The show Radiolab (obviously a radio show) tells the story of David Buss, a psychology professor at the University of Texas.  He was invited to a soiree at the house of a married fellow professor (David it seems was single.)  Surprisingly when he arrived with the event in full bloom, David’s friend was not present.  When he asked the man’s wife, she (with a look of disgust) told him her mild mannered husband was upstairs in his room.  David went upstairs to find his friend in a total, violent rage.  Eventually his friend said between gritted teeth, “I am going to kill her!”  He meant his wife.  He was going to kill her.  Why?

It turns out that earlier in the evening she had mocked and belittled his clothing choice for the event in front of several of her female friends. That moment of disrespect ignited a murderous rage in her husband.

When I tell this story to women, they laugh incredulously.  Such a little thing to spark such extreme anger!  Most men, however, immediately understand.

I am only guessing but I suspect that the disrespect in that home was a long standing state of affairs.  Now that she was doing it openly in front of others and because it never stopped, her husband had reached the end of his rope.  There seemed to be nothing he could say that would stop her.  He was verbally unable to spar with her successfully and besides, he didn’t want to have to demand respect.  The frustration and anger in this normally mild mannered man was now exploding.  He seriously did intend to kill her.  At that moment I don’t think the wife realized how severely the contempt she displayed had affected him.  Many women have no concept of how men think.  It isn’t just men who don’t understand women. Women don’t understand men.  I have noticed that woman study and know their man but they do not truly understand him.  I don’t expect that they would.  They are not men.

To be fair, I have little doubt that the professor was not meeting the emotional and relational needs of his wife.  He may not have known how or didn’t care.  Wives respect the men who love them.  If their man doesn’t love them the way they need to be loved, then despair, loneliness and a loss of hope set in. Respect is replaced with contempt.  It’s surprising that wives often don’t understand how powerful contempt can be.  Maybe they don’t care either.

David took his friend for a walk abound the block and talked him into a state of calm control.  The next day he received a phone call.  His friend wanted to come stay the night because if he continued to live under the roof of his own house, he intended to kill his wife.  The next day, the wife left town and went into hiding for six months.  She  finally realized that her husband REALLY would kill her.

I wonder if I explained to her how poisonous was the open and public disrespect that she showed her husband and that it was what lead to his murderous intent; I wonder if she would have been more careful with her tongue?  My guess?  No.  She felt he deserved it.  He had made her life unhappy too.

What the radio show set out to demonstrate was how murderous was the human heart.  They polled nations all over the world and asked, “Have you ever wanted to kill someone?”  91% of the men and 84% of the women answered yes.

This is no surprise to me.  Jesus told us that mere contempt for another human being was regarded by God as murder.  In other words, both the husband and the wife in this story are murderers in God’s eyes.  The purpose for the lesson of Jesus was to make it clear that we need a savior.  Our hearts are consumed by sin and evil.  The sooner we recognize it the sooner we should see the need we have for Jesus.

Matthew 522 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ (literally raca which is derived from a word for spit, a sign of contempt) shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the  fiery hell.


4 thoughts on “Contempt

  1. Good read. It reminded me of a series that my ex and I watched, can’t remember the name, but it was about the cycle of respect. I learned a lot from that series. People often ask why I am not more angry and why I am so nice to the ex “after what he did” and I can easily turn to many scriptures to explain why I am not angry. Matthew 5:22 is a fantastic example. Thank you again!!

  2. Thank you Brian
    You minister to me in depths that are so difficult to express.
    I look forward to your weekly postings

    Thank you so much

  3. Brian,
    I really agree with your post today. I know I have the power to call out ugliness in my husband with my words. Unfortunately it took me 5 years to understand that. It was when I read Love & Respect that I finally realized that when I thought my husband was “being a baby” I had actually disrespected him. 7 years later I can say he is grateful I learned how to communicate with him what I needed without being hurtful. I grieve when I hear women say they can’t respect ‘that man’ when referring to their husbands. They don’t realize how they call his unloving behavior out through their disrespect. Instead they paint a picture of abuse. I believe my reaction is my responsibility and no one makes me do or say mean things, however, it is equally important that I don’t provoke others to be mean.

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