The Biggest Mistake Christians Make

biggestmistake

Recently, I have been struggling with feeling very discouraged about all the trending topics in social media and the news. I see posts and comments daily criticizing Christians for our faith. We are frequently villainized and our opinions are discounted simply because we claim to follow Christ. We are, rather ironically, called bigots by those who refuse to make an effort to understand our point of view. We are ridiculed, stereotyped, and called ignorant for our beliefs. We are accused of being hypocrites by people with a limited understanding of God’s word- even people who have convinced themselves they are experts on the topic.

But.

The part of all of this that really makes me feel a bit sick is that there is an element of truth to all of that. The body of believers has not been presenting as a unified front. Much damage has already been done to our witness. Not all people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ sincerely understand what all that entails. Not all people who claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ live a life striving to be like Christ, as we’re commissioned to live.

All through school, I followed the rules and continually made an effort to please my teachers and personal sense of accomplishment by living up to set expectations as best I could. I know. I’m a nerd. I can’t help it. It’s my personality (and actually, I’m quite content being a nerd). I can think of many times in school and beyond, when a few other people made irresponsible decisions and lost privileges for the group as a whole. I always had trouble understanding how some people could act like they just don’t care how they represent others, or about how the consequences of their actions may affect more than only themselves.

Considering this thought from a more experienced point of view- maybe for some, it’s just that they don’t realize their behavior makes a difference for the whole. We all come from different histories with different learning experiences and different personalities. Most of us don’t even realize the impact we can have on those around us- but we all have one.

There are many different spiritual maturity levels among individuals claiming to belong to the Church. Some accepted Christ but never made an effort to mature, and some spent time in the world and with spiritual leadership but then made choices to live how they want to live. Still others strive daily to live a life pleasing to God. But as in many situations in life, a few people can ruin a good thing for the group. A portion of the group can destroy the reputation of the rest.

 

In our situation now, it seems like there are few Christians who truly live as Christ-models. Sure, we get the basics, but tend to justify things that shouldn’t be justified while looking over things that should be given attention.

So, now to what seems to me to be the biggest mistake made by Christians today:

We are not fulfilling the Great Commission.

The body as a whole has not been a living example of who God is. We’re not showing people what God’s love is about.

By recent history, the church overall has seemed to look the other way when faced with many sinful situations, even within the church itself. We’ve been so concerned with wanting to not offend others, to not make situations uncomfortable, to not lose church members, to not lose tithes, or to not be called out for our own poor decisions, that we hesitate. When we hesitate, we often decide to not respond at all.

Scripture tells us that if a fellow Christian is making sinful decisions and we know, we are to go to them and lovingly discuss the issue with them. If they do not listen, we are to take one or two from the church to discuss it again. Does that ever happen? Or do we look the other way so we don’t have anyone do the same to us?

Let’s face it. We are human. We are individuals who, by design, only see from our own perspectives. If we are striving for wisdom, we will make a strong effort to understand the experiences of others, but it does take effort. It doesn’t always come easily.

Because we are human, mistakes are easy to make. Maybe that’s why the Hebrews were instructed to not stop meeting together with other believers. Maybe that’s why Solomon wrote about the benefits and combined strength of like-minded friends in Christ.

Accountability.

Where is it?

We’ve become so timid about approaching fellow Christians about sinful, selfish behaviors that when we DO take a stand on a specific issue, we look like hypocrites.

Notice how that is in bold AND italics?

Perhaps this has something to do with the “don’t judge me or you’re a hypocrite!” mentality that seems to be floating around these days. Side note – is it REALLY judging if God has already proclaimed the judgment in advance? Anyway. That’s another topic…

But, what happened? I’ve heard before that if a frog is dropped into a pot before the water is heated to a boil, it will die before jumping out because the change is so gradual, it doesn’t recognize the threat until it is too late (ok, I don’t know that it is true, and I wouldn’t encourage trying it, but I intend it simply as an analogy).

Have we as a whole really been so comfortable in the water that we don’t snap out of it until something we find shocking happens?

Christians. Seriously. Are we handling “current” sins wisely? Lovingly? It’s easy to become defensive and not present ourselves in a very Christ-like way (especially from behind a keyboard).

We have been called to show others God’s love. Are we picking and choosing which sins to protest? Why are we not holding one another accountable? If we love one another, we need to do that. We need to lift each other up in prayer and offer encouragement. Is that happening as often as it is needed?

Pro 27:6 KJV Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

If we don’t love others and build a mutually respectful relationship with them, what on this earth makes us think they are going to suddenly repent or even try to see our point of view? If we are viewed as the hypocritical enemy, why would they want to listen?

We are not the enemy and we can’t act like we are. I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but I am pleading for Christians to evaluate where we now stand from a different point of view. I have very intentionally left out the naming of any specific sins in the post. Sin is sin. Simply put, sin is choosing to do what we want over what God asks of us. Sin is being selfish.

So. Speaking to any Christians reading this, please allow me to be an accountability partner for you today.

Are you choosing what God asks of you over what YOU want? Or are you indulging in something God has guided you to leave behind you?

Be careful about where you put your energy. Stand firm in what Scripture says, but do it in Christ-like love, and in all things- not only the ones most uncomfortable for you. After all, the frog was comfortable too.

 

Keri

Stay Focused: A Perspective For Christians on Same Sex Marriage

stayfocused 
sterlingpr / Foter / CC BY

Dear Christians,

While those of us who believe scripture as it is know what God has said about giving in to temptations such as homosexuality or adultery, let us not forget our purpose.

It is our job to teach others who God is by loving them.

Contrary to popular social media posts and water cooler conversation, this does not mean to accept and glorify behaviors God has already condemned, but it does mean to offer friendship and spiritual support to fellow humans.

Do I believe that homosexual marriage should have been legalized? No. But I also don’t believe intimate heterosexual relationships should be treated as casually as they are in today’s society, or that marriages should be filled with animosity and self-centered pride. It’s not how God designed it.

Scripture doesn’t tell us to go to others who don’t claim a personal relationship with Christ and give them a list of all their sins. We are commissioned to go and share God with them. God is love, and God is perfectly capable of speaking to their hearts to let them know what may be detrimental to them.

Scripture does, however, instruct us to go to fellow Christians if we see them acting in a way that goes against God’s commands for us and lovingly encourage them to make important changes.

Either way, there is no room for hate-filled speech. Stay focused on the Great Commission- and be prepared to stand up for our own rights as Christians.

 

 

Matthew 18:14-16 New International Version (NIV)

14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

 

 Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

 

Sincerely,

Keri

How’s the Atmosphere?


kevin dooley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

How would you describe the tone in your house? Is it relaxed? Tense? Anger-filled? Dark and depressed? Chaotic? Stressed? Peaceful? Do you and your family tip-toe around for fear of someone’s outburst?

Every household has an atmosphere. We may not always be fully aware of the atmosphere in our own homes because home is our comfort zone. Sometimes, though, our comfort zones are not very comfortable.

We’ve all been around people whose attitudes are contagious. Positive or negative, the people who surround us may be capable of setting the tone of our own mood if we allow them to do so. After a while, mood can become habitual. I’m sure you could probably think of people who are in the habit of being in a bad, negative mood, and you could probably also think of people who are in the habit of being optimistic and cheerful. Which are you?

If your atmosphere is draining you, maybe it’s time to work on it.

  • Call for a family meeting to discuss the atmosphere and ask for possible solutions. TALK about the issues everyone tries to avoid. if your family has difficulty doing this on your own, seek help from a professional counselor for your family. Misinterpretations, hurt feelings, etc. may cause tension in all families at one time or another. Remember that when issues are swept under the rug, they do not disappear; they only pile up and cause everyone to trip.
  • Monitor what you allow IN your home. TV shows, Movies, Video games – the themes matter! If you allow your home to be filled with violence, horror, disrespectful attitudes, etc., it may very well set the tone for you.
  • Make spiritual growth and family time top priorities, and learn to say “no” when it would be best for your priorities to do so.
  • Model a godly atmosphere by responding as lovingly as humanly possible in ALL situations (pray often!).

 

Philippians 4:8

New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

Keri

Facing the Storms

cemeteryWe all have rough times. If you are married and your marriage hasn’t yet experienced difficult times, it will eventually. For any of you who know me or have visited my personal blog, you may already understand the difficult time my own marriage has experienced. In 2011, the relationship was under a great deal of strain due to the loss of one of our twins about 7 hours and 13 minutes after birth. Our daughter had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a neural tube defect, at about 16 weeks gestation. Anencephaly is always fatal, so we knew we wouldn’t have long with her.

Because of our loss, we’ve been forced into a “club” that no one wants to join. We are “baby loss parents.” We have two boys on earth, and a girl in Heaven. Since becoming a member of the baby loss club, I’ve learned how common it is for the loss of a child to lead to the end of a marriage. It seems very often that one or both individuals are afraid to acknowledge the pain, which leads to bitterness. The bitterness masks the pain and eats away at the marriage until it’s no longer strong enough to stand.

It’s heartbreaking.

When Aaron and I began life as a couple (after knowing one another for a good 15 years), I recognized and appreciated his ability to communicate. But, even though we both had relatively decent communication skills when we began together, we had plenty of room to grow and continue to do so. I had trouble feeling open enough to express myself early on but did better with writing, so I’d write. I remember one time, he asked me if I was okay about something, then added, “I’m not going to get an email about it when I get home, am I?” As time went on, we continued to build trust and our communication improved. It has proven to be a very useful and vital skill for our marriage to survive. As we’ve endured the storms we’ve faced, I am very thankful that we’ve managed to keep an open line of communication about what we were thinking and feeling. It’s not always easy, and we’re not always perfect at it, but we keep working on it.

Every relationship has its storms. Some are bigger than others, but they will come. Communication is essential. A marriage requires that its members communicate about their thoughts and feelings.

  • Share with one another what emotions were behind the anger (hurt, disappointed, scared, frustrated, etc.) or came along with the happy (excited, loved, content, appreciated, etc.).
  • Help one another identify the thoughts that led to hurt feelings and talk out your plan of action to address a difficult situation.
  • If you don’t express your emotion  in some form, you will begin to experience unhealthy symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and anger. These symptoms can add strain to a marriage in addition to the original stressors. Remember, a marriage is a team, and teams can’t function without communication.
  • Above all, PRAY together. Remind one another who God is. Communicate your needs and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Regardless of what storm you are facing, God still loves you and has a plan for you. He’s not toying with you for His own amusement because He IS Love and Love isn’t selfish. He WANTS marriage to succeed.

If you had to rate the communication in your marriage on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best…how would your communication rate?

 

Keri

A Challenge for the week

Sweethearts
adwriter / Foter / CC BY-NC

Take a few moments before reading further into this article to replay in your mind the words you have spoken to your spouse over the past 24-48 hours. If you had to estimate the number of criticisms and the number of encouraging statements, what would those numbers be?

In the busy realm of every day life, it’s easy to get into the habit of focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right. This happens all too often in marriages. It may start with one spouse forgetting to take out the trash and turn into a list of every other perceived wrong.

“You never help with the dishes!”
“You always leave the bathroom a mess!”
“You never put your dirty clothes in the hamper!”
“You’re never home because you spend too much time at work!”

Critical statements like these leave no room for the positive in their “always” and “nevers”. They stem from the indignant roots of a heart that feels wronged. It seems as though when we feel justified in our disgruntled attitude, we may look for other supporting factors. Pride leads us to seek justification to feel superior.

It’s as if we are saying, “See?! Look at all these ways you’ve wronged me! I have a right to be angry!”

Yes, you have a right to feel the way you feel. You do not have the right to invade the rights of your spouse and treat him or her disrespectfully because you feel hurt. It’s not healthy for you, your spouse, or the relationship. It is self-centered, and a marriage cannot survive if its members are focused on themselves. Love is a choice to not focus on self.

My challenge to you this week is to keep track of your criticisms and jabs as well as your words of encouragement. Make an effort to offer at least twice the amount of encouragement as criticism. At least.

Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

Keri

What do you expect?

Angoscia
Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

As a therapist, I have found myself on many occasions discussing some of the reasons why clients experience problematic symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger. Through those many discussions, it has become clear to me that such symptoms occur when there is a conflict in some area of our lives, and those conflicts occur when our expectations don’t meet up with reality. This kind of interference may be related to any area of wellness (such as emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, etc.).

Typically, it isn’t possible to change the reality of the conflict (we can’t make other people do what we think they should do, and we can’t make the world work how we think it ought to work). Acknowledging the fact that in reality, things don’t happen like we think they should can help us adjust our expectations and alleviate some of the conflict.

If we tell ourselves people should always be loving and kind, we will likely find ourselves indignant when we encounter situations in which people are not loving and kind. The reality is that we can’t make everyone be loving and kind. Though it would be wonderful, all people are not loving and kind. It would be preferable, but it is not realistic to expect such a thing to happen. The truth is, we live in a fallible world, surrounded by fallible people…like us.

With that all said, I’d like to encourage you to examine the expectations in your relationships. What do you expect of your loved ones? Do you expect your spouse to respond to difficult situations in the same manner you do? Do you expect your children to respond like miniature adults? Are your expectations realistic or idealistic?

It’s easy to get stuck on an idea of how we think things should be. Take, for example, fashion magazines. We’ve been so inundated by the images of flawless beauties that we strive to do what we can to attain the same characteristics. We’re pressured to diet, tan, dye, bleach, wax, paint, and cover. The reality is that the models are typically made up and photo-edited. It’s an illusion we’ve been bamboozled into perceiving as reality. In marriage, a husband may expect his wife to run the household like his mother did, or a wife may expect her husband to respond like the character in her favorite chick flick.

“Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When you catch yourself expecting the unrealistic, challenge it with what you know to be true. “He should have known better!” Sometimes we just don’t know. “She should have had that done already.” She had a lot of things going on that required her attention. “I have to have it all finished tonight.” 20 years from now, your To-Do list for today isn’t going to matter- prioritize. “The kids should never misbehave.” Kids will test their boundaries, it’s how they learn.

Take time to just observe your families. Make an effort to examine your expectations of them. When you feel anxious, depressed, or angry, ask yourself if your expectations are realistic or if you need to make an adjustment. Satan is the father of lies, and will make any effort possible to distract you from what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Challenge the lies and focus on what you know to be true. Your loved ones will thank you!

Keri

1 Simple Tip for a Happier Household

SMiLE!
Toni Blay / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I was recently inspired to write an article about something that could make a quick difference to my readers. I spent some time thinking about something simple that anyone could do that would help increase peace and love in a home.

Then, I realized there was something I started doing that makes a world of difference for me. So, I knew what I wanted to share.

While what I am about to share is applied to life with children, the tip is not limited to interactions with children, so stick with me. I recently left my job in community mental health to stay home with my two boys rather than returning to work after maternity leave. My oldest son is almost 3 and is just about as strong-willed (or overly-determined, as I like to say) as they come. Some days, when the baby is screaming, and the 2-year-old is doing everything he can to get my attention back to him, it can be tough.

In those moments that I have to issue a consequence because of directions not being followed or because of disrespectful attitude, my sweet little boy can act pretty hateful. He tells me I’m mean (is that an innate reaction or something?? I don’t know where he got that!). He screams and cries. Most days it’s mild and short-lived, but regardless of how grumpy he gets with me during a tantrum, I’ve learned to do one thing.

Hug him.

It amazes me how, even when he is furiously mad at me because he’s not getting what he wants (I mean, seriously, wouldn’t you be upset if mommy wouldn’t let you pet the Betta?), he still responds to me when I hug him and tell him I love him.

“Yeah, you too, mommy.” All while still crying. Even so, he knows that when I say no, I mean it, AND that I love him even when he’s being grumpy with me.

So, my one simple tip for a happier household is this: 

Always Show Love. Especially when you are most frustrated.

Not only am I amazed when my screaming, tantrum-throwing child wraps his arms around me and lays his head on my shoulder, following my lead, I’m amazed at what a difference I feel. It helps me stay calmer.

To break it down, when you catch yourself feeling like you’re about to have a temper-tantrum/ break-down yourself (whether dealing with a child or adult):

1. Pray. Even better if you can invite the other person to pray with you. Praying as a first resort can help keep you more focused on being loving in any interaction.
2. Keep your voice tone as calm and loving as possible.
3. For the kids, get down to or below their eye-level.
4. Acknowledge how they may be feeling (ex. I’m so sorry you’re disappointed that you couldn’t do what you wanted. -Even children’s emotions are real and deserve to be respected, regardless of whether or not they make sense to adults.) and what they have been saying.
5. Hug him/her (if they will allow it).
6. Say sincerely, “I love you.” (if the kids are still mad and try to argue with you and tell you that you don’t love them… because they do things like that…. either refrain from commenting, or if you feel the need, simply repeat, “I Love You.” )
7. Remember, arguing in that moment will do nothing but escalate the situation. If there are behaviors that need to be addressed, try addressing them after the tantrum is done (unless they are in danger of hurting themselves, you/others, or property).

Yes. I am fully aware that it may sound cheesy or awkward (at first), but let me give you three good reasons why it can work.

  • Many arguments occur because the other person does not feel heard. Acknowledging what they are saying and how you think they may be feeling can help diffuse the situation and present an opportunity for any clarifications to be made.
  • Reminding your loved ones that you love them helps put things in perspective for both them and you.
  • It’s how God deals with us. Even when He tells us no, He will still comfort us and reassure us of His love. 

 

What ways have you all found to diffuse tense situations while showing love?

 

Keri

 

 

 

 

 

(**Please note: all articles here are written with the assumption that both parties in a relationship are making an effort to be loving. If you are in an abusive situation and do not feel safe, please seek outside help.)

“It’s not me, it’s you…”

“It’s not (about) me, it’s (about) you…”

Heart
seyed mostafa zamani / Foter / CC BY

According to Scripture, God is love. (1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.) Love is further defined in 1 Corinthians 13. ” 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

So, we know that God IS love, and we know what love means- Love is about relationship with others, and love isn’t selfish. I always feel excited thinking about what love really means because in reality, it is so very much different than what we see around us. We often see the word misused, whether in our own lives or in the media. The prevalence of divorce and broken hearts serves as proof.

Divorce and broken hearts are the byproduct of failed attempts at what love really is. Attempts fail when selfishness creeps in, and we’re all born with a selfish nature. As individuals, we naturally see things from our own point of view and feel the need to preserve our own wants and needs. However, if we truly aspire to be like Christ, we have to be willing to set aside our own wants and needs at times in order to be loving.

Don’t get me wrong, self-care is important and a necessity (if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re in no shape to care for others), but God’s model of love is about others. It’s not about you. To your spouse, it’s about you. To you, it’s about your spouse.

Marriage gives us such a wonderful opportunity to model God’s love to the world. Scripture even references marriages reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church. A Godly marriage will ideally reflect that kind of love. Are you showing the world what God’s love is all about in your marriage? Or, are you acting on your feelings of pride, selfishness, resentment, jealousy, etc.?

If you’ve been selfish in your marriage (after all, it is our nature), it’s not too late to make an effort to change those patterns. I truly believe that when both people in a marriage are willing to be committed and make an effort, every marriage can succeed.

What are some ways you can show your spouse that he or she is your priority?

If you need some ideas, I encourage you to watch the movie Fireproof and check out The Love Dare. It’s definitely worth your time to invest in your marriage!

 

Keri

 

 

 

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The grass is always greener…

Pampa - Santa Fe, Argentina
Claudio.Ar / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The grass is always greener… in a well-manicured lawn. No, really, how do you think it became so green? It’s easy to look at other couples or families and think, “wow, they have it all together… they have the perfect life.” It’s just as easy to then look at your own life and compare the two. The problem is that this often leads to discontentment.

In reality, relationships take work. To work on a marriage takes self-sacrifice and a willingness to put your spouse first. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Healthy relationships with your children take work too. It’s tempting to want to be your little one’s best friend, when what they need is for you to be their parent.

As a therapist, I have had many people present their children for therapy and tell me, in one form or another, that their children have behavior problems and they won’t respond to parental correction. As the conversation progresses, however, the parents will begin to tell me of the inconsistencies in their own parenting techniques. They may know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t get done for various reasons. For example, I’ve been told many times that Time-Out doesn’t work because the children won’t stay in Time Out. I’ve also seen the same children respond very well to Time-Out when the parents consistently and calmly follow through. Initially, the children will kick, scream, flail, and try to bite, but eventually they will realize the parent is going to follow through and they will relinquish control to the parent. It can be heart wrenching to watch the process, knowing that the child is doing what he has learned to do to get his way (after all, we all have that selfish, sinful nature that strengthens if not checked), but doing your best to remain loving, patient, and calm while setting boundaries is important. Remember, you are modeling God’s love to your child!

When trying to make major changes, it always looks like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but in dealing with something like children’s behavioral problems, it’s important to know that if you make a big effort to be consistent and give up after an hour and a half of the child screaming and struggling with you (hello, exhaustion!), you’ve only wasted that much energy and your child will then be reaffirmed that if he fights hard enough and long enough, you’re going to give in. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to cope with their emotions (disappointment, frustration, etc.) rather than simply reacting to them.

When making changes in other relationships, whether with your spouse, a friend, family member, etc., It will also take a lot of work.

  • Practice controlling your tongue so you’re not throwing verbal jabs when your feelings get hurt.
  • Make it a concentrated effort to approach the other person lovingly when you feel like running away/avoiding any and all contact with them.
  • Set aside your own pride and hurt feelings to look for compassion that may help you better communicate with them. You don’t have to agree to have compassion!

So now we come back to the lawn. How much is it worth to you for your grass to be pretty and green? How much work are you willing to put into your relationships? It’s up to you, of course. You can’t have the results you want if it’s not important enough for you to put in the work.

 

Keri

 

 

 

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Pride, Defenses, and Vulnerability

Pride, Defenses, and Vulnerability
Ed Yourdon / Foter / CC BY-SA

Well, if you don’t know what’s wrong, I’m certainly not going to tell you!”

Have you been guilty of blurting out that line? Maybe it just went through your mind, or you’ve heard it from your spouse, but have you ever stopped to think about how incredibly flawed that reasoning truly is? It seems a bit ridiculous. When you think about it, how in the world could that statement possibly be beneficial in a conflict? Even so, it’s laughable because it is said so often.

It’s interesting how statements like that are such commonplace responses to marital conflicts. The underlying belief behind a statement such as, “Well if you don’t know what’s wrong, I’m certainly not going to tell you” may be, “I shouldn’t have to tell you what’s wrong, you should pay attention enough to know,” “you should care enough to know,” or “you should have listened enough to know.” If that is the belief, it only makes sense that as a result, a spouse may feel ignored, neglected, unappreciated, unimportant, uninteresting, or a number of other emotions. As a result, behaviors such as throwing verbal “jabs” may occur. In the situation of our quote above, a spouse may cling to the right to feel hurt or offended. While it is true that we have a right to feel the emotions that we feel, it’s easy to allow prideful indignation to interfere and keep our tempers steaming.

It’s a defense mechanism. When we’re hurt, we naturally want to throw up defensive walls to protect ourselves. The claws come out and the teeth are bared. In a marriage, however, building walls only serves to tear down the marital bond. As scary as it may be to feel vulnerable, a healthy marriage requires a willingness to let someone in, even after hurtful words or actions have surfaced. This is where forgiveness comes in.

We are often led to believe that forgiveness means giving someone permission to do the same, hurtful thing again and again. Please allow me to challenge that notion. Forgiveness is choosing to love someone, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, even though they’ve done something to hurt you. A favorite quote of mine by C.S. Lewis states, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” If we are truly going to love our spouse, our family, our friends… if we are truly going to love others as Christ instructed us to do, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Love isn’t self-centered. Granted, we’re not expected to bare our souls entirely to everyone we meet, but in a healthy marriage, vulnerability is what builds intimacy.

When you feel the stubborn pride rising up into your chest after a “jab” by your spouse (or other loved one for that matter), take it as a cue to be loving. When you blood starts to boil over something that should have been done but wasn’t or shouldn’t have been done but was, take it as a cue to respectfully communicate with your spouse about the problem. After all, maybe the jab is a defense, and maybe the action that seemed uncaring was simply because your spouse didn’t realize how important an issue is to you. Remember that none of us are mind-readers. If you don’t share your expectations of one another clearly, someone will end up feeling hurt.

I challenge you to make an agreement with your spouse to lay down your defenses. Help one another feel safe in the marriage by refraining from jabs and allowing yourself to be vulnerable too, even when it’s hard. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your marriage may be scary, especially if you’ve been hurt time and time again, but if both of you are committed to the marriage and can lay down the defensive walls, amazing things can begin to happen!

What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve caught yourself saying to your spouse in retaliation for hurt feelings?