How "Love & Respect" Steals the Souls of Good Men

Sarah McDugal
Aug 1, 2022

Q: What about the good, gentle, decent Christian boy who feels pressured by marriage and dating books, pastoral counsel, and parenting advice -- to handle his marriage in a heavy-handed, power-imbalanced way in order to prove his leadership/headship/masculinity? Are we training young men to be abusers?!?!

Sadly, I would say that far too often YES, this is exactly the case. 

The church tends to hold up a standard of “biblical manhood” that simultaneously emasculates men (you are helpless to control your sexual urges) and beastifies them (you must RULE your marriage and family and keep them under control). 

Neither approach reflects the tender servant-hearted example of Christ on earth. Both approaches set good honest men up for failure, while also harming others around them. 

The call for the Christian world to do better isn’t ONLY for the safety of women. 
It is also a call to set free the hearts of men. 

A huge part of the problem is that the average man has never been shown how to articulate his feelings, and never been given a sense of strong healthy identity outside of his muscular strength, sexual prowess, or financial success. 

I believe there are tens of thousands of good, honest, loving, caring men who desperately want to do right by their wives and children yet have never been given the tools. 
Related book review: 

Unconditional Respect for Your Son? Why Emerson Eggerichs' Advice to Moms is Actually Idolatry

The world tells men to achieve the pinnacle of masculine identity by conquering. 

Sadly, the church also advocates for manhood by conquering. Then the church makes it worse by adding a spiritually abusive component... “it’s your biblical job to exert power-over and make others submit, because Jesus said so...” 

Except He didn’t. 

Jesus never told men to assert flex in order to achieve identity. And it’s not the example He modeled in His own life either. 

Most boys are never taught how to name or express emotions outside of anger, pride or lust -- from toddlerhood up. Few boys are shown ways to openly and safely discuss their feelings, or to listen and hold space for the emotions of others. 

We typically stop giving our sons safe, non-sexual affection once they hit puberty. We stop holding them, hugging them, snuggling them, and filling up their need for healthy touch — from the time their hormones hit, onward. 

In this dynamic, after puberty the only place a boy can hope to find refuge for his heart is in bed. The only place he can hope to feel affection and warmth and hugs is from a sexual partner. 

Add the social epidemic of increasingly earlier exposure to violent, aggressive, exploitative, sexual content (helllooooo pandemic internet porn explosion) — and our precious boys' hearts and brains are sabotaged against becoming healthy young men before they even reach maturity. 

Then, so many churches tell them they are scripturally entitled to power, dominance, and getting every sexual whim met on demand the moment they have a ring on their finger — and that these are the ways to prove strong Biblical masculinity. THIS is the path to the identity they’ve been taught to seek. 

But Jesus’ example? 

Jesus' life looked literally NOTHING like that. 
He served. 
He healed. 
He listened. 
He told stories. 

And when there were predators exploiting the vulnerable within the temple’s abusive systems, he cracked  whips and flipped tables! 

But the rest the of time? Christ’s presence was gentle. 


In other words, Christ was the living embodiment of the Fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Why does the church exalt these qualities typically as feminine, rather than masculine?  
Related article:

13 Ways to Raise An Abuser

When Paul outlines how husbands are to treat their wives in Ephesians 5, he says just one thing - love like Jesus did. That means...

Love with your daily gentle life. 
Lay it down to protect the ones in your care. 
Love in the same selfless way Christ did. 

The amazing thing? There’s no requirement to possess a certain personality type in order to love like this. 

You don’t have to bombastic up-front kind of guy to be this kind of leader. 
You don’t have to be rich, or flashy, or stylish, or highly educated, or know it all.
You don't have to talk or dress any specific way to lead and love like Jesus did. 

You just have to have the absence of ego. 
And have a heart to listen, learn, and put others' needs first. 

Self-control is the greatest form of strength.

To a godly woman, there is absolutely NOTHING sexier and more appealing than a humble, teachable, tender-hearted, self-metered man. A man you can trust. A man who knows where he stands. A man who is willing to fight for the right and use his strength to protect those in his care, tho the heavens fall. 

I 💯 believe the secular world has generally created toxic expectations for men to live up to. 

I 💯 believe the church community has ALSO created toxic expectations for men to live up to. 

A lot of headship-promoting patriarchalists immediately get their hackles up at the idea of genuinely living a gentle life the way Jesus did, and start squawking… "BUT THEN WHO HOLDS THE POWER??? WHO MAKES THE FINAL CALL??? WHO GETS THE LAST WORD???"

Others get their hackles up from the opposite side of the chasm. "IT’S TIME FOR WOMEN TO HAVE THEIR TURN!!! TAKE BACK THE POWER FROM MEN!!! WREST CONTROL INTO OUR OWN HANDS!!!"

Both extremes are missing the entire heart of God.
Both extremes are trapped in a worship issue. 

If the focus is on "Who gets the power?", then the object of worship isn't Christ, it's self. Regardless of the angle.

And you know what that mindset creates?
The kind of thinking where a sex addict feels justified in murdering Asian women because he has the RIGHT to “remove his temptations”. 

False headship theologies promote self-idolatry, leading to a sense of entitlement to demand worship from both wife and children. The entire "Love & Respect" message is rooted in this entitlement to power. Eggerichs, and those like him, instruct men to believe that they hold the divine right of genitalia to demand unconditional respect.
Related article: 

Emerson Eggerichs and the Gaslighting of Emotional Abuse Victims in a Sermon Series

Eggerichs goes so far as to tell mothers that they cannot have a good relationship with their sons unless they are giving their little boys and teenage kids that same kind of subservient unconditional respect. 

The entire message is entirely rooted in un-earned male entitlement. It’s promoting the worship of husbands and sons and fathers in a way that replaces Christ, and puts flawed, vulnerable humans on a pedestal of power. 


In contrast, when both male and female are genuinely worshipping God, and seeking after His heart, and being transformed into the shape of the Fruit of the Spirit -- then neither male nor female are overly concerned about holding power. Instead, they are both primarily focused on mutually caring for each other and protecting each other in gentleness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control. 

Because when Jesus is at the heart of it, nothing is about who gets control. 
That argument is a core distraction from the real heart change we all need. 

It’s not about taking the power. 
It’s not about transferring the power from male to female, or vice versa.
It’s not about one side controlling the other. 

It’s about seeking the lowest place, starting with those who are the leaders. 
It’s about teaching sons, and empowering men, to love like Christ did. 

How did Christ set the example for this? He went first. 
First to love
First to forgive
First through the gate of danger 
First to use his power to protect
First to sacrifice
First to die
I loved what one reader posted in a comment thread on my page, that her youth pastor once told their youth group:
“If your boyfriend or husband feels entitled to tell you that you MUST submit to him, then you are scripturally entitled to tell him that it’s his turn to die.” 

The entitled, power-over, control-oriented misogynistic message that both world and church has pounded into men as somehow being the ultimate definition of manly strength — is harmful and endangering to women. 


This message doesn’t ONLY harm our wives and mothers and sisters and daughters. As if that were not enough. 


Far too many brothers and husbands and fathers and sons - have been raised to believe they have a birthright to dominate instead of serve. To exploit instead of protect. To control instead of set free… 

This message sets up good, godly men in the world to believe that hierarchical self-worship is what God wants from them in order to succeed at being male. 

And in doing so, the mindset of idolatry that follows is nothing less than a thrill to the devil - because it means the heart of God's character is mocked through the teachings promoted under His own name. 

Yes, our women need protection and safety. 
But you know what? 

So do our men. 

Sarah McDugal is an author, speaker, trainer, and abuse recovery coach who works exclusively with mamas healing after trauma from betrayal, intimate terrorism, and domestic violence.
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