by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
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.
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.
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce