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Posts tagged ‘confrontation’

Is Marital Indifference Emotionally Abusive? 

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If he doesn’t hit you, it’s not abuse?” This statement is not true. One of the most silent yet destructive forms of marital abuse is chronic indifference.

The opposite of love isn’t hate as many would think. It’s indifference. Indifference says I don’t care enough about you to give you my time, my energy or other resources to show interest, care, or love towards you. A person’s indifference says how you feel or what you want doesn’t matter to that person. Indifference says you are not a person to love, but an object to use. Indifference says I don’t need to change anything to make our relationship better for you if it’s okay for me. Indifference says that you exist for my benefit and when you don’t please me or benefit me anymore, you are replaceable or disposable.

One of the most horrific abuse stories in the Bible is one of gross indifference. A Levite and his concubine wife were traveling home when they stopped in the town of Gibeah. Expecting the typical Jewish hospitality, they waited in the open square, hoping someone would invite them to spend the night. As evening descended, an old man spotted the couple and graciously took them to his house. While the two men were getting acquainted, vile men of the city surrounded the home, beat on the door, and demanded the old man bring his guest outside so they might sexually abuse him.

The men of the town refused to listen to the old man so the Levite grabbed his own concubine and shoved her out the door. The men of the town raped her, taking turns until dawn.

The scriptures say, “When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. Coldly he said, “Get up! Let’s go! But there was no answer. So he tossed her lifeless body on his donkey and took her home” Later on he cut her up into twelve pieces and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel, portraying himself (not his poor wife) as the victim of a horrible injustice (Judges 19:1-30).

The rape and torture by those vile men was traumatic, but I often wonder if her greater suffering was that her own husband indifferently tossed her out the door like a piece of trash, knowing full well she would be used and abused.

Marriage is the one relationship where a man and a woman publicly make promises to not be indifferent. They promise to love, to cherish, to protect, and to honor one another. When a person regularly fails to keep his or her fundamental marital promise, the marriage is in deep trouble and to pretend otherwise is not healthy or biblical.

For example, Karen was a wife who loved her husband and wanted things to work between them but he had little time for her. He was too busy running a business and making money. When she tried to talk to him about her feelings, he became harsh and then gave her the silent treatment, sometimes ignoring her for months. When Karen pursued or pressured him to discuss their problems, he verbally attacked her. He accused her of being controlling and manipulative. The only personal connection he desired was sexual and this left Karen feeling empty and used.

Finally she decided to have a heart-to-heart talk about changes she needed in their relationship. Wiring up all her courage she said, “Steve, there is something that I need to share with you that’s really important. Do you have time tonight?” “Okay, but I don’t have all night. There’s a football game starting in about 15 minutes.”

Karen took a deep breath and began.

“I know you get very frustrated when I’m not responsive to your sexual needs. I know you want me to be more sexual with you and enjoy our physical relationship. But the way you treat me much of the time makes me feel angry and hurt.

When you ignore me for long periods of time or accuse me of being things that I’m not, I just can’t manufacture warm and affectionate feelings towards you when I’m upset and hurt.” Then she asked him the million-dollar question. She asked, “Wouldn’t you enjoy our sexual relationship much more if you knew I wanted to be with you and enjoyed that part of our relationship rather than me just doing my wifely duty?“

Steve’s answer floored her. “Of course I would,” he said, but added, “But if wifely duty is all I can get, I’ll settle for that.”

Steve’s response woke Karen up to his gross indifference toward her as his wife, as a woman, and as a person. Everything in their relationship revolved around him and his needs. As long as her body was available when he wanted sex, it mattered little to him how she felt.

Later, Karen told me, God never intended her to be a sexual object nor to sacrifice her body to enable her husband’s selfishness to continue unchallenged.

Indifference can be one of the most unrecognized yet damaging forms of emotional abuse in marriage.

4 Steps Every Couple Needs to Take When Trust Is Broken

SOURCE:  MARISSA GOLD/Women’s Day

How to Rebuild Broken Trust:  Experts Share a Four-Step Plan

When trust is broken in a relationship, it can seem impossible to repair. But many couples have dealt with dishonesty—from financial problems to infidelity—and made it through to a happier, more honest place. Here, experts share the exact steps to take to get back on track.

We may enter a relationship with high hopes and rose-colored glasses, but nobody’s perfect. Most couples will run into a trust issue of some sort over the course of their relationship. The most common? “Cheating,” says M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, creator of the Neuman Method. But that doesn’t necessarily mean catching your husband in bed with another woman is the only thing that can cause a rift between you and your partner. “Trust is broken whenever there is lying that creates a shift in the couple’s life,” says Neuman. “Gambling, drug use, and even emotional and online infidelity often lead to severe trust issues.”

The fact is, all of the phones, laptops, and social networks we’re glued to 24/7 provide ample opportunity for foul play. “It’s more common now for affairs to be emotional—on social media, reconnecting with a high school sweetheart—or using office chat apps or email accounts to carry on a flirtation,” says Dr. Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a Gottman Institute master therapist. “As Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, has said, affairs are about access and opportunity.”

If trust has been broken between you and your partner, whether it was a physical affair, an emotional affair, or a gambling or drug habit, we’ve asked relationship experts to outline the exact steps you need to take if you want to work on rebuilding your relationship.

Step One: Confrontation

First things first (and no, we’re not talking about yelling and screaming): Have the confrontation in person. “Once you’ve discovered the infidelity, you need to evaluate your partner’s response,” says Neuman. “Is he apologetic and remorseful, or confused and ‘in love’ with this other person?” Don’t assume anything, fight via text or email, or make decisions about your future before having a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to talking to your partner, “you’ll feel a need to tell some people what happened because you’ll need to vent,” says Neuman. “But try to limit this sharing to those who will really be there for you and give you a safe space to share—NOT a lot of advice.” The idea is to get support without being swayed one way or another. You also don’t want to be sitting around the Thanksgiving table a year from now knowing that everyone in your family knows your dirty laundry. So be careful about who you tell, and how much you tell them.

Finally, watch out for urges to “even the score” or make some questionable decisions of your own. “Don’t create a toxic relationship by taking revenge, being vindictive, or bringing other people in,” warns Meunier. In other words, reconnecting with your own high school sweetheart for comfort is not the best idea, nor is recruiting your in-laws to chastise your partner about what he did.

Step Two: Atonement

This is a time for full transparency: “The person who made the choice to commit the act of betrayal should take time to understand the impact of his or her actions, tell the full story of the betrayal, and answer any questions their partner has,” says Meunier. “Your spouse has to want to make this relationship work, be apologetic and—in the case of an affair—be willing to completely end it with the other woman,” stresses Neuman.

It’s also a time for emotional support. It’s not uncommon to lose sleep, stop eating, or even have trouble functioning after discovering an infidelity, so Meunier encourages the offending partner to “be available to support and comfort the hurt partner.” Translation: He needs to be patient and kind and cater to you for a bit, not pop off angrily every time you want to talk about the issue.

You also need to give yourself some extra love right now: “Practicing meditation, daily gratitude, reading books on affair recovery (the ones based on scientific research are best) yoga, and journaling are all good techniques,” says Meunier. “I also encourage both partners to engage in light and easy activities that preserves a sense of continuity, fun, and a feeling of family. This can be as simple as having breakfast or dinner, watching a show on the couch together, or going grocery shopping. If there are children present, this is even more important.”

Step Three: Reconnecting

 

Once you’ve talked through all the details of the betrayal and have decided to recommit to one another, it’s time to start limiting how often you bring up the infidelity. “I encourage couples to only talk about the betrayal in the counselor’s office, or to set a scheduled meeting, like lunch, to do this,” says Meunier. “Avoid talking about it in closed intense environments such as the car or in the bedroom. Instead, go out on the porch—the fear of neighbors hearing will make both of you behave better.”

After you eliminate the constant “threat” environment that comes with discussing the issue, you can begin to learn how to be more connected and emotionally present with each other. How do you do that, exactly? “Once broken, trust has to be earned by small things each person does every day,” says Meunier. It’s about consistency and kindness: Be home when you say you will, avoid that work event where you know the affair partner might be, and give regular, sincere compliments to build back your partner’s self-esteem. It may take time, but if your partner is willing to show you he is committed and consistent in his actions, he’ll slowly earn back your trust. This isn’t always easy—the betraying partner has more of a burden during this time, explains Meunier—but if he sticks it out, you’ll see results. And remember, the effort shouldn’t feel one-sided: “Eventually both people need to be making small gestures of kindness,” adds Meunier.

Step Four: Building a New Relationship

At this point, you’re building a brand new emotional, physical, and social contract for the relationship. You’re connecting in a more honest way, asking for what you really need, and, “Doing whatever is necessary to affair-proof your relationship going forward,” says Meunier.

The key here on out is positive responses: “We use a term developed by Dr. Gottman called turning towards,” says Meunier. “Intimacy is built by repeated experiences of one partner bidding for their partner’s attention or affection and receiving a positive response,” says Meunier. When you receive consistent, positive reactions from one another in everyday life, trust returns. Here’s an example: “If the betraying spouse says ‘Will you watch Real Housewives with me?’ I want the hurt partner to say ‘yes’ not because they suddenly forgive their partner or love the show, but because they recognize that it costs nothing to sit quietly next to someone and watch a television show, and that doing so gives them points in the emotional bank account. Similarly, if the hurt spouse calls while you’re apart and says ‘Can you turn on Facetime and show me who is in the room with you?’ I encourage the betraying partner to do that whenever possible. Not ignoring your partner, not rejecting each other, and being kind are all ways we build a sense of normalcy and safety, which in turn builds trust.”

Doesn’t Love Cover A Multitude of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick LCSW [www.leslievernick.com]

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8). Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him? The bible teaches us, “It is good for us to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?

Many of us in a destructive relationship struggle with this same question.

Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2). God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another. We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins.

The scriptures also instruct us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are not to participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We’re told to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), as well as restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1). When someone offends us, we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life (Ephesians 4:15). Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that we do not put a heavy burden on ourselves (or allow someone else to put it on us) to do something that God himself does not do. God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship. We’ve misunderstood (or been taught) unconditional love requires unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisee’s are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound. It enables someone to continue to believe that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That thinking is not biblical, healthy, or true. For the good of the destructive person, our marriage, our own emotional and spiritual health as well as our children’s well-being, there are times we must make some tough choices. We must speak up, set boundaries and implement consequences when a destructive person’s behavior is destroying what God holds so precious—people, marriage, and family. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

Yes, the destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. We are not better and God doesn’t love us more than he loves the destructive individual. We are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace. The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction. She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways. Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. We have one purpose—to jolt someone awake. We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors.

Is Your Spouse’s Depression Hurting You?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

What to do when his depression is hurting you

Question:  My husband and I have been married for 27 years. I have been reading your books and articles and they have been a blessing to me. Without going into great detail, my husband suffers from major depression.

 He controls the finances, disregards my feelings and desires, lies constantly and can be emotionally and verbally abusive. There is–or was–a kind and honorable man in there, but I don’t see him much anymore, and living with the ” other guy” is wearing me down to nothing.

  After facing financial ruin 5 years ago and managing to get out of debt by the grace of God and start over, he went behind my back to fund his “projects” and we are right back where we started. I have been an enabler who vacillates between keeping the peace and occasionally breaking down and yelling/ crying, but I am trying to change.

 I just need to know…can I hold a depressed person accountable for these actions? His view of reality is skewed and I’ve tried so hard to be kind and supportive but I am so drained. I am afraid if he is forced to confront his behaviors he will be suicidal, but the stress of living this way is too much.

 Also, how do I set boundaries on the spending? We have agreed on budgets, etc., but he ignores them. He promised me he would not put us in debt again, but he broke that promise in a big way, some of it behind my back, some of it while I begged him not to. What can I do to protect me and my son? He is not speaking to me today because I confronted him about some lies I just discovered regarding finances. I am scared of what he will do if I try to take this away from him, and don’t know that I can anyway.

Answer:  You are struggling with several issues at once so I think it might be helpful to separate them a bit for greater clarity. The first is your husband’s depression. How long has he been depressed and is he getting any treatment for it? Does he have a doctor or counselor that he’s working with? If not why not? Depression is a treatable problem. Does he have any family history of bi-polar depression? His spending issues may indicate some mania. If so, be sure to mention this to his treatment provider.

Male depression typically manifests differently than female depression. A depressed woman tends to internalize her pain and blames herself. A depressed male usually externalizes his pain and blames others and circumstances. His externalized pain results in lashing out toward loved ones, sometimes leading to abusive incidents (either verbal and/or physical).

Although depression does rob an individual of his or her ability to think clearly, it does not rob them of all sense of reality or truth, nor does being depressed give him an excuse to sin or act in ways that injure those he says he loves, whether financially, relationally, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes it’s our compassion, sometimes it’s our fears, but It sounds like you’ve been giving your husband a get out jail free card when he sins against you or your family because you’re trying to be sensitive to his depression. The problem I see is that it’s not helping. Shielding your husband from the reality and consequences of his behavior is not helping him get better. It’s not helping him stop his abusive/deceitful behaviors, and it’s taking you to the edge of your own cliff where you are feeling like you can’t take much more. Therefore, let me suggest a different approach and it starts with asking God for wisdom because it’s scary to set boundaries and implement consequences when you’re not sure of what will happen next.

First, I want you to accept the very painful reality that the only person you can take full responsibility for is you (unless you have an infant in the home). Therefore, you need to get your own help to handle yourself in this situation. You acknowledged you are an enabler. Until you address why you keep enabling behavior that becomes destructive to you, to him and to your future, you will probably keep repeating it or will be too afraid to change it.

One thing you mentioned is your fear of him committing suicide. Yet you also indicated in your question that you just recently confronted his lying about finances and he didn’t threaten suicide, he just stopped speaking to you. Suicide is a real possibility with someone who is not only depressed, but has lost hope. But threatening suicide can also be used to manipulate others into doing what they want.

I hear you loud and clear that you are nearly at the end of your rope. Living with a depressed person definitely takes its toll on the rest of the family. That’s why it’s so crucial that you get your own support and help right now, not only to stop enabling his behaviors, but to stay healthy and strong yourself.

I’m going to give you a few things to think about – hopefully you will have the courage and strength to implement them. They will be crucial to your long term sanity as well as safety.

Tell someone what’s going on. Secrets are lethal and you need some support. You can share what’s happening without throwing your husband under the bus. Be wise who you share this with, but you need someone who can pray for you and perhaps be an advocate with you in talking with your husband. That might be another family member such as an adult child or one of his siblings, a good friend, or your pastor.

You must also start to exercise some stewardship over your life. You do not have power over your husband’s life although you do have considerable influence. Therefore, I want you to tell your husband that his depression is now affecting you and your marriage. You can say it lovingly like, “I need for you to get help now. You may be able to live with your depression but I can’t. You’re not behaving like the man you once were.”

You said in your question that somewhere inside of him there is a kind and honorable man but his negative emotions rule him and cloud his thinking and judgment. That can happen to all of us and sometimes it’s helpful when we have a grace-filled truth teller come along side of us to remind us who we are. Read the story in the Bible where Abigail had a heart-to-heart conversation with David after her husband refused to feed David and his men. David was humiliated and outraged. He vowed to kill every male in Nabal’s household. Boldly yet humbly, Abigail went to meet David with supplies of food. In their conversation, she reminded him who he was (the Lord’s anointed and the future king of Israel). This helped him to press pause on his destructive emotions of rage long enough to rethink his decision to kill all of Nabal’s men. (Read 1 Samuel 25: 29-35) for the story.)

In a similar way, I’d like you to try to have that kind of conversation with your husband. Humbly remind him who he is (a child of God, an honorable man, whatever good characteristics you know of him) and encourage him not to allow his depressed feelings to rule his heart or his decisions. Ask him to be willing to receive help to manage these depressed emotions so that he can be the person God wants him to be.

He may have all kinds of objections to getting outside help. Here is where you must stay strong and firm. His depression is not only causing him distress, it’s causing you distress. He is making poor decisions and these decisions affect you and your child. Affirm that you love him and want to see him get well and your marriage to thrive. If he agrees to see a doctor, or if he has one already, insist on going with him and report to the doctor the changes in him that you observe. For example, he doesn’t’ sleep well, he’s spending recklessly, he’s angry all the time, he is impulsive, etc. If he goes alone, he may minimize his symptoms or not recognize some of the things he does that are upsetting to you.

You don’t share whether or not you are employed, but at this time I would separate your finances and open a separate checking account with just your name on it exercising good stewardship over your finances. Since he has been irresponsible and deceitful with the finances, the consequences are that you are going to be in charge of family finances until he gets better. That may motivate him to get the help he needs as well as set some limits on his access to family money. Do not sign for loans or credit cards or home equity loans. This is not helpful to him or to you. This is where your enabling may need to be addressed so you don’t fall victim again.

It’s important that you realize that you are not only doing this for your protection, you are doing it for his. When you know someone is not making good decisions, you don’t give them unlimited access to things that could harm them or others. For example, if you had guns in the house you would remove them or make sure they were locked up. If you had a lot of prescription pills in the house, you would lock them up. Taking charge of the finances is not just for your protection, it’s for his. The shame that he feels for lying and failing again to appropriately manage money contributes to his feelings of worthlessness and feeds the cycle of depression and may lead to hopelessness – thinking he’ll never get better.

There is an excellent book I’d recommend you check out of your library called, How You can Survive When They’re Depressed:  Living and Coping with Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield. It will help you be a good steward of your own life as well as wisely set appropriate boundaries with your spouse.

7 Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

SOURCE:   Taken from an article by Ron Edmondson

Do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Here are 7 steps to prepare:

Conviction – There first needs to be some sense of urgency towards having the conversation. People who have frequent hard conversations just to have hard conversations are obnoxious at best. Hard conversations, where you challenge someone, confront a situation or address sensitive issues should be rare, not normal. Make sure you know it’s something you must do in order to improve the situation or protect the relationship.

Prayer – You should pray as a part of the conviction process also, but this is prayer after you know you are moving forward. Pray for God’s favor on the conversation, open hearts for you and the other party, and God’s resolution to be realized.

Notes – Jot down your main points you are trying to make.  You want to be prepared. The main issues are to be factual, to the point, but kind, truthful, and helpful. Be willing to assume blame where needed.

Setting – Time and place are critical in difficult situations. You should never “attack” someone in ways that will embarrass them more or add unnecessary stress to the situation. Be strategic with your when and where.

Rehearsal – Go through your notes and your part of the conversation. Imagine if someone was having this conversation with you and how you would respond. You can’t determine how they will respond, but you can rehearse how you will respond. The more you do this the better you’ll be able to control your emotions when the time comes.

Action – Do it. You need to plan the when, as stated above, but the longer you wait the harder and more awkward it will be. Have the conversation while you’re prepared and in a prayerful mindset about the situation.

Follow up – Most likely the conversation won’t end with the conversation. You will need to check in with the person, send them a follow-up email, phone call or even another meeting. You may need to reiterate your care for them personally even after the conversation. If nothing more is needed between you and the person, at least take time to think through how the conversation went so you can learn from it and be better prepared for future difficult conversations. You can be assured of additional opportunities.

How to Disarm an Angry Person

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

It is the most difficult of maneuvers. There are no guarantees of success. And the stakes are high. But we have no choice: we must learn how to do it.

How do you disarm an angry person?

The angry person could be a child, parent, spouse, friend, neighbor or counselee. And, of course, we could use a little disarming ourselves sometimes.

It all depends on your preparation. Our most common responses to anger are either fear or anger – responses that have very little potential to disarm anyone. When you retreat or withdraw in fear, the angry person still has the loaded gun, and will keep it handy because the one with the gun wins. All they have to do is brandish their side arms around and angry people get what they want. The cycle never ends.

Following the old fight or flight tradition, others respond to angry people by getting out their own guns. After all, justice demands a fair fight. If the angry person is going to wave a gun, you will wave yours too. The problem here is fairly straightforward: someone is going to get hurt and since the angry person is likely to be more skilled and experienced than you, you are the one who gets shot. And yes, as in the cartoons, you get up to fight another day, but people are still shooting each other.

Your preparation for a more effective confrontation is counterintuitive, as are most of God’s ways.Humility is the way of strength. Weakness is the new unstoppable force. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). The cross of Jesus Christ changes everything. Satan himself – the angriest in all creation – is disarmed through self-sacrificial humility. The way to be a true human being, in all its strength, is now portrayed clearly in Jesus and is available through the Spirit.

For us, this path begins as we hold loosely to our desires. For example, most of us want something from the angry person – love and respect are high on that list. There is nothing wrong with wanting love and respect, but you would do best to shoot them yourself before the other person does. You will find that you won’t die. Instead, as you put to death the things that you want from the angry person, you will notice—perhaps for the first time—a hint of freedom and even boldness. When you have nothing to lose you can perform some unusual feats of strength.

Think about it. The angry person is screaming about how you are such an idiotic jerk, and if you aren’t as concerned with pleasing people or bolstering your own reputation, you can respond with something other than anger or fear. If the angry person’s pleasure or your own reputation is critical to you, you will be controlled by the angry person. So kill these before the other person shoots. The result is that there is nothing left to shoot, and you are free to speak from a place of weakness and say something like:

“Could you help me to see how I am an idiotic jerk – I will listen to you if you want to talk about it.” (Important note: NO sarcasm).

“What’s wrong?”

Or, you might decide that, at that moment, you can’t say anything to the deranged gunslinger, because you don’t have a clue what to say and the angry person has become an utter, animal-like fool, so you raise the anger incident later. With nothing to lose, your options are endless.

Track the life of Jesus and you will see that he was never angry because of the insults and derision of the religious leaders. He never took the attacks of others personally. That’s what happens when you live to enhance the Father’s reputation, you empty yourself of any interest in your own personal honor and reputation, and you love other people more than they love you. That’s what happens when you know that your Father is the perfect judge, so you don’t have to be the judge pro tem.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Here is how to move forward.

  1. Don’t minimize the destruction of anger. You are getting shot at! Of course it hurts.
  2. You are setting out to learn a disarming strategy that takes humility and love, and this is way over your head. As such, “Lord have mercy on me” is the order of the day.
  3. Remember that angry people are blind to their own anger. They are the last to know that they are killing people. Instead, all they see is that they are right and others are wrong. Assume that they are spiritual lunatics.
  4. Divest yourself of all the things you desire and cherish for yourself. Do you want love? Toss it and keep only the necessities, such as the desire to love. Do you need respect and understanding? It will only be an encumbrance. Get rid of it.
  5. Move toward the angry person in love and humility. Fear runs away, anger attacks. Humility and love move toward. In a surprise attack they blindside angry people with weakness. Your timing will be important. Sometimes you can say something while the gun is aimed. Other times you will wait and speak later.

The person’s anger could have many reasons – you being one. But murderous anger is always wrong. At some point, from your place of love and humility, you will hold up the mirror and help angry people see themselves (Matthew 7:5).

[Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF.]

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

Lord, Show Me, Teach Me, Guide Me How to Confront

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at  Living Free

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5 NIV

[When] loved ones have life-controlling problems, we can’t fix our loved ones’ problems, but we can help by confronting in love, helping tear down the wall of defenses, brick by brick, until they are able to see themselves as they really are. Only then will they be able to move ahead toward recovery.

An important element of effective caring confrontation is to focus on what and how, not on why. The why question only serves to raise people’s defenses and makes it more difficult to penetrate their state of delusion. Instead, talk about observable behaviors that can be described by such words as what, how, when or where.

Why may break the communication because it questions motive. Yes, their motives may be wrong, but their delusion can best be penetrated by presenting the facts in a non-threatening way.

Remember that God is with both you and your loved one. Ask him to show you what to do, to teach you wisdom, and to guide you in this journey. He loves you both … and with him, all things are possible.

Father, I ask you to show me your ways, teach me your paths, and guide me in your truth. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. A complement to the Concerned Persons small group study, this booklet is written primarily for those who want to help someone close to them who is enslaved by the stronghold of a life-controlling issue. It is also designed to help someone who is suffering the consequences of a loved one’s problem.

Caring Confrontation

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Living Free

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 NIV

Caring confrontation of a loved one with a life-controlling problem is an effective way to help him (or her) see himself as he really is. It will help you chip away, bit by bit, at the wall of delusion that prevents him from seeing the reality of the downward spiral of his destructive behavior.

One important element in this kind of confrontation is to focus on the action, not on the actor. When God looked at us in our sin, he didn’t label us “bad” and give up on us. He focused on providing a way to take away our sin. He sent his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross and pay the price for our sins. And so we need to love people in the midst of their sin, and focus on addressing the sinful action and helping them come to Jesus in repentance.

Be careful not to criticize or label your loved one as “bad.” Instead, focus on the behaviors that are causing the problem. When he or she tries to use a defense like rationalizing or anger or denial, always bring the discussion back to the behaviors. Your emphasis should be on what your loved one does, rather than any sort of personal attack.

It is important to focus on observations and facts instead of what you think or imagine. Make statements about what you have actually seen and heard and not on any conclusions you have drawn personally. And, of course, be sure to pray before confronting your loved one. Ask God to prepare both of you. With his help, you can do this. With his guidance, you can help your loved one tear down the wall of delusion and begin a path to healing and restoration.

Father, just as you loved me in the midst of my sin, help me to love this person. Help me to focus on the sinful behavior and give me wisdom in talking to him about it. May he begin to see the reality of what he is doing and come to Jesus for help and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. A complement to the Concerned Persons small group study, this booklet is written primarily for those who want to help someone close to them who is enslaved by the stronghold of a life-controlling issue. It is also designed to help someone who is suffering the consequences of a loved one’s problem.

Countering the Manipulator’s Tactics

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

. . . it’s important that you understand that you will never change the manipulator when you confront their manipulative tactics directly. They will just switch to another tactic. So if you want to change, change begins with you.

You must recognize that someone is attempting to manipulate you.

Awareness is the first step of all change. But you are not going to change the person doing the manipulating. You are going to change you. Manipulation is only effective if it works to control you. Therefore, you must begin to identify what’s going on in you that keeps you easily manipulated by others.

The three most common reasons we allow ourselves to be manipulated are:

Fear:  Fear comes in many forms. We may fear the loss of relationship, we fear the disapproval of others, or we fear making someone unhappy with us. We also fear the threats and consequences of the manipulators actions. What if they actually succeed at doing what they threaten?

We’re too nice:  We enjoy being a giver, making people happy, and taking care of other’s needs. We find satisfaction and our self-esteem and self-worth often comes from doing for others. However, when we don’t have a clear sense of self and good boundaries, manipulators sense this in us and exploit it to their own advantage.

Guilt:  We live under a lie that we should always put other people’s wants and needs ahead of our own. When we try to speak up or put our own needs out there, manipulators often exploit us and attempt to make us feel like we are doing something wrong if we don’t always put their wants and needs ahead of our own. Manipulators define love as always doing what I want/need you to do. Therefore, if we have a different opinion, need, want or feelings, we are told we are unloving and feel guilty if we express or want to do something different.

What you need to overcome a manipulator’s tactics:

Develop a clear sense of self:  You need to know who you are, what you want, what you feel, and what you like and don’t like. You need not apologize for these things. They are what make you, you. Often times we fear that if we state what we need, feel, think or like, we’re being selfish. But it isn’t selfish to know who you are or what you want. That’s healthy. Selfishness is demanding that you always get what you want or that other’s always put you first. In the same way, when someone else demands that of you, they are being selfish and disrespectful of your personhood.

Jesus knew who he was. Because of his strong identity in the Father’s Word, he was not manipulated when people wanted him to do things the Father did not call him to do. He also was not derailed when other’s defined him as crazy or demon possessed.

The ability to say “no” in the face of someone’s disapproval:  Healthy people live in reality. The truth is, when we can’t accommodate someone else’s desires or needs, they naturally will feel disappointed. That’s human and most people will adjust and move on. Healthy people know that they don’t always get everything they want even if what they want is legitimate.

However, when we cannot tolerate someone else’s disappointment or disapproval when we say “no”, then it’s harder for us to say it or have boundaries. Manipulators capitalize on this weakness and use disappointment and disapproval in extreme forms to get us to do what they want.

Read Mark 1:29-39 and see how Jesus said no to Peter and his friends who were waiting to get healed. Do you think they felt disappointed? How did Jesus handle that?

Tolerate someone else’s negative affect (disappointment, sadness, and/or anger withoutbacking down):  We can show empathy for someone else’s sadness or hurt or even anger when we can’t accommodate him/her without backing down and reversing our decision.

For example, in many of the examples of manipulation [I’ve previously written about], a mother was attempting to get her adult child to come to her home for the holiday. If you don’t want to be manipulated into saying “yes” when you want to say “no”, you can say, “Mom I know this is hard for you, and I understand that you’re disappointed and sad that we won’t be there. I hope you will try to understand it’s just too difficult for us to travel that far over the holiday with all the children.”

Remember, a healthy relationship is characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. If you are in a relationship with someone who uses manipulation regularly, as you get stronger, you can invite him/her into healthy change simply by not allowing yourself to be manipulated. This will create a crisis of sorts in your relationship.

Either the manipulator will begin to back down and respect your time, your feelings, your desires and your needs, or they will move on to another person who is more easily manipulated.

Don’t let that be you.

Initiating a Difficult Conversation

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Enriching the Relationships that Matter Most!

Sandy was dusting her husband’s desk when her eye caught the corner of something stuck underneath. She bent down and what she saw devastated her. There not only was one, but dozens of pornographic DVD’s hidden under his desk.

Sandy trembled with rage and fear. “How could he?” she screamed. “He’s living a double life!” She began sobbing. Her entire world crumbled before her eyes and she felt helpless to stop it.

Sandy dialed her husband’s cell phone but he didn’t answer. She felt like screaming “You pervert” but stopped herself. Then she was tempted to just stuff all the video’s back under the desk and pretend she didn’t see what she saw. Instead she called me and I was able to see her that day.

Sandy needed to have a very difficult conversation with her husband about his problem. Yet she knew that if she simply blew up, he would get defensive or lie. Pretending everything was fine wouldn’t make it so. Sandy knew that she needed to figure out what to say and how to say it so that her words would have maximum impact on him. She didn’t want to miss an opportunity to help her husband see that he was caught in a very destructive sin and left unchanged, it would destroy their family.

Whether we need to confront someone caught in a sin, talk with a wayward child, approach a friend about her drinking problem, discuss a difficult family issue or address a co-worker’s harmful habit, many of us don’t know how to initiate a difficult conversation with someone. When tough problems surface, instead of talking to resolve them we tend to clam up, blow up or eventually give up.

Here are some steps you can take to make productive conversation with someone more likely.

Pray.  Ask God for courage to speak up, wisdom to know what to say and when, and humility so that you will speak the truth, but with grace and love. James 1 says that if we lack wisdom we can ask God and he will give it to us.

Prepare. Hard words need not be harsh words. This is too important a conversation to leave to chance or emotions. Take the time to write out what you want to say and rework it until it says exactly what you want it to say.

Practice.  Rehearse out loud what you’ve prepared. Listening to yourself say what you want to say over and over again will help your emotions calm down and better prepare you to speak calmly but firmly when the time is right. Your words will be better received if you are not overly emotional.

Plan. Don’t initiate a difficult conversation when someone is tired, hungry or distracted with other things. After all your prayer, preparation and practice, ask for a time to be set aside to talk where you can ensure the best chance of being heard.

Remember Queen Esther. After praying, preparing and asking the King for an opportunity to talk, she felt that it was not the right time. She requested a new time to have her difficult discussion concerning Haman’s treachery.

Don’t forget a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re finished, respectfully listen to what the other person has to say back. Extend the benefit of the doubt and when you don’t understand ask questions to clarify.

Sandy prayed, prepared, practiced and planned a time to confront her husband. She knew that he would listen better after dinner as well as if he did not feel attacked or condemned (although that’s what she felt like doing).

Here is what she wrote:

Tom, I’m very sad and hurt and angry about something and I need you to hear what I have to say. While cleaning your office I found some DVD’s hidden under your desk. I was totally unprepared for what I saw and it made me physically ill. It confused me and made me question your integrity as a man and our entire relationship.

I know pornography is a problem for many people today and I am not without my own struggles with sin. I’m not here to throw stones at you but I do think you have a serious problem. I want you to know that it hurts me that you would enjoy these kinds of movies. It hurts you to let your mind and heart feed on such things and it hurts our marriage and family. 

Right now my trust has been shattered and I don’t know how we can possibly rebuild it. I don’t know even if I can. But I’m willing to try and work hard, but only if you are willing do some serious work to address this addiction.

Sally practiced what she wanted to say several times. When Tom came home she asked him if they could talk after dinner. She sent the kids to her neighbors so that they would not be present if the conversation deteriorated.

Sandy and Tom are not out of the woods. This conversation is just the beginning but you cannot fix something you are not willing to face. The Bible tells us, “If another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1,2)

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To learn more about how to handle relationship difficulties, see Leslie’s books How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It! Stopping It! Surviving It! Or visit Leslie’s website at http://www.leslievernick.com

Do I Care Enough To Confront?

SOURCE:  based on a post on May 19, 2011 by Wisdomforlife

If you choose to care about others, there may be occasions when you’ll need to be an instrument of sorrow in their lives. These are times when you have to say things they don’t want to but need to hear. When the people we care about choose selfish and destructive life-patterns, love compels us to confront them. But how many of us are willing to be instruments of sorrow in this way?

Do we care enough to confront?

Why are so many people willing to tolerate dysfunctional relationships instead of confronting in love?

Is it easier to accept superficial or even destructive relationships than to confront others? Is it just less complicated to assume that people aren’t open to correction or to retreat behind the thought that we should mind our own business?

Concern over whether people are open to correction is legitimate.  What do we do when, for good reasons, we believe those in need of confrontation are not open to correction? How do we balance the demands of Proverbs 24:4-6?

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 24:4-6)

Caution is needed in confrontation.

Jesus taught about this in Matthew 7:1-6. After emphasizing that self-judgment must precede all involvement in the lives of others, he warned against “casting pearls before swine.” This implies that there are people who are not worthy of confrontation– no doubt because they’re not receptive to it (See: Dogs, pigs and sacred things).

When confrontation is necessary:

When people we love are destroying their own lives and hurting those around them, we must be willing to confront them. If we let them continue without saying a word, we show a profound lack of love for them and for the lives affected by them. Although difficult, confrontation is often non-negotiable for those who care about the well-being of others.

Confrontation and genuine relationships:

Loving confrontation is often necessary for maintaining genuine rather than superficial relationships. When we allow people to believe we’re on good terms with them despite deep violations of the relationship, we participate in deception not truth. Confrontation is also often non-negotiable for those who will not accept insincerity and hypocrisy.

“If we can restore to full and intimate fellowship with ourselves a sinning and unrepentant brother, we reveal not the depth of our love, but its shallowness, for we are doing what is not for his highest good. Forgiveness which bypasses the need for repentance issues not from love but from sentimentality (John R. W. Stott, Confess Your Sins, p.35).

Confrontation and Church unity:

Local Church members and leaders must be willing on occasions to speak truth into the lives of those who don’t appear to desire it. When an assembly of believers exchanges unity based in love and truth for superficiality and hypocrisy, it ceases to be a light-bearing community for Christ.

Looking for measurable changes:

But when we choose to confront, how do we know if the person is responding in a way that sincerely honors God? If the matter clearly involves objective wrongs, measurable changes will be part of a godly response. To help evaluate this kind of response, one must be able to distinguish between godly and worldly sorrow.

Godly vs. worldly sorrow

II Corinthians 7:8-11 is the biblical text that reveals this difference. It offers a vivid description of true repentance (godly sorrow) and exposes the deception of false repentance (worldly sorrow). Some people display a show of sorrow or repentance to manipulate and deceive. We must not fall for this.

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (II Cor. 7:8-11).

Consider four principles in this text:

1. God’s instruments of sorrow:

The apostle paints a vivid picture of how one ought to feel about being an instrument of godly sorrow:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.” (II Cor. 7:8-9)

The vacillating back and forth expressed in these verses indicates the tension one feels in being an instrument of sorrow. No pleasure is taken in bringing pain into the lives of others. But sometimes love requires us to take this role. You need courage and faith to embrace a ministry of intervention and grace to accept the possibility of being misunderstood.

Confronting others about deception and sin is a risky ministry of love. We must be willing to suffer changes or even loss of relationships. Sometimes when we choose to be instruments of godly sorrow, those we confront turn on us and malign us. This is what happened to the apostle Paul. But the response was temporary with those who responded with godly sorrow.

The apostle took the painful path of embracing temporary misunderstanding to gain deeper and lasting relationships based in truth and love.

2. Godly sorrow comes from true believers

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,” (II Cor. 7:10)

This could be translated, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that points to the reality of salvation or indicates salvation.

When confronted about error, sin or false doctrine, genuine believers will ultimately come to their senses and acknowledge the truth. They might respond with resistance or anger at first. If so, those who confront must not over-react or lower themselves to the level of anger. Don’t take the bait and escalate. Keep it pastoral not personal. Trust God’s Spirit to cultivate conviction.

Genuinely saved people ultimately respond to their sin with godly sorrow (cf. Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:9-14;I Peter 5:6).

3. Worldly sorrow must be detected:

“….but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Worldly sorrow is perhaps best understood when contrasted with the description of godly sorrow in II Corinthians 7:11. Worldly sorrow brings death because it is sinful and all sin ends in death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:14-15). Worldly sorrow is self-centered and is typified in Cain’s self-pity over the consequences brought on by his sin (see: Genesis 4).

4. Godly sorrow described and detected

“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” (II Cor. 7:11)

Seven characteristics of godly sorrow: 

After Paul had confronted the congregation about their refusal to properly deal with a sinful member, they responded with godly sorrow. Consider the elements of godly sorrow.

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you:

1) earnestness- intense and earnest care (not a passive acquiescing).

2) eagerness to clear yourselves- a desire to be exonerated.

3) indignation- probably toward themselves for allowing sin to go unchecked in their assembly ( or, toward the sinful member cf. 2:6-7).

4) alarm/fear– toward God for their failure to respond properly to his apostle (cf. 4:21).

5) longing- a desire to be restored to their proper place and to fellowship with Paul.

6) concern- a burning desire to do what is right.

7) readiness- to see justice done – (i.e. to see things be corrected and made right).

Because of their repentance, the apostle could say to them, “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

Godly sorrow involves a willingness to take seriously the offense committed. True repentance flows out of humility (Luke 18:9-17), and a readiness to accept responsibility. A visible and wholehearted change of behavior follows true repentance (godly sorrow). It produces “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8a). The apostle Paul said, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20b).

When called by God to be instruments of godly sorrow prayerfully take inventory of your own heart and life before confronting others. Go in a spirit required in Galatians 6:1-3

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”

Six Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage

Source: Adapted from an article by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Few couples like to admit it, but conflict is common to all marriages.  Start with two selfish people with different backgrounds and personalities. Now add some bad habits and interesting idiosyncrasies, throw in a bunch of expectations, and then turn up the heat a little with the daily trials of life. Guess what? You are bound to have conflict. It’s unavoidable.

Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but of how you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops oneness or isolation. You and your spouse must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.

Step One: Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences.

One reason we have conflict in marriage is that opposites attract. Usually a task-oriented individual marries someone who is more people-oriented. People who move through life at breakneck speed seem to end up with spouses who are slower-paced. It’s strange, but that’s part of the reason why you married who you did. Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before.

But after being married for a while (sometimes a short while), the attractions become repellents. You may argue over small irritations—such as how to properly squeeze a tube of toothpaste—or over major philosophical differences in handling finances or raising children.   You may find that your backgrounds and your personalities are so different that you wonder how and why God placed you together in the first place.

It’s important to understand these differences, and then to accept and adjust to them. Just as Adam accepted God’s gift of Eve, you are called to accept His gift to you. God gave you a spouse who completes you in ways you haven’t even learned yet.

Step Two: Resolving conflict requires defeating selfishness.

All of our differences are magnified in marriage because they feed what is undoubtedly the biggest source of our conflict—our selfish, sinful nature.

Maintaining harmony in marriage has been difficult since Adam and Eve. Two people beginning their marriage together and trying to go their own selfish, separate ways can never hope to experience the oneness of marriage as God intended. The prophet Isaiah portrayed the problem accurately more than 2,500 years ago when he described basic human selfishness like this: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We are all self-centered; we all instinctively look out for number one, and this leads directly to conflict.

Marriage offers a tremendous opportunity to do something about selfishness. We have seen the Bible’s plan work in our lives, and we’re still seeing it work daily. We have not changed each other; God has changed both of us. The answer for ending selfishness is found in Jesus and His teachings. He showed us that instead of wanting to be first, we must be willing to be last. Instead of wanting to be served, we must serve. Instead of trying to save our lives, we must lose them. We must love our neighbors (our spouses) as much as we love ourselves. In short, if we want to defeat selfishness, we must give up, give in, and give all. As Philippians 2:1-8 tells us:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

To experience oneness, you must give up your will for the will of another. But to do this, you must first give up your will to Christ, and then you will find it possible to give up your will for that of your spouse.

Step Three: Resolving conflict requires pursuing the other person.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The longer I live the more I realize how difficult those words are for many couples. Living peaceably means pursuing peace. It means taking the initiative to resolve a difficult conflict rather than waiting for the other person to take the first step.

To pursue the resolution of a conflict means setting aside your own hurt, anger, and bitterness. It means not losing heart. My challenge to you is to “keep your relationships current.” In other words, resolve that you will remain in solid fellowship daily with your spouse—as well as with your children, parents, coworkers, and friends. Don’t allow Satan to gain a victory by isolating you from someone you care about.

Step Four: Resolving conflict requires loving confrontation.

Wordsworth said, “He who has a good friend needs no mirror.” Blessed is the marriage where both spouses feel the other is a good friend who will listen, understand, and work through any problem or conflict. To do this well takes loving confrontation.

Confronting your spouse with grace and tactfulness requires wisdom, patience, and humility. Here are a few other tips we’ve found useful:

  • Check your motivation. Will your words help or hurt? Will bringing this up cause healing, wholeness, and oneness, or further isolation?
  • Check your attitude. Loving confrontation says, “I care about you. I respect you and I want you to respect me. I want to know how you feel.” Don’t hop on your bulldozer and run your spouse down. Approach your spouse lovingly.
  • Check the circumstances. This includes timing, location, and setting. Don’t confront your spouse, for example, when he is tired from a hard day’s work, or in the middle of settling a squabble between the children. Also, never criticize, make fun of, or argue with your spouse in public.
  • Check to see what other pressures may be present. Be sensitive to where your spouse is coming from. What’s the context of your spouse’s life right now?
  • Listen to your spouse. Seek to understand his or her view, and ask questions to clarify viewpoints.
  • Be sure you are ready to take it as well as dish it out. You may start to give your spouse some “friendly advice” and soon learn that what you are saying is not really his problem, but yours!
  • During the discussion, stick to one issue at a time. Don’t bring up several. Don’t save up a series of complaints and let your spouse have them all at once.
  • Focus on the problem, rather than the person. For example, you need a budget and your spouse is something of a spendthrift. Work through the plans for finances and make the lack of budget the enemy, not your spouse.
  • Focus on behavior rather than character. This is the “you” message versus the “I” message again. You can assassinate your spouse’s character and stab him right to the heart with “you” messages like, “You’re always late—you don’t care about me at all; you don’t care about anyone but yourself.” The “I” message would say, “I feel frustrated when you don’t let me know you’ll be late. I would appreciate if you would call so we can make other plans.”
  • Focus on the facts rather than judging motives. If your spouse forgets to make an important call, deal with the consequences of what you both have to do next rather than say, “You’re so careless; you just do things to irritate me.”
  • Above all, focus on understanding your spouse rather than on who is winning or losing. When your spouse confronts you, listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t said. For example, it may be that he is upset about something that happened at work and you’re getting nothing more than the brunt of that pressure.


Step Five: Resolving conflict requires forgiveness.

No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other, they will fail. With failure comes hurt. And the only ultimate relief for hurt is the soothing salve of forgiveness.

The key to maintaining an open, intimate, and happy marriage is to ask for and grant forgiveness quickly. And the ability to do that is tied to each individual’s relationship with God.

About the process of forgiveness, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14–15). The instruction is clear: God insists that we are to be forgivers, and marriage—probably more than any other relationship—presents frequent opportunities to practice.

Forgiving means giving up resentment and the desire to punish. By an act of your will, you let the other person off the hook. And as a Christian you do not do this under duress, scratching and screaming in protest. Rather, you do it with a gentle spirit and love, as Paul urged: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Step Six: Resolving conflict requires returning a blessing for an insult.

First Peter 3:8-9 says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

Every marriage operates on either the “Insult for Insult” or the “Blessing for Insult” relationship. Husbands and wives can become extremely proficient at trading insults—about the way he looks, the way she cooks, or the way he drives and the way she cleans house. Many couples don’t seem to know any other way to relate to each other.

What does it mean to return a blessing for an insult? Chapter three of 1 Peter goes on to say “For, ‘the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it’” (verses 10-11).

To give a blessing first means stepping aside or simply refusing to retaliate if your spouse gets angry. Changing your natural tendency to lash out, fight back, or tell your spouse off is just about as easy as changing the course of the Mississippi River. You can’t do it without God’s help, without yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit.

It also means doing good. Sometimes doing good simply takes a few words spoken gently and kindly, or perhaps a touch, a hug, or a pat on the shoulder. It might mean making a special effort to please your spouse by performing a special act of kindness.

Finally, being a blessing means seeking peace, actually pursuing it. When you eagerly seek to forgive, you are pursuing oneness, not isolation.

Our hope

As difficult as it is to work through conflict in marriage, we can claim God’s promises as we do so. Not only does God bless our efforts based on His Word, but He also tells us He has an ultimate purpose for our trials. First Peter 1:6-7 tells us,

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God’s purpose in our conflicts is to test our faith, to produce endurance, to refine us, and to bring glory to Himself. This is the hope He gives us—that we can actually approach our conflicts as an opportunity to strengthen our faith and to glorify God.

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