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Defending Myself No More

My husband and me in June of this year
My husband and myself – June 2013

It is absolutely human nature for all of us to respond to criticism by defending ourselves.

God asks us to respond in the power of His Spirit as His disciples – we are no longer slaves to our old sinful selves.  Let’s look at how we can respond to criticism in God-honoring, life-giving ways.




I didn’t think of myself as a contentious wife for those first 14+ years of our marriage.  I thought I was the BEST Christian wife EVER!!!!!   I thought it was only my husband who needed to change.   But now I know that I was a contentious wife. 🙁  Makes me pretty sad to think about it.

Some characteristics of a contentious wife (I know this stuff well… this was me!):

  • I believe I am always right.  I am PRIDEFUL.
  • I believe I know best.  I believe I know better than my husband – about everything.  And, really, I believe I know better than God and His Word many times, too.  MORE PRIDE!!!!!!!
  • I believe that everyone should do as I say.  People should all submit to me and do what I think they should do (not that I would ever word it like that, of course!  But I have SELF as an idol and I expect others to bow to me, too.)  If only everyone would listen to me, things would all be wonderful!  I believe I am the only one who knows “God’s will” or “the right thing” to do.
  • I believe I am above reproof, rebuke and criticism.  If someone dares to criticize me, I will defend myself to show him how wrong he is and how right I am.  Or, I will turn and attack some character flaw in the one giving me criticism and not deal with the concern this person brought up.  I refuse to look at my own responsibilities, faults and sin.  I may be entirely blind to my own sin. (That was me, too!)
  • I believe I have the right to rebuke/criticize/”help” others because they “need” my “help” and my “wisdom” so desperately – and, because I so obviously know best.
  • I focus so much on being “right” about every little issue that I am willing to sacrifice the unity and intimacy in my marriage to “win” each little battle.  I may win a battle by defeating my husband with my attacking words, but I may lose his heart.  That is not really a win!
  • I am REALLY stressed, lonely, worried and afraid a lot.  I am trying to carry the weight of the family that God designed for my husband to carry.  And I am also trying to carry the weight of God’s sovereignty on my little, tiny, wimpy shoulders.  Problem is – I am NOT God.  I am NOT sovereign.  And I cannot begin to carry that kind of weight.  I don’t have the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control because I am not controlled by His Spirit, I am firmly controlled by SELF.  I have not died to self.  I have SELF as lord, not Jesus.
  • I am willing to argue ANY point TO DEATH.  I will not drop it until I win.  Because – I am “right,” of course!  And being “right” in my mind is much more important to me than unity in my marriage or unity with Christ.
  • I verbally tear down my marriage and my husband.  The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6

Now, I know why so many of my prayers were not answered all that time.  God was in opposition to me because of my immeasurable pride and arrogance.



  • Humility.  Lots of it.  Humility before God and humility before my husband.  I acknowledge that God has wisdom, I do not.  His wisdom is INFINITELY higher than mine.  And I acknowledge that my husband may have wisdom to offer to me that may bless me and benefit me and our family.
  • Die to self.  I must crucify my old sinful self with Christ on the cross and accept the LORDSHIP of Christ.
  • Refuse to argue.   God commands us, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life. Philippians 2:14-16a
  • I need a proper understanding of Who God is and who I am – a sweeping, grand view of God’s sovereignty, power and holiness and a clear view of my sinfulness, impotence, weakness and helplessness.
  • Speak with a pleasant, soft, gentle tone of voice and a friendly expression on my face.
  • Recognize and stop acting in disrespectful ways.
  • Speak the language of respect fluently.
  • Willingness to accept correction.

God’s Word has much to say about the wise and foolish and how differently they respond to correction, criticism, rebuke and reproof.

It is my prayer that we might learn to properly respond to criticism and correction in a way that honors and pleases God.  I see that correction can be a blessing to me that helps me to grow in holiness.

Do not rebuke an evil one, lest he hate you, but rebuke a wise one, for he will love you.  Proverbs 9:8  (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

– Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice. Proverbs 23:9  NLT

– The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 NIV

– Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Proverbs 9:7 NIV

a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.  Proverbs 13:1b. NIV

– A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. Proverbs 17:10 NLT


  • I listen.
  • I breathe.
  • I try to relax and be calm.
  • I don’t defend myself.
  • I do not attack him.
  • I prayerfully consider his words and understand that God may be speaking to me through my husband.
  • I weigh the criticism against God’s Word.
  • I humbly repent and apologize to God and to my husband if the criticism is valid.
  • I seek God’s will, not my own.
  • I thank my husband for his godly leadership. (If it is not my husband, I thank the person for his/her concern and courage to bring up the issue with me.)
  • I ask God to give me the power and wisdom to change for His glory.
  • I thank God for the rebuke and for His willingness to correct me and make me more like Christ.

39 thoughts on “Defending Myself No More

    1. 007eddiedwina,

      Yes, it becomes much easier than all the arguing and defending myself ever was! And much more honoring to Christ. This does not come naturally – it has to be God’s Spirit doing this work in us – but His yoke is truly easy and His burden is light because when we allow Him to work in us, He gives us the power to be able to do what He asks us to do. LOVE IT!


  1. Hey April, it’s funny you know, we get so far on our journey and then we seemed to get tripped up … again!

    Just this morning God provided me with a great ‘opportunity’ for more growth. (did the word OPPORTUNITY sound “tongue-in-cheek”? Good, it was supposed to) 🙂

    But, on the upside, it all happens much more quickly now!

    1. Robyn,

      Yes – when I do mess up – we seem to be able to get back on track so much faster now than before. There will always be “opportunities for growth.” 🙂 It keeps us humble, doesn’t it?

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. April…
    Great post! This so…..describes my journey. The amazing thing is that God has made a miracle out of my mess! I realized that I am moving from respect being things I do or say to respectful being who I am! Thank you so much for your blog. Initially, it was the mirror and light that allowed God to show me the depth of my sinfulness. Now, it is a place of encouragement and a resource I use to help other women on their respect journeys. God is doing amazing things through you!
    Love in Christ.

    1. Cathy,
      Wow! What a blessing! Thank you for sharing what God is doing in your life. Such a HUGE answer to my prayers!!!!!

      Much love to you! I can’t wait to see what He has in store for your life! 🙂

  3. Indeed I see so much of this that I may not have done verbally out loud, but I would do it in my head. Even rehearse afterward if I were quiet what I should have done or said. But over time and learning more about submission to God’s Word and Ways, it has gotten so much better. Two key notes that some may try to use as a loophole….. #1) Everyone may not have a “godly” husband, but you still show respect and realize that he is God’s creation just like you and simply ask the Holy Spirit how to respond #2) If you defend yourself verbally that means you have taken “offense” to what was done or said and this is one of the devil’s strongest tools to divide and conquer. The Golden Rule will never go out of date…. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you….. or simply ask before speaking or action…WWJD

    1. Wanda,

      You bring up a great point! God wants to renovate and regenerate our hearts, minds and souls so completely that we don’t even think all that disrespectful, prideful stuff anymore. TOTAL HEART CHANGE – that is His plan.

      Most wives who are learning respect and biblical submission believe their husbands are far from God – but we are not exempt from God’s commands to respect and submit to our husbands – absolutely!

      You are so right about taking offense. THen, it is so very tempting to cherish that offense, to nurture it, to coddle it and to allow that resentment and bitterness to grow and become a huge toxic cancer in our lives and marriages.

      Thanks so much for your insights! 🙂

  4. Thank you April,
    This is just what i need from the Lord today. I have tears in my eyes. His timing is so perfect.
    Blessing to you

    1. Kara,
      Well – now I have tears in my eyes, too. Tears of joy that God is willing and able to use me as a little jar of clay to pour Himself through me into your life to bless you. Thank you for sharing!

      Sending you a huge hug, my precious sister!

  5. This is so what I needed to hear this morning! I was getting ready for bed last night and had a little back and forth with my husband where I felt I needed to defend myself. By God’s grace my husband did not pursue a continued argument ( not because I was right) but God working in him to be more patient. As I started to fall asleep and was saying goodnight to the Lord he said “You didn’t need to defend yourself, Maybe Ed is right”. Hard to believe he would be right when I am just the perfect wife ; ) So I repented to God and resolved to read up on your blog to find some tools as to how to “not defend my self” when I feel criticized and here it was!

    Have a blessed Saturday!! Jennifer

    Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2013 09:01:26 +0000 To:

    1. J. S. Congel,

      You are very welcome!

      I am SO glad you were listening to God’s voice! Isn’t God amazing with His timing. He does that ALL the time! I never get tired of seeing Him working in my life and other people’s lives.

      Much love to you!!!!!
      I trust you were able to repent and resolve things with your husband today?

  6. Thanks so much for this post. I find myself getting defensive all the time and KNOW I need to change. It’s a struggle but lately I have not been arguing with my husband for the mere fact that I can’t figure out a way to present my case that is respectful! April, your blog has made a huge difference for me. I follow this blog Little Catholic Bubble and she recommended Dr. Laura’s book “the care and feeding of husbands”. That’s what got me started on the respect journey. The problem I had with that book is that Dr. Laura can come off so abrasive and harsh that it was tough to read. Thank you for giving a similar message in such a gentle, loving way!

  7. Excellent timing with this one! One of my favorite things about your articles April are the practical steps one can take to change! Often times, articles are written up to this point. We relate but then we are left wondering, what can I do about it!? I don’t feel I am right or that I need to be right about everything but I do feel stressed and alone many times. I have trouble expressing to my husband and tend to go on and on and lead the conversations down different path until he is confused about what we are really even talking about. Of course this works fine with my girlfriends but not with my man. He doesn’t want to just “chat” about our grocery budget, he want’s to resolve the issue and move on. And that’s where I get into trouble. I become offended that he doesn’t want to just sit and listen and talk and connect with me about whatever! Then I feel alone. And I have to drop it and not feel hurt. So thank you for the Cure for Contentiousness list. It is a very useful tool for me to reference when I need reminding!

  8. God bless you! I’m in tears reading this! I wish I’d read this earlier yesterday before I tore my husband down with his “wrong” and my “right”. God has moved my heart for the last 5 months to build my husband up as leader of our home… It took one statement and following argument to tear it all down. Prayers welcome for me to die to self and quit being prideful (I do NOT know better than God or my husband). Prayers that my husband can soften his heart to me and forgive me.

  9. Ouch! There are many things in this post that I feel convicted about. My husband tends to criticize/correct me a lot…instead of wisely listening and considering what he has to say, I am often offended by his trying to help and defend myself until the sun goes down. I am also guilty of arguing a point when I KNOW I’m right and my husband is wrong. I make a point to argue (I tell myself we are “debating” but I know that is just me covering my sin) and go so far as to look up something just to show him the proof that I am right. How prideful and foolish of me! I hope to be able to change these things, slowly, with your suggestions on the right way to react. The Lord definitely used you to speak to me about this! Thank you!

    1. Samantha,
      You are most welcome! If you have anything you want to talk about specifically – please let me know. We can hash through things together if you’d like. 🙂
      Much love to you!

  10. thank you so much for this post! i’ve been on this journey (and reading your blog) for a while and i think this post sums up many of my “issues” in such a concise and practical way. one thing i am learning is how much i lack in TRUSTING god and accepting the LORDSHIP of christ in my life. (i also love to be right!) it’s so weird (and i am so very grateful) that i can be a christian for many years and just now “see” my sinful ways! i pray that the lord keeps pricking my heart until i am willing to remove that yuckiness of pride and disrespect. thankful to have you and your blog to pave the way and to give practical advice for those of us on this road. i have read your blog almost daily for the past few months and god has spoken through you…so thank you! god is changing me and my marriage through you! ps i’ve wanted to write you many times but sometimes it’s hard to put into words what i am learning/ being convicted of/ changing/ questioning. maybe someday i will but for now i just wanted to leave you a quick comment. 🙂

    1. Meredith,

      I can definitely relate to your story! I appreciate your comment and I love what God is doing in your heart! 🙂 I can’t wait to see all that He has in store for you!

  11. I will be printing this and STUDYING it. I blew it this weekend (again!). My husband and I tend to bring out the “worst” in each other. He is controlling and manipulative – won’t stop coming at me with his words…until I “lose it” emotionally. And that’s when the disrespect comes…which he can’t stand! I believe that’s called the “crazy cycle”…ugh! It’s a matter of self-control…why don’t I get that? Thank you, April for your wise counsel – you and God are always “spot on”. Please pray for me.

  12. Hi,
    I am on a journey to become a respectful wife also.. I have had a very difficult time the last 3 1/2 years of marriage trying to figure out what is disrespectful and what isn’t.. Sometimes it is completely on accident and sometimes it happens when I am upset with him over something and I respond disrespectfully. When we are arguing about this issue, he has also called me ‘contentious’ a few times which I always disagree and defend myself on that insult! I HATE that I hurt him! I loved this post because for the first time I am going to acknowledge that maybe that is what I am! And hopefully I can find ways to change! Thanks again

    1. J.P.,
      I am so glad you are on this journey!

      I have posts at the top of my home page about what is disrespectful and what is respectful to most husbands. I WISH I had that information 19 years ago!

      I have to laugh about you arguing that you are not contentious. Sounds like me before 5 years ago! Maybe you can tell your husband that God has convicted you and you can briefly apologize for being disrespectful and contentious (without justifying or explaining yourself) and tell him you desire to be the wife God wants you to be?

      Praying for wisdom for you my precious sister!

  13. I have just discovered your blog and am finding it so helpful… I need this so much. As those verses say we are in a warped and crooked generation, To be a truly respectful wife is Spirit-led. The Spirit is working in my heart, there’s a lot of work needed there.

    1. Amy,

      Yes! We must be Spirit-led to be respectful the way God desires us too. I am so excited to meet you and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you! 🙂

  14. Reblogged this on Confessions of a {FORMER} People Pleaser and commented:
    Uh oh, I might have to create another blog just for this! I was contentious (with everyone) for MANY years and I still harbor some of the symptoms. No wonder I’m stressed.

    The problem is: I know who I want to be and I want to be there NOW. When my values don’t line up with my actual life I become stressed out, impatient and it becomes a vicious cycle, I exhibit all of the things I’m striving against. I need to learn to stop and ask the Lord for help and be patient and accepting of where I am. This is why we are all “renewing daily” and not renewed all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day; I need to give myself a break.

  15. This post hit me so hard because it describes everything I’ve been in the past, the way I’d acted, and even right down to how I’d felt…afraid, worried and lonely. I was miserable. And I was miserable to be around. I did it all wrong for years. I thought I knew it all, could control it all, deserved it all, and had no faults. Everything you wrote above about being a contentious wife was me. The damage was so great that I caused in my marriage due to being disrespectful and contentious and prideful, that my husband moved out 18 months ago after 13 years of marriage. He’s been living with another woman for the past year now. I spent the six months or so before he left trying to change, but after years of hurting him he was too hardened to care nor did he believe in the changes in me. God continues to work in me. I’m standing for the restoration of my marriage and my husband’s salvation, and have a new contentment and joy that I never had before, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret how I’ve caused hurt to my husband and because of that, to my children also. To anyone who sees yourself in the post above, PLEASE, fall on your knees before God and beg him and your husband to forgive you and ask God for a changed heart today. He can and WILL change you. I am proof of that. Please don’t wait until your husband has one foot, or both, out the door to try to change. Please, don’t put it off a moment longer.

    1. Kimberly,

      I am SO honored to meet you!

      I can see that God is working powerfully in your heart. What He is doing is beautiful. How I wish you had been able to understand these things sooner. I wonder if you might like to write a bit more about your situation for me to anonymously share as a post?

      I believe MANY, MANY wives are in this exact position – and I pray they will wake up before it is too late.

      Much love to you!
      I pray for your marriage to be restored and for your husband’s salvation along with you.

      Please let me know if there is anything you want to talk about. 🙂

  16. Chrissie,

    Well… a lot of people SAY they are believers. The question is – do they LIVE like they are believers?

    Jesus Himself said “anyone who loves Me will obey My commands… He who does not obey My commands does not love Me.” John 14

    Jesus said the two greatest commands are:
    1. to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
    2. to love others as yourself.

    I am so sorry you are in this difficult situation. 🙁

    If you were married, you may need to try to make it work out – but – I have very serious concerns about attempting to raise your daughter in this environment.

    My greatest concern is your relationship with Christ and your daughter’s safety. I encourage you to seek godly counsel.

    I pray for wisdom for you! I pray for God’s greatest glory in your life, your man’s life and your children’s lives.

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