On Tuesdays during lunch I meet with our three house captains, who are all boys, and we talk about what it means to be men. We started by reading through the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling and discussing it. Now we’re reading through an anonymous poem, written in Middle English, likely in the 15th century, called How the Wyse Man Taught Hys Sone (“How the Wise Man Taught His Son”). It has 13 stanzas and covers much about Christian devotion and morality. We recently read the following stanza:
Sone, thi wyfe thou schall not chyde,
Ne caule her by no vylons name;
For sche that schall ly by thy syde,
To calle hyr wykyd, it is thy schame.
When thou schall thy wyfe defame,
Welle may another man do so;
Bot sofer, and a man may tame
Hert and hynd and the wyld ro.
In modern English:
Son, your wife you shall not chide,
Nor call her by no vile name;
For she that shall lie by your side,
To call her wicked, it is your shame.
When you shall your wife defame,
Well may another man do so;
But suffer, and a man may tame
Hart and hind and the wild roe.
You’ve probably been part of one of those incredibly awkward conversations when a husband brings up something embarrassing about his wife, and then the wife is stung and brings up some fault of her husband (or vice versa), and on it goes. For some reason (even though everyone cringes when it happens), this sort of conversation has become commonplace in our culture. But does Christ air the faults of his Bride, the Church? Does the Church find blame with her Husband, Christ? Then neither should wives talk badly about their husbands nor husbands about their wives.
Our anonymous poet offers some good advice: If you call your wife unkind things, and you’re one flesh with her, then you’re shaming yourself. This is especially true if it’s in front of other people. If a husband would have a problem with another man talking badly about his wife, why would he do it himself? Rather, if you have a problem with your wife, bear it patiently and don’t be harsh with her. If man can tame brute beasts like deer (the hart and hind and wild roe) by being patient, then how much more easily can he win over his wife with patience, she who is a sensible human being, made in the image of God?
Now these words may sting those who are married (that’s conviction of sin, for which there is forgiveness in Christ, thanks be to God). But for young men who are unmarried it is pure instruction. And they listen attentively and show interest in these matters. Someone else might wonder, “Why do eleven-year-old boys need to learn about how to be a good husband?” but the boys aren’t asking that question. They’re simply learning what it means to be a good husband. Their God and parents and pastors and teachers take marriage seriously, and they do too.
At Mount Hope we don’t teach our boys that men and women are interchangeable, which results in men being bitter toward their wives. No, we teach our boys to be men, so that one day they will love their wives.