CTBHHM: Don’t Resist, Confront, or Challenge

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 100-104

A wise woman does not dream of what “could have been.” … Therefore, she is joyful and content in her present circumstances.

In this section, Debi will argue that you need to impose a sort of thought policing on yourself, and that discontentment stems not from bad circumstances but rather from wrong expectations. There is of course some kernel of truth here: If you constantly dwell on the problems in your life, you are likely to feel down and miserable much more of the time than if you try to find the good in your life too. Similarly, if you don’t expect to be rich, or to have a huge house, or to own two cars, you won’t be upset with your lot if you don’t. However, the direction Debi takes these ideas in this passage quickly becomes very, very dangerous.

By the time you married, you already held certain basic convictions You knew right from wrong. You did what you thought was right, and no one could persuade you differently. But now you find yourself and your convictions challenged by someone who may not share your established standards and worldview. He may be more liberal than you, more permissive, or he may be stricter and more legalistic.

Why yes, exactly! Marriage brings two individuals together, individuals who will sometimes disagree and who definitely have their own convictions and beliefs. Marriage is about finding a way for these individuals to form a permanent bond, forging a cooperative relationship based on communication and compromise and respect for each other’s differences.

The presence of children further complicates the situation. You want desperately to do what is right for them, but you have submitted yourself under the authority of another. Life is not going the way you had planned, and you can’t act or react the way you had wanted to. You find yourself pushed to the limits of your patience, and then you react in unsubmissive and selfish anger.

O_o

Yes, children does further complicate the situation. It means that the two individuals who came together in marriage have to find a way to deal with their differences in how children should be raised. A Christian husband and a Jewish wife may be able to get along just fine, but when you add children to the mix you suddenly have to decide whether to raise them Christian, or Jewish. So yes, children complicates things.

But the solution is not for the wife to simply role over and give the husband his way in everything involving the raising of the children.

Look, if you have very strong convictions, your children are the last area where you should be willing to simply ignore those convictions and go with whatever your partner says without question. If you want what is right for them, you don’t simply throw your beliefs and values at the window! And besides that, if you react in anger because your husband is treating your children in a way you belief is harmful to them, that anger is not selfish anger.

I’ll be honest: This paragraph has made me angry with Debi all over again, very very angry. Marriage should not be about violating your principles or giving up the reins on how your children should be raised. Marriage should be about communication, cooperation, compromise, and mutual input and listening. I mean, what if a woman is concerned because her husband is beating their children until they have broken bones? She knows this is very very wrong, but she has “submitted herself under the authority of” her husband, and “wanting to do what is best for” her children is no longer enough. Can you see how very wrong this is?

In the next bit Debi focuses on how women should change their thought patterns. She returns to the dairy farm example discussed in the previous installment and explains how Yolanda could have been a happy woman and a good help meet to her husband if only she would have changed her thoughts.

If I were in an airport baggage pick-up area waiting for my read suitcase, and I saw a young man snatch it and run, I would be very upset until I learned that my husband sent him to get it for me. When my thinking changed, my feelings changed.

The lady married to an accountant-turned-dairyman was sitting at home angry becuase her husband was late. When he finally arrived, he went directly to the barn to take care of his cows. She couldn’t hold her tongue. She couldn’t help the way she felt, because she had spent the entire day, no, the entire week . . . month . . . last three years, thinking how miserable she was for the circumstances her husband had brought upon her. She felt it was her “red suitcase” that was stolen. “He has no right,” she thought over and over again. “This is not what we agreed to when we got married,” she repeated to herself many times a day. “He should come in and eat the supper that is already cold from waiting, not go out and milk those cows,” she repeated to herself during the last three hours when it was obvious that he was late. She was storing up in her heart an abundance of selfish thoughts. Her actions and reactions became enslaved to her misguided thoughts.

What could she do to change her thoughts? She could learn something she does not know, not just from this book’s advice, but from God’s book, the Bible. She was not created to choose her husband’s vocation, nor to choose his or her lifestyle. She was created by God to be her husband’s helper.

There is much to be said, but I’m going to focus here on the idea that if Yolanda have changed her thoughts by changing what she knows. Debi says that Yolanda would be happy if only she was aware that God had made her to be her husband’s helper, and that therefore she shouldn’t have any say over her husband’s vocation in the first place. Debi uses an analogy involving a red suitcase to make this point, but her analogy doesn’t actually work.

In her analogy, Debi compares becoming upset at the loss of a suitcase with Yolanda’s becoming upset that her husband changed his vocation to one she found distasteful. Debi suggests that in each case, happiness can be obtained by gaining an additional piece of information—that her husband asked the man she had thought was the thief to get her suitcase for her in Debi’s case, or that it isn’t her place to have any say in her husband’s vocation in Yolanda’s case. But the problem with this analogy is that the underlying cause of Debi’s upsetness—the loss of her suitcase—goes away when she learns that the man was merely carrying it for her while the underlying cause of Yolanda’s upsetness—her husband’s new choice of career—does not go away when she learns that she is only meant to be her husband’s helper.

The only way to make Debi’s analogy work would be to change it such that Debi learns not that Michael asked a man to carry her suitcase for her but rather that Michael asked a man to steal her suitcase from her and not return it. If you are upset with something in your life, learning that it has to be that way because your husband or God said so does not actually remove the cause of your upsetness. “Your life sucks, but that’s okay because it’s supposed to suck, so now that you know your life is supposed to suck, you should be totally happy!” I mean, what?

Now back to Yolanda and the dairy farm:

Think how different it would be if, when he were three hours late, she thought about how blessed she was to have a good man coming home to her at seven in the evening with a paycheck, and to have love, security, a father for her children, a warm bed all night, and the promise of a bright future with more cows, better milking equipment and, hopefully, a rise in milk prices. How thrilling life would be! … Many a woman is sitting alone at seven in the evening, afraid that her ex-husband might try to break in again, and she’s wondering where she and her kids are going to move to next month when they are evicted from their duplex.

Debi urges women to change their expectations. Stop expecting to be treated as an equal, stop expecting to be involved in your family’s life decisions, stop expecting to have any say in your life. And then when you don’t have any of those things, you’ll totes be happy because you never expected them to begin with. I mean, this would totally have worked for the slaves, right? If only the slaves in the antebellum South had know that their lot in life was to be slaves, they would totally have been happy living in slavery! If they only guarded their thoughts they might have been able to look around at their ample slave huts, copious wormy cornmeal, plentiful ragged clothing, and the total absence of unemployment in their community and smile with contentment, right? Somehow I’m thinking not.

I am also wondering how this might be applied to an abused child. If you tell an abused child that it is his role to be abused, that his father has every right to beat him and his mother every right to deprive him of food, that it is his purpose in life to be the one who bears his parents’ anger, will he suddenly perk up, smile, and be content with his lot in life? No, of course not. But he may end up believing that it is normal and okay to be beaten, starved, and abused, and even that he deserves it.

You are what you think, and God tells you how to think: Think the truth. This is not the power of positive thinking; this is the power of the truth as God defines it. You are created to be your husband’s helper, not his conscience, not his vocation director, and certainly not his critic.

Notice that Debi insists that wives were absolutely not created to voice criticism of their husbands. Like, ever. Women’s only role? Helper. Your husband sets the beat, you’re just support staff. Debi drives this home further in the next paragraph:

When you develop an adversarial relationship with your husband, you do so on the premise that you are right and he is wrong. You are also assuming that you have the duty to resist, confront, and challenge him. In thinking he is wrong and you are right, you declare yourself wiser than he, more spiritual, more discerning, more sacrificial, etc. All this adds up to the obvious conclusion that you have assumed the role of leadership, teacher, and judge. This is sinful and odious, and it displeases God greatly.

This stuff is why I’m firmly convinced that Created To Be His Help Meet is nothing more than a manual on how to be an abused wife. “You are also assuming that you have the duty to resist, confront, and challenge him.” Does Debi not see how toxic this is??? And when you realize that Debi is applying this to every area of women’s lives, the horror increases. It’s not your duty to resist your husband’s sexual abuses. It’s not your duty to confront your husband about beating your children, or about how violent he can get when you don’t jump up immediately to obey his every command. It’s not your duty to challenge your husband on his new get-rich-quick scheme that promises to bankrupt the family. Debi does not say “it’s not your duty to resist, confront, or challenge” him unless—indeed, she offers no exceptions. Just roll over, bend down, and take it. I swear, when I finish this series, I’m going to celebrate by burning the book. I may even post pictures.

Debi follows this with what she calls a “Wisdom Test.” In reality, it’s just a list of questions without either answer key or commentary.

Do you have enough fear of God to not question his Word?

Once again we see “fear of God” extolled as a proper motivator. And of course, while Debi does not get into detail I’m fairly sure she would say that questioning her interpretation of the Bible constitutes questioning the Bible itself.

Would you give God excuses like, “My husband is mean,” or, “I am a strong personality, and he is weak”?

I wonder if Debi would see “My husband beats me” or “My husband rapes me” as “excuses” as well? Or, “My husband is bad with money and as a result there is never enough to go around”? How about, “My husband blows his paycheck at the local casino every week, and I don’t have enough money to feed the children”? Are those “excuses” too?

How would you respond if God gave you directions on how to talk, when not to talk, or how to dress and even wear your hair?

The obvious implication here, or at least the implication that is obvious to those raised in this subculture, is that wives are to respond to their husband’s directions on how to talk, when to talk, how to dress, and how to wear their hair just as they would respond of their directions came from God itself. The eliding of “God” and “husband” in this book is increasingly disturbing.

When God says to reverence (meaning, stand in awe of) your husband, do you think that is demanding too much?

Honestly, Debi comes extremely close to telling her readers that it is their duty to worship their husbands. I mean, seriously? Women are to stand in awe of their husbands, no matter what, regardless of what they’ve done or of their quality as a person? What kind of relationship is that?

If you can say, “Not my will, but thine be done,” then you can know that your prayer is based on the fear of God. It is the beginning of wisdom. Ask God to give you the beginning of wisdom by asking him to teach you to fear him.

And there you have it. Debi concludes this section by urging readers to ask God to teach them to fear him. Given how she views God, I perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that essentially everything she says about relationships is so mindnumbingly wrong. Living in fear—don’t we generally consider a relationship abusive when one party is living in fear? It seems Debi is in an abusive relationship with the God she worships. I might have emotional energy to feel sorry for her if I could forget that she spent the rest of this passage telling women that they don’t have the right to “resist” their husbands and that, in essence all it takes to be happy is to know that your supposed to be miserable.

  • guest

    What is up with the duplex? I wish we had more details about her background. I feel like we’re in a real-life version of What’s Bred in the Bone.

    • Abbie

      This! I am guessing it’s a regional thing? Here in my neck of the woods the trendiest yuppie neighborhood is stuffed with duplexes… certainly there’s no stigma against them.

      Though I live in a townhouse with neighbors on *both* sides so clearly I’ve degenerated too far to know any better.

      • guest

        :) so do I!

      • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

        I (and my husband and kid) live in an *apartment*. Clearly we are the lowest of the low — us and about a million other people in this city who also live in apartments.

    • Kate

      Right! I was just about to ask if anyone else had noticed Debbie’s strange preoccupation with duplexes. She seems to regard them like some higher circle of hell for uppity women.

      • ako

        I’m envisioning some incredibly melodramatic novel in a bottom drawer somewhere, called The Duplex, all about a divorced woman and the constant string of new ways her life is going horribly wrong. It starts with her speaking up, and progresses inexorably through divorce, poverty, stalking, and promiscuous babysitters, until finally, after she loses her job and her children end up in foster care, she’s kicked out of the duplex and left homeless and friendless, endlessly regretting that she ever asked her husband to take the garbage out.

      • http://www.facebook.com/autumnsfantasy Jennifer Anker

        Is it sad that I now want to ask my boyfriend to write that story?

  • Nea

    This is sinful and odious, and it displeases God Michael greatly

    Fixed it for her.

  • Nea

    If I were in an airport baggage pick-up area waiting for my red suitcase, and I saw a young man snatch it and run, I would be very upset until I learned that my husband sent him to get it for me. When my thinking changed, my feelings changed.

    Analogy fail, because me? I’d still be upset. Way. More. Upset. Why didn’t my husband tell me he was sending someone else to pick it up? Why didn’t the stranger tell me what was happening? Why didn’t my husband think for the nanosecond to realize it would be upsetting to have my property snatched away by a stranger? Why is my husband wasting everyone’s time by making me file a police report and stain that guy’s reputation as a thief when he was just following orders? Why did my husband send Random Q. Stranger to take my suitcase home without a word but leave ME stranded behind at the airport?

    The more you think about it, the more of a creepy sociopathic jerk the husband in her analogy becomes, and Debi can’t even see it. This book is one long verbose version of “You’ll take what you’re given and you’ll like it or else.” (As no decent husband said ever.)

  • Stony

    Okay, as my daddy would say, “Whoa back.”

    How would you respond if God gave you directions on how to talk, when not to talk, or how to dress and even wear your hair?

    If Jesus himself appeared to me and his directives to me were about how to talk, when to talk, and how to wear my hair, I would ask him outright if he was on his meds. Feed the hungry, yes. Take care of your family, your loved ones, the poor and the elderly, yes. Be a good steward to the land, yes. I might even accept “vote such-and-such a way” if he had compelling reasons, but my hair?? Really?

    This whole book, as many have pointed out, is just Debi’s way of rationalizing her shitty shitty marriage and trying to wrap it in biblical reasoning. It fails, utterly, but could be used certainly as a cautionary tale.

    • Alice

      I would say, “Dude, you are a control freak who needs therapy. Secondly, if you are THAT bored, then get out of my hair and go feed a third-world country or something.” If a man tried that, I’d be gone so fast his head would spin.

    • ospalh

      The “how to wear your hair” bit reminds me of the hilariously blasphemous German comic “Antityp” by Ralf König. (NB. Even the title is NSFW.)

      Paul, meeting with the Apostles chastises Mary for not covering her hair, quoting 1Cor11:10.
      James, the brother of the Lord, is confused, “lustful angels?” until Peter explains it: “he fell of his horse”. (See Acts 9:4a)

  • Lori

    I agree the suitcase analogy is highly indicative of how ridiculous this advice is. In so much of her book, she talks about how you’ll look so good to everyone else if you follow her advice. How would it look in the airport if a woman is screaming that someone is stealing her suitcase, guards run after him, maybe someone standing by tackles him, and then maybe a cell phone call comes in to the wife. She hangs up and has to tell the crowd, “It’s OK everyone, my husband sent this stranger to pick up my suitcase for me. He knows what’s best. Sorry for all the fuss. Never mind.” I seriously think they might call an ambulance for her and have her given a psych eval. The whole passage is icky, but this analogy just highlights in neon lights the *failure of communication* in this model.

    However:
    “It’s not your duty to confront your husband about beating your children…” (From Libby Anne’s analysis) This part from the article, imo, is off. Debi did say in a previous section that if the husband is beating the children, the wife needs to call the authorities. She doesn’t say it enough, given all her other advice which does encourage an emotionally abusive situation, but to be fair, I do believe she did have that disclaimer earlier in her book. So even though we reading the book (or excerpts here) can see the potential for ignoring abuse of the children in order to be submissive and avoid the dumpy duplex disaster, someone defending the book would point to that and claim, therefore, there’s no reason to suggest this section implies one should ignore child-beating. Just a thought.

    PS Why do I sometimes get a message, “You’re posting too quickly. Slow down,” when I’m just posting one post. Anyone know?

    • Rilian

      I think she actually said that *first* you have to make sure you are a perfect doormat, and then if he is still abusive, *then* you can call for help.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        That’s what I find most frustrating with advice like Debi’s, the whole thing about attributing failure to the person following the advice, not the advice being given. There’s always room for doubt that you’re not being submissive enough, so while there’s a sort of escape clause for ‘truly horrible situations’ (which are way too narrow in and of themselves, IMHO), the rest of the advice boils down to “If you’re unhappy, submit and smile more,” so the escape clause can never be triggered.

    • Alice

      I’m curious just how horrible a situation would have to be for Debi to call it abuse, considering that she teaches children should be hit with plumbing line and doesn’t seem to believe emotional abuse of wives existed.

      • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

        There’s an article on their website in which

        **TRIGGER WARNING**

        the Pearls explain how, if you discover your husband is sexually abusing your kids, you should report him to the authorities and protect your kids, and he’ll go to prison, but later, when he’s out and the kids are grown, you should take him back, because G-d hates divorce and wants you to stand by your man.

        I swear I am not making this up. I wish I were (although what kind of depraved person would that make me?).

      • Leigha7

        Well, at least it’s better than telling your kids they must be mistaken and pretending it never happened?

  • KarenH

    It’s interesting to juxtapose the headline for this article with the situation in Massachusetts.

    • Whirlwitch

      I was reading this and thinking about a hypothetical for Debbie. I assume if your husband is palnning to bomb the Boston marathon, it is your wifely duty to support his vision, accept his leadership, and play your God-given role as his helpmeet, possibly passing him the wire cutters as needed. Going to the police would mean assuming that his actions are wrong, and that, of course, would mean that “you declare yourself wiser than he, more spiritual, more discerning, more sacrificial, etc. All this adds up to the obvious conclusion that you have assumed the role of leadership, teacher, and judge. This is sinful and odious, and it displeases God greatly.”

      Maybe that’s not what she THINKS she’s advocating, but when you’re not only handing out absolutes, but telling women that they are not allowed to judge for themselves whether a given situation merits an exception from the rules, that is indeed what she’s advocating.

      • KarenH

        Right, exactly. Debi’s book teaches women how to live with and enable terrorism.

  • Kit

    This morning I was reading Gavin De Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” and I just read the chapters on intimate violence, where he provides a number of pre-violence indicators and says that if these things happen, you need to leave the marriage and seek help at a battered women’s shelter. One of the biggest indicators is a “refusal to hear the word no.”

    Debi needs to leave this marriage and seek help at a battered women’s shelter.

  • Alexis

    “I am also wondering how this might be applied to an abused child. If you tell an abused child that it is his role to be abused, that his father has every right to beat him and his mother every right to deprive him of food, that it is his purpose in life to be the one who bears his parents’ anger, will he suddenly perk up, smile, and be content with his lot in life? No, of course not. But he may end up believing that it is normal and okay to be beaten, starved, and abused, and even that he deserves it.”

    THIS EXACTLY.

  • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve now said this, but: OMG WHAT IS THIS I CAN’T EVEN.

    Look, I’ve seen an emotionally abusive marriage from the inside (not mine — my parents’), and one thing I can say for sure is that you don’t magically become happy with your lot in life by telling yourself things are good when things are very much not good.

    People don’t get to be right all the time about everything just by virtue of having a penis. What is this, ancient Rome?!

  • Katie

    … Many a woman is sitting alone at seven in the evening, afraid that her ex-husband might try to break in again, and she’s wondering where she and her kids are going to move to next month when they are evicted from their duplex.

    So she was suppose to stay with him? If your ex is breaking into your house (like mine has) there is a very very good reason he is an ex. Any God that would want you to stay with the ex is no God I would want to be associated with.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      LIKE ×eleventy-billion.

    • ako

      Yeah, if him possibly breaking into the house is that bad, having him definitely living there all the time doesn’t suddenly become good.

    • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

      B..b…but DUPLEX!

  • Imperious Dakar

    I am a straight male, but even I can see how unattractive men appear from the Pearl perspective.

    She makes being with a man (at least in a ‘Godly’ way) sound so awful.

    • Stony

      I can almost see how this could feed the whole MRA “bitches be trippin” thought process. If you thought this was how women were supposed to react to you, and in the real world, well, no, nope, not gonna happen, then you could quickly disillusioned. Almost.

      But yes, a hundred times yes, this diminishes men as well as women, and any thinking man should be insulted. You’re given 100% responsibility and the license to act like a spoiled brat…..what could go wrong?

  • Mornacale

    So, if the beginning of wisdom is being afraid of God…

    and the book goes to great lengths to conflate God and the husband…

    Welp.

  • Iris

    I’m utterly impressed how you manage to read, even analyse this stuff. I want to throw up about every 2 lines…
    You know, I’m against book burning on principle but this one? I get it. I really get it. I’d probably supply matches…

    Ps: I’ve also gotten a “You’re posting comments too quickly” twice before (I think I’ve commented a grand total of 3 times or so) and now a third time… Could it be because someone’s posting at the same time? Because I hit the back button and there was suddenly a new comment.

  • saraquill

    I read the statement about “wise women,” and my next thought was “Hey, my arm just got chopped off! Instead of being vexed, I will revel in this sudden weight loss!”

    • Richter_DL

      The glass is half full and you still have another arm! Praise the lord.

  • Little Magpie

    “I swear, when I finish this series, I’m going to celebrate by burning the book. I may even post pictures.”

    Oh dear FSM, please do, Libby Anne. (I can’t believe 23 people have already posted and not said so already!)
    I mean, I’m not generally in favour of burning books; but we’re not talking about burning every copy – just yours. :)

  • Penguin

    “You are created to be your husband’s helper, not his conscience, not his vocation director, and certainly not his critic.”

    Uh… even if we were to take as given that women are created to be a helper to their husband, there’s definitely something missing from Debi’s definition of “helper”. When I ask for help in something, I EXPECT some direction, some criticism, and maybe even some attempt to stop me if what I’m doing is morally wrong or dubious. I realize Debi seems to use the term more as a placeholder for “slave”, but the definitions just don’t match up!

    Also, I’m a bit of a word snob and I’m a bit sick of her using the word “reverence” improperly. The proper term in almost every case she uses it would be “revere”.

    • http://sylvia-rachel.livejournal.com sylvia_rachel

      Seriously. I help my husband with a lot of stuff (and vice versa, obv), but if I stopped providing suggestions, critique, opinions, kibitzing, feedback, and humorous commentary along with the moral support and hugs, he would be like, Who are you and what have you done with my wife???! Likewise, when I ask someone at work for help — even one of my own direct reports, who technically are to some extent supposed to do what I say (it’s not a very hierarchical workplace…) — I fully expect them to let me know if I’m doing, or about to do, something stupid, or if there’s a better/cheaper/faster/easier way to do the thing I asked them to do. In fact, that’s part of their job, just as it’s part of my job to read drafts of my boss’s emails to people she’s mad at and tell her which parts to cut out and which parts to tone down, and let her know if I think a new client she’s thinking of taking on will be more trouble than it’s worth. “Helping” has a lot more to it than slavishly following orders.

      Debi seems to have kind of a Humpty-Dumpty-style relationship with words, have you noticed?

    • Conuly

      Merriam-Webster doesn’t agree and lists reverence as a transitive verb, albeit a rare one.

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reverence

      The OED also lists reverence as a verb with the following, non-obsolete senses:

      a. To regard with reverence or veneration as having a divine or sacred character; (more generally) to worship.

      b. To regard or treat with deep respect; to hold in high esteem as being of an exalted or superior kind.

      That certainly seems to be what she means when she uses the word! It might be stylistically better to use the more common revere, but that doesn’t mean that reverence is the wrong choice. Well, other than that it’s creepy to apply the word to your spouse. Ew.

  • Lauralee Moss

    Debi is not smart. She sees one line, and doesn’t want to believe there are curves and other lines.

  • Richter_DL

    And if a woman acts up against her Master, he may just put the whip to her, or decide he has had enough and sells her on the nearest slave … oh wait. Wrong book.

  • Annie Moose

    I shouldn’t do this all in one go, but I’ve gotten through this point in two days and… I just have to say it: Debi Pearl is a heinous heretic and blasphemer if that’s how she’s interpreting God and Biblical passages. I just do not understand how this woman who claims, oh, everything is TOTES BIBLICAL could so wildly misinterpret the Bible.
    Oh wait, because she’s not actually preaching things from the Bible, she’s preaching insanity made up out of her own mind–or, more likely, her husband’s.
    Not that everything else isn’t bad enough, but the continual equation of husband and God is particularly creepy and horrible to me. That’s almost the worst of the lot because it excuses all the other horrors–if your husband is, after all, effectively God, then yeah, you really don’t have an excuse for not worshipping/obeying/whatever him. And it is so, so, so thoroughly unsupported in the very Bible she tries to use to claim it.