How do you influence someone who is “above” you in some way, whether the difference is age or position? Is it possible to make a difference in anyone that is not under our teaching or guidance? How do you bring about change in someone who is difficult to get along with? It’s not how you think.
First let me say that aside from those we are specifically instructed to teach (i.e. our children) we really can’t change anyone. Change is a work of the Holy Spirit and it is not our responsibility to try. Granted, there are times when we need to speak to a person about some wrong they are doing, but even then the change won’t happen without the Holy Spirit’s work. Our best and first option is to pray.
But there are ways that we can influence those who are “over” us, whether that be parents, husbands, bosses, etc. Aside from prayer, our best persuasion is…not our words.
I learned (not as early as I should) that trying to correct my husband did more harm than good. But if someone else said exactly what I said, it made a world of difference. I honestly think that is rooted in the foundation of our roles as husband and wife, even though that has never been an issue between us. I think that he has a hard time taking correction or instruction from me because I am, by God’s design, under his leadership, and it is very difficult for any leader to be corrected by a subordinate. I am not going to take the time to discuss roles in marriage or submission to husbands here because that is not my focus today. But the Bible clearly states the key to winning in that situation:
1 Peter 3:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
Notice it says “without a word.” No matter your views on marriage roles, the most effective way to influence your husband is to not say a word. It is our “chaste and respectful behavior” that wins them over. The Amplified expands on this type of behavior by adding that it is not only modest and pure, but also reverent to him. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be strong or outgoing, rather it means godly, respectful and wise. See also Ephesians5:33. This requires focusing on ourselves and our actions and behaviors first and primarily.
So many women go about trying to change their husbands in the completely wrong way. They try to dominate, intimidate or force change by nagging. They may end up with some semblance of what they want, but it won’t be godly change. The Bible clearly says that the way to influence your husband is to submit to him. (By this I am not advocating abuse or the idea that wives are to be door mats or slaves, but mainly to focus on his leadership and the traits listed in the verse.) See this great article on submission for more. I believe that is partly because, by allowing him to be in his God-given position, he is directly under God’s discipline rather than his wife’s. By trying to make our husbands change we are taking the place of God and keeping Him from dealing with our husbands. He can do it a lot more effectively than we can. Also, by being submissive and focusing on our own behavior rather than trying to change his, it takes the pressure off of him. Most men don’t respond well to pressure like that.
I think another reason this works is because we are leading by example rather than force or domination. Most men know what they are supposed to be doing, even if they don’t do it. When we point it out, it doesn’t motivate them to change it just puts them down and makes them defensive. But when they see us quietly and obediently doing what we are supposed to, they are convicted without getting defensive. It may be slow and it will take time, but it is significantly more effective. See my other posts on maturity and leading by example.
I believe that this principle applies to more than just husband/wife relationships. I think it could apply to any situation that involves someone who is superior to you in any way, whether it’s your boss, your parents or in-laws, or even an unbelieving friend. If people don’t see our faith backed up by our actions they won’t believe a word we say. Our first course of action for winning anyone is to make sure that we are living like Christ, that we are walking as we should. Without that first step everything else is in vain.
So how is your walk?