Using Your Eraser

Forgiveness and forgetting

Imagine for a moment a book where you can write down all of the wrongs done to you by your spouse. What would you see written on the pages of that book? Is it a long list filling a page? Several pages? Or have you written a book?

We all know it doesn’t take long for two unique individuals living under the same roof to unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) hurt each other. A careless word. A sharp tone of voice. An accusation. A promise unfulfilled. A special something accidentally broken, ruined or lost. What can end up happening is that we can become “historical” by remembering and calling up these relational infractions. Sound familiar?

In his first letter to the church in Corinth the Apostle Paul wrote that “love…keeps no record of wrongs.” The word that is used in the original language of his letter is logizomai (log-ids-o-my). The basic meaning is to make a permanent record like a bookkeeper, to calculate or keep track. When something is written in a ledger or a record book, it is there to be referred to, to be remembered.

But true love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs done. True, self-sacrificing love makes the decision to erase those offenses from the record book. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t aware of what has been done. There are some sins that can change the course of our lives. It means that we no longer hold it against our spouse—we keep no record of it because we have chosen to “erase” that sin from our mate’s book of wrongs.

True love reflects what Jesus has done for us on the cross in that our sins are “blotted out” (Acts 3:19) and are no longer written down to be brought against us by God. To erase the wrongs requires that we do four things so that our spouse is freed from our condemnation and our own hearts are protected from resentment.

1. Erase Graciously

When we erase the wrong we are choosing not to hold something against our partner. We are extending forgiveness to them the way Jesus has forgiven us. Even though we don’t deserve it, Jesus forgives us. That doesn’t mean that we won’t be aware of what was done or how we were hurt, but we are making the choice to follow Jesus’ lead for us. “Forgive…just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) If you want to read more about that, you can find it here.

2. Erase Quickly

If we wait and ruminate over what was done to us, the tendrils of offense start to wrap around our hearts. It doesn’t take long for resentment to settle in and our hearts harden toward God, our spouse, and our own personal capacity for joy.

It should be noted that abusers in marriage want a continual clean slate. This is a different situation from a normal, healthy marriage. You can still forgive to protect your heart, but seek godly counsel from a counselor to take the appropriate tough love steps to protect yourself and help your spouse.

3. Erase Repeatedly

Offenses have a way of coming back to our minds. There can be triggers that snap the offense back into our thoughts. Satan will do what he can do make us seethe with hurt and resentment. Every single time the offense returns to your mind, let it go and give it to God. You may find yourself doing this for years because pain can be insidious that way. Make the decision that you will forget on purpose every single time it comes to mind.

 4. Erase Trustingly

The Apostle Peter described Jesus’ sufferings saying that “he…continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) We don’t have to be concerned about justice or being “done right” when we can entrust our injustices to God. We can have confidence and peace that he will handle things in a way that will ultimately bring himself glory.

When it comes to erasing offenses, here’s a way to get pull out your eraser and get started today:

  • Ask God to reveal to you anything that you have been holding against your spouse.
  • Agree with God that holding onto it was wrong…sin…and ask His forgiveness.
  • Make the decision that every time that wrong comes to mind you are going to give it over to God.

And as you erase the offenses from your marital record keeping you will be taking significant strides to build your marriage!

Irritable Spousal Syndrome

Irritable Spouse

 

Are you an irritable spouse? It’s easy to give ourselves a pass when we feel irritable, isn’t it? We tell ourselves, “Everyone gets cranky now and then. I’m just having one of ‘those’ days. He/she should be more understanding!” And we move on with our day with hardly a thought about what took place.

Being irritable IS something that we all feel at points in our lives. We’ve felt it inside ourselves and we’ve experienced it from one another in over three decades of marriage.

But are we too easy on ourselves for our irritability? Have we allowed irritability to be an acceptable response to the one to whom we have pledged our love? Here are three things to consider:

1. What’s the Big Deal?

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul lists several descriptors of love. He writes, “Love is…not irritable” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The word used for irritable here has the meaning of being aroused to anger, easily provoked, or exasperated.

To say that you “love” your spouse while being easily riled up at something they do or say is contradictory behavior. You are not living a life of love when you allow yourself to lose control. It may not be an all-out rage, but your displeasure is readily apparent. You are expressing the opposite of unconditional love and security in your marriage.

2. What’s My Problem?

Knowing the factors that can set the environment for our being irritable can be helpful in exercising self-control. These are not excuses for unacceptable responses in marriage, but they can be insightful in heading off relational bruising by our irritability.

Physical: When we are tired, feeling hungry, or we are in poor health, our resistance to irritability triggers is weakened. Too much noise and activity can affect some peoples’ ability to stay calm. For others, low blood sugar or hormones can set the stage for emotions one doesn’t want to feel or express.

Emotional: Going through seasons of frustration, fear, pressure and stress can also make us less prone to react with love and grace. When things don’t go our way our impatience rises and we snap off with words or actions that are contrary to anything our spouse should ever experience from us.

Spiritual: Hiding sin in our lives creates a shortness in our spirit toward our spouse. The subconscious knowledge that we are guilty before God has the effect of shortening our emotional fuse. We don’t show grace to our spouse because we haven’t yet accepted the grace Jesus holds out to us. Shame can drive an emotional surge.

3. The Seven-Day Self-check

Over the next seven days, increase your self-awareness on how you are responding to your spouse. Are there physical, emotional, or spiritual issues you need to address in your life?

Do you use harsh words? Is your tone of voice inviting or igniting? Do you look to your mate with eyes of love or a glance that glares?

If you catch even a whiff of being irritable—apologize in the moment. Don’t even wait or brush it off. Simply say, “I’m trying to grow in awareness of my being irritable to you. It’s not how I want to be or what you deserve. Please forgive me and have patience with me as I seek to improve.”

How have you dealt with your irritability in marriage? Share it below and help others!  As you get rid of being irritable with your spouse, you will experience a closer, more loving connection as you build your marriage!

Fighting Selfish Desires in Marriage

Veruca Salt

The character Veruca Salt was immortalized for her selfish attitude in the original “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” movie when she yelled, “I want it NOW!” (And by the way, “Veruca” means “wart”). From the seagulls in “Finding Nemo” to children in preschool, the word “mine” reveals selfish behavior.

Let’s face it, through the course of time starting with Adam and Eve to your marriage and ours, selfishness undermines every good thing that God intends for us to experience. It’s tough because often we DO want our way. We want to be sure we’re taken care of, pampered, protected, indulged, favored, empowered, honored, respected. We often think our way IS best, so why give in?

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes that “love…does not insist on it’s own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Resist the urge to show that verse to your spouse 🙂 and instead ask the question, “How do I fight my selfish urges and become non-insistent with my spouse?”

Here are three ideas to put into practice this week:

1. Appreciate the Benefits

When we choose to yield to our spouse, our marriage benefits. For example:

  • We are showing our spouse that our love is unconditional. We aren’t yielding to their way only when we feel like it, or when it benefits us. We are practicing putting them first because our love for them comes first.
  • We are tearing down walls that selfishness constructs. We communicate that the relationship is about “we” not “me.”
  • We protect our marriage from resentment being established in our spouse’s heart.
  • We cultivate an expectation in our spouse that assumes the best of our intentions. They are reassured that they can trust our heart.

2. Follow the Example

In another letter, Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). The pattern he gives for us to follow is Jesus’ example.

When you consider His selfless sacrifice on the cross for you, it removes any ground for selfishness in your marriage. Say a simple, bold prayer: “God, show me how I can remove selfishness from my attitude and actions toward my spouse.” Then follow through with what is impressed on your heart.

3. Cultivate “Spouse Eyes”

What does the world look like through your spouse’s eyes? What are their needs? Dreams? Fears? In points of disagreement, work hard to understand their perspective. In doing so, you’ll find that your need to control the outcome dissipates and your willingness to lovingly yield will increase.

What if your spouse’s “way” doesn’t end well? The car they wanted is a lemon. The restaurant they chose was a massive fail. The investment they lobbied for lost money. Then what?

Then you give it to God and have self-control. It’s not to be leveraged as a teaching moment, an “I told you so,” or an opportunity to pout. You say nothing, show grace, and love your spouse just as Jesus loves you when you fail.

What are some ideas for how couples can yield to their spouse? List them in the comments below! See what happens in your heart as you choose to yield your way as you build your marriage!

You Don’t Want A Sitcom Marriage

Everybody Loves Raymond

Watch any sitcom for more than five minutes and you will hear rude comments and see arrogant behavior permeate the show. Why? Because our society has bought into the belief that pride and put-downs are funny and the laugh tracks prompt us to agree. Besides, those are just characters being portrayed. It’s not real life…or is it?

Behind closed doors some spouses are being wounded in marriage by the very person who vowed to honor and cherish them. That spouse has now become the one who:

  • Is always right—and don’t question them
  • Pushes their opinion until you acquiesce
  • Believes they are a great performer sexually
  • Acts as though they are gracious to give sex but only if you’ve earned it
  • Picks on everything that is done because it wasn’t done “the right way”
  • Tunes out their marital relationship with TV, the phone, computer
  • Is offensive and harsh
  • Speaks the truth but not in love

The Apostle Paul wrote that “Love…is not arrogant or rude.” So what do you do if you are married to a spouse who IS arrogant or rude? Are there steps to take? Absolutely. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Pray for wisdom.

Before you do anything, go to your Source of strength in prayer. Ask God for insight into your spouse. Ask for the ability to see them through His eyes. Ask for the ability to forgive your spouse, and the strength to move toward resolution with them.

2. Check your spirit.

Be sure that there is nothing in you that has been arrogant or rude—either toward your spouse or your children. Invite God to search your heart and reveal to you anything that needs to be made right.

3. Communicate your feelings.

You cannot afford to ignore or minimize the situation. Sometimes a spouse isn’t even aware of their hurtful behavior. Let them know how their attitude, actions, or words make you feel. Use “I feel” statements to own what you are expressing. If your comments are peppered with “you…” statements it will only create defensiveness in your spouse. “You” statements are blaming and they shut down what you’re desperately wanting them to understand. (i.e. statements like “You are so arrogant it makes me feel…” or “You are so rude…” are not helpful)

4. Define your expectations.

In a loving manner, let your spouse know specifically your desires for how you want to be treated.  Give them time to adjust and be gracious if they are making honest efforts toward change but fail along the way. If they are resistant to change, or upset at you, stay calm, trust God, and move toward the next step and…

5. Seek professional help.

Look for a Christian counselor who will work with you to heal your marriage. If you live in a remote area, a search on the internet can help you find someone who will work with you via the phone or Skype. Even if your spouse won’t join you, it’s important for you to work with a professional to gain skills and wisdom for next steps.

6. Back to #1—Pray.

Your identity is found in Christ. Your strength is from God. Your peace and comfort is from the Spirit.

As you root out any semblance of being arrogant or rude from your life—and from your marriage—you will create more space for love and unity as you build your marriage!