“Why should I say I’m sorry? I wasn’t the one that lashed out in the first place...”
“She should apologize first...If I do, it’ll show that I think I was wrong…”
“Even if I was out of line, she should never say something like that to me...”
"I’ll receive her apology and forgive her, of course, but only when she asks for it…”
“With all I do for her, she ought to treat me better than that…”
“I didn’t do anything wrong...it’s not my problem if she’s in a bad mood…”
Any of those thoughts sound familiar? They do to me because they’re my thoughts. At one time or another, during some sort of unhealthy conflict with my wife, I’ve thought them.
I imagine I’m not the only one. Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts? If you’d like more juicy details on the context of such thoughts, that’s not what this blog post is about :-) What it is about, though, is the fact that I sometimes find myself justifying my actions or inactions based upon a single desire I find within myself: I REALLY like being right and/or I REALLY like NEVER being wrong. Said another way, I struggle with pride.
My struggle is not unique within our marriage...we’re both still struggling with this original sin. It’s still there because we both have a sinful nature that constantly tries to rebel against God and we need to continually submit ourselves to and receive the grace, love, and forgiveness of God. I have to add, my wife is one of the sweetest, most patient and forgiving people I’ve ever known and we often handle conflict in a healthy way...yet still, there are times when our conflict management takes a turn for the worst and it’s usually caused or agitated by pride. If left unchecked and unchallenged, by the Holy Spirit and the truth of Scripture, my pride, or my wife’s pride, would ravage our marriage relationship.
To such thoughts, like the ones I listed above, God’s answer is never, “You’re absolutely right, you stand your ground...you’ve done nothing wrong.” Rather, his answer is, with kindness in his voice, to remind me of what he’s done for me in Jesus going to the cross and paying for my innumerable sins and shortcomings and that he did it all before I even gave him a second thought. His answer is his grace. His answer is his love. His answer is his forgiveness. His answer is for me to be like him and to be a vessel of his grace, love, and forgiveness to my wife. He gives me the wonderful opportunity to minister to my wife, whether I was right or wrong, and be the first, like him, to lay down my pride and to initiate reconciliation.
What if you really didn’t sin within the conflict? Perhaps not...but be brutally honest with yourself. Unlike Jesus, I rarely, more likely never, have come out clean after any sort of conflict with my wife. Whether it was my tone, my posture, my eyes that rolled, a huff or puff, a response that was harsh and thoughtless, a lack of compassion or caring, or a stoic silence that communicates disapproval...the list could go on. So, I often have plenty to apologize for, plenty to ask forgiveness for. Take the low road like Jesus by demonstrating humility and initiating reconciliation, whether you were right or wrong.
So, if you’ve ever had similar experiences, whether you’re a husband or a wife, below are some scriptures which have served me well to kill pride in my own heart as I’ve meditated on them. They work as truth-filled guidelines. They help me to conform my heart to God’s heart, avoid sin, and be obedient to the will of God for my marriage, namely, to love my wife in such a way that it displays to her and the world how Jesus loves the Church.
The Holy Spirit will use these scriptures to help you take conflict and turn it into an opportunity for you to minister to your spouse, show them what God is like, and come out of a conflict feeling closer and more connected than you were when you went in.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I pray you’re envisioned and strengthened to love your spouse like Jesus as you meditate and reflect on them. The best way to get them in your head is to memorize them...yes, I said memorize! It’s the only way to get scripture in your head so you may declare it to yourself in the midst of a conflict and are able to meditate on it day and night like Psalms 1 talks about!
- Proverbs 14:28 - “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
- Proverbs 11:2 - “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”
- Colossians 3:12-15 - “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
- James 1:19-24 - “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
- Hebrews 12:3-6 - “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
- Ephesians 5:25-27 - “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
- John 15:12 - “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a - “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
- Romans 5:6-10 - “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Be filled with the words and truth of God and you WILL see fruit in your marriage that was only a dream beforehand. Hear the words of our Lord Jesus, “ If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” - John 15:7