Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Marriage, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – "The Excellent Wife" by Martha Peace – Chapter Sixteen – Watch Your Words

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen

We recently had a holiday party at work filled with food, music, and a raffle for prizes. Tickets were randomly drawn throughout the party with people winning some great prizes. Toward the end of the party, my number was picked. I excitedly raised my hand and walked up to claim the prize. When the woman handed it to me she said, “I hope you’re a runner!” (Full disclosure: I think running is only necessary if someone or something is chasing after you. And, I have never been good at faking joy over an unnecessary gift; I disappointed my Grandmother several times as a child.) I looked at phone armband holder, then at the woman and said, “Not really. But, thanks.” As soon as I turned to walk away I felt horrible that I let those words slip out of my mouth. I didn’t mean to be rude, and I was sure it came across that way. Perhaps if I had read chapter sixteen, “Communication: Control of the Wife’s Tongue,” I might have saved myself from the embarrassing insert-foot-in-mouth moment.

One frustrating thing about this book is that everything beyond chapter six seems to be repeat. This chapter has nine “biblical principles” on how a wife should communicate with her husband. Peace has already mentioned several times throughout the book that a wife is to speak to her husband in a soothing, respectful manner. What more can she say about the topic of communication that is new? There’s really not much, but, there are a couple of gems that stand out to address.

First, Peace has conflicting points on her list. Number one states that “a wife’s wrong words begin with wrong thoughts and motives.” She references Matthew 12: 34:

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Number two on her list states that a wife will be held accountable to God for every word she speaks. This is based off Matthew 12: 36-37:

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

However, point number five says that “a wife must give her husband the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judging his motives.” A wife must not overreact or make judgment about what her husband says to her. Peace fails to recognize the whole of Matthew 12: 33-37 and cherry-picks verses to suit her points:

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

These three points on her list conflict each other. A wife’s words should be spoken with good motives and she will be held accountable for her words; however, she is not to judge the motive of her husband’s words. If a wife can have wrong motives with her words, how is it that she should not judge her husband’s motives? Why are only the wife’s motives judged?

Other than her conflicting statements, the only other point that stood out was number six, “a wife is more likely to sin if her words are rash.” When addressing that a wife should not use harsh, controlling words, she says:

Our Lord entrusted Himself to God. He did not fight back with evil. Peter’s point is that even while suffering an emotional battery from your husband, you are to look to the Lord Jesus Christ as your example. Instead of wounding your husband, use your tongue to bring healing (Proverbs 12:18).

Peter’s “point” refers to 1 Peter 2:23 which talks about Jesus enduring verbal abuse. Wives, you are not Jesus; you were not sent to this earth to save the earth from sin. You do not need to endure verbal abuse and you do not need to be a martyr in your abusive marriage. God wants you to be free from abuse and, if you have to, use any words you need to use to gain that freedom.

P.S. I ended up giving away the phone armband holder to a fellow co-worker who absolutely loved it. The next day, the woman who handed out gifts at the party came up to my desk and gifted me with a hilarious mouse pad to replace my boring plain black one. I apologized to her for my words, and she said it was no big deal. So, all turned out well in the end. It was a good reminder that we can slip up with our words at times – we’re human. Abusers, however, find power and control with their use of words. If you are in a relationship experiencing verbal and emotional abuse from your spouse, their words are not okay. You will not have enough soothing, respectful words to win him over and stop the behavior.

15 thoughts on “Book Review Series – "The Excellent Wife" by Martha Peace – Chapter Sixteen – Watch Your Words”

  1. What is ironic is that she misses out on the biggest point to be made from that passage. John the Baptist, prophetically calls the Pharisees a ‘brood of vipers’. So, she needs to first understand that “soothing” and “respectful” are not necessarily the correct postures to take at all times, even with a husband.

    I think what is missed by the authoritarians is that the Pharisees weren’t just self-appointed religious leaders. They were the authentic church leaders of the day. Keep that in mind, it would be like one of us walking up to Franklin Graham or John MacArthur and calling them hypocrites. Yet, the Bible, Jesus and John the Baptist give us the example of just that. Being ‘salt’ includes calling out hypocrisy, and probably not in a soothing manner.

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  2. The section of 1 Peter quoted references Jesus suffering unjustly, tolerating verbal abuse and unimaginable torment in the final days of His life, as He accomplished the work of securing our salvation. At no other time in His ministry did He subject Himself to such treatment. Similarly, such “unjust” suffering and abuse at the hands (or from the mouth) of our spouse – the person who should be our best friend and our most fervent protector – should never be tolerated.

    I’m always stunned to see how Scripture can be twisted so…

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  3. This book, and others like it, create a scenario where an abused wife is unable to live in “reality”. She is always having to pretend something that isn’t true. The reality is that her abusive’s husband’s words are cruel and demeaning and his motive is to tear her down and destroy her. But she’s supposed to pretend that he really loves her and if she would only be more “soothing and respectful” herself all their problems would be solved. How can a person stay sane when their reality is constantly questioned?

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  4. I’m always stunned to see how Scripture can be twisted so…

    I’ve taken to cross checking chapter/verse references anytime someone throws out a reference without spelling it out and it is SO OFTEN misinterpreted/misrepresented. Just as she continually does in this book. Irritating.

    “a wife must give her husband the benefit of the doubt when it comes to judging his motives.”

    I’m all good with giving someone the benefit of the doubt the first time (within reason). But when someone does something again, and again, after you’ve explained that it’s hurtful they no longer deserve that.

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  5. [Also OT but recently started dating someone and just read the court filings from his divorce…yikes. Ugh. A little thrown.]

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  6. I hope whatever new information has been presented helps you make a decision.

    Thanks Kathi! I feel like I know what to do, it’s just a huge bummer. I’ve read too much about abuse stuff not to know it’s time to cut it off but it’s also really easy to see how people get sucked in.

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  7. “The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace” —
    Just more Serena Joy lecturing all the Handmaids…

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  8. Off Topic-ish, but kind of related, as it’s about Christian Sponsored Sexism:

    I was blocked on Twitter by complementarian, ex CBMW speaking head, Owen Strachan, this evening.

    If you want to know what I did to draw his ire, it’s in this post I just published:
    _https://missdaisyflower.wordpress.com/2020/01/10/%E2%80%A2-blocked-by-complementarian-owen-strachan-for-two-benign-tweets-that-contradicted-his-worldview-about-women-and-masculinity/_

    Never mind that there are all-female fire crews in Australia fighting fires (I have articles about it linked to in my blog post), that doesn’t support Strachan’s agenda:

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  9. Owen Strachan and his embarrassing, know-nothing, childish ilk embrace manhood as well as the homewrecking Kardashians embrace fidelity. They know no more about manhood than the Kardashians know about elegant fashion.

    There is nothing manly about promoting the preferences of incels, misogynist, and men who want to own female slaves all over the internet. I have talked to young Muslim men online doing the same thing Owen and his bitter cult is doing. There was nothing manly about those gross Muslim men. Both groups are completely vile, the same, and shameful.

    Comp men with their pseudo-manhoods are always blocking people. They do not have the confidence or courage to have the conversations. I was blocked this week for saying something about the bible and child rape a pretend to know everything, feeble, know nothing comp man didn’t know. It was like talking to a brainwashed 8-year-old cult member.

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  10. Wow this book brings back memories! I am not one to post comments on blogposts, but I couldn’t resist… I was raised going to Christian school from K through 12th grade. Throughout all my years at school some form of Bible class was required in addition to typical classes like math, history, and science. We also always had a weekly chapel.

    During my jr. year of high school, my “Bible” class for the year was “Biblical Counseling”. At first, I admit I was excited for it… It seemed different then every other Bible class we had taken. However, the more we were taught, the more strong reactions I had in what was being pushed on us high schoolers that I now see as being possibly detrimental to our future health – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and relationally.

    We were taught that psychology, psychologists, therapists, and even counselors were bad and ungodly. Even Christian counselors toed the line too much with psychology, and the best/most godly approach was Biblical Counseling. We were taught that depression and anxiety were sins rooted in selfishness and aren’t trusting God. When you are dressed, you are only focused on yourself and the woe-is-me complex. We were given bogus studies “proving” that anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications were bogus and didn’t even work, and of course they didn’t because anxiety and depression aren’t medical conditions! (Or so we were taught).

    I was the lucky student in the class… When I was younger my mom went through a major depression and also suffered anxiety attacks. She was put on both anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications and then was ultimately diagnosed with hypo-thyroidism which both of those things can be symptoms of. It wasn’t until she sought medical treatment that she started to get better and we children got our mom back. However, most of the other students didn’t come from this background so they were heavily influence and followed the teachings of this person who was looked up to in our school as a wise, spiritual, and biblical authority.

    After “learning” about anxiety and depression, we began to discuss marriage, how to counsel marriages, what are typical marital problems, and the “godly, biblical” roles of the husband and the wife. It was during this part of the class that the ONLY the female students were required to read the book you discuss in this post “The Excellent Wife.” To be honest I did not read the whole thing because as I read it, it made me upset at the concepts I felt was being forced on us students and the role that we were being forced into as females. I will also be honest and say this is the first post of yours I’ve read on it and I should probably go back and read the others as well. From what I remember, I think she has a list in part of her book on situations and next to the situations she lists the “godly wife’s thoughts” and the “ungodly wife’s thoughts”.

    Correct me if I am wrong because again I haven’t read this since high school… but I remember the “ungodly wife’s thoughts” (or they could have been responses or actions..) as to me not being ungodly at all but normal for the situation she listed. It was during the time that we were required to read this book that our teacher would have a male student pretend to be the husband and a female student pretend to the be the wife. He would list a scenario and we would have to say how we would respond to that senario if we were the husband/wife. Then the teacher would guide another student in “Biblically counseling” the sudo married couple.

    I just remember somehow with me there tended to an issue with submission… I also remember staying after class one time to be asked by our teacher after my parents marriage and what type of wife my mom was. I remember his asking “Does your mom submit to your dad?” And I responded, “my parents don’t have a marriage like that.” Teacher “yes, but if your dad made a decision for the family does your mom submit to it.” Myself, “again, my parent’s don’t have a marriage like that. They make decisions together. My dad would never tell my mom what to do.” Teacher, “but if they disagreed with each other on the decision to make and your dad had to ultimately decide, would your mom submit to his decision.” Me, “my parents don’t work like that.” I think he was trying to force me into a scenario where I would concede that my mom actually is a submissive wife or that she is ungodly in someway by not submitting.

    It was also during this class that we were encouraged to go to Master’s Bible College, especially the girls as it was a good place to get our “MRS” degree. I had no idea what that was at first, but today I am appalled. Why is it that in conservative Christian circles, girls are only encouraged to go to college to find the right man, but the boys are never even told of a “MR” degree. Again, luckily for me, when I told my dad of this, he said you choose a college based on what’s best for your field of study and not to find a spouse. My cousins grew up in a home where they were homeschooled and the girls were raised believing girls couldn’t go to college.

    But back to the point of your post, I will comment on just one more thing on the book review. Her using Jesus an example and that he did not fight back with evil… comparing Jesus with the wife. What about in the Bible when it commands the husband to love the wife like Christ loved the church? If the husband is doing that, then wives should not be having to experiencing evil at his hand. Also if we look to Christ as entrusting Himself to God and fighting back, then the relationship we are looking at as an example is between God and Jesus. The relationship she then talks about is between the husband and the wife, but the difference is that in the God-Jesus relationship, God didn’t wrong Jesus and Jesus is meekly enduring being wronged by God. The wrong is happening from people outside of the God-Jesus relationship where as in the husband-wife relationship she makes it sound as if the husband is the one wronging the wife (although the wife is taught not to judge it that way…) Also, Jesus willingly took the cross and followed God’s plan not because it was right for people at that time to treat him the way they did or even put him to death, but because Jesus had a bigger vision in mind of redeeming the world and taking the penalty for sin for all.

    I do not believe that by Jesus allowing himself to suffer and be crucified is suppose to show wives that they are to allow their husbands to mistreat, talk down to, or abuse them in any way. If any wife is in a relationship where she feels she can’t confront her husband or call him out on the way he is treating her or talking to her, then that is definitely not right. There needs to be open communication, accountability and mutual respect in a healthy relationship. Not one person being able to talk to the other person as they please and the other person just has to meekly take it. That sounds like verbal abuse to me.

    Sorry for the extremely long post. I did not intend to write so much, but once I started it just all came out. I hope it all makes sense… when you grow up in the church and Christian school during the “Christian culture” explosion of the 80s/90s/early 2000s like I did, I’ve been realizing all the detrimental things that have come out of it that have especially had a negative impact on the females of that time.

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  11. Welcome, Grace! Thanks so much for your thoughts on this book. I’m amazed that you remember it so well, but then again, you were in a school situation with “examples” of being a godly wife thrown on you. I’m sorry you had to sit through all that nonsense.

    “I’ve been realizing all the detrimental things that have come out of it that have especially had a negative impact on the females of that time.” Yes, I agree that there was a lot of damage done against women during that time. Unfortunately, while it looks like the current generation may be fighting against that, the original message to continues to remain strong. Interestingly, TMU seems to have a lot of folks caring on the message.

    I think there are six more chapters in this book – so if you’re willing to stick it out, we’d love to hear more of your thoughts.

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  12. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience, Grace. It is shocking and horrifying, yet sadly I fear your experience is all too common. Your story reads more like that of a cult, similar to what Martha Peace teaches in her book, and not unlike the kinds of teachings I heard in the first church where I became involved in after I first got saved, the church where I met my abuser, the church where we were married.

    I believed it all and became the submissive wife, and my then-husband wielded his “biblical” authority to the fullest extent possible. While the church’s teachings kept me bound, it was the Spirit of God who interceded and finally told me to leave. Only then did I question how it could be that the heart of God was in direct conflict with everything I had been taught. I am truly grateful to have found the truth, but it was an unbelievably painful way to go about discovering it, and my four children suffered under their father’s domination too until we finally left. There are so many things I would have done differently if only I had known…

    I grieve for those who continue to suffer under such legalistic, ungodly directives. The saving grace is being able to share what God shows us and do what we can to release them from the terrible burden of a counterfeit belief system (as our friends at Spiritual Sounding Board endeavor to do here), a belief system that makes a mockery of the kind of love relationship God intends for us.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to share…

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  13. Kathi, thank you so much for the welcome, and I definitely will be reading the reviews on the other chapters. I remember reading this book and knowing I didn’t agree with it as a 17 year old, but yet there were others who trusted the person who was requiring us to read the book and probably believed everything that is written in it. It is so dangerous to require people so young to read something like this and have them thinking this is what it means to be a godly wife.

    The same teacher who gave us this book also taught that New King James was the best version of the Bible and encouraged us to get the John MacArthur study bible. I didn’t realize that Master’s college, John MacArther, and even biblical counseling were all connected… we were being influenced to uphold him and apparently everything that was connected to him. I am embarrassed to admit that I got his study bible that year. I never read much of his books or listened to his sermons so the only thing I had to go on were some notes at the bottom of the scriptures. Now that I see some of the things he is teaching I am appalled – especially the things being taught on femininity and a woman’s role.

    I know my parents thought they were doing what was best for my siblings and I by sending us to Christian school and not all of it was like this class that I’ve talked about 🙂 I feel like my 20’s were spent coming out of some of these teachings but still being under it subconsciously in a way. For example there were things that I was taught as biblical but I didn’t agree with so I would just ignore those issues because I didn’t want to be put in a place where I was willingly outside of God’s will. Now that I am in my 30’s, and I’ve had the courage to research and make up my mind about issues on my my own, I am both saddened and angered by ways in which religious leaders continue to twist uphold certain issues that they deem Biblical. The core message of Christianity is a beautiful one that is supposed to offer freedom, grace and joy and yet, because of the people representing it, it continues to be twisted into something that is used to oppress.

    Sorry for my long comment again!

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  14. Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your story with me!

    Your children sound very lucky to have you as a mom as you had the courage to get yourself and them out of an abusive despite the lack of support of your church!

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