Fruit of the Spirit in Marriage: Gentleness

Let your gentleness be known to all.  (Phil. 4:5)

Gentleness in marriage can seem rather straightforward. Be nice. Be kind. Speak softly. Don’t be harsh. And all of these actions ARE important in a healthy marriage relationship.

Gentleness as a manifestation of God’s work in a person’s life, however, has a more robust meaning in the original language (Greek) and therefore a more varied application in our marriage.  The truer meaning of the word would be “meekness,” but that often gives the impression a weak, milquetoast individual who defers to everyone. To shake that impression, remember that Jesus was described as meek—but he was always strong with his opposition, and even zealous with injustice (remember the whips and the temple cleansing?).

Here are three areas of definition and application as the fruit of gentleness is worked out in our marriages by God’s Spirit:

Gentleness Toward God

Gentleness toward God will yield gentleness toward our spouse. It’s not “sexy,” or creative or insightful. But it’s basic, foundational and inescapable truth for our marriage.

It’s your choice. You can be aggressive and rebellious to God’s design for you and your marriage or submissive. The marriage that has God’s blessing and empowerment will be the one where each spouse seeks to honor Him.

Gentleness toward God says, “I want my marriage to be under your authority. I want to submit and surrender to your Word and plans for me and us.

Here are some ways to keep your heart gentle toward God. They don’t directly relate to your marriage, but the impact will be immeasurable:

  • Read the Bible daily.
  • As you read, ask God to reveal Himself to you and show you who He wants you to become.
  • Determine each day one thing you can do to surrender to God’s leadership your life.

 Gentleness Reflected in Teachability

When your spouse has insights or suggestions, how do you respond? Consider this…

  • Do you bristle because you feel challenged?
  • Do you tend to cut them off and shut them down because you already “know” what they are going to say and you’ve pre-determined that it’s wrong?
  • Do you belittle or demean their suggestion?

By being open to your spouse’s insights, suggestions, and wisdom you are displaying gentleness toward them. This doesn’t mean you have to accept or agree with what is being offered, but the manner in which you listen and regard their opinion matters.

  • Keep eye contact as they share their thoughts.
  • Respond back with a paraphrase of what you heard to be sure you got it right.
  • Thank your spouse, engage in dialogue, and be open to redirecting your decision or direction based on their input.

Remember: your spouse is God’s gift to you to complete you. Their opinions are to be treasured and weighed sincerely.

Gentleness in Being Considerate

When we have gentleness toward God and in our teachability:

  • Our hearts will be inclined through Jesus’ empowerment to look out for the best interests of our spouse.
  • We become attentive to their needs and how we can meet them.
  • Our tone of voice loses it’s edge and becomes warmer and more inviting.
  • Our proactivity to serve our spouse is spurred on by the alignment of our heart to Jesus.

As you conclude reading this post, stop and ask God to reveal to you how you can show gentleness today to your spouse. Then, with God’s help, follow through as you build your marriage!

Fruit of the Spirit in Marriage: Faithfulness

Always Faithful To Our Spouse

Always Faithful To Our Spouse

How might our marriages be different if we applied that same phrase to our relationship toward our spouse? If at every turn and every temptation we had a check in our spirit and remembered “Semper Fidelis” to the person to whom we committed our life in marriage?

We made our pledge “before God and these witnesses.” We declared that we would be faithful “until death do you part.” Semper Fidelis is who you ARE as a husband or wife. It is not negotiable, not relative, not optional.

Breaking this pledge of faithfulness has led to untold numbers of marital pain and break-ups. Young children and adult children have struggled to process the unfaithfulness of one or both of their parents. The consequences that result are like relational tsunamis that wreak havoc on anyone around.

God has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to make right choices. One of the evidences of cooperating with His Spirit is the fruit of faithfulness.

It’s time to declare faithfulness as foundational for our marriages. Here are 5 areas of our lives that demand faithfulness in our marriage:

1) Faithfulness in Our Thoughts

Did you know that the average human brain has 70,000 thoughts per day? That means you and I have a different thought every 1.2 seconds. You choose what thoughts you will dwell on about your spouse. If you choose to think about the things they have done wrong, where they fell short, how they didn’t meet your needs—you will respond to them accordingly. Your words will have an edge. You will communicate displeasure. They will know that they are not being loved. But it began in the unfaithfulness of your mind.

Instead, make the choice to think the best, expect the best, and assume the best intentions of your spouse. Show grace. Give the benefit of the doubt. Decide that you list three things you appreciate about your spouse each morning. Each time a negative thought flies into your mind—replace it with one of the three positives you choose to reflect on.

2) Faithfulness on Facebook

A friend of ours who is a counselor told us that over 90% of all the infidelity issues he counsels began on Facebook. It begins by researching an old flame and checking up on their whereabouts. Initiating a casual conversation to catch up. And the rush of old feelings sweeps in where it doesn’t belong. The faithfulness in marriage is compromised with the first search.

FLEE FACEBOOK TEMPTATION! If you are tempted here you are wiser and stronger to shut down your Facebook account and protect your marriage. It isn’t worth the risk and the pain. Get accountability. Don’t deal with it on your own—this is like a five alarm fire that needs the whole fire company to fight it with you to protect your marriage.

3) Faithfulness on the Internet

Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, or ipad—viewing porn on the internet is an act of unfaithfulness to your spouse. In recent years the number of women viewing porn has increased dramatically as well. Porn is not an “aide” to your sex life so that you can appreciate your spouse more or better. Porn diminishes and devalues the relationship that God has entrusted to you by allowing another person(s) to enter your mind and essentially your bedroom. Two of the best accountability options we recommend are through Covenant Eyes and X3Watch. Be vigilant and protect your marriage from porn!

4) Faithfulness in Our Words

We have the opportunity to be our spouse’s biggest fan and cheerleader to others. What you communicate positively is like building a verbal fortress around your marriage. When you speak highly of your spouse to someone of the opposite sex you are communicating that you have a strong, well-defended marriage and they should keep a healthy, respectful distance from you.

What can you say to your co-workers that is positive about your spouse? A meal they cooked? A personal or professional accomplishment? A decision they made that was wise? A hobby they excel in? A fun memory or experience from your marriage?

As you elevate your spouse to others, you will hear yourself choosing faithfulness toward them. You will experience your heart being drawn afresh in appreciation toward your spouse.

5) Faithfulness in Our Actions

The casual touch. The lingering gaze. The slightly prolonged hug. You may think that it is innocent, but you cannot control how your touch, gaze or hug affects the other person. You have no business even playing with this fire. It will burn you.

Make the choice for faithfulness. Make your motto “Semper Fidelis” and build your marriage!

Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness

Goodness

A spouse living out “goodness” in their marriage can seem like a trait that we can take for granted because it will happen naturally, doesn’t it? Frankly, before researching for this post, we hadn’t given it much thought either. But when we researched how goodness is used in the Bible, we were amazed at the implications for marriage!

God wants and expects us to display goodness in our marriage. In fact, It should permeate who we are in three distinct areas:

Being Good

C.S. Lewis wrote that people are “mirrors, or ‘carriers’ of Christ to other men.” (Mere Christianity)  The core of who we are in our character as men and women should reflect Jesus to our spouse. We should BE good.

As we have been looking at the various fruit of the Spirit the central prayer has simply been: “God, I yield myself to your Spirit. I choose to let you lead and direct me. I will obey you.” To drill deeper into our character as a husband or wife, ask God to help you reveal Jesus to your spouse by:

  • Having the desire to serve as Jesus served you
  • Being truthful in all your words, actions, and intentions

Doing Good

When goodness from the Spirit permeates our lives, we make deliberate choices to do good. This goes deeper than nice acts like picking up our underwear from the floor, or doing basic household tasks. Doing good is a conscious action which brings benefit to our spouse. It infuses “goodness” into their life. Things like:

  • A note of encouragement when they are struggling—letting them know you believe in them
  • Knowing what would refresh your spouse and figuring out how to provide that for them
  • Giving your spouse a break from a chore that they really don’t enjoy doing
  • Providing a long back-rub or foot-rub to bless them—with no expectations of it going further!

Pray about it! Ask God to reveal to you how you can DO goodness toward your spouse. We can assure you—God will show you!

Encouraging Good

Goodness in you will choose to build goodness in your spouse. The most powerful way you can influence your spouse toward goodness is to encourage their spiritual growth. Some ways you might do this are:

  • Free up time for them to read their Bible and pray
  • Encourage them to get connected in Bible study or small group at church
  • Pray for them to grow closer to Jesus. (We encourage you to do this privately so your spouse doesn’t feel prayed AT vs. FOR)
  • Be sure they have your blessing to spend time with godly friends
  • If your spouse isn’t yet a Christian, we would strongly recommend you purchase a book written by our friends, Lee and Leslie Strobel called, Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch. You can check it out here.

As the fruit of goodness is displayed through you, the two of you will experience greater joy and connection with each other and God as you build your marriage!

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Photo: Ebby May / Getty Images

Photo: Ebby May / Getty Images

It comes as no surprise that kindness is good for you and good for your marriage! Research has found that “for every negative thing you do, there must be five positive things that balance it out.” (Susan Boon, PhD) The more couples learn to make good deposits into each others lives, the healthier and more satisfying the marriage will be. If we simply practiced kindness with our spouse on a daily or even moment-by-moment basis, the effects and benefits would be dramatic.

The Challenge of Kindness

Our natural and sinful tendencies toward selfishness and laziness can create a drift away from what our spouse needs. In addition, we may come from a family of origin where we didn’t see kindness modeled.

  • Conversations took place that had little or no filter
  • Parents fought until divorce ensued
  • Betrayal broke the marital covenant
  • Nit-picking and sarcasm dripped off the wall of the home
  • Alcohol or drugs created an unsafe and unkind environment.
  • Can you relate to any of this from your past?

The Opportunity for Change

Thankfully, we are not imprisoned to our past nor to our sinful inclinations! When a person accepts Christ in their life, God places His Spirit within them. As the Apostle Paul writes, “…he is a new creation. The old has passed away….” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Through the power of God’s Spirit within us and our cooperation with Him, we can infuse our marriage with kindness. In fact, it’s one of the evidences—or fruit—of His work within us.

Perhaps you’re in a difficult marriage. Or maybe you simply know that you need to be more active in kindness toward your spouse. Either way, begin each day with the conscious choice to participate with the Holy Spirit toward God-empowered kindness. Put up a notecard or a reminder to begin the day with a simple prayer like: “God, I want your kindness to shine through me today. Guide me by your Spirit to actively be kind to my spouse.”

How Kindness Shows Up

Watch how God answers your prayers! You will see yourself:

  • Change your tone of voice to being softer and more gentle
  • Notice needs and offering to assist your spouse
  • Choose NOT to say unnecessary criticisms
  • Listen more attentively
  • Choose forgiveness
  • Do things simply to bless your spouse
  • Wisely decide which conflict needs addressing (or dropping) and how to do so thoughtfully

Some Additional Benefits to Kindness

David R. Hamilton, PhD, wrote an article on the “5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness” In his article he says that the brain gets a “helpers high” by increased levels of dopamine in the brain when we show kindness.

Kindness gives us emotional warmth that produces oxytocin. This triggers a physical reaction that reduces stress, lowers the blood pressure and protects the heart. There’s even research showing that kindness slows the aging process!

The greatest benefit of all is that your marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with the Church to a watching world. When those close to you see Jesus in your marriage, they will be attracted to Him as a result.

So how will you practice kindness to your spouse this week? Start now and watch kindness build your marriage!