How do I lead without lording over my wife?: Men share their hearts and hurdles as head of the household in Salt&Light Family Night
by Christine Leow // October 3, 2022, 4:49 pm
David Ang (standing, centre) and his wife Amy (standing, right) with their children and oldest son Emmanuel's girlfriend (seated, right). Photo courtesy of David Ang.
David Ang and his wife, Amy, have been married for 27 years. They are not merely partners at home, but partners at work and in ministry as well.
They co-founded IPGA Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based company providing professional guardianship services. Husband and wife also often share at talks about the heart of the Father.
Yet, equal partnership has not always been easy in their union.
“Amy is a very supportive wife. I grew up very alpha. I was a student leader in school, an officer in the army and became a CEO very early in life. So, I was always in a leadership position for the most part of my life.
“It is a complementary leadership in our marriage.”
“When I came into marriage, I also adopted that kind of posture that I had to lead Amy,” said David.
He soon realised that in terms of “being close to God and understanding God”, his wife was actually ahead of him.
“Amy is a very prayerful person. In her own quiet way, she knows God’s heart more than I do. Sometimes, I over-estimate my ability.”
He learnt to draw inspiration from her faithful walk with God while sharing with her insights he gleaned from being part of God’s work beyond the local church.
“I have been seeing what God is doing in the big picture. I bring those back to her and she’s excited.
“We are constantly talking about what God is doing in the big picture, how God is moving families. In those areas I do have a part in leading her. I think it is just complementary leadership in our marriage.”
Meet the panel
David was on the panel of Salt&Light Family Night (September 27) sharing on the topic, How can a man be a loving leader at home?
He has three children aged 24, 20 and 18. His oldest son, Emmanuel, an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was also present.
Completing the panel was Pastor Lee Teck Hong, a pastor at Bethesda Bedok-Tampines Church (BBTC) who has three children. Ps Teck Hong started a ministry for men at BBTC called Men in BBTC (MiB). He also established the Shanghai and Mongolia chapters of MiB.
As a family and men’s ministry advocate, Ps Teck Hong is an Exco member of Elijah 7000 as well as a ministry partner and speaker with Global Reachout. He is a master trainer at The World Needs A Father, and the founder and contributing vlogger at Let’s Chat About Fathers (一起谈爸爸) as well.
“We have to have a constant reminder that our wife is our partner, not our competitor.”
Of the 240 viewers on Salt&Light Family Night, more than a third (37%) were fathers. Mothers made up nearly a quarter (24%). Singles made up 27% and those married without children were in the minority (12%).
Asked to describe a father’s leadership in the home, “firm” was the word of choice for most viewers. “Loving” came in at a close second while “sacrificial”, “involved” and authoritative” were tied at third place.
The mother’s leadership in the home drew a different response. Most described Mum as “loving”. Coming in second were words like “nurturing”, “sacrificial” and “tiger mum”. The next most popular description was “caring”.
On the issue of leadership in the home, viewers had many questions about the role of husbands who lead and wives who submit. These were the insights and wisdom shared by the panellists.
How can husbands lead when their wives have strong personalities?
“My wife, Amy, has a strong personality. The key is being very sensitive when the pulses and nerves are pushed when very strong subjects are brought up.
“That involves not just getting a piece of your mind across but, at that moment, showing sensitivity, showing empathy, and just understanding,” said David.
He does this by slowing down the tempo of the conversation and assuring his wife that he is on her side. But this requires some humility, he admitted.
“In matters to do with the family, Ps Teck Hong advised that listening to the heart is very important.”
“There is no moment you are on the other side because you are one, you are on the same side.
“Winning the heart is more important than winning the argument.”
Ps Teck Hong agreed: “We have to have a constant reminder that our wife is our partner, not our competitor. A lot of time when we talk, we have the horrible habit of wanting to be right. We want to be on top, at an advantage.
“So, we talk to respond. We don’t actually talk to communicate. And when we talk to respond, we lose very important verbal and non-verbal messages.”
In matters to do with the family, Ps Teck Hong advised that listening to the heart is very important.
“Stay within the realm of feelings. Try not to zero in on the facts and figures, which sometimes don’t convey the whole picture.”
What does submission of wives look like?
David shared that Ephesians 5:21, which calls for Christians to submit to one another, forms a preamble to the household code which asks wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.
“That is a very compelling starting point. We do not lord over one another but submit to one another because we love the Lord, we fear the Lord.
“When we talk to respond rather than to communicate, we lose very important verbal and non-verbal messages.”
“In Ephesians 5:22, the wife submits to the husband in the same way she submits to the Lord. The wife submits to the Lord because she knows that this is a loving God who will love her, protect her, shelter her and take responsibility for her nurturing and her well-being.
“If the submission is to a God who is like this, then the same expectation is for her husband to also be like this. If a husband wants the wife to submit, then the husband had better get quite close to who the Lord is.”
In the following verse – Ephesians 5:23 – David added that being the head is not about merely being in authority or being able to lead but also being able to “think, love and guide”.
“The verse says that husbands are to love as Christ loves the Church. If husbands, you want your wife to submit to you, you have to ask, ‘Did I sacrifice in the same way as Christ sacrificed for the church and, through that sacrifice, enunciate the same kind of love that Christ has for the church?’”
What happens when there are differences of opinion?
Ps Teck Hong put things in practical terms by reminding husbands that when God asked wives to submit to their husbands, he was not talking about “who is bigger or who is more important”.
“God is saying, ‘Somehow, I have appointed men to bear the responsibility.’ Wives submitting doesn’t mean you have no say.
Being the head is not about merely being in authority or being able to lead, but also being able to “think, love and guide”.
“You may look at the process as discussing things robustly. At the end of the day, even though there is a difference in opinion, for the sake of unity, we adopt the principle of: I may not agree with you but I submit to you because I trust you.”
David added that open communication is important for such discussions and that if wives have a different opinion, they need to back up their points of view with information.
Ps Teck Hong had a note of caution to husbands: “For the husband’s side, don’t get too pleased that people submit to you. Ultimately, the submission means you bear the responsibility. God will come to you at the end of the day, holding you responsible.
“So, before you want this wife to submit to you, you’d better think properly, do your homework and have a proper discussion.”
To illustrate how this works in his family, Ps Teck Hong related how, when his youngest son was much younger and used to love gaming, his wife felt that their child was always playing just before dinner and wanted him to stop. When their child displayed a “rebellious streak” and refused to stop for dinner with the family, his wife wanted to confiscate his handphone.
Ps Teck Hong intervened with a different method, something he had learnt in a seminar about dealing with children addicted to technology.
He went to his son and expressed interest in the game the boy was playing. As they chatted, he had the chance to ask if his son was addicted to gaming. His son said that he was not.
“The submission is not that ‘I am bigger, I am the father’.”
“I told him, ‘Prove to me you are not addicted to the game by showing me you have control.’”
Ps Teck Hong challenged his son to stop playing on his own and to appear on time at the dinner table. His son did just that.
“Sometimes, we do things for our children’s good. But the way that we execute ‘doing good’ is our way, without considering their situation.
“In this case, trust in our son was a form of empowerment. We got what we wanted – he stopped his game and came for dinner. He got what he wanted – he could play his game.
“We demonstrated that we trusted our son and he demonstrated that he was not addicted to gaming.”
He further encouraged couples to extend open discussions with their children through family meetings. Family WhatsApp chats can be used to solicit opinions on topics.
“Use it to discuss, ‘What do you think about this?’, so that the submission is not that ‘I am bigger, I am the father; I say, so you’d better do’.
“Collectively we discuss and agree, but the father bears full responsibility knowing that everybody is behind him.”
How can wives submit if husbands are passive and don’t lead?
“You can’t immediately associate passivity with a lack of leadership.
“I have seen very few of this where the passivity arises from a fractured identity.”
“I’ve seen seemingly passive fathers who have strong ideas on how to lead a family.
“It’s just that they may be a bit quieter, they may not be the first one to put up their hand.
“There is still a lot of strength and leadership and character that can be drawn from these husbands,” said David.
However, if the husband is really not actively participating in decision-making in the home, there may be a “deeper inner issue with the man”.
“That goes down to identity, the masculine expression of a father. If that is such a case, there would be a need for certain ministry attention to this brother. But I have seen very few of this where the passivity arises from a fractured identity.”
How can wives submit if their husbands are spiritually less mature?
1. Stand by him
“The last thing you want the husband to feel is that he has another enemy at home. Through the wisdom of God, ask, ‘How can I close ranks with my husband?’” said David.
“When husbands exude a kind of love that brings a semblance of God’s love in her heart, she sees an increase in God’s love.”
“When a husband feels that his wife is closing ranks with him, it increases his sense of identity as a husband and a father, and he will express his fatherhood from there.
“Be a friend to your husband, a very good friend who is willing to journey with him.”
David shared how he closed ranks with his wife who is “very deep spiritually as a person” but not as experienced in ministry participation. He encouraged her by suggesting that they reached out to someone as a couple.
“When I communicated that to her, I told her, ‘I see where you are coming from. I accept you are a bit more hesitant. That is fine. I’ll come alongside with you and grow together with you.’
“When I closed ranks with her, she felt more affirmed in who she was. She could sense God through the love of a husband.
“When husbands exude the kind of love that brings a semblance of God’s love into the wife’s heart, she sees an increase in God’s love. Then, she sees a deeper image of who she is, and will be more willing to step out.”
2. Slow your pace to match
David added that the person who is ahead spiritually must be prepared to “come back and be at the same pace as your spouse” because that “communicates a deep, passionate, loving message to the spouse”.
In his experience, when he did that for his wife, he found that God accelerated their growth as a couple in ministry.
“God planted this beautiful thing in our lives.”
3. Don’t compare
Ps Teck Hong told wives not to let inflated expectations of their husbands cause an issue in the marriage.
Comparisons with other husbands and other couples should be avoided because it can “tear your husband down” and demean him, dampening any desire for improvement.
More important than knowing more Scripture or being “ahead” spiritually is the heart conviction of the husband.
“As long as you are walking together, it is always a good starting point to work on.”
How can marriages experiencing difficulties be helped?
1. Be in a community
Ps Teck Hong maintained that being in a community can help couples prevent their relationship from deteriorating to the point of no return, because there are trusted people around to offer advice or point out pitfalls.
2. Get help
With a community, couples have people to turn to when their marriage encounters problems, added David.
Ps Teck Hong agreed: “Don’t try to attempt to handle it alone. There are many people who are trained to handle these kinds of situations – counsellors, pastors, friends.
“Assuming you cross over to the point of no return and a divorce takes place, it’s a drastic change. When you come out of a bad relationship and are looking for a fresh start, have a fresh start with inner healing.”
How can husbands be better leaders to their wives?
Ps Teck Hong urged couples to go for pre-marital counselling.
“Training is important. You think you know things until you are confronted with the reality of living with someone. Then you realise you actually don’t know much.”
Marriage courses are important, too.
“Until you are confronted with that reality of living with someone, you actually don’t know much.”
“What you learn is built on the mistakes of others and the price paid by them.”
When given the chance to have a marriage mentor, accept the offer, he told couples. These mentors can help “navigate life’s potholes so you avoid making costly mistakes”.
Emmanuel, who grew up with parents who set him a loving example of biblical leadership, learnt from them the importance of open communication. He appreciated the effort they put in to be role models.
“Take on the position that your parents are trying to do their best for you. I don’t think there are parents wishing the worst for their kids.
“Parents are still human. They are learning and developing through their parenthood. Be patient and be cognisant that everyone is just trying to journey together in this whole game called life.”
This report is Part 2 of the Salt&Light Family Night episode on How can a man be a loving leader at home?You can read Part 1 here.
A full recording of this episode will be posted on the Salt&Light YouTube channel at the end of the week. You can watch past episodes of Salt&Light Family Night on our YouTube channel here.
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