Do Not Neglect Your Mate!
A COUPLE is leaving the Kingdom Hall. The smiling faces of the husband and wife reflect the happiness they enjoy as “one flesh,” united in worship of their God, Jehovah. (Matthew 19:6) However, they have not always enjoyed that unity or shared the same belief. There was a time when the wife, Atsuko, attended meetings by herself. She would then go home to an irate husband who yelled at her. Her husband, Kazutaka, was once so angry that he grabbed the dinner table and, in one thrust, threw the whole supper on the floor.
Just as Jesus foretold, true Christianity has brought division in some households. (Matthew 10:34, 35) Yet, like Kazutaka and Atsuko, some now enjoy religious unity and happiness in their home. Such unity did not just happen, of course. What did the believers do to overcome the opposition and bring about true harmony in the family? Before we look into that, let us see just why some spouses oppose.
Why Did They Oppose?
“As I look back,” Atsuko confides, “I realize that I went off to the meetings without ever explaining matters to my husband.” Left alone without being informed, Kazutaka became angry.
Flames of opposition may also flare up because of jealousy. One young husband, Shigeo, developed unfounded suspicions about his wife’s new associates. “As my wife put on makeup and went off to the meetings, I thought she had another man.” “We never really had a chance to talk just between the two of us,” admits Masako, his wife. “I never did express my heartfelt desire that he too learn the Christian truth.”
Toshiko, a housewife, felt as Shigeo did. “When my husband began to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I objected because he gradually increased the time he spent with the congregation. I took to the bottle to escape from my feelings while he was gone.”
Toshiko’s expression hinted at another reason—loneliness. That is how some former opposers felt when their mates regularly went off to their meetings. “Alone in the house, I felt deserted,” one husband recalls. “I felt as if my wife and children were leaving me,” says another. Since most men find it hard to say, “I am lonely, please stay home,” some turn to opposing the mate’s religious practice.
Pressure from friends and relatives may sometimes lead to opposition from a normally understanding mate. It is said that in the Orient a wife is generally “adopted into the family rather than united with her husband.” Pressure from relatives can easily produce discord. Takashi’s Christian wife declined to take part in worship at the family Buddhist altar. “To complicate matters,” Takashi explains, “we lived near my folks. My mother pressured me, so I threatened my wife and used violence.”
Misunderstandings, blown out of proportion by poor communication, jealousy, loneliness, or pressure from relatives, can erupt into violence. A man who used to beat his wife admits: “I didn’t want to lose my family to a religion.” Another says: “I hated coming home to an empty house.” Perhaps they reasoned, ‘If words can’t stop this religious fervor, a few punches will.’
Happily, all the couples mentioned above were later united in worship. Their vexatious experiences are now in the past. But having gone through them, they are in a good position to offer practical suggestions that could help to defuse potentially explosive situations and possibly bring about united worship in families that are still divided in this respect.
Stick to the Truth
When you extend your hand to pull a drowning person out of the water, you must have a firm footing yourself. If you do not, you too might end up in the water. Likewise, the key to helping your mate is to have a firm hold on the lifesaving truth yourself. “When my opposition was at its worst,” says one who formerly opposed, “my wife still took the children by the hand and went to the meetings. If she had slackened, I might have doubted that her faith was genuine.”
Kazutaka, who overturned the dinner table, reveals what changed his attitude as he tells the rest of his story: “Finally, I refused to give Atsuko money for transportation. Even so, she went to all the meetings and took the children along. To do so, she sold her personal belongings, little by little. I felt foolish and lost the will to oppose her. Instead, I began to read the magazines that she left out for me to see.”
Communicate With Your Mate
“I should have invited my husband to join me and let him know that I wanted us to study the Bible together,” says Kazutaka’s wife, Atsuko. “He was anxious about me and the family. Good communication would have gone a long way to alleviate his anxiety.” Yes, good communication is the key to understanding. The Bible counsels: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk.” (Proverbs 15:22) In this context, “confidential talk” with your mate concerning your religious activities must be well-thought-out and engaged in tactfully. “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 16:23) It is equally important to be discreet in choosing the right time to speak.—Ecclesiastes 3:7.
How you speak is perhaps as important as what you say. The apostle Paul admonishes: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” (Colossians 4:6) When you speak graciously, in a tasteful manner, your mate will be less inclined to close his or her ears to what you have to say.
Many husbands find it difficult to be taught by their wives. So wives need to be resourceful. Kikuyo made good use of the Watch Tower Society’s publications. She says: “As soon as my Awake! came in the mail, I would peruse it for items that would interest my husband. Then I prayed for an opportunity to share those with him.” She would leave the magazine in the bathroom and check the pages every day to see if he had read an article. When he did not seem to read on, she would change the magazine. Kikuyo’s husband is now a ministerial servant and a pioneer.
The Power of Fine Conduct
But what if your mate is not willing to discuss religion with you? Becoming acquainted with other Christians may quench your mate’s fiery opposition and move him or her to study the Bible. Masao, now an elder, at one time forbade Jehovah’s Witnesses to set foot in his home. He recalls: “I finally agreed to a Bible study with the Witnesses after my wife begged me to help in building the Kingdom Hall. I was touched to see everyone happily working together—without pay.”
What can you do if your mate refuses to discuss religion with anybody? “If any are not obedient to the word,” exhorts the apostle Peter, “they may be won without a word through the conduct of their [mates].” For example, what kind of conduct on the part of a Christian wife can win her husband? “Chaste conduct together with deep respect” that reveals “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit,” says Peter.—1 Peter 3:1-4.
One Christian wife applied this principle when her opposing husband was involved in a scandal. Although it brought him social disgrace and financial ruin, he did not hear one word of complaint from her or from the children. “I knew that their outstanding behavior was due to their Bible study,” the husband admitted. After years of opposition, he started to read the Bible. Other husbands who later became Witnesses observe: “I had been a henpecked husband, but suddenly my wife respected me as head of the house.” “When my business associates came to our house, my wife warmly welcomed them. I liked that.”
Fine conduct of children, too, can soften the heart of opposers. Asked what changed his attitude, a father who had previously opposed his wife said: “When my two-and-a-half-year-old son sensed that I was about to lose my temper, he would cry out in a loud voice and recite: ‘Love is long-suffering and kind.’” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) This well-taught boy moved his father to investigate the Bible. Many fathers have decided to examine the Bible because their children begged them to study.
Finally, a cheerful approach and a sense of humor can do wonders for your mate’s attitude. One husband told his believing wife to take whatever she wanted and get out, never to come back again. “I want neither my child, nor money, nor material things,” answered his wife. Then she spread out a large furoshiki (cloth used in Japan to wrap and carry things) and said: “Nothing is more precious to me than you. You get in the furoshiki! I want to take you with me.” The husband stopped opposing, started to study the Bible, and now serves as an elder.
If you stick to the truth, maintain good communication, provide wholesome association, and conduct yourself in a fine manner, you may be able to help your mate to become a believer. “Even if it doesn’t sound as if your mate is becoming a believer,” says a former opposer, “he may be changing at heart.” So do not give up. Take to heart the encouragement of the apostle Paul to all those with unbelieving mates: “Wife, how do you know but that you will save your husband? Or, husband, how do you know but that you will save your wife?”—1 Corinthians 7:16.