (devaluing the alternative)
- “I’m fine!” (denying the problem)
- “I can’t!”(victim thinking)
- “But what about [excuse]?” (avoiding the first step)
All of this is self-sealing logic. It’s designed to protect the status quo and keep new ideas out. It provides the clue to what she truly believes.
What’s wrong with the logic?
Next, I try to find the underlying problem that her rationalization is hiding.
In the West, we live in a guilt-based culture. This means that we primarily use our logic to hide or exaggerate our guilt. I find this “guilty logic” tends to fall into at least one of three categories:
- Hidden Guilt – logic that is used to distract oneself from a sin (such as the case above)
- Ambiguous Guilt – imagined guilt that results from an imprecise understanding of a sin (e.g. equating sexual desire with lust and adultery)
- Restrictive Guilt – protests against an excessively narrow interpretation of Scripture (e.g. women complaining about being “just a homemaker”)
What would I have to believe in order to think that?
If she says something that doesn’t make sense, it’s not because she’s insensible. It’s because she believes something that makes her rationalization sensible to her. What is that belief that makes the puzzle pieces fit?
For example, for a woman to “accept” her “disappointing” life, she’d have to believe that visible success is more valuable than domestic success.
Or to say sexual desire is equivalent to lust, you’d have to believe that sex is, at best, a “necessary evil” that God doesn’t wish us to dwell upon.
Or to complain about being “just a housewife”, a woman would have to believe that cooking and cleaning is the entire sum of a biblical woman’s existence… that there is no larger purpose of her work.
Starting to see the problem here?
What need is the false belief fulfilling?
Now that I’ve identified the need, I want to determine why she believes it. What is she hungry for that the Word of God can better satisfy?
One quick way to identify her basic needs (other than food and basic safety) is with the “SCARF” model. It’s an acronym that stands for:
- Status – one’s relative importance; ‘pecking order’ and seniority
- Certainty – the ability to predict the near future
- Autonomy – perception of control over one’s environment; having choices
- Relatedness – who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’ of the group? Friend or foe?
- Fairness – fair vs. unfair exchanges
Everything we believe fulfills at least one of these basic needs. Some examples of how a false belief can fulfill a basic need are as follows:
- Single women in their 40s believe they should still get married because to remain single would be low status.
- Single women support welfare programs because they need to feel certain their future needs will be provided for.
- Women pursue careers because they imagine they will have more freedom.
- People believe masculinity is dangerous because testosterone has been associated with abusive men (i.e. an enemy.)
- Women believe God allows women to be pastors because they think it would be unfair to restrict them from doing so.
How is the false belief failing?
Any belief not based on the truth will ultimately fail to satisfy her needs. False beliefs result in…
- Low Status – e.g. career women are less able to compete with men and are more likely to be discarded when they are no longer needed
- Incorrect Predictions – e.g. bureaucratic welfare systems often fail to provide for basic needs
- Loss of Freedom – e.g. career women can get burned out and become wage slaves
- Harm to Loved Ones – e.g. vilifying men tears families apart
- Unfairness – e.g. women in leadership are prone to want to eliminate uncertainty, trading freedom for perceived safety, which ends in a totalitarianism that harms the innocent
How does biblical truth better fulfill the need?
Biblical truth is always superior to false beliefs because it gives us…
- Higher Status – e.g. a wife of noble character is praised and “more precious than jewels”
- More Certain Promises and Predictions – e.g. God always provides for His children
- More Freedom – e.g. housewives have more time, flexibility and freedom in how they run their home and lives
- Benefits Loved Ones – e.g. godly, masculine men make women happy and children confident
- Equal Opportunity – women have equal opportunity to earn an eternal inheritance
Obviously, the more familiar you are with Scripture, the easier it will be to find an appropriate passage. But even if you don’t know the applicable scriptures off the top of your head, pray for wisdom. The Holy Spirit will lead you to the truth.
Now, after all that thinking, it’s finally time to expose her to the truth.
Phase 2: Shining the Light (The Presentation)
Armed with the appropriate Scripture passages, it’s now time to present the truth.
After saying a quick prayer that the Word will be effective, there is a simple 3-step process to be prepared in advance:
The “opener” is simply something you say to peak her interest. Here are a few examples:
- “Here’s something interesting…”
- “I just learned something really cool about…”
- “I wanted to switch things up a bit tonight.”
- “I know I keep sayin’ this, but you need to see this…”
- “I had an epiphany today.”
- “Want to hear something interesting?”
- “You might find this a bit… strange.”
- “So here’s something freaky…”
While these statements look simple, don’t underestimate their power. A simple curiosity opener allows you to both grab her attention and shut down her defenses so you can (lovingly) force-feed a new idea into her brain.
Next I present the Scripture. I read the passage in context and comment on it as I’m reading. I define any words that might be unclear. (Alternatively, you can read her an article or listen to a sermon that offers an insight into the issue at hand.)
Finally comes the conclusion. This is where you connect the dots for her. Here are a few examples:
“So God is saying that visible success like careers and fame makes no difference in God’s Kingdom. What matters is whether or not we build up God’s family.”
“Interesting, huh? We know that God’s Word is good. So if an entire book in the Bible is devoted to sex, God must want us to think about it!”
“So you can see that the goal of biblical womanhood isn’t to be a cook or a maid. It’s to become a noble woman who knows how to effectively manage a home on her husband’s behalf, and raise her children well.”
And that’s all there is to it. You’ve now planted the seed of truth in her mind.
At this stage, it does not matter how she responds. All that is necessary is getting her attention and exposing her to the truth.
If she doesn’t change right away, you simply continue to reinforce the truth through common experiences and repeating the process described herein.
Phase 3: Become a Commentator (Reinforcement)
Now, that you’ve introduced her to the truth, you want to reinforce that truth. As the Scripture says:
“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” ~ Deut. 6:7
The picture here is that the father/husband is providing commentary on daily life. He’s using daily experiences to remind his family of the truths they’ve already heard.
I have a simple formula for doing this:
- Frame an Experience
- Restate the Conclusion (optional)
Framing an experience can either be a negative (how the false belief is failing) or a positive (how the biblical belief is working.)
Here are some examples:
- You’re watching a movie starring a career woman. You comment about how miserable her life seems.
- You have dinner with a traditional family. You comment about how beautiful and happy the wife seemed.
- A pastor’s daughter becomes promiscuous. You comment how that’s what happens when the church neglects to praise a positive view of sexuality.
- You have an unusually good sexual experience. You comment how this is what God wants for her.
- You see an angry feminist railing against gender roles. You comment about how ignorant she is of God’s noble role for women.
- You see a godly woman doing something other than cooking and cleaning. You praise her.
Bonus points if you can use humor to frame the (negative) examples.
After framing the experience, it might be appropriate to restate the conclusion of the Bible study. (e.g. “It’s just like what we learned from…) You don’t need to do this every time, but occasional explicit reminders are good.
Keep repeating this reinforcement until the belief changes. You can also go back and expose her to additional Scripture passages that reinforce the same point.
As promised, here’s an outline summarizing the entire process. Identify a false belief you want to change in your wife and chisel away with the truth. Then repeat the process until she is perfect in your eyes.
PHASE 1: ANALYSIS
- Where is she using self-sealing logic?
- “I don’t want that!”
- “I’m fine!”
- “I can’t!”
- “But what about [excuse]?”
- What’s wrong with the logic?
- Hidden Guilt?
- Ambiguous Guilt?
- Restrictive Guilt?
- What would I have to believe in order to think that?
- What need is the false belief fulfilling?
- How is the false belief failing?
- Low Status
- Incorrect Predictions
- Loss of Freedom
- Harm to Loved Ones
- How does biblical truth better fulfill the need?
- Higher status
- More certain promises and predictions
- More freedom
- Benefits Loved Ones
- Equal Opportunity for Inheritance
PHASE 2: PRESENTATION
- Opening statement
PHASE 3: REINFORCEMENT
- Frame an Experience
- Draw a Conclusion
NOTE: If you’d like a printable PDF of this summary, you can download a copy from my blog.
Sigma Frame: The Challenge of Demanding Excellence (March 11, 2018)