The Vital Calling to Protect Your Wife’s Self-Esteem

The Vital Calling to Protect Your Wife’s Self-Esteem

On one occasion, a man accompanied his friend home for dinner and was impressed by the way his friend entered his house, asked his wife how her day went, and told her she looked pretty. After they ate, the husband complimented his wife on the meal and thanked her for it. When the two guys were alone, the visitor asked, “Why do you treat your wife so well?” “Because she deserves it and it makes our marriage happier,” replied the host. Impressed, the visitor decided to adopt the idea. Arriving home, he embraced his wife and exclaimed, “You look wonderful!” For good measure, he added, “Sweetheart, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” His wife, amazed, burst into tears. Bewildered, he asked her, “What in the world is the matter?” She wept, “What a day! Billy fought at school. The refrigerator quit and spoiled the groceries. And now you come home drunk!”

We chuckle, yet sadly this joke represents a good many marriages. Instead of hearing refreshing words of praise and appreciation from their husbands, countless wives endure each day with parched souls and sad hearts. Being starved for words of affirmation, they feel worthless, unattractive, and unappreciated. This episode examines a biblical role of husbands that you may have thought little about—our job to protect our wife’s self-esteem. Life and self-doubt will eventually crush her sense of worth if we don’t keep binding up the wounds to her self-esteem, covering them with the salve of our reassuring words of affirmation.

Some years ago, Christian psychologist James Dobson noticed how common feelings of depression were in Christian wives and mothers. So, he conducted a survey asking them to identify which feminine problems cause them most frequently to feel depressed. On the list were loneliness, problems with the kids, lack of romantic love, sexual problems, financial difficulties, in-law conflict, and fatigue. But none of these topped the list. The leading cause of depression listed was low self-esteem. In fact, this topped the list of over fifty percent of the women interviewed. Dobson wrote:

“This finding is perfectly consistent with my own observations and expectations; even in seemingly healthy and happily married young women, personal inferiority and self-doubt cut the deepest and leave the most wicked scars. This same old nemesis is usually revealed within the first five minutes of a counseling session; feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence, certainty of worthlessness have become a way of life, or too often a way of despair for millions of American women.” (What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women.)

Many wives find these feelings too personal to share even with their husbands. But Christian counselors, whose clientele is mostly wives, hear them often:

“It is wondering why you have no ‘real’ friends. It is longing for someone to talk to, soul to soul, but feeling that ‘they wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me.’ It is wondering why other people have so much more talent and ability than you do. It is feeling incredibly ugly and sexually unattractive. It is disliking everything about yourself and wishing you could be someone else. It is feeling unloved and unlovable and lonely and sad.” (Ibid).

Against this backdrop of feminine existence, we discover something that is startling in Scripture. God spells out that his design for a husband is to daily bind up the wounds to his wife’s tender self-esteem through covering her heart with the salve of praise. Proverbs 31 is not just about a virtuous woman but a godly man as well! Her husband rises up and calls her blessed. He praises her: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all (vs 28).


A. You are the one who knows her the best—body and soul. The purpose of marriage is to enjoy such nakedness but still know that your mate loves you unconditionally, warts and all. Because you know all her flaws, you can communicate God’s great, merciful, lovingkindness better than anyone else. For you to regularly see her deficiencies and failures, but still cherish her is to pour Christ-like love into her heart, continually reassuring her through your words how precious and wanted she still is.

B. Life beats all of us down, including your wife. We all fail. We all feel inadequate at times. We all make mistakes. Since you are a part of her everyday life you see these blows to her self-image and are in a position to put the soothing salve of tender acceptance on their wounds when it is most needed. But it is even better to keep a constant flow of affirmation coming, which has an insulating effect in a world that is certain to bring blows to her self-image.

C. Your wife lives in a world that exalts youthful beauty and sexual attractiveness. Being beautiful and making her surroundings beautiful is at the core of God’s creation design of woman. She knows she is losing her beauty; age is stealing it. Wrinkles aren’t pretty. Sagging breasts don’t feel sexy. She may know you still love her. But she needs to feel attractive inwardly and outwardly. Feelings come and go, which is why she needs a steady diet of words valuing the inner beauty of her character that can never fade away.

D. She was created to complete YOU. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Her God-designed identity is being YOUR suitable helper. She wants to look nice, smell nice and create a beautiful home FOR YOU. Because she was created to complete YOU, she needs to know that YOU value her many feminine virtues. If her role is to help you, your assurance that she is the perfect mate for you meets a profound need in her heart. Your words of appreciation may be the only paycheck she receives. How do you feel when you work for a boss who never verbalizes praise for your work?


A. Understand that your most powerful set of muscles is not your quads—but those making up your tongue. Provers 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue. James tells us that the tongue is so powerful, it can’t be tamed. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God (3:7-9). It can powerfully tear down or powerfully build up.

B. Follow Scripture’s formula when you send verbal bullets tearing into your wife or child’s self-esteem. In a culture where the Pharisees were satisfied with their superficial righteousness, Jesus taught that kingdom restoration not only overthrows the practice of doing harm to another’s body but doing harm to another’s soul as well. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Very simply, when our sharp, angry, or careless words wound her, we need to man up, grieve over the pain we have inflicted to a very raw and tender part of her self-esteem, and seek forgiveness. The pain of humbling ourselves, listening to God’s Spirit convict us to obey Matt 5:24 by asking, “Would you forgive me?” is the only pain I know that is severe enough to teach us to restrain our tongues in the future. (Even then they aren’t fully tamed).

C. Overcome your irritation with her shortcomings. Meeting your wife’s need to feel valuable won’t happen when you are feeling critical of her. Are there things about her that aren’t changing and really bother you? Do you wish she weren’t so critical of you? Are you bothered that she has put on weight that she won’t deal with? Do you tire of some of her annoying habits?  Do you resent the fact that she is not more sexually inviting, finding yourself envious of husbands whose wives want and enjoy sex more than yours does? Do you feel like she is better at disrespecting you than respecting you as Scripture calls her to do?

Gary Smalley, in his book, If Only He Knew, provides invaluable help for husbands to transform their criticism of their wives by finding the positive side to their wife’s “negative” traits, (to which I’ve added a few of my own).

Negative Trait              Positive Trait

1.  Nosy          She may be very alert or sociable.

2.  Touchy          She may be very sensitive.

3.  Manipulating          She may be resourceful with many creative ideas.

4.   Stingy          She may be very thrifty.

5.   Talkative          She may be very expressive and dramatic.

6.   Flighty          She may be naturally enthusiastic about new ideas.

7.   Too serious          She may be very sincere with strong convictions.

8.   Insensitive          She may be uncompromising in her convictions.

9.   Rigid          She may be a well-disciplined person with high standards.

10. Overbearing          She may be a very confident person.

11. A dreamer          She may be very creative and imaginative.

12. Too fussy          She may be very organized and efficient.

13. Disorganized          She may be easily distracted because she is a people-person.

14. Overspends          She may love people wanting them to have the best.

15. Blunt          She may be very discerning.

Before our heart is grateful enough to continually lavish our wives with praise, we may need to train ourselves to look for the strengths behind her weakness.

D. Practice gratefulness for her. Realize that meeting your wife’s need to feel valued begins in YOUR heart. Proverbs 18:22 says, He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. How grateful to God are you for your wife?

Here is the most accurate, scientific, objectively true assessment of your wife's value: She is far more precious than jewels. (Prov 31:10). Do you feel that way about her? You cannot meet her need for constant affirmation if you are not genuinely grateful to God for bringing her to you. She’s too smart. She will see right through an attempt to “be a good husband by saying nice words to her.” They must originate in your heart of gratefulness for her. Here is a practical way to train our hearts in gratefulness, based upon Psalm 100. Verse three says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” I have applied this at times to praying for my family members, especially Sandy. As I enter into God’s courts, i.e. come into God’s presence to pray for her, I begin with thanking God for her, before interceding for her. It is amazing how this small habit can change us into more thankful people. I confess I need to get back to this habit. God’s command to his redeemed people is, Be thankful (Col 3:15). When we stop and think about it, has any earthly blessing enriched our lives more than the gift of our wife and mother of our children? Are we thanking God enough for the gift of one who GOD SAYS is more precious than jewels?

E. Employ “feminine beauty recognition” technology. Just as facial recognition technology identifies key components of a human facial profile and then uses that profile as a lens to later identify a person, lets identify key components of godly womanhood so our profile lens is set to spot such beauty when we see it in our wives. This profile, revealed in Proverbs 31:10ff is an acrostic; each verse begins with the next word of the Hebrew alphabet so that every young girl in Israel could memorize this profile of excellent womanhood. We need to learn these profile distinctives so our feminine beauty recognition program will click “match” when they appear in our wives’ behavior and attitudes. Here are some examples of the inner beauty profile with possible words of praise that match this profile.

Vs 12: The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. You’re so dependable. You do such a great job on follow-through. You’re such a great partner because I know I can count on you. I love having a partner I can trust to make wise decisions. Thanks for all the ways you love me by making our house a great home. Thanks for your emotional support; it helps me succeed in the rest of what God wants me to do. You add so much to my life!  Thanks for serving me by…..

Vs 13, 18:  She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. In her culture she was responsible for clothing her family. Instinctively her hands are busy taking care of other’s needs. Thanks for the way you devote yourself to taking care of the needs of our family. You do a fabulous job of thinking about the little things we need for everyday life. Thanks for stopping and picking that up at the store—I wouldn’t have even thought of it until it was too late. I’m proud of the way our kids are so well dressed when we go out in public.

Vs 14: She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. You are the best shopper I know. I can’t believe what a smart shopper you are. How did you get those for such an amazingly low price? Thanks for all the online work you put in to find such a good deal.

Vs 15: She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. I can’t believe how well you automatically think about what is needed for tomorrow. Thanks for all you do to plan the meals around here! That dinner was awesome; how did you make it taste so good?

Vs 16, 24: She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Clearly, she is engaged in business, enriching her family through her earnings. Honey, thanks for sharing the economic support of the family ALONG WITH EVERYTHING ELSE YOU DO FOR US. Your industriousness has made it possible for our whole family to enjoy so many nice things!  Your skills are amazing; we could never reach our family’s financial goals without the awesome success of your business.

Vs 17: She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Her lamp does not go out at night. Your endurance when you are involved in a project to serve others is amazing. Your commitment to looking after our practical needs is so like Jesus; it really challenges me. I love the way you are always doing something with your hands to serve us, sorting laundry, knitting or something else, even late in the evening while relaxing.

Vs 20: She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. I’m so glad that you invited them over to our house. I love the way you are always thinking of others. You are so thoughtful; what a great way to love on them. I love your generous heart—always wanting to share with others our blessings.

Vs 21: She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Honey, you are the best at planning ahead. You do such a great job of staying ahead of our needs; how do you do that? You always pick out such cute clothes for the kids.

Vs 25: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. Have I ever told you that I love your modesty and the elegant way you dress? Your jewelry with that outfit is awesome; it makes you even more beautiful. I respect the way you’ve been so patient with the way she’s treating you. Thanks that you have so much inner strength; I know I need a partner who can carry a lot of weight. Your refusal to worry about anything in the future, because of your faith, inspires me.

Vs 26: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. You have so much to teach young wives and moms. Your life is such a model of kindness—focusing your eyes on what others need and providing that for them; I’m sure your example is having a great impact on others. You are so wise and discerning, I need your thoughts on this….

Please become familiar with this profile of virtuous femininity so that when your wife matches it—like facial rec software does—you notice it and then can lavish her with encouragement.

The power of encouraging words and notes of affirmation never ceases to amaze me. I think of a true story about a middle school math teacher who handed her students a list of the names of all the students in their class, and asked the students to each write the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates. She then collected them, compiled them, and handed each student the list of positive things said about him or her. Several years later, one of those students, Mark Ekland, was killed in Vietnam. The math teacher and many of the students attended the funeral. At the luncheon afterwards, Mark’s father approached the math teacher and said, “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” He handed her two, folded, sheets of notebook paper that had been taped, folded, and refolded many times. It was the list of good things Mark’s classmates had written about him in eighth grade. Several of Mark’s classmates were standing nearby and overheard the conversation. One by one they began to reveal that each of them still carried his or her sheet of comments and read it often. Some carried it in a wallet; one had even put it in his wedding album. One young man said, “I think we all saved our list.”

“The power of life is in the tongue,” says God. The words we say to build up our wife’s self-esteem, when life has hammered it, bring LIFE. That muscle has enormous power to energize, empower, build up, and express reassuring love to our wife. May all of us commit today to thoroughly exercising that muscle!

For Further Prayerful Thought:

  1. In your own words, describe the inner feelings of a wife who is suffering from low self-esteem.
  2. In your view, what are the weightiest arguments for the husband being the primary means by which these inner feelings of inferiority are alleviated?
  3. Of the five steps to praising our wives more, the first four had to do with getting our hearts to feel grateful for her. What insights did you gain that might help you better do that?
  4. What steps do you need to take to program your “inner feminine beauty recognition” program to better recognize your wife matching the woman of virtue in Proverbs 31 and turn that recognition into words of praise?