Men Who Really Are Head of the House
“A HUSBAND is head of his wife,” the Bible explains. (Eph. 5:23) Yet, according to reports of social scientists and wives themselves, many modern-day husbands have abdicated their rightful position as head of the house. “Many of my clients complain of the weakness and irresolution of their husbands,” one prominent marriage counselor in New York city reported.
The failure of many men to exercise proper headship is clearly responsible for a large portion of today’s marital problems. What, therefore, is involved in being a proper head of the house? What role should the husband assume in the family? How should he treat his wife?
Some men interpret headship to mean that they should be dictators to their wives. In fact, it has long been the practice in some places for husbands to treat their wives as slaves or worse. But this is not in harmony with the above Scriptural principle, for notice that it says: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” And Christ definitely did not treat his congregation of followers in an unloving manner!
So men who really are the head of the house are not dictatorial bosses. Yet, on the other hand, neither are they weak and irresolute, allowing their wives to assume the role that is rightfully theirs. A proper head is, as Webster’s New Third International Dictionary describes, “one who stands in relation to others somewhat as the head does to other members of the body . . . one in charge of a division or department.” Thus, as the physical head directs the movements and operations of the body, or the head one of a department supervises the organization and work of his staff, so the head of the house should assume charge of the household, having jurisdiction over its activities.
What would happen if the head of a staff of workers knew little or nothing about the work of his department? If he took little interest in what his staff was doing, gave them no directions or instructions, put off making decisions, failed to shoulder responsibility, and forced his subordinates to take charge in order to get anything accomplished, what would they think of him? Why, they would consider him to be a mere figurehead, not a real head. Under such circumstances relations can deteriorate fast.
The situation is similar in a home. If a man turns over leadership and all decision-making to his wife, she quickly loses respect for him as her head. A man that says, “Go ask your mother,” whenever the children ask permission to do something; or, “You decide,” whenever a family decision has to be made, reveals that he is not really the head of the house. And such a home is generally an unhappy one.
What, then, does proper headship involve? Does it mean making all decisions? Does it include directing every activity and movement of one’s wife and children? Not at all! God created humans, including wives and children, to enjoy relative freedom. People are discontent and rebel when their every move and moment of time is directed and scheduled for them.
So proper headship is not a matter of making every decision, but of exercising oversight of all the activities and business of one’s family. It is the man’s responsibility to set the guidelines according to which the household is run. Yet, at the same time, there can be a great latitude of freedom within the bounds set.
For example, a husband may grant his wife almost total freedom to decide how the furniture is to be arranged, what to purchase in the way of food for the family, or to make decisions in other similar matters. Still the husband exercises jurisdiction and, as he sees fit, can issue directives to improve the way things are being handled. Usually, however, kind words of encouragement and well-placed compliments do the most to inspire cooperation and support. A good family head will not withhold praise.
Genuine concern for the welfare of his staff of workers distinguishes a really fine departmental head. Sometimes persons are heard to say about such a one: “I’d do anything for him,” meaning they would cooperate to the fullest extent. Similar expressions are heard concerning men who heed the Bible exhortations: “Husbands, continue loving your wives.” (Eph. 5:25) And: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) To such a considerate, helpful and loving head it is a joy to be subject.
Such a family head is humble. He realizes he does not “know it all.” He acknowledges that his wife and, at times, even his children may know more about certain matters than he does. So he often discusses things with them before making decisions. In this way his wife and children are made to feel close to the family arrangement. Yet, at the same time, they feel secure in knowing that the head of the house is assuming his responsibility.
A man who is really head of the house has initiative; he is not a lazy person. It is understandable that after a hard day’s work he appreciates a little peace and quiet when he comes home, perhaps in perusing the evening newspaper. Nevertheless, he shows initiative by planning and organizing family activities, even as he might plan his business schedule. He sees to it that there are occasional weekend outings with the children and evenings that include some form of family relaxation. He also considers the needs of his wife, perhaps planning an evening out alone with her at times. Such a father and husband is really appreciated and loved.
Still there is another area in which a man who is truly head of the house must take the lead, and that is in teaching his family love and respect for Almighty God. He prays with his family; they regularly attend Christian meetings together, and, as a family, they take an active part in sharing with others what they know about God and his purposes. A man who does this not only is loved by his family but is pleasing to Jehovah God as well.