We discussed how Christ’s model for leadership required humility rather than dominance. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” Jesus taught, “and whoever wants to be first must be your slave…” (Matthew 20:26-27).
Yet dominant leadership seems to be the default for many men who try to control all aspects of their marriage and family. What leads to this kind of thinking?
Typically, the dominating husband has been strongly influenced by the environment of his childhood.
He may have had undernurturing or detached parents. Growing up, a boy needs affection, love, and attention from both parents. When this nurturing influence is weak, he may overdevelop his sense of independence as an emotional defense—which leads to a strong personality.
These types of personalities, I’ve found, tend to be attracted to women with opposite dispositions. She may be nurturing and accepting—which he needs—but also have low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. This combination makes her uniquely accommodating to the man’s forceful personality.
What results is an unhealthy, codependent relationship with little chance for long-term satisfaction. The husband won’t respect the wife because she is weak. The wife will resent the husband because he dominates her.
In a healthy relationship, both spouses have a balanced sense of identity and belonging. Neither has to seek that balance in an unhealthy way through overdependence on the other.
Another cause may be negative modeling. The strongest models in a boy’s formative years are almost always his parents. If he grows up with a dominant father, he is likely to show that trait as well.
In Deuteronomy 5:9, God tells the people of Israel that He will visit the sins of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generation. When children grow up in a sinful environment, it’s hard not to be influenced by the same sins.
And it’s not just an issue related to dominance. It relates to all types of sin.
When a child is constantly exposed to harsh words, immoral behavior, abusive treatment, neglect, and so on, it is no surprise when he or she becomes an adult who exhibits the same traits. He or she will carry those belief systems into marriage and create yet another unhealthy home.
It’s a vicious cycle and it needs to be corrected.
Every person I have ever known or counseled suffers from a sin or personality flaw that developed due to their home environment. Maybe it’s a wife with self-confidence problems, or a dominant husband.
Or maybe they are repeating some other parental sin—prejudice, negativity, pride, religious tradition, gossip, abuse, substance abuse, chauvinism, or anger.
The first step toward defeating these generational traits is to realize that it is not right and, with God’s help, to break that chain of sin you picked up from your home environment.
Examine your own behavior. Are you a dominating husband? Are you a resentful wife? How are these sins impacting your children’s future?
It is vital to love and nourish your children while modeling for them healthy behavior, because the odds are good that they will turn out just like you.