On an Unbiblical View of Suffering, Wife Abuse, and Created To Be His Helpmeet

by | Jul 28, 2020 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 104 comments

Debi Pearl, Submission and Abuse: A look at Created To Be His HelpMeet
Merchandise is Here!

One of the most damaging and unbiblical “Christian” books on marriage is Debi Pearl’s Created to Be His Helpmeet.

Debi Pearl’s view of submission teaches women to allow themselves to be abused, rather than teaches women to seek God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s glory.

Yesterday I was talking on Facebook about books that I would prefer to destroy than donate, so that others won’t be harmed, and Created To Be His Help Meet was the #1 book mentioned.  I wrote about this back in 2012, and I thought it may be worth revisiting since the book still has many supporters. I don’t want to talk about the book itself as much as I want to ask us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what God wants from us.

Before we tackle the thorny issue of wife abuse in a Christian marriage, I want to tell you a story that illustrates what I think is dangerous theology.

When I was 16 years old I participated in a Teen Missions International summer missions team to the Philippines, where we built a kindergarten. Twenty-five or so teenagers along with six adult leaders. I had a wonderful time bonding with teammates, but I chafed at the leaders throughout all eight weeks. I just didn’t agree with their philosophy.

They were intent on making things hard for us so that we would be taught a lesson, even when there was no reason to. When we were mixing the cement, we had a delivery of two truckloads: one of rocks, and one of sand, to mix into gravel. The delivery men offered to make two different piles, but our team leader asked them to put them together, so that we would learn patience and submission by picking the rocks out of the sand. We could have been finished earlier, and spent more time witnessing or meeting the local congregation had he not done that. But he was determined that we should learn about suffering.

The theme during our Bible devotions was “The Way Up is Down”. We studied how Old Testament saints suffered in order to find favour with God. They taught that all summer, and I rebelled all summer.

If we deliberately seek out suffering just so that we can be extra holy, we miss out on opportunities to actually serve and glorify God.

And shouldn’t glorifying God be our main purpose?

And so let’s turn to something which, as a marriage blogger, I must comment on. I know some of my readers respect and revere Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child, which advocates strong use of what I would term extreme corporal punishment and even child abuse. Several children have been killed when their parents took the advice in this book to the extreme.

But Debi Pearl has also written a book called “Created to Be His Helpmeet”. She believes that women should radically submit to their husbands as the head of the house, putting up even with affairs and abuse “without words”. She recounts in her book a letter she received from a woman who was obviously being abused by her husband. This pregnant woman asks, “What should I do when he comes after me with a knife?” Mrs. Pearl replies: be submissive. “Avoid provoking him.”

In fact, in the appendix, Michael Pearl (Debi’s husband) says this:

“Has your husband reviled you and threatened you? You are exhorted to respond as Jesus did. When he was reviled and threatened, he suffered by committing himself to a higher judge who is righteous. You must commit yourself to the one who placed you under your husband’s command. Your husband will answer to God, and you must answer to God for how you respond to your husband, even when he causes you to suffer.Just as we are to obey government in every ordinance, and servants are to obey their masters, even the ones who are abusive and surly, ‘likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands’…You can freely call your husband ‘lord’ when you know that you are addressing the one who put him in charge and asked you to suffer at your husband’s hands just as our Lord suffered at the hands of unjust authorities…When you endure evil and railing without returning it, you receive a blessing, not just as a martyr, but as one who worships God.”  

Created To Be His Help Meet

Hold on a second here.

Do you remember in Philippians 2, when Paul writes of Jesus:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus took the form of a servant. Jesus was humble. Jesus allowed others to spit on Him and revile Him. Jesus allowed others to hurt Him and walk all over Him. And thus, says those like Debi Pearl who believe women should be under men, we should, too.

What if there’s a different way to look at that passage?

The passage does not say “have the same actions as Jesus”. It says, “Have the same mindset“. It’s about your thoughts, your goals, and your attitudes. Here’s what I think was going on, and it can be summed up like this:

 

Jesus’ Motivation–Jesus’ Action–Jesus’ Result

What was His motivation? To do God’s will and bring people to Him.

What was His action? He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death.

And what was the result? People were reconciled to God.

Yet let’s take this same framework and look at other areas of Jesus’ life:

Motivation: To do God’s will and bring people to Him

Action: Rebuking and Yelling at the Pharisees

Result: People saw the truth of God

Or how about this one?

Motivation: To do God’s will and bring people to Him

Action: Making a Whip out of Cords and Clearing the Temple

Result: People remembered God’s Holiness

Do you see the commonalities? Jesus was always seeking to do God’s will and to bring people to Him. And Jesus’ actions always resulted in people knowing God more, trusting God more, or having more insight into God. At the cross, His actions resulted in people being reconciled to God.

But His actions were not always the same.

Sometimes He let others walk all over Him–because that is what the circumstances demanded if He was going to accomplish God’s will and if He was going to bring people to God. Other times He spoke up and rebuked people, or became angry, because that’s what the circumstances demanded. In other words, the commonality was doing God’s will and bringing people to God–the same mindset. The difference was in the actions. Jesus used different actions to accomplish the same purpose as circumstances demanded it.

Paul did the same thing. Sometimes he lay down and let people insult him. Other times he stood up for his rights, appealing all the way to Caesar. He didn’t just “lie there and take it”; he demanded his right to speak the gospel, because that is what circumstances demanded if God’s will to see the gospel spread and people come to know Him was to be accomplished.

Writers like Debi Pearl, and missions organizations like the one I was involved in, love talking about how we are refined through suffering.

But there is nothing magical about lying down and being abused.

There is nothing inherently beautiful about being walked all over or treated horribly. Yes, Jesus was treated horribly, but He was treated horribly for a purpose. You cannot take one without the other. Does God ask us to submit? Yes. (although I don’t think that word means what we often think it does.)  Does God ask us to be abused, used, and discarded? No. There may be times when we have to be treated that way–I think of the believers in some parts of the world who are truly persecuted, for instance. But there is nothing inherently righteous about being treated awfully. In fact, this can become a stumbling block just like any other.

If you think that by being treated miserably you earn brownie points with God, then you are more likely to put up with injustice.

You are more likely to see your children hurt. You are more likely to stunt your own purpose and your own gifts. And you are less likely to see the will of God done through your abuser/husband.

Did you catch that last one?

Sometimes by lying down and taking it, by putting up with abuse, by allowing marital rape or extreme verbal abuse we actually do the exact opposite of what Jesus tried to do.

We don’t point people to God; we point people away from Him.

What is God’s primary vehicle for pointing people to Him? He made it quite clear in Galatians 6:

Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Galatians 6:7

The theology that says that we are to submit to our husbands no matter what actually puts a stumbling block for God working in your husband’s life–because it removes the natural consequences for his actions.

If your husband is engaged in serious sin, and you don’t speak up as we are instructed to do in Matthew 18 (or don’t call the authorities when you need them), then your husband will end up growing further and further away from God. He’s getting rewarded for bad behaviour! If you are in danger, and you do not call the authorities, you aren’t furthering God’s kingdom either.

This does not mean that God cannot occasionally work in these situations. I can just hear the replies now–“but I put up with my husband’s drinking and my husband’s affairs for 15 years, and one day God got a hold of my husband and completely turned him around!” Yes, God can do that.

But I believe that God did that DESPITE you submitting to abuse or mistreatment, not BECAUSE you submitted to abuse or mistreatment.

And I share in 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage how often we get the focus wrong in marriage. We think it’s about appeasing our husband and keeping him happy, rather than doing God’s will by pursuing both justice and mercy. And we end up hurting our marriage, ourselves, and even our spouses.

Are you GOOD or are you NICE?

Because the difference matters!

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

The whole philosophy that tells women to put up with wife abuse to glorify God also has a perverse incentive: it relieves women of the responsibility of making choices. We only have to “take it and let God”. We don’t have to wrestle with what we should do. We don’t have the hard questions. We have an easy blueprint for life–squash your own feelings and let others take advantage–and we’re set. And what if God has gifted you as a teacher? Or as an administrator? What if God has great plans for you? Doesn’t matter. You’re supposed to commit yourself totally to your husband, even if that means that he hurts you and drags you down. That doesn’t sound like a God of love to me.

When Paul thought someone was in error, he told him. He went right up to Peter’s face and told him that he was being hypocritical in regards to how Peter was treating Gentiles.

I am not saying that we should make ourselves annoying, or that we should harp on our husband’s every fault. But there is still a stream in Christian thinking that says, “you are holier when you suffer.” I don’t believe it. I believe that God is with those who suffer, and that God uses suffering. But there is nothing inherently holy about suffering. What is holy is when we pray, submit ourselves to God, and discern what His will is.

When we ask God what we should do, and what His purposes are for this situation, and we align ourselves with His purposes, then God works best.

Please, please, ladies, don’t allow false teaching to tell you that it’s okay if a man beats you, or runs at you with a kitchen knife, or hurts your children. Don’t allow someone else to tell you that you just need to work on being “better”, on being “more Christian”, so that you can win your husband without words. Wife abuse never belongs in a marriage, let alone a Christian marriage. Ask yourself this question instead,

Am I enabling sin? Am I pointing my husband to God, or away from God? When my husband treats me like this, is it furthering the kingdom, or is it hurting me, my children, and even my husband?

And if you can’t honestly answer that you’re honouring God, then reconsider your actions. Your purpose should always be to follow God’s will, bring Him glory, and bring others closer to Him. How that works out in our everyday lives will differ from situation to situation. But there is nothing inherently holy about wife abuse, and none of us should think we get special badges for putting up with it.


You may also enjoy–about abuse:

You may also enjoy–about real submission:


 

What do you think? Do we make suffering seem too “holy”? Does this distort the submission message? Have you read Created To Be His Help Meet? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

104 Comments

  1. Samantha

    Thank you for your perspective on this! I grew up with this book as my mom read it and to this day she is in a 34 year marriage where my dad is “lord” of the house and she suffers emotional and verbal abuse and I think she believes it is her Christian duty to endure .

    Reply
      • Anonymous

        You are exactly correct, Jane, in saying that abuse (trauma) rewires the brain. When it’s inflicted on a child along with religious indoctrination and totalitarian thought control from birth to adulthood, the person emerging from the other end is left without even a frame of reference to understand where the line is, let alone know how to handle it when the line is crossed. Sheila, I was left with no frame of reference for distinguishing what was “God’s will” or what would “bring glory to God.” This type of teaching left me more confused than ever, due to how I had been conditioned to think, believe, and feel. I needed to hear clear facts backed up by research-based evidence. Even then, without having mentally and emotionally broken down, I might never have been open to hearing the facts, because I had been inculcated with a profound mistrust of psychology. I believed the Biblical perspective I had been taught about man, God, self, sin, suffering, gender roles, male authority, etc, and it flies directly in the face of such modern ideas. A godly woman doesn’t speak up for herself and set boundaries for her husband and their relationship. How disrespectful and dishonoring. In an oppressive, totalitarian system, there is no acceptable way for a child or woman to stand up for themselves.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          This is so true, and it is so heartbreaking. It is so oppressive, and it is not of Jesus. I pray that He will set more captives free!

          Reply
    • Mrs D

      Although I have so far lacked the courage to act on the truths you teach, I see myself on the wrong side of these examples. My heart longs to be free even though fear and trauma responses say to stay small and do what I need to do, balance carefully on those egg shells, to “keep peace.” Thank you for preaching freedom to the captives and those oppressed. Even though it’s not nearly worst-case scenarios that I live in— I am grateful for all I have— I know MY responses and heart condition are not the freedom Christ died to give me.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Mrs. D., just remember 2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Ask Him to help you. He does want freedom for you. I pray that God will put some supporting people in your life who will help you find the strength you need.

        Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    Great post.
    I have a lot of opinions on this. (Surprise?)
    Life has enough suffering. If you haven’t experienced a lot of it at age 16, your leaders should do the hard work of teaching you thankfulness for the gifts you have. They should talk to you about the challenges life threw at them and how they faced them.
    I know several people who have had easy lives and as a result, are thoroughly obnoxious. I also know people who have had charmed lives and are just eternally sunny, warm, delightful people. Maybe instead of making a god out of suffering, we ought to explain to kids that their response to gifts and joy is also a measure of their character.
    As for abuse and submission: abuse rewires your brain. Abuse teaches your kids that abuse is acceptable, not that God loathes abuse and those who perpetrate it. Abuse makes it harder for you to live a Christ-like life: PTSD is no joke. It makes it harder to model Christ’s love for us.
    When you allow people to continually walk all over you, the lesson they learn is that you aren’t fully human and aren’t worth treating with respect and dignity. Ask me how I learned this harsh lesson.
    I believe that it’s my job as a mother to create a warm, loving household so that my baby can grow up to understand God’s love through what he sees at home. It’s my job to teach him to thank God for His gifts and turn to God for strength and wisdom when things get hard. It’s not my job to make life artificially hard for him, any more than “snowplow” problems out of his way.

    Reply
  3. Meredith

    Well done, Sheila! I would add this, towards anybody who wants to defend the book: the Pearls’ philosophy puts the husband in the place of God. It is idolatry, sheer and simple. No human being is ever worthy of our total devotion and obedience. A defense of CTBHH is a defense of idolatry.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! Exactly. I’m making that point on Instagram tonight, and I’ve made it before, too. But thank you for bringing it up again! Your husband is not Jesus. In fact, I’ll go put those links in as well.

      Reply
    • Wendy

      Let me start by saying I have never read this book personally. I am simply affirming your comment.
      God actually convicted me of this very thing. He actually convicted me of my spouse himself being an idol to me as well as my marriage during a church conference. I really thought this can’t be correct. I’ve been doing everything I thought I was “supposed” to do as a Christian wife. I think the church is partly to blame for teaching us to do everything we can to fix our marriage, when in fact it’s not true. First, it is never our place to “fix” our marriage or our spouse. Only God can do both of them. Second, you can’t work on your marriage and want them to change on your own. God created us and the only one who can change us. God is a gentleman and has always been about free will. He is not a controlling God and will let you make your own decisions. This means that if your spouse wants to truly change himself then he will have to humble himself before the lord and ask him to change him from the inside out. This is nothing you can do as a wife. You can pray but can’t fix him and you can’t fix your marriage alone. Both have to be willing and both have to take responsibility for their actions in the marriage. Abuse is NOT a marriage problem! It is not your fault. That is an individual problem with the abuser. God told me and showed me that although he loves marriage he never values it over a personal relationship with you. God does care about your safety and well being. It was you and God before it was you and your spouse.
      The thing that is hard for me to wrap my mind around is the very things I thought was the right things to do to save my marriage could in fact kept me out of Heaven. God does not want you to have idols or put anything before him even if it is your spouse and your marriage. He is a loving God but a jealous God. He desires for that personal relationship with you over anything and wants you to know how much he loves you. Once you experience God’s true love for you as his daughter. You won’t allow yourself to be abused or mistreated. God wants the best for you and you are royalty when you are his child! Remember that my loves! 💗

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Those are great insights into marriage, Wendy! I’m glad you discovered that. So important.
        I will say that I don’t think that trying too hard to save your marriage takes away your salvation. I don’t think God works that way. He sees what His daughters are doing. He knows the heart it flows from. I think He has great sympathy, and I think He is close to the brokenhearted–even if they’re doing the exact wrong thing with their marriage.

        Reply
  4. Julia

    So appreciate you Sheila!
    I love this. My only concern would be the stumbling block argument. In a truly abusive relationship, the victim isn’t the one responsible for their spouse’s abuse or walk with God or anything. Putting any sinus of guilt on an abuse victim is bad. An abuse victim shouldn’t make a decision to speak out for the sake of their partners walk with God. They created the division with their abusive behaviour. I think the stumbling block argument puts undo shame on those who are being victimized.
    I appreciate much of what you wrote but thought that aspect was teetering of victim blaming. Not your intention at all of course (you are a breath of fresh air), but definitely concerning as another way victims may feel they have failed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I get what you’re saying, Julia. I just want to counter the idea that you are doing GOOD if you stay and you are honouring to God. I think there needs to be a theological element here as well. I know it sounds victim blaming, and I’m not sure how to get around that. But so many women stay because they feel God wants them to. And so I think there needs to be a theological argument saying, “No, honoring God means allowing people to feel the consequences of their actions!” I don’t know that simply telling people God doesn’t want you hurt will do that. I don’t think many women in these situations are motivated by their own pain, because they’ve pushed it down so hard. So I do think there needs to be more of a theological argument the other way. I wonder how to frame it without victim blaming?

      Reply
      • Julia

        I definitely understand what you’re saying. I wonder perhaps of instead of talking about being a stumbling block (victim blaming and putting spiritual walk on the victim – which I absolutely KNOW you aren’t trying to do in anyway because I know it is completely against what you hold true), you could say that the book itself advocates for dynamic that perpetuates sinful behaviour and no accountability. That a victim staying silent about abuse doesn’t help anyone, like the book suggests, and that they have the absolute God given authority to speak out for their sake because it isn’t something God created.
        It isnt ever Godly for men to be abusers, and it isnt ever God’s desire for us to allow ourselves to be abused.
        I think any use of the stumbling block argument is a slippery slope when it comes to onus regarding sin. Although I completely get what you are trying to say!

        Reply
          • Elsie

            Yeah, I’m also a little concerned by some of the language here. Women in normal relationships should speak up about their husbands sin but for women in abusive relationships, that could endanger them. I understand you are trying to counter this toxic teaching but it’s can also be unsafe for abused women to try to stand up for themselves. I wonder if this post could benefit from a note to any women in abusive relationships who are reading that they should seek the advice of a counselor or domestic violence hotline? I know you’ve written about that in other posts but this post doesn’t directly address women in abusive relationships and what they should do. Just a thought. Overall I absolutely agree with the message of the post and am grateful that you speak out against this toxic theology

          • Melissa W

            Maybe it is more about empowering women or giving women permission to be able to stand up and say no to enabling sin and bad behavior on the part of their husband. A lot of women feel, or have been taught, that it is ungodly and displeasing to God to call their husband’s out on anything but in reality it is pleasing to God to confront sin in a loving way. Women need to be empowered to do that and know that it is not only okay but pleasing to God. That is the goal, not shaming them for enabling sin but empowering them to be able to stand up and call sin out for what it is.

      • AspenP

        Sheila,
        I had a friend tell me that I was standing between the Lord and my husband shielding him from the Lord’s correction. It worked. I finally understood that he was not reaping the consequences of his sin. The concept of sowing and reaping made total sense. I felt it, but her pointing it out helped break me free from the cycle that I thought I was being holy honoring my husband by making him look good and attempting to absorb all of the consequences that should have fallen on him.
        Good news. I’m free and he’s free from that dysfunctional relating. We’re still healing in many ways, but we’re no longer stuck in phony holiness & we’re pursuing emotional health. (Yes we’re still married).

        Reply
      • Kayla

        Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. A well-meaning lady recently gave me this book as an engagement gift, and I was horrified by what I read. One part suggested that, if your spouse is guilty of sexually abusing your child, you should take that child to visit him in prison.
        Uh-uh. As a SA survivor, I cannot stomach the thought of forcing a child to be around the abuser under ANY circumstances. That’s going to reopen those wounds again and again. What are these people thinking!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          It’s honestly an evil book. It really is. Don’t donate it. Throw it out. Burn it. And if you’re courageous, tell the woman who gave it to you what you thought!

          Reply
  5. Ina

    That story of the pregnant woman with her husband coming at her with a knife has been one I’ve never been able to forget in the 6 years since I read that book. It was recommended to me at my wedding shower by a very dear old friend. She was divorced and basically said that she felt if she had found this book earlier she wouldn’t be divorced this day. It broke my heart. I would absolutely burn every copy of this book if I could.

    Reply
    • Madeline

      Wow, that’s incredibly sad.

      Reply
    • EOF

      Books like this should be put out of print. When I was early in my marriage, my husband had a terrible temper, and to say that I was suffering would be an understatement. I was desperate for help from church, and people quickly tired of our inability to work through our “marriage problems” and would tell me to read books along this line. Most were written in the 70s and early 80s praising the submissive wife who could turn her husband around by her silence and kind spirit.
      It wasn’t until after I started seeking help OUTSIDE of the church that things started to turn around. Even then, it took God’s hand to put the fear of the Lord into my husband until he finally changed. He may be a new man now, but I’m still dealing with the PTSD of my many years of mistreatment.
      Abuse is damaging, and the earlier it’s stopped, the better for everyone involved. It’s too bad churches aren’t that interested in helping solve this problem.

      Reply
  6. Rachel

    THANK YOU Sheila for speaking up about this. Created To Be His Helpmeet was a huge stumbling block for me. I signed up for a box of their materials they shipped free to military families. I treated their word as equal to the Bible, and the fact that it was hard and didn’t make sense at times only made me further convinced of what a terrible and unholy wife I was. It perpetuated the idea that anytime my ex-husband treated me horrible, it was my fault in some way. The damage this book and their teaching has wreaked is overwhelming.
    But thanks to teaching from people like you, and Natalie Hoffman at flyingfreenow.com, I finally understand the heart of God for marriage. Please keep up this work.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Rachel!
      You touched on something I’d like to comment on at greater length sometime, but there is a tendency to think that the more extreme a teaching is, the more Christian it must be. Take I Kissed Dating Goodbye, for instance. It really “mainstreamed” the idea that you should have no physical contact at all–not even holding hands if you can help it–until you’re married. In our survey of 20,000 Christian women, we found that women in their 20s and early 30s were less likely to have kissed before their wedding than women in their 50s and 60s. We’ve gotten MORE conservative over time. But why did we think that was “more” Christian? Why do we think these extreme books are “more” Christian? I think it’s that we still have a “religion” mindset, rather than a “relationship” mindset, where in some way we’re still trying to appease an angry God. It’s interesting, isn’t it? And yet tragic all at the same time.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Sheila, First I would like to say that I absolutely do not promote anything that abuses women. That disclaimer set aside, a topic within this main theme has confused me for some time. Several years ago I learned from your Little Umbrella book about the term redemptive suffering. It was a fascinating subject for me and I pursued information about it hard. Then by no direct correlation I found Francis Chan and I fell in love with his work and his humility and did a bunch of reading and research of his work and I can not recall the specific details but essentially he had a mega church where he was preaching the word and had a nice life with his family and he gave it all up to take his family to live in (if I recall correctly India?) a country where people are persecuted for being christian. Again the details are kinda sketchy here but he basically took his family into a “suffering” (he used the term suffering I am pretty sure) in the name of Christ. Living smaller and going into not so nice areas where their life could be at risk for many reasons besides preaching the word of Christ. Now this situation does not involve abuse by any means and per my recollection the family claimed to be much more happier than they ever where. Here is the thing: Why would you do that? Seems this is kind of this gray area like hey to each is own – live how you want to live and maybe even God called him to this calling but yet to be purposeful in taking a direction of “suffering”? Paul suffered but I am pretty darn sure it was not his choice and or “on purpose” other than he accepted it as his duty to God for what he was doing in the name of Christ. Maybe I got this all wrong but I have been wondering about that for some time and have had this question that I dont even know how to ask about redemptive suffering and purposeful suffering and I just never found the answer.

        Reply
        • E

          I believe it was China, but do you have an article/video about him saying these things?

          Reply
          • Phil

            Crazy Love was the primary book where that story is ( I have the revised updated version) but I also watched videos and read about him online. I would really have to dig that up as I did not right stuff down. I pulled the book and I guess I am going to re-read it. I found where he uses the phrases like seeking uncomfortable situations but I am so positive he uses the words such as seeking suffering or something along those lines somewhere because I remember it that way so hard. It has stuck with me that way regardless. I want to write a disclaimer here because My memory could be just the way I remember it and not fact. Either way it causes a stir in me that certainly confuses me.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, yeah, seeking suffering is really weird and off. Seeking to help or giving sacrificially–totally different. But deliberately seeking suffering? No.

        • Cynthia

          I’m not Sheila, but here’s my $.02 for what it’s worth.
          We shouldn’t fear suffering if that fear is holding us back from doing the best that we can do for the world.
          If you happen to experience suffering that couldn’t be avoided, you can still try to use whatever comes your way as an opportunity to develop or find meaning in trying to do something good as a result of your experience.
          Suffering on its own, however, isn’t something to actively seek for its own sake, and it definitely isn’t something that you would wish on others.
          I will add in one more thought: sometimes fear of suffering can actually keep people in bondage. That’s a theme I see in the story of the exodus. Yes, the Israelites slaves were horribly oppressed, but we also see that they were terrified to leave – scared of going hungry, scared of defending themselves, etc. As a divorce lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence, I often see this. Middle class women often take longer to leave than poor women do, and worry more about losing a nice home or being concerned about how others will react.

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That is a tough question, isn’t it, Phil? I do think there are times that God asks us to do things that are not going to be “pleasant”. I certainly think that he asks people to do things, especially cross-culturally, that may put them in danger. Just look at the early church! But again, I think we have to ask what the purpose is. If it’s to bring others closer to God and to bring glory to God and further His kingdom, then there’s a purpose to it that we can get behind. But if, instead, it’s just enduring suffering for no good purpose, or in fact even enduring it when we could have a much better outcome for everyone if we did something different, that’s when it gets weird.
          I don’t know that much about Francis Chan (I have read one of his books, but only one), but I do believe that he has a heart for ministry. I do think that many of us would do better if we shared more and gave up some creature comforts for the good of others. But that’s not the same as telling people that they are better off if they’re suffering. It’s about what the purpose is–are you furthering the kingdom of God, or are you merely making someone else feel good or propping them up?

          Reply
          • Phil

            You know what this makes me think about? Maybe it was like 2 years ago when that missionary guy went to the last known island (Owned by India- I am stuck on India today lol) that has never had outside human intervention. He said he wanted to spread the word of Christ to these people who didnt even speak his language. Part of his message was that if he would die suffering he would make God happy. They shot at him each time he approached the island. Ok I can see you trying once (maybe twice?) but dude after that why would you go back a third time? Hey who am I to judge – thats Gods job but man. Did you not get the message the first 2 times? Apparently they were not interested. Not sure about that one either.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think that there is a lot in the history of missions that do warrant a big rethink. I was very moved by the missinoary memoir As Soon As I Fell. So interesting–and teaches so much about our perspective on suffering and how wrong it can be. I just loved it. By Kay Bruner. She reads this blog, too, I think.

  7. KatK

    Created to be His Helpmeet saved our marriage. Was my husband abusive? Absolutely not. Controlling? Not in the least. In fact, he was (and is) a quiet, godly man who exhibits the love of Christ to those around him. The problem was within me. I was manipulative, domineering, and nowhere close to submissive. Reading this book and studying every single Scripture mentioned in it, within the full context of that Scripture (no cherry picking allowed) changed my perspective on marriage. It convicted me to change my attitude towards my husband. I agree the Pearls are not perfect. However, neither is anyone except God. I cannot sit silent while a book that can be helpful for many women is so maligned. While I no longer have my copy, I would not hesitate to pass this book along to someone in a similar situation as I was in. However, I would never recommend it to someone who was the victim of abuse, such as Sheila was in high school, nor to someone who was in a situation that could cloud their judgment and perspective.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kat, I’m so glad that your marriage is better now. I truly am.
      But here’s the thing: Many, many books talk about how you should not be manipulative and controlling, and how you should have an attitude of serving, but they do not ALSO say that a man running at a pregnant woman with a kitchen knife is okay, or that you should tolerate abuse, or that you should exist to fulfill your husband and not to fulfill God’s will for your life.
      It is possible for Christian books not to harm. That is what we should be aiming for.
      Remember that even if God used the book to help you, that does not mean that the next woman will not be harmed. So please do not recommend this book. Remember that the woman you talk to about the book may very well be that pregnant woman whose husband is coming at her with a kitchen knife.
      Not all books harm. In our survey of 20,000 women, Created To Be His Help Meet was the #2 most harmful resource mentioned (Love & Respect was #1). Virtually no one said it helped them compared to those who said it harmed them. And yet many, many books had almost a 100% helpful ratio. Let’s promote that which doesn’t harm. “They’re not perfect, but nobody is” is not a ringing endorsement for a book, and as children of the King, we should set the bar higher.

      Reply
      • EOF

        This is so true. Abusive men know how to hide it behind a mask of a fun-loving good guy, and the wives are many times too afraid to say anything. You don’t know what happens behind closed doors, and if you share this book with someone in this situation, you are making her life even more unbearable than before, perhaps even more dangerous.

        Reply
    • Wendy

      I can relate to this comment, having had a similar experience with Created to Be His Helpmeet. I was an unsubmissive, domineering, nag of a wife & this book helped me to see the error of my ways & did a lot to improve our marriage. Like you, my husband is naturally a kind & gentle man.
      I recommended the book to so many women I knew, believing it was the answer to how to have a godly Christian marriage. I even bought a case of them to give away to anyone struggling in their marriage. I gave one to my sister in law, who read it & eagerly put it into practice. But instead of improving their marriage, my brother in law became rude and domineering, treating his wife like a servant instead of a partner. It turned a pretty normal marriage with a few problems into one that was dysfunctional & borderline abusive.
      Eventually, I realized that I have no way of knowing who’s husbands are naturally gentle & who’s may tend toward taking advantage of a meek & wholly submissive wife. And if the advice given isn’t true for *all*marriages… maybe it isn’t actually biblical.
      I ended up sending the rest of the case of books to the dump.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Wow! Thank you for sharing. That’s so helpful, and I’m glad you came to that realization. I hope your sister-in-law is doing better now!

        Reply
    • Anon

      KatK, you say that you would never recommend Created to be His Helpmeet to any woman in an abusive marriage – but how do you KNOW which women are in those kinds of marriages?
      My grandfather abused his wife, his children and his grandchildren. Yet I don’t think anyone outside the family had any idea that the abuse was going on – and even some of the abused family members had no idea that other family members were also suffering. In public, he gave the impression of a ‘Godly Christian’. Even today, years after his death, I still have people come up to me to tell me they hope I realise how blessed I was to have ‘such a Godly grandfather’!!! I’m sure if you had met my grandmother, you would have had no hesitation in recommending CTBHH to her.

      Reply
  8. Lissa

    My parents are almost married 60 years. Most people say how wonderful, but it is not wonderful. It’s a complicated story, but my mom and also my siblings and me suffered emotional and spiritual abuse. My mom also suffered some physical abuse. The sad thing is we considered it normal. The denomination we were in actually allowed him to continue his actions. After I was married, I was introduced to this book. At first, I fell completely for it, but over time God opened my eyes and started to change my thinking. I am still battling thoughts and sometimes feelings as I deal with my parents as they need care now, but God has helped me set boundaries and has helped me change my theology. Christ sustains me and helps me not to be bitter.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you’re on the other side, Lissa, but I’m so sorry for what you endured. And I’m very, very sorry that the church was a tool in your suffering.

      Reply
  9. Nathan

    Creating artificial suffering does NOTHING to bring us closer to God or to build character. There’s enough suffering already in the world.
    And the knife wielding husband after his pregnant wife is both enraging and heart breaking at the same time.

    Reply
  10. Kelly

    Thank you again for speaking out against “Christian Books” that are anything but! I too have a copy of this book. Think I shall go burn it now

    Reply
  11. Nathan

    I am unable (on a personal level) to burn any book, even ones that promote a hideously wrong philosophy. If I had a copy of the Help Meet book (or Love and Respect), I would donate them to a thrift store or used book store (asking for no money, no store credit or tax credit), but write a very frank and critical review on the inside cover.

    Reply
  12. Doug Hoyle

    I belong to a FB group that is dedicated to helping men become better Christian Husbands. The host of the group is is a woman and and a counselor. As a rule, the content and context is very positive, encouraging men to become selfless servant leaders.
    On occasion a man joins the group and anecdotally, it is obvious that he is the victim of one sort of abuse or another, usually verbal, or infidelity and occasionally financial. I am regularly appalled at the responses of some of the members, turning that back on the victim, telling him that the fault is sometimes his, that somewhere along the way he failed as a leader. He didn’t love enough, or obviously did something to cause his wife to not respect him. As a rule, the men seeking answers are trying to save a marriage, and seeking out good counsel, so it tends to make me think they are not the problem.
    Reminds me of the three friends of Job. Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it does sound like Job.
      The truth is that you cannot change another person just by being nicer. You can draw boundaries, and you can be good (which includes standing up for justice), but you cannot change someone by being a pushover. Occasionally someone changes anyway, but that’s often in spite of what you did, not because of it. It’s sad when we tell people that it’s their fault if someone is abusive.

      Reply
  13. Madeline

    On the note of creating artificial suffering for the sake of learning some weird lesson: we can’t know what trauma other people are facing silently. It baffles me that the leaders of the youth mission assumed none of the young people were acquainted with pain or trauma in their personal lives. Why not teach about how to deal with that rather than create suffering?
    Similarly to what Jane said above, even if there are people who are obnoxious because they don’t know any kind of hardship, the answer should be to teach them gratitude and how to be compassionate to others who are in pain, not MAKE them feel pain! So bizarre.

    Reply
    • Arwen

      Madeline, also when a person causes suffering they’re actually committing sin. Because ALL suffering is a result of sin, before sin suffering didn’t exist and suffering will not exist in heaven. Suffering/pain should be out of your control if it’s in your control then you’re the one sinning. The Bible clearly tells us the fruit of evil deeds and the fruit of good deeds. If you go looking for trouble, you didn’t suffer you perpetrated that suffering. Neither Jesus or Disciples went out looking for trouble/suffering. In fact Paul says, “As much as it depends on you live at peace with one another.” In another words don’t go looking to make people’s life hard, miserable, burdensome, etc. Let trouble find you and when it does resist its evil as scripture commands.
      In the example of Cain and Able. Suffering came to Able while Cain was the one out looking to cause that suffering thus getting a warning from God that, “Sin is crouching at the door and you must rule over it.” Able wasn’t trying to make Cain suffer and neither was Cain initially until he caused his own sin by being disobedient to God and then ultimately taking a life.
      I thought i would just add to your comment.

      Reply
      • Kim P

        Arwen, YES! You just articulated something I could never find words for and was confused ab when I read the Bible. So helpful in defining suffering!

        Reply
  14. EOF

    I read part of their parenting book years ago, and it made me sick. On the topic of teaching children submission they shared a story about how they would take each of their children to a pond on their property (I think it was a pond, like I said, I read this many years ago) and would tell them not to jump in. Each kid jumped in and struggled with the water. The parents then taught them about the importance of submission. Then one day, a daughter actually obeyed. When she wouldn’t jump in, the dad nudged her so she fell in. Then they were still able to teach the important lesson about submission.
    That was the point I put the book away and refused to ever read anything written by those devious monsters again.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, Rebecca will be talking about that one on Friday. It basically is a child abuse manual. And even that is likely treating it too lightly.

      Reply
    • Kim P

      Nudging your obedient child into the pond to prove the submission lesson!?? That’s sadistic.
      Taking your children to a pond for “submission training” in the first place is ridiculous. It’s like they spent their whole life on these “training exercises” so they could write a book on perfect godly parenting. I feel for and fear for their kids…

      Reply
    • Beverly

      This is an untrue account of this story in that book. They took the children to the pond and let them fall in so they can see the dangers of water. Not teach submission . …. and having a child who drowned in a pond 2 years ago ( after using puddle jumper‘s in pools and teaching him NOT to fear the water ) I WISH I had done what the Pearls wisely did.

      Reply
  15. Emmy

    So you really had to pick rhe rocks and sand apart after they had been deliberately mixed? How awful and weird. Do you know who also had to do similar things? Cinderella, in the Brothers Grimm version. Her evil step mother mixed grain and lentils and threw them into the ashes and told Cinderella to pick them apart while she herself and Cinderella’s mean step sisters wen to the ball.
    Had this “leader” of yours been reading fairy tales instead of the Bible?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I truly don’t get it. I never have. It was honestly a very distressing summer, and it took me YEARS to find the real Jesus again after that.

      Reply
  16. Arwen

    Sheila, also when wives put up with their husband’s sinful behavior they’re giving approval to sin, like Romans 1 says. The secular world understand this to a degree. If you get into a car with a drunk and they kill someone you’re an accomplice to murder, even if you’re sober. Because you knew of and didn’t stop the behavior of the intoxicated individual. By getting into that car you gave the indication that you found no problem with that individual’s actions.
    So when an adult woman who has a brain of her own given to her by God who knows right from wrong, reads the same Bible as everyone else, and still defends the sin of her husband makes her an accomplice to a degree. When you’re seeing him breaking several definitions of love like: kindness and loves does no wrong, then you’re not “spurring each other toward good deeds.” – Matthew 22:37.
    Great article!

    Reply
  17. Lexi

    Did you know that Mrs. Pearl has another book, “Preparing to be a Help Meet”, aimed toward teen girls? I discovered that one when I was in my mid teens. I was really excited to read it, but I felt a little off after I did. I feel like that is a very impressionable age for ladies, and the impressions this book gave me was that God’s will for my life could only be to get married and have a family, and that if I didn’t get married, I would never be good enough. That was the only goal, the only way I’d be worth anything. Oh, and you’re supposed to be preparing for the ‘type’ of man that you’re going to marry. One, people do not just fit neatly into little boxes. Two, how can you possibly know what ‘type’ you’re going to marry until you marry him?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is a very dangerous theology, because she does say that a woman’s worth is only in being a wife. So if you’re single, you’ve missed the boat. It’s just awful.

      Reply
      • Meghan

        Amy Carmichael would have some choice words to say about that! (She’s my hero.)

        Reply
    • Natalie

      Sadly, this way of thinking is all too common in the church. Even if they admit that women can also have careers & do other things besides being a wife and mother, the wife & mother role is revered in the church as the ultimate goal. I definitely got that teaching, and it’s not like I grew up in some crazy strict Christian sect. I grew up mainstream Evangelical in a very metropolitan part of the US. Being a wife and mother was/is seen as a way of “rejecting” what the world teaches (ie that you need a career to find your worth), and by rejecting the world, you’re thus more godly. 🙄🤦🏻‍♀️ Ugh, how about we all just stop judging each other’s life choices and let people and families do what works best for them and their unique dynamics.
      And for the record, I’m a SAHM lol
      While I thankfully never read anything by the Pearls, I did/do often feel like being a homemaker is seen as the “right” choice as a Christian woman, and like that’s my “place”. I too have a tendency to be dominant and manipulative while my husband is genuinely kind and gentle… a “nice guy”. I’ve been told since I was a child that my personality (dominant, assertive, stubborn) needs to change and be tamed if I want to be a godly wife and thus following Christ. Feeling like I’m not a good enough Christian because of my innate personality is something I still deal with. While I know I could’ve done very well in a career, I think I chose to be a SAHM in an attempt to “tame” my “un-Christ-like” dominant traits. Maybe things will change when my kids grow up a bit, as they’re still very young.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I hear you, Natalie. I do. From one opinionated, loud woman to another, God will help you find a place for your voice! I’ve realized that people will never call me “nice” or “gentle”, but I exhibit a lot of the other fruits of the Spirit. That’s okay.

        Reply
        • Eps

          Me too!
          I’m lucky I never realised this/I was different than many “Christian” views on the topic until I was an adult. Thanks to my mom. We CAN break the cycle in our own sphere on influence. Speak truth, and demonstrate authenticity in your wall with God regardless of your personality type.

          Reply
  18. Terri

    Sheila, love this. Thanks.
    As you’ve noted elsewhere in other posts too — husbands are not God. Or Jesus. When they point to this story of Jesus’s full sacrifice “even unto death,” they conveniently don’t go on to the part where His sacrifice actually gives people salvation. A wife’s suffering and death don’t and can’t accomplish that.
    Comparison can be helpful, but Christian marriage authors *need* to stop using mere comparisons for husbands/Christ while using literal applications for wives.
    If a husband abused his wife, and her suffering was able to literally give him salvation as Christ’s suffering gave humanity salvation, that would be one thing. But that’s not the case.
    As in the Ephesians verses on marriage: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself,” etc., etc., is clearly understood to be symbolic and comparative. But “Wives, submit yourselves” is taken absolutely literally.
    So many examples of this in abusive theology.

    Reply
  19. unmowngrass

    The book What’s Your God Language by Dr Myra Perrine reveals 9 ways that people connect with God (and there’s at least one more — through relationship — that isn’t in the book). People are hardwired into one or maybe two of these ways, and whilst there’s room for growth in the other areas when things are going well, when they are not, you need to go back to your own main way if you want to get back on track.
    One of these ways is ascetic. Which is very far away from my own natural pathway so I don’t understand it in a nuanced way, but to the best of my knowledge it’s ‘finding joy through suffering (and/or depravation)’. To someone who has this pathway, and who also doesn’t realise that it’s one of many pathways, I can see that needing to sort rocks from sand is considered a reasonable training exercise to tap into that inner joy and ‘get closer to God’. I can even see how submitting to that exercise, even though it is a waste of time, would yield fruit of it’s own. And having both that natural God-given pathway, and also having a pretty easy life, must lead to a unique type of frustration. Now I don’t know how or even if this pathway becomes different when the suffering is manufactured vs. circumstantial. But I don’t want to entirely discount it as a thing.
    But one of the other pathways in the book is the sensate (and although it’s not my primary pathways, it’s perhaps second-highest in my life, so I do understand it a bit batter). And this is… ‘finding God through luxuriating in pleasure obtained via the senses’, I suppose. Soaking in visual beauty like sunsets, stained glass windows, prayer rooms covered in chiffon and fairy lights. Listening to (or perhaps playing) music of various kinds and rejoicing in the melodies. Smelling good smells, tasting good tastes, getting a great hug (maybe having great sex?). Feeling the sun on your skin or squishing mud with your bare hands or feet. Or getting them washed again. Taking communion, perhaps, although that’s a bit different. But if God is alive when you experience these things and more, that’s the sensate pathway. Equally as valid as the ascetic one.
    And the other ones that are neither of these. Like the activist pathway, meeting God by standing up to injustice. Which it sounds clearly like Sheila is on! And doing a good job of describing. And she has some really great points! But it’s still only one of the pathways. It’s one that’s kind of anti-helpful in my own life. I have tried so many times to engage with it, because there’s so much injustice around. And it’s not like I don’t care about people in injust situations. It’s just that for me it’s a highway to excessive stress and frustration. Sometimes it’s our civic responsibility to stand against it, yes, and that includes within the church. But that doesn’t mean that I find it edifying. I’d far rather (and would connect with God far better) just trying to put more good into the world, than trying to take bad things out of it. That’s my caregiver pathway. Ymmv.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, in some ways I’m definitely a justice pathway! But it also totally wears me out, and so I’m also a serious sensate, nature person. I have to unplug a LOT and just get outside.
      I think it’s great that we’re not all the same. We need people who are just gracious, and listeners, and calm. We need everyone!

      Reply
  20. Kylie Anderson

    My husband gave me this book when he was trying to fix me and make me into a good wife. There are so many things I don’t agree with on so many levels. The one that really stuck out to be was the letter she wrote to a woman whose husband had complained that so wouldn’t have sex with him because it was painful. She may have been post-partum I can’t remember but her response was to tell the wife to stop making excuses and to give the husband sex. (It’s not an exact quote, the book has since gone in the bin). It made me so angry that she would say that not knowing if the woman was recovering from a bad tear or another medical condition and that her pain was irrelevant. We have a good marriage now but no because of this book. It was a very difficult time for me and her attitudes to abuse didn’t help at all.

    Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      This kind of teaching makes women less than human. Like women are things to be owned, chattel, commodities.

      Reply
  21. Emmy

    I live in a European, non English speaking country where corporal punishment of children is illegal. I believe Michael and Debbie Pearl’s book How to Train a Child has not been translated in my language. I wonder whether Created to be his Helpmeet has been translated either, but I suppose not. I got to know these books through the internet.
    Perhaps I’ll conduct some research on some of these infamous marriage books, like Love and Respect. Are they available here? Have they been translated in my language? I’ll let you know if I find out something.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I hope they haven’t been translated! What breaks my heart is that so many missionaries are taking these books into Africa and South America and Asia. Instead of Jesus setting people free, they’re continuing bondage. It’s so sad.

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        Especially in areas where women are still basically slaves anyways????? Terrible.

        Reply
      • Emmy

        I just looked at the website of one on-line Christian bookstore. They had one book by Mark Driscoll and his wife. I’m not sure what the title would be in English. True Marriage, or something like that. Mark Driscoll was the Penis Home Guy, wasn’t he? I suppose this one is not the worst of his books, however.
        The most popular foreign author in the Love and Marriage Department seems to be Gary Chapman. A pile of his titles were available on his Love Language application and marriage. As far as I know, Gary Chapman is a decent and constructive writer.
        I did not find Love and Respect or any books by the Pearls on this website. So far so good.
        However…now I think about it, a few years ago, they had YOUR book for sale: Good Girls Guide to great sex, translated in my language. 🙂
        I assume it has been sold out because it was no longer there.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, Driscoll wrote Real Marriage. He is indeed Penis Home Guy! I do hope they get my book back. 🙂

          Reply
  22. Kim P

    So many thoughts running through my head ab this book, the Pearls, other people like the Pearls. (I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments!)
    Two things:
    Is there a Pearl book for husbands? (I couldn’t find one.) Because I find it problematic that people like this talk all day ab husbands being the heads and leaders – and then the gist of their message is it all falls on the woman. What!? (That doesn’t logically make sense.) So much so that only SHE gets a lecture book on living her God-ordained “role”?
    I could talk for days ab how much I disagree with their perspective and the child-rearing book, but let’s stop for a moment to consider the irony that husbands have no book! That in and of itself exposes the bias, the ridiculousness, the patriarchal oppressive mindset.
    So many of these hyper-pious people in their messages defy and deny common sense. God gave us common sense and it helps us to see TRUTH. His truth and His message of love.
    My second point:
    Gary Thomas was talking ab his book When to Walk Away and said that as Christians we have focused more on piety than fruitfulness, which is what we are actually called to. It was the final nail in the coffin for me with all of these books that focus on rules instead of relationship. I shed the guilt for not living up to these “Christian” authors on my bookshelves. I want Jesus, and in relationship with Him, He will bear fruit in me. And that fruit isn’t ab ME! It’s about sharing His love with others and encouraging others. Thank you, Sheila, for going to the hard places with confidence and grace. It would be easier to focus on all the positives ab marriage , but you tackle it ALL, even abuse. Thank you so!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts, Kim! I love what Gary said, too. That’s so true! It’s not about doctrine. It’s about fruit in your life. God came to actually transform us, and we’re meant to do great things. How can we if we spend our lives trying ot appease an evil man?

      Reply
    • Mom2littles

      There is a book written for the men by Michael Pearl. It’s called Created to Need a Helpmeet. I’ve never read it, and I do not endorse the CTBHH book at all, but just to be fair, the men’s book does exist.

      Reply
    • Bethany#2

      There is a book for husband’s…I just can’t remember what the title was.

      Reply
      • Hannah

        The men’s book is called “Created to Need a Helpmeet.” There is a whole series of this stuff. There is also “In Search of a Helpmeet” which I think is for young men and “Preparing to Be a Helpmeet” for young women, all by the Pearls. Similar to how Emmerson Eggerich has not only just the “Love and Respect” book but has a whole series of love and respect books pertaining to different situations and relationships. It’s like all these guys just have one thought and spin it out for 10 books.

        Reply
    • Soup + Celery

      Hey, Kim!
      The Pearls *did* write a book for husbands: “Created to Need a Helpmeet”. By all accounts it’s more balanced and less horrid than CtBaH (Or the one aimed at young women – Preparing to be a Helpmeet – which I read as a teenager, and it just made me feel rather sad and guilty instead of spurring me on to be more like Jesus), which isn’t saying much.
      Apparently, Michael Pearl even admits in his book for men that he’s going easy on guys, and that his wife is way harder on women in HER book.
      le sigh.
      Apparently Debbie Pearl is no wilting wallflower (she threw rocks at Michael on at least one occasion?), so this probably “taints” her views on how other women behave. If you assume you’re the norm, then most women angrily chuck (or want to chuck) rocks at their husbands, so you’d better write a book with the intent to Squash Wives.

      Reply
    • Jess

      The men’s book is better, but doing anything good for your wife is motivated by making her a better help meet for you. He doesn’t realize how self-absorbed he is. Even when Debi is injured his horror feels like “How awful for ME if my bride died on our honeymoon!” After reading the four versions of their love story, I don’t think he loved her when they got married, just starting to feel romantically interested but she purposed and he REALLY wanted to have sex so they married a week later. (They has known each other for ten years though.) So Debi DID have to make him fall in love with her, thus her perspective of one day becoming cherished if you work really hard.

      Reply
  23. www.hiddenhalf.org

    Thank you so much Sheila. Ephesians 5:22 comes AFTER Ephesians 5:21, which tells them to both submit to each other IN Christ….so there is a very, very specific context for “submission” to the husband.
    And a husband coming at his pregnant wife does NOT fit the description of a Godly husband who is submitted to the Lord and his wife with self-sacrificing love.
    Ephesians 5:10-11, which comes BEFORE Ephesians 5:21-22, tells us to expose evil and have nothing to do with evil doers…
    The rest of Ephesians 5 has more counsel for the husband than the wife…including its emphasis on other-centered, self-sacrificing love for the wife.
    So if we stay in context, with Ephesians 5:22, before and after this verse that has been used and abused, we find that before and after this verse, “submission” is NOT to blind submission, is NOT submission to evil doers/abusers.
    Instead, Ephesians 5:22 requires mutual submission to God and one’s spouse, and other-centered, self-sacrificing love on the part of the husband.
    And I have emphasized for years, when I teach and train, that “submitting” to abusive behavior is actually reinforcing that evil behavior, which means that the wife is actually sinning against her husband (and children who have to endure with her). Thanks for highlighting the truth.

    Reply
  24. Jay

    Very, very, very good article.
    The church is made up of humans, and all too often humans find good reasons to inflict legalism on others. This kind of abusive mindset, saddling others with horrid manipulative guilt qualifies as what Jesus talked about in Matt 23:
    “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
    The thought of a poor mother, trapped in this kind of bondage, is horriffic. Even more so to contemplate little ones that she wants to protect but can’t.
    As was often said when I was in the Air Force: “This is BULLSHIT.”
    (I understand if you censor that, but I don’t apologize).

    Reply
  25. Lenie

    I was closely tied to the Pearl family for many years (lived down there, went to their church, and other things) and I always felt like there was an actual hatred for women that both Mike and Debi had/have. Just a few of my personal examples, I was told I was fat (many times!) by both of them, that I was too old to find a good husband (I was in my 20’s!), I was told I didn’t know how to do anything, and many other insulting things that I look back on and just am blown away that I ever put up with! I am not the only woman (or person, for that matter) that they treated this way – it’s just who they are. I really believe that they both have deep psychological issues that they’ve passed on to their own kids. It’s been many years since I’ve lived down there but I am still dealing with tbe affects/triggers that I have from being in close contact for all those years. These people are disfunctional, please don’t listen to them or trust them or take their marriage or child “training” advice!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so sorry for that abuse from them! So sorry, but not surprised. I hope you’re in a good community now!

      Reply
  26. T

    Sheila, thank you for bringing clarity on this issue. As an abuse victim myself (emotional abuse from parents), I want to say this type of message is exactly what’s needed to help people get out of abusive situations. It wasn’t my fault that I was abused, but it was my responsibility to get myself out, get help, and heal.
    My abusive mother has convinced my father that it is a Christian husband’s duty to roll over and take whatever abuse she throws at him. Her abuse has gotten worse against him and because of this wrong idea about Christian marriage, my father participated in the abuse rather than protecting me from it. His unwillingness to push back against her sin did harm to others, the effects were not confined to within their marriage, and it caused him to sin too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, T, that happens so often. Children seeing their parents abused is almost as bad as being abused themselves. And so many of these parents also turn on the kids. We simply have to protect our children!

      Reply
  27. WRM

    Lori Alexander has written recently in defense of Debi Pearl. She defends the husband, who was a criminal by virtue of assaulting his wife. Oddly enough, her husband defends incest between brother and sister. He says incest was seen as “normal” when he was growing up. Wife abuse, though, is something that should be tolerated. It makes no sense!

    Reply
  28. Tam

    The idea that an abusive husband will stop being abusive if a wife is “submissive enough” is just plain magical thinking. It disregards the serious problem that an abusive man has and leaves him with no help. If my husband (who is not abusive!) was suffering from any mental health issue, I would do everything I could to find him help. Abusive behavior is a symptom of a much deeper problem and it must be addressed by professional health care providers. I am deeply disturbed by people like Debi Pearl and Lori Alexander who think they have the right to “counsel” abused women. They are out of their depth and refuse to admit it. It is akin to practicing medicine without a medical license.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true! (and I guess Lori Alexander wrote a post that went up yesterday in response to this one. It’s so sad how she’s leading so many astray).

      Reply
  29. Tara

    Many years ago, my book club decided to read Created to Be His Helpmeet. From what I had already heard of the Pearl’s philosophy, I knew I probably wouldn’t like it, but wanted to read it before passing judgement. After a week of fuming and reading out passages to my husband in disgust, I asked him genuinely if this was the kind of wife he wanted. He replied, “Absolutely not. I don’t want a doormat for a wife, I want a friend and companion. Please stop reading it”. I stopped going to book group until they finished discussing it.
    This book is so damaging and I would burn every copy if I could. It is not as much of a problem for strong, older Christians because they can see it for what it is, but for young or new Christians who desperately want to be a Godly wife and perhaps didn’t have that modelling from their own parents, it is incredible dangerous. I have witnessed firsthand the irreparable damage this philosophy has done to marriages and, in the case of To Train Up a Child, to children. I personally know families who followed their advice because they desperately wanted to build a strong, godly and loving family, and as a result have ultimately destroyed them and their adult children no longer want anything to do with them. So tragic. It makes me so angry.

    Reply
  30. Ashlee Zammett

    I’m not in an abusive relationship. But I do relate so much to how certain “Christian” Organizations romanticize suffering in a way that is very harmful.

    Reply
  31. Jess

    I agree with you it’s a harmful book, but her supporters won’t even take you seriously when it’s obvious you have not studied the book. I think her actual advice was worse- she silenced Sunny by saying the only thing she was not doing correctly was reverencing Ahmad and not to say anything bad about him ever again. She DID give her the choice between that and leaving him, but says she was “surprised that Sunny wanted to do God’s will” which if phrased like that isn’t much of a choice. Debi continually guarantees your husband WILL be saved or WILL start loving you if you do what she says- oh wait it’s not her, it’s GOD. *facepalm* Makes me wish I had my own blog to do a thorough review showing exactly how she twists scripture thorough out the book!

    Reply
  32. Cindy

    Direct quote from the book:
    “If any authority abuses its power beyond that which God has allowed, it becomes subject to a greater power—as when a husband physically assaults his wife and becomes subject to the power of the state.”
    Excerpt From
    Created To Be His Help Meet
    Debi Pearl
    While I have some difficulty with the overall tone of this book, it is clear that it does not advocate letting your husband physically abuse you or your children without going to the authorities. Other advice that the Pearls have given in their magazine and on their website through the years corroborates this.
    Although I cannot follow all advice from the Pearls in this book and their child training series, I have learned much through them about what it means to love my husband and love my children. When I first read the child training books, through my own bias and error, I focused on the administration of corporal punishment without absorbing all the wisdom that was there on loving your children by spending time with them and finding out what makes them tick, instead of assuming that you needed to groom them to be exactly like you. Subsequent reading made me see what I had missed. Most commenters here do not appear to have read these books. No one’s advice is going to be perfect. Read Gods word for yourself and ask Him for wisdom as you read someone else’s advice. God does give us wisdom through others, but check to see if it aligns with His Word.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Cindy, it’s actually quite typical for authors to say that they don’t advocate physical assault and tell people to call the police. Every marriage book I’ve read does that.
      That’s not the issue. The issue is that then, within her anecdotes, she shows incidences of physical assault and she DOESN’T call the police, and she does blame the woman (as in the knife incident in the kitchen, for instance). If you’re reading this, then, and your husband is coming at you with a kitchen knife while you are pregnant, you’ll assume, “I guess that’s not physical abuse, because Debi says you should call the police for physical abuse, but she also says that the wife should figure out how to help the husband not get angry.” That’s dangerous.
      When a book has harmed this many people, it’s not a safe book. And it’s totally unnecessary to read it! Why read a book that has “some nuggets of good” or “some good advice” when you could read a book that is ALL good advice? It makes no sense why people defend the book. Just read a good one instead!

      Reply
  33. D

    Mrs. D,
    I, like you, have not got the courage yet to take action. I keep praying for god to renew my mind. I pray he gives you what you need also.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.