Are You Supportive?—You Can Be!
ON A lovely spring morning a group of travelers were motoring through a beautiful countryside. Among them was an elderly couple who, over the years, had learned the art of give and take. The subject of the conversation furnished an opportunity for the husband to do some good-natured teasing of his wife. Responding in kind, his wife called out: “Tell me, what’ll I do with this man?” One of their traveling companions, who had come through difficult marital problems, replied in a serious, understanding tone: “Love him and support him.”
“Support him”? Do we not usually think of its being the husband’s role to support his wife? Yes, generally the laws of the land require the father and husband to support his wife and children financially. One of the ways in which a man demonstrates that he ‘loves his wife as his own body’ is by providing for her.—Eph. 5:28, 29.
But there is also another kind of support that people can give to one another. It is emotional, mental and moral support. This kind of support is the obligation of each member of a family toward the other. Curiously, some modern students of human nature feel that husbands have more need of this than do their wives. That is, as they face a hostile world they need to feel that the “little woman” at home is backing them up loyally.
Just how much a wife can help her husband in this respect can be seen from the pages of history. There is no question about Sir Winston Churchill’s accomplishing a great deal, performing a prodigious task as England’s prime minister during World War II. He is reported to have stated on one occasion: “It would not have been possible for any man in public life to get through what I have gone through without the devoted assistance of what we in England call one’s better half.” This source goes on to say that she was a very charming woman, one who could well have had a career of her own, but she made her husband’s life and well-being her career. Not, however, that this required her to flatter him, to humor him, to be a “yes” woman. Not at all. In fact, it appears that she was frank with him and stood up to him when she felt the need of doing so.
Furnishing us an even finer example of wifely support is Sarah, the wife of the patriarch Abraham. There is no record that she complained at his being required to do so much wandering around in a foreign land. She did not even complain when he asked her to pose as his sister for his safety. Moreover, we read that when speaking to herself she referred to him as “my lord.” That she was not a wishy-washy wife can be seen from her speaking up to Abraham when the well-being of her son Isaac was threatened by his older half brother Ishmael.—Gen. 18:12; 21:8-14.
In what ways can a wife today be supportive of her husband? One way is noted in a recently published book on making family life happy. In discussing the wife’s role, it says: “What a husband needs is a wife who not only loves and respects him but also is a real helper, supporting him in the decisions that he makes. This is not difficult when decisions are mutually agreed upon after discussion together. But it may not be so easy if you were not consulted or if you do not happen to agree. . . . [But] if he sees you working hard for the success of the project, in spite of your misgivings, don’t you think such loyal support on your part will cause him to love you all the more?” (Italics added.)
What else can a wife watch if she wants to be truly supportive? She must guard against a common weakness that many wives have, namely, that of nagging. Not without good reason does King Solomon of old allude to this. (Prov. 21:19; 25:24) Why do some women engage in it despite really loving their husbands? It could well be due to an unconscious rebellion against the husband’s headship—either because of wanting to have more of a say in matters or to remind the husband that he also is not perfect. Then, again, it may be due to exaggeration of the importance of details. At a social gathering the wife may be mortified by some social faux pas on the part of her husband. Or he may have made some slip in grammar, and so she feels called on to correct him. A wife may make some criticism of his grooming, his tie not having been straight or his hair not having been properly combed when he appeared before the public. To be nagging or harping on such details is doing the opposite of giving support. It is actually breaking down a husband.
Not that giving support is primarily the wife’s role. As already noted, both husbands and wives, yes, both parents and children, have obligations along these lines. One might even be said to be supportively refraining from saying anything if one has nothing positive to say. Why make issues about things that do not really matter? There is a saying to the effect that a little kettle or pot boils over quickly. But if we are big in heart we will not be quick to express displeasure regarding trifles.
On the other hand, there are ever so many ways in which husbands and wives can give positive support to each other. Of course, the most obvious is by expressions of appreciation or commendation. You can be supportive simply by an encouraging and friendly smile, by paying close attention when the other is talking, whether to you or in public. Just by the matter of physical closeness, by being in each other’s presence, preferring it to the company of others, by a squeeze of the hand—mates can be supportive of each other. Especially when things have gone wrong, sympathetic words of love and loyalty, minimizing the damage, seeing some redeeming feature in it, are supportive. All of this can have a most wholesome effect on both, because ‘he who waters will be watered.’—Prov. 11:25.
Besides, are not family members, in being supportive of one another, simply obeying the Golden Rule in doing to others what they would have others do to them? Surely they are.—Luke 6:31.
So are you supportive? You not only CAN be but SHOULD be, for your own sake as well as that of others.