If I Insult Others, I Need a Spiritual Check Up ASAP

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It’s easy to get into the habit of fault-finding and having a critical spirit about other people.

It takes no spiritual maturity, wisdom, talent, or special abilities to criticize others and tear them down with words. The sinful nature does this effortlessly.

It’s also easy to think, “Well, he hurt me, so now I get to hurt him.” Or, “She insulted me, so now I get to take revenge and attack her and hurt her even worse than she hurt me. That will teach her a lesson!” Or, “How dare anyone think bad things about me? How dare anyone not think I am totally perfect?” Then I may think I can justify my sinful response to that person in my mind. Of course, this won’t hold water with God.

Sin is never justifiable in His eyes and He always provides a way out from temptation for His children. If only we will take it!

If I think along the lines of pride, vengeance, hatred, jealousy, or self-righteousness, I will respond in the flesh not in the power of the Spirit of God. I must learn to take my sinful thoughts captive for Christ before they lead me into sinful words and actions.

  • With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. James 3:9-10

From the post, “What Does the Bible Say about Being Meanspirited?” by www.gotquestions.org

Christlike living is in direct opposition to a mean spirit. To highlight some differences:

• Our mean spirit wants to get revenge; Jesus says to forgive (Matthew 6:14–15).
• Our mean spirit wants to exalt itself; Jesus says to seek humility (Matthew 23:12).
• Our mean spirit wants to be first; Jesus says we are blessed if we choose to be last (Mark 9:35).
• Our mean spirit wants to fight; Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
• Our mean spirit wants to gossip; the Bible says to guard our mouths (Proverbs 13:3).
• Our mean spirit is rude; Jesus says our speech should be gracious (Colossians 4:6).

God Calls Us to Love

There are two primary commands for believers in Christ (Matt. 22:36-40).

  1. To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
  2. To love others as we love ourselves – with God’s agape love.

Here is the kind of love God calls us to have for others.

It is a divine love that we can only have through the Holy Spirit:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8

And God calls us to live by the power of the Spirit not by the power of our sinful flesh:You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Gal. 5:13-15

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Gal. 5:22-26

Why Do I Want to Insult Others?

Maybe it could be helpful for me to think about why I feel compelled to insult other people, if this is a struggle for me. Once I see why I am doing this, then I can invite God to help me address the root sin issues so I can repent and stop living this way and start living in ways that honor the Lord.

  • Do I not know Jesus as my Savior and Lord?
  • Have I submitted myself to the Lordship of Christ?
  • Is it just a bad habit that I don’t even realize I am doing?
  • Do I want to feel better about myself by putting others down? Am I a bully and/or emotionally abusive?
  • Am I self-righteous? Do I think I am more holy and good than other people?
  • Am I prideful? Do I think I know best and my wisdom is equal to or greater than God’s?
  • Am I putting myself, in my mind, in the place of God as Judge of human hearts, minds, and souls? Do I consciously or subconsciously think people answer to me rather than to the Lord?
  • Do I think God’s Word doesn’t apply to me? I am somehow above His commands?
  • Am I acting in fear? Am I trying to protect myself by lashing out at others?
  • Do I enjoy hurting other people? Am I malicious?
  • Am I a narcissist? Do I only care about myself and my happiness?
  • Do I know the Lord, but have I grieved His Spirit because of unrepentant sin in my life? Am I walking in disobedience to the Word of God in some area of my life so that I don’t have the power of the Spirit right now?
  • Do I love and desire something else more than God? If I have something else on the throne of my heart, I will feel frustrated and resentful because there is no contentment, joy, or peace in anything but Jesus.
  • Do I hate God or think lies about God or feel betrayed by God because people hurt me?
  • Do I hate people?
  • Do I hate myself?
  • Am I codependent with someone else? Do I idolize my husband or another person and then get angry at them when they don’t meet my deepest needs? Do I expect other people to be responsible for my emotional and spiritual wellbeing? Or do I think I am responsible for other people’s decisions and their emotional and spiritual well-being? Do I have my boundaries and responsibilities mixed up in a dysfunctional way?
  • Do I have unbiblical or unrealistic expectations of others and resent them when they disappoint me?
  • Do I let my emotions rule and reign in my life instead of the Spirit?
  • Do I let PMS or hormones dictate my words?
  • Maybe I feel insulted by someone else and I end up reacting in the flesh and am not sure how to respond rightly.
  • Do I have a medical issue that needs attention – thyroid problems, nutritional deprivation, sleep-deprivation, low blood sugar, side effects from a medication, postpartum depression, etc…?
  • Am I deeply spiritually and emotionally wounded myself and do I need spiritual healing?
  • Do I have issues with bitterness, grudges, unforgiveness, and resentment?
  • Do I want power over others, do I try to control them with hurtful words?
  • Do I believe that I have to insult and disrespect others in order to respect myself?
  • Did I experience emotional/verbal abuse when I was growing up? Does this just seem normal and maybe I don’t purposely do it, but I don’t know any other way to relate to people? Maybe I don’t know how to be vulnerable and direct or how to respectfully ask for what I would like?

Or is there some other reason behind my hurtful words?

Pray with Me

Lord,

We invite You to illuminate our hearts, minds, motives, and deepest thoughts. Please expose any sin in the dark corners of our souls. Shine Your blazing Light of truth and love in every nook and cranny. Help us to see toxic ways of thinking and help us to repent so that we can be made right with You and we can be healed by the power of the blood of Jesus. Then please show us how to seek to repent to those we have hurt and to try to make things right and to live Your new way from now on. Help us to treat others with Your love, honor, and respect. That is how we show our love for You. However we treat people – You take that as how we treat You.

Amen!

Verses about Insults

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Prov. 10:12 

  • (Note, this doesn’t mean we never confront sin. But we don’t go telling everyone about it. We handle it rightly. And we realize some things are so insignificant, we can pass over them.)

Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. Prov. 11:12

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Prov. 19:11

Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools. Eccl. 7:9

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matt. 5:22

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt. 5:43-45

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rom. 12:14

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom. 12:17-21

In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Eph. 4:26

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph. 4:29

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:32

To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:2

When he (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Pet. 2:23

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What are some things you have learned about why you have been tempted to insult people in the past? We’d love to hear any wisdom the Lord has given you about overcoming the habit of using hurtful words.

Much love!

RELATED

What Is an Insult? And what is it not?

How I Respond to Insults Says a Lot about My Character

Responding to Insults, Criticisms, and Rebukes

What Place Do  Hatred, Rage, and Violence Have in Our Lives as Believers in Christ?

Practical Steps to Overcoming Hatred, Rage, and Violence

Our Words Can Cause Catastrophic Damage

Am I Too Chatty with My Husband?

Am I Too Quiet with My Husband?

SALVATION THROUGH JESUS IS AVAILABLE TO US ALL

Of course the foundational thing I need (in order to do anything good in God’s eyes) is to have Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I need to:

1. ADMIT I am a sinner and there is nothing I can do to make myself in right relationship with the One true holy God of the universe.

– “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23

2. BELIEVE that Jesus, God in the flesh, left the glory of heaven, came to this world to live the perfect life I couldn’t live and die the death I deserved for my sin in my place. He conquered sin, death, and the grave on my behalf and was raised on the 3rd day.

– “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
– “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

3. CONFESS that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord and give my whole life and everything in my life to Him. He is now in charge not me and I will follow Him for the rest of my life.

– “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9
– And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Cor. 5:15
– “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21

Much love!

My Response to Insults Says a Lot about My Character

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Unfortunately, we will all be the targets of insults, at one time or another. Even Jesus faced intense criticism, insults, and terrible persecution. And He was God! He was completely perfect. And yet, so many people hated Him.

It hurts deeply to feel misunderstood, wrongly accused, berated, or verbally attacked.

Our knee-jerk response when we feel insulted is to get defensive. Or to go on an all-out offensive attack at the person who insulted or criticized us.

This topic could easily fill many books. This post is not a comprehensive guide to exactly what to do in every possible situation. It is a general overview. We will need the Word and God’s Spirit to give us the wisdom we need in individual scenarios.

There are two primary ways we can respond to insults for believers in Christ. The flesh or the Spirit.

Fleshly reactions to insults:

  • React in a spirit of offense, self-righteousness, and pride.
  • Vigorously defend myself and try to control and change what the other person thinks about me.
  • Attack the other person in sinful anger.
    • Malice – try to hurt the other person in any way possible, including physically, financially, socially, emotionally, etc…
    • Gossip about the other person.
    • Slander the other person.
    • Seek revenge.
    • Complain to other people about the person.
    • Passive-aggressively try to undermine and attack the person.
    • Triangulate with another person – take my offense to another person instead of to the one who hurt me.
  • Hold a grudge and bitterness against that person.
  • Retreat and hide in fear.
  • Freak out and worry.

Yes, it is very tempting to lash out and launch a swift “nuclear attack” when we feel insulted.

But what does it accomplish – other than to add to the emotional and spiritual carnage? And it separates us from fellowship with the Lord because it grieves the Holy Spirit.

What if there is a better way to respond? A way that honors the Lord and keeps from escalating the situation – as far as it depends on us? That is what I want to talk about together today.

What Is the Source?

I think it is important to remember what Jesus said about the source of what comes out of people’s mouths. 

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:33-37

It is super helpful to remember that what a person says reveals what is in that person’s heart. It really isn’t necessarily about me at all.

I need to avoid making the mistake of thinking that what people say must reflect me or be about me – or that what they say must be true automatically.

What people say is primarily about them. It is about their motives, hearts, and issues. It is about who is in control of their lives – the sinful nature or the Holy Spirit.

  • Some people are walking around all filled up with the sinful nature. When they get pressured by relationships or trials, the nastiness that is inside them comes spewing out all over whoever is around them.
  • Other people are walking around all filled up with the Holy Spirit. When they get pressured by relationships or trials, the fruit of the Spirit is what gushes out of them all over whoever is around them..

So I don’t have to take everything that other people say personally. This is so freeing!

I need to carefully weigh what people say vs. what God says. If the person’s words contain a godly rebuke, even if it wasn’t thoughtfully presented, then I can humbly receive that part and repent for any sin in my life or any wrong doing on my part. I can take anything constructive from what was said and invite God to use it to help me grow. But if the person’s words are not true, if they are not constructive, or if their words are from the enemy, I don’t need to absorb them.

Who is speaking?

I want to consider who is speaking the words. Is it a spiritually mature believer in Christ whom I trust and who loves me and wants God’s best for me? Is he/she attempting to give me a godly rebuke or constructive criticism that maybe I need to hear? Am I hearing this person accurately or am I misunderstanding something or assuming negative motives where there aren’t any? Do the person’s words align with the Bible?

Or is this person someone who is far from the Lord, as far as I know, and who has a lifestyle of insulting almost everyone? Is this someone Proverbs would classify as “a fool“? An unbeliever may speak some truth to me that I need to take to heart. But I want to be a lot more cautious about receiving words from someone acting in the flesh.

I also need to consider if the thing that I perceive to be an insult, actually isn’t one.

Responding to Insults with Wisdom

If I respond in the flesh to an insult by immediately vigorously defending myself to try to “make the other person understand” and make them change their minds about me, or if I respond by attacking the other person, I will often only pour gasoline on the fire. I can escalate the situation into a much worse situation with greater tension and greater wounds on both sides.

Godly responses to insults:

  • Restraint and self control. (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Respect and honor for God, for the other person, and for self. (1 John 4:20)
  • Righteous anger toward sin, never sinful anger at a person. (Eph. 4:26)
  • Patience and understanding if the other person is deeply wounded or may have significant spiritual, emotional, physical or other kinds of problems, realizing the person is not okay and the insult is probably a symptom of their spiritual or physical condition. (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Attempt to clear up any misunderstanding if there was one.
  • Diffuse the situation with appropriate humor – in certain situations.
  • Avoid assuming the absolute worst about the other person’s intentions without clear evidence.
  • Repent for any sin I have committed against the other person. (Matt. 5:23-24)
  • Sometimes ignoring it is the wisest thing to do, especially if the person is someone who is foolish or a scoffer and clearly just looking for a fight or is so prideful he/she is not open to listening to anyone else’s perspective. (Prov. 12:16)
  • Other times, addressing the underlying issue in the person’s heart, not the insult, itself, may be wise. (Prov. 26:5)
  • Bless the person. (Luke 6:28)
  • Recognize this may be an opportunity to witness, to share the gospel, and/or to shine for Christ. (2 Tim. 2:24-25)
  • Realize the real enemy is not the person but a spiritual enemy. I need to fight the real enemy with spiritual weapons. (Eph. 6:12)
  • Pray for God to work powerfully in the life of anyone who mistreats me, that they would come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord and that they would be regenerated and conformed to the image of Christ for God’s glory. (Luke 6:28)
  • Without a spirit of fear but with a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind. (Deut. 31:6, 2 Tim. 1:7)
  • Sometimes humbly, respectfully confronting the sin – after I have dealt with any sin in my own life) is the best approach, if the person is sinning against me – especially if the person is a believer. (Matt. 7:1-5, Matt. 18:15-17)
  • Draw appropriate boundaries if someone continues on in unrepentant sin and is very toxic spiritually/emotionally. There are times when we warn someone once or twice and then need to have nothing to do with that person if they continue on sinning in certain sins (2 Tim. 3:1-5, Titus 3:10)

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19

From a Reader:

When offended we must be calm and be slow to speak. And ask God to help us to not be offended. It’s our response to the insult that matters most. I really dealt hard with feeling like I was offended. Someone may joke or I may have taken what they said the wrong way. What God showed me is my response with gentleness and kindness, regardless of how I felt, is what matters most. I found out that when not responding negatively, the outcome has (often) been peace, and less arguments. Feeling offended led me to give mean, angry responses that were only damaging the person and myself. I was under conviction and now I feel so much better when I don’t react in the flesh.

What Does God Say about How I Should Respond to Insults?

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deut. 31:6

The one who corrects a mocker will bring abuse on himself; the one who rebukes the wicked will get hurt. Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you. Prov. 9:7-8

A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Prov. 12:16

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Prov. 14:29

A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. Prov. 18:7

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you. Prov. 20:22

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Prov. 26:4-5 (Meaning – don’t stoop to a fool’s level and react in the flesh. But you may need to wisely answer to keep him from becoming more conceited.)

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28

 

If I Am Insulted for My Faith in Christ

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 1 Tim. 3:12

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Pet. 4:12-14

I want to see us respond to insults without fear, without pride, without a spirit of offense, without bitterness or resentment, and without lashing out and hurting others. I want to see us respond in the power of the Spirit and with the mind and heart of Christ!

Those unbelievers who insult us may be future brothers and sisters in Christ! God may desire us to help pray them into His Kingdom. They are people Jesus loves and for whom He died.

In the next post, we will talk about avoiding insulting others.

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What wisdom have you learned about responding well to insults? We’d love to hear about it. What are your thoughts on today’s post? And how is your 21 day fast from negative words going? It’s not too late to start if you would like!

RELATED

What Is an Insult? (And just as importantly, what is not an insult?)

A Critical Spirit VS a Godly Rebuke

When Should You Answer a Fool? by www.lifehopeandtruth.com

How Should a Christian Respond to Bullying? – by www.gotquestions.org

What Does the Bible Say about Dealing with Difficult People? – by www.gotquestions.org

25 Ways to Respect Myself

My Identity in Christ – the only source of my security, peace, joy, fulfillment, and purpose!

Responding to Insults, Criticisms, and Rebukes

Prayer for Wives with Critical, Harsh Husbands  – by Radiant

Got an Angry Man? – by Nina Roesner

Quick Tip for Handling an Angry Husband – by Nina Roesner

Do I Have a Spirit of Offense?

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

Taking Our Thoughts Captive for Christ – VIDEO

How Does the Bible Describe a Fool? by www.gotquestions.org

 

What Is an Insult?

Photo by Marc Schäfer on Unsplash

We are continuing our 21 Day Fast from Negative Words that we started on Valentine’s Day. You are welcome to join any time and start your 21 days whenever you like.

Last week, we talked a lot about complaining – what it is , what it isn’t, how we can avoid it, and what to replace it with.

This week, we are diving into the topic of insults. I want to cover some important issues like:

  • What is an insult? And what is not an insult?
  • How can we avoid insulting others?
  • How can we respond wisely to insults?
  • How God can use what people intend for evil against us for His good purposes?

Today, let’s talk about what an insult is – and what it is not.

What Is an Insult?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  • transitive verb – to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt : AFFRONT also : to affect offensively or damagingly
  • noun – a gross indignity
  • synonyms – OFFEND, OUTRAGE, AFFRONT, INSULT mean to cause hurt feelings or deep resentment. OFFEND need not imply an intentional hurting but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim’s sense of what is proper or fitting. OUTRAGE implies offending beyond endurance and calling forth extreme feelings. AFFRONT implies treating with deliberate rudeness or contemptuous indifference to courtesy.  INSULT suggests deliberately causing humiliation, hurt pride, or shame.

From a Few of My Amazing Readers:

  • An insult is something that may or may not be true, and is said with the intent to harm or discourage the receiver. Constructive criticism is something that also may or may not be true, but it said with the intent to encourage the receiver to take the comment to God to determine whether changes truly need to be made.
  • It takes courage to speak truth in love. If something is said to insult or be nasty there’s no courage in that, there’s no empathy or concern how the word will affect the other person. That’s the main way I know how to tell the difference.
  • My first thought is that an insult is meant to tear down, while constructive criticism/rebuke comes from a desire to encourage & build up. Really, it boils down to the intent of our hearts and how spiritually prepared we are before we share. Also, I’m learning that no matter how spiritually prepared I am or how respectful I communicate in words, tone of voice & body language, I cannot control the other person’s response. That is theirs to own.
  • Another thought.. Trying to offer constructive criticism/rebuke via social media is oftentimes counter-productive and we are the only ones who end up angry and hurt. Being selective in what I post and what I comment on, as well as knowing when to just end the conversation (by not continuing to post) are all things that have helped me.

My Thoughts:

We insult someone when we purposely intend to verbally wound someone.

When we insult others, we are disrespectful, hateful, malicious, or rude with our words – or even with our actions. Our intentions are destructive, not loving. We seek to hurt the person, not bless them.

This is a sin issue.

Our motives may include resentment, bitterness, pride, self-righteousness, assuming the worst about someone else’s intentions or motives toward us, malice, hatred, fear, misunderstanding, disrespect, control, manipulation, sinful jealousy, sinful anger, self-defense, a desire to elevate self at another’s expense, etc…

Insults break fellowship, destroy trust,  create division, foster strife, and hurt the gospel, the witness of believers, and the body of Christ. They grieve God’s Spirit.

God’s Word Tells Us Not to Insult Others

  • Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. James 4:11
  • There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18
  • Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Prov. 11:12
  • Love does no harm to a neighbor. Rom. 13:10

Note – if someone makes a threat, that is much worse than an insult. If someone suggests they will cause you or someone else bodily harm, please reach out to appropriate authorities and get help as soon as it is safe to do so. No one should have to be in danger.

What Things Are Not Insults?

Now here is where it can get dicey. Sometimes an insult can be rather subjective. The hearer may feel offended and insulted – when there was no intent to hurt or offend them.

The things below are not insults when shared with the proper spirit and motives:

  • Having different religious beliefs.
  • Sharing a different opinion.
  • Stating facts.
  • Having different personal convictions.
  • Sharing uncomfortable, unpopular truth (i.e.: from Scripture).
  • Standing firmly against anything God calls sin and even humbly, respectfully, firmly confronting sin when appropriate.
  • Godly rebukes or constructive criticism.
  • A person in a position of God-given leadership seeking to lead those in his/her care (in ways that are not sinful).
  • Enforcing a healthy boundary with someone who is unrepentant or hurtful and who won’t change even when he/she knows the other person is hurt.
  • Speaking up about feeling hurt, mistreated, ignored, pressured, controlled, smothered, etc…
  • Sharing my legitimate needs and concerns.
  • Sharing my desires in a vulnerable, direct way.
  • Saying, “No,” to someone’s request.
  • Deciding not to trust someone who has broken my trust and who is unwilling to re-establish trust.
  • Not associating with someone who professes to be a believer in Christ but who is living in certain kinds of unrepentant sin – like sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, divisiveness, or fraud/swindling (1 Cor. 5:10-12).
  • Breaking fellowship between myself and a professing brother/sister in Christ who is repeatedly divisive (Titus 3:10-11).

Unfortunately, there are times when others are trying to share important information – information that may be very beneficial, good, or even life-saving – but some will take offense and feel insulted/attacked and then react defensively or offensively – often out of misunderstanding, fear, or pride.

Some are afraid of rejection, conflict, disapproval from others, condemnation, etc… Others’ pride blinds them to believe that they truly believe they are “above” needing correction from anyone. They believe they are always right – like I did for so many years.

Sometimes a person:

  • Purposely insults another with the intent to harm.
  • Says something the hearer perceives to be an insult, but the speaker did not have harmful intentions, and may have actually had constructive or even loving intentions.

We will be talking about how to respond rightly to insults – and perceived insults – in the next post.

Pray with Me

Lord,

This is such a painful, difficult, muddy subject for many of us. But it is something we all need to understand. We all need Your wisdom, discernment, and Light about how to tell what an insult is – and what it is not. And we all need Your Spirit’s power to help us respond in Your ways to insults and to keep ourselves from insulting others. We invite Your Spirit to work in mighty ways in us this week. Illuminate our minds. Soften our hearts to Your voice. Grant us ears to hear and eyes to see Your spiritual treasures. Show us any areas where we are holding onto toxic sin that is destroying us. And help us to repent of it and allow You to transform our hearts and minds by the power of Your Word and truth. Your truth sets us free!

Amen!

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What wisdom have you learned about how to define an insult? What is the difference between an insult and constructive criticism?

Thanks so much for walking this road with me. I’m excited that we can encourage one another along the way and seek to point each other to greater faith in Jesus. May we all be open to all the spiritual treasures He has for us this week!

 

Much love!

 

RELATED

What Does the Bible Say about Insults?

What Does the Bible Say about Rebuking?

What Are Boundaries, and Are They Biblical? by www.gotquestions.org

A Critical Spirit VS a Godly Rebuke

Do I Have a Spirit of Offense?

Am I His Prosecuting Attorney?

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

My Husband Blamed Me for ALL the Problems in Our Marriage – by The Satisfied Wife

An Amazing Resource – Nina Roesner’s eCourse “Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity”

Becoming Fearless

How to Have a Saving Relationship with Christ

If I Stop the Negative Talk – What on Earth Will I Talk about?

Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash Continue reading “If I Stop the Negative Talk – What on Earth Will I Talk about?”

8 Practical Tips to Put the Brakes on Complaining

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

8 Tips to Nip Complaining in the Bud

1. Replace negative thoughts with thankful ones. Think about good things.

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. Phil. 4:8

2. Focus on praising God in your thoughts and with songs. 

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Ps. 115:1

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Ps. 100:1-2

3. Memorize and meditate on Scripture.

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Ps. 77:12

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Ps. 119:11

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. Ps. 119:99


4. Invite God to use the negative things in your life to help you grow in spiritual maturity, to bless others, and to bring glory to His Name.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Rom. 5:3-5

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

NOTE – If you are not safe. If you are in an abusive or dangerous situation, these verses don’t mean to just sit there and take abuse if you have the power to leave. We have a responsibility to get somewhere safe and to keep our children safe if there are actions we can take.


5. Avoid negative input from other people (when possible), from media, music, movies, books, etc… and replace the negative input with healthy, wholesome, Christ-honoring input that will feed my soul. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:2

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Col. 3:2


6. Journal about my journey or have an accountability partner. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Eccl. 4:12


7. Make it a group project at church, in the family, at work, in the neighborhood, with friends, or wherever.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Heb. 10:24


8. As soon as I mess up, I need to repent and get right back up and invite God to continue to make me more like Jesus. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

 

Added Bonuses When I Stop My Habit of Complaining about Every Little Thing:

  • There is more peace in my relationships.
  • I have more peace in my own heart and mind.
  • I can be closer to the Lord.
  • It’s easier for my husband to lead.
  • I have a much more powerful witness for Jesus.
  • I am more fun to be around for everyone.
  • I have more joy.
  • I am more attractive to my husband.
  • I don’t annoy myself as much.

SHARE

What tips do you have to share to help us all avoid complaining?

What bonuses have you noticed when you cut way back on a complaining spirit?

RELATED

Complaining VS Informing – We do need to be able to share important things. Thankfully, we can do that without complaining!

Other posts about complaining

If I Stop the Negative Talk – What on Earth Will I Talk about?

17 Tips to Ask for What You Desire Respectfully

I Can’t Ask for Things. I Can’t Have Needs, Desires or Emotions. – by Radiant

I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs. That’s the Godly Thing to Do. – No! Sometimes we do need to engage in conflicts and disagreements. But, thankfully, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do that without sinning.

Some Conflict Is Inevitable 

I Don’t Want to Lose My Voice, My Power, or My Identity!  

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

Another Challenge – Let Your Yes Mean Yes and Your No Mean No – Sharing our desires vulnerably

 

How to Have a Saving Relationship with Jesus:

Of course the foundational thing – before I can do anything good – is I need to have Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I’d like to share the “ABC’s of Salvation.”

I need to:

1. ADMIT I am a sinner and there is nothing I can do to make myself in right relationship with the One true holy God of the universe.

  • “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23

2. BELIEVE that Jesus, God in the flesh, left the glory of heaven, came to this world to live the perfect life I couldn’t live and die the death I deserved for my sin in my place. He conquered sin, death, and the grave on my behalf and was raised on the 3rd day.

  • “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

3. CONFESS that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord and give my whole life and everything in my life to Him. He is now in charge not me and I will follow Him for the rest of my life.

  • “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9
  • And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Cor. 5:15
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21

RELATED

How to Have a Saving Relationship with Christ

What Is Lordship Salvation? by www.gotquestions.org

What Is the Gospel? by www.gotquestions.org

 

Much love!

What Is the Difference Between Complaining and Informing?

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash
Avoiding complaining can get a bit fuzzy, at times. There are situations where we need to inform those around us about important things they need to know. How can we discern the difference between complaining vs. informing?
 
Let’s hash through this a bit together.

About Complaining – from www.gotquestions.org:

The Greek word translated “complainer” means literally “one who is discontented with his lot in life.” It is akin to the word grumbler. Complaining is certainly not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and, in fact, is detrimental to the peace, joy, and patience that come from the Spirit. For the Christian, complaining is destructive and debilitating personally and only serves to make our witness to the world more difficult. Who, for instance, would be attracted to a religion whose adherents are dissatisfied with life and who continually grumble and complain?
Clearly, as believers we are challenged not to grumble or complain (Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9); rather, we are to love one another deeply so that we may become “blameless and pure” in God’s eyes. If we grumble and complain, it shows how worldly we still are (James 4:1-3). A complaining spirit leads to fighting and quarrelling because complaints come from unfulfilled desires, which lead to envy and strife.

How Can I Tell If What I Want to Say Is Complaining or Informing?

My thoughts:

Complaining is primarily about focusing on the negative about circumstances, people, or perceived negatives about God. It is about communicating a lack of gratitude and a lack of faith in the Lord. A complainer is not looking for solutions, but just wants to spread negativity and discontent. The information shared is not something that the hearers need – or want – to know. And, sadly, a complaining spirit is very contagious.

Informing is primarily about sharing important information that the other person needs to know. We may need to share our desires about certain things. We need to share if we are physically, emotionally, or spiritually so unwell that we need help from a specific person. And we need to share, with the right people, if someone else is not okay and he/she needs help.

From four of my wonderful readers (shared with their permission):

  • I think complaining assigns blame, seeks sympathy and usually doesn’t solve anything. The hearer may not need the information at all. Informing seeks solutions and is intended to benefit the hearer by giving them needed information.
  • I look at this way, “First, can it change?” If it can, “does it need to?” And then, “how can I say it in such a way that isnt received as competition?” A lot of concerns come out as “I’m better than you.” Or “At least I do the dishes” when in reality we just want to be appreciated and have our concerns heard.
  • I think it’s all wrapped in the words you use. Instead of saying, “Why do “you” always leave the toilet seat up after “you” go?”   The  better approach would be, “Honey, guess what almost happened to me last night, I almost sat right down into the toilet “…  then ask can we work together to think of a way we could possibly remember to put the seat back down? (This has actually happened to me long ago.) When I made “you” statements, it was complaining. When I made the “we” statements, it included us as a couple/team. Working together for our good. My husband didn’t want me to fall or get wet. It was just a habit he had.  Talking and agreeing on a problem brings resolve. Not pent up frustration that steams and brews until it becomes a screaming match.  Love isn’t like that. Moral of my story:  We agreed to put both the seat and the lid down after using the toilet. Happy endings prevail where love abounds!!😍
  • This scripture impacted me recently. Both complaining about OR withholding the truth of what is going on in our lives can be detrimental. If speaking the truth of our circumstances could lead others to eventually rejoice in God’s deliverance, then it is worth telling. Here, Paul is neither complaining nor withholding:

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:8-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/59/2co.1.8-11.esv

 

I think it is helpful to look at my heart, motives, and scripture as I try to decide if what I want to share is complaining or informing.

Complaining:

  • Am I saying negative things about God, assuming He has evil motives or speaking wrongly about His good character?
  • Am I condemning other people or highlighting their sins to people who aren’t involved and who don’t need to know?
  • Am I walking in a lack of gratitude?
  • How often do I talk about the problem? Is it a continual habit?
  • Am I gossipping? Meaning, am I sharing negative information about others in order to make others thing poorly of someone else or to try to make myself look better than someone else?
  • Do I tell lots of people, even those who can’t do anything to help the situation?
  • Is this simply an annoyance that I could/should overlook?
  • Am I focused on my own personal preferences/comfort more than biblical principals/God’s glory?
  • Am I trying to control something that is not in the realm of my responsibilities?
  • Is this something I need to accept and invite God to use it to change me? What if this trial is an answer to my prayers to help me grow spiritually? Or is it something I have a responsibility to change?
  • Am I encouraging others to complain, to be afraid, to not trust God, or to be upset?
  • Am I attacking or criticizing others?
  • Am I looking for genuine help and resolution of the problem, or do I just want attention and sympathy?
  • Are my motives wrong? Do my words spring from envy, sinful jealousy, selfishness, self-righteousness, gossip, pride, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, malice, idolatry of someone/something (codependency), fault-finding, a critical spirit perfectionism, people pleasing, playing the martyr, fear, a desire to control, assuming the worst motives of others or God, unbelief in God/lack of faith, etc…?
  • What is my goal? Am I trying to resolve something that is resolvable? Or do I just want to say negative things just to say them – and I am not really looking for a solution?

Informing:

  • Do I simply want to make my needs known to God and – in faith – ask for His help and provision?
  • Do I have a legitimate need or problem and am I looking to the person (or people) who can truly help me?
  • Am I seeking only to tell people who actually need to know about the situation?
  • Is my problem a significant one that I can’t handle on my own?
  • Am I asking for things or sharing my perspective or the information I want to share respectfully?
  • Is the problem something that can change and that is my responsibility to try to change?
  • How often am I talking about the problem? Just enough to tell the person who can help me?
  • Is this issue something that grieves God’s heart and something God instructs me to attempt to correct?
  • Are my motives right? Do I seek to get the problem fixed in a way that honors the Lord?
  • Am I acting in divine (1 Cor. 13:4-8 style) love for God and for others?
  • Am I pointing others and myself to trust God, to love others, and to have greater faith?
  • Will my sharing this information spur others on to greater faith in the Lord? Will it help them grow spiritually?
  • Am I reverencing the Lord, respecting other people (my husband, my children, and others), and respecting myself in the situation?

Our pastor said something interesting yesterday,

“Lack of gratitude is the first step toward idolatry.”

Obviously, if we don’t trust and thank the Lord, we are going to look to other things to trust. We must guard our hearts carefully against this tendency, my precious sisters!

Lord,

We need Your clear wisdom, guidance, Word, and Spirit to help us discern rightly in this – and every – area. Help us to see our motives clearly. Help us to long to honor You in our thoughts, attitudes, motives, words, and actions. Help us to receive Your Spirit’s power to walk in holiness because we can’t do this on our own. Change us, Lord! Make us more like Jesus.

Amen!

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What do you think? How do you believe we can discern between complaining and informing? We’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments. Thanks for being on this amazing journey with me.
And let us know how your 21 day fast from negative words is going. It’s not to late to join if you would like to!
RELATED
Complaining rewires our brains, adversely impacts our health, damages the way others think of us, and hurts our relationships. No wonder the Lord doesn’t want us to live like this!
What Does the Bible Say about Complaining? – by www.gotquestions.org
Faith VS Fear – What Does the Bible Say? – by www.gotquestions.org

If a Friend Complains, Shouldn’t I Commiserate?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
I received a great question from a wife about what to do when someone else complains. She said she normally would complain about her life, too, so the person would feel she could understand them and they wouldn’t feel alone. And she worried that if they said they were really tired and she didn’t tell them she was really tired, too, that they would maybe feel like she thought her life was better or that she would come across as being rude in some way.
This is a really important issue! I’m super excited it has been brought up.
 
We can empathize and sympathize with others if they are sick, tired, upset, etc… But we don’t have to complain about our lives, too.
 
If a friend/coworker/customer says she is really tired, I can say:
  • “I’m so sorry to hear that. It sounds tough.”
  • “Oh, no. I hate that you are so exhausted. That’s no fun.”
  • “Hey, is there anything I can do to help?”
 
I do think that one reason women tend to complain about our husbands together is this very thing. Many women want their friends to feel like they understand them and can relate. So if one wife complains about her husband, the others will join in. We don’t want other women to feel isolated or abandoned. We want them to know we all have similar struggles.
It’s a good thing to want to be a supportive friend.
 
But a negative, grumbling, complaining spirit about our husbands (and other things) hurts us. It hurts the way we think of our husbands. It hurts our marriages. It hurts our friendships. It hurts our relationship with other coworkers or our boss – if we complain about them. It hurts our ability to witness effectively for Jesus. It grieves the heart of God. And it stunts our ability to be thankful and to live by faith in God. So we need to be cautious about this, my precious sisters.
 

If a Friend Has Significant Issues Going on:

If a friend begins to complain about her husband, I can empathize that she is feeling upset. “I’m so sorry things have been frustrating. That sounds really discouraging.” And then I can pray and invite God to give me wisdom about how to be an encouragement to her. Depending on the situation and how close of a relationship we have, maybe I can:
  • Listen and hear her heart and pain. Try to understand the situation.
  • Validate her feelings.
  • Relate to her struggle. (Without complaining about or disrespecting anyone in my life.)
  • Pray with her about the situation and invite God into the situation to work for His glory.
  • Do a spiritual checkup with her to be sure she is receiving good things from God.
  • Possibly share some things I have learned that have helped me in similar situations.
  • Offer insights or possible helpful resources as the Lord leads.
  • Make sure she is safe – if she is facing abuse or something truly awful, she may need more help and resources for a very difficult situation.

It depends on the relationship – and how much time we have – how we would approach another woman in this situation. Ultimately, we will need the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit to give us exactly the right words to share in each scenario. We want women to feel validated and supported. And then we want to be able to point them to the hope that is available to them in Christ. We may even be able to witness and share the gospel with them if they don’t know the Lord. Or if they know the Lord already, but are struggling with faith, we may be able to encourage them to yield to His Lordship. God may help us see exactly what they need.

Some women may be open to some positive new suggestions from us. Especially those who are really close to us. Others would not be. Some may be offended if we try to encourage them to look for good things in their lives. We can’t force anyone to change her thinking. We can invite them to. But if they clearly don’t want to, we can respect their decision. That is their choice to make. We can back away.

If a Friend Has a Pretty Good Situation, but Just Has a Habit of Complaining

Some women in our lives may not have big problems in their lives or marriages, they may just be in a bad habit of thinking and talking about only negative things. In a situation like that, I may be able to gently mention some blessings she has in her life, or encourage her to think about the good things in her life. I may even invite her – in a sweet, friendly way – to join me on a fast from negative words. Who knows, she may be excited about it!

If Someone Is Very Emotionally/Spiritually Toxic

Sadly, there are some people who are so negative and toxic, we need to be careful about how much influence we allow them to have on our lives. They could easily drag us down. There are times when we may have to distance ourselves from those who insist on focusing on complaining, resentment, bitterness, hatred, negativity, insults, arguing, etc… If someone encourages me to resent my husband or to think and speak in negative ways about him, my life, other people, my job, or the Lord, that can be a problem. If someone tries to divide my marriage or other relationships, I want to be very cautious.
  • As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him. Titus 3:10
  • Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor. 15:33
  • Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Prov. 13:20
  • A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Prov. 16:28
  • Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Prov. 17:9
  • Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Prov. 22:24-25
 
Let’s seek to bring the God’s joy, peace, and a spirit of thanksgiving into our homes, workplaces, and relationships. This is part of how we can be salt and light!
 
How is the 3 week fast from negative words going for you so far? We’d love to hear about your experience.
 
Much love!

RELATED VERSES

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Eph. 4:29
  • Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:18
  • And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
  • Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil. 4:8

RELATED POSTS

Other posts about complaining

If I Stop the Negative Talk – What on Earth Will I Talk about?

How Does Bad Company Corrupt Good Character? www.gotquestions.org

Is It Good to Have Close Friendships with Unbelievers? www.gotquestions.org

A Wife Begins a 21 Day Fast from Negative Words

Join Me for a 21 Day Fast from Negative Words

When a Husband Is Negative, Critical, or Hurtful

Prayers for Wives with Critical, Harsh Husbands – by Radiant

11 Reasons We Can’t Afford to Skimp on Praising and Thanking God

For emotionally destructive friendships or extended family relationships, please check out Leslie Vernick’s resources here.

Join Me for a 3 Week Fast from Negative Words!

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26
A wife inspired me with her story earlier this week. I’d love to invite us ALL to do a fast similar to the one she decided to do.

THE CHALLENGE

Let’s seek to avoid the following for the next 21 days:

A Critical, Judgmental Spirit Destroys Others and Ourselves

Our goal is to LIVE the Christian life, not just to have head knowledge of it.
So let’s invite the Lord, Himself, into our words to show us what His will is for us regarding how we use our mouths. First, let’s avoid hurtful, destructive criticism – the kind of negative words designed to tear others down. Those kinds of words don’t benefit anyone. They hurt our relationships. They hurt people. And they grieve God’s heart.
There is such a thing as constructive criticism and there is such a thing as a wise, godly rebuke. These are good things when used rightly and with right motives. We all need to receive loving feedback about our blind spots at times.
From www.gotquestions.org about a critical spirit:
Jesus is not saying that we should not be discerning or that we should ignore the fallen nature of the world. He is also not saying that we must never, under any circumstance, criticize anyone else. In fact, the Bible tells us that we are to judge rightly (John 7:24). However, we are not to criticize with malicious intent or out of pride, hypocrisy, or self-righteousness. We cannot assume that we are impartial or that we can fairly exact our standards on others. Humans have naturally deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that allow for blind spots and inappropriate comparisons. Only God can judge with perfect accuracy (Hebrews 4:12; James 4:11-12; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 19:11). And our discernment is only valid when it is informed by a renewed nature in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; John 16:13). Only when we are submitted to Christ and honest with ourselves will our judgment serve to edify rather than destroy.
Critical words spring from a critical heart. And a critical heart generally comes from a misunderstanding of God’s grace—either due to pride or a simple lack of information about God’s character and the meaning of salvation. Only when we understand our depravity apart from God and the depth of His grace will we be able to bestow grace to others (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Colossians 2:13-15; Ephesians 2:1-10).
  • You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt. 7:5
  • Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Insults Deeply Wound Others

Our words have “the power of life and death” according to scripture (Prov. 18:21). What we say matters. There are two primary commands Jesus gives us. The first is that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. The second is that we are to love other people as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). Then Jesus connects the two. We learn that He counts the way we treat other people, even the least of them, as the way we treat Him (Matt. 25:31-46). And in 1 John, we learn that “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

So what we speak to people in our every day lives matters. A lot. Let’s invite God to help us stop using our words as weapons to cut others down and to stop speaking death to people – and even to ourselves.

  • Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Pet. 3:9
  • Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Prov. 11:12
  • A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Prov. 12:16
  • There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18

Complaining and Negativity Hurt Our Witness for Christ

When we complain and highlight all that is wrong with life and focus on bad things, we reveal a lack of trust in the Lord and unbelief in our hearts. God calls us to live lives of thanksgiving in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). He calls us to focus our minds on Him and on all of the good things and blessings we can find (Phil. 4:8).

One of the things that stirred God’s anger the most against the people of Israel in the wilderness was their tendency to complain and grumble. They complained to Moses, but ultimately, their real complaint was against God. They didn’t believe He would take good care of them. They didn’t believe He was able to provide well for them. They didn’t trust His heart toward them or His plan. They didn’t come to Him with their needs and ask for help humbly and respectfully by faith. They accused God of evil motives and said He must be too weak to help or save them. That was not remotely the case!

Even now for believers in Christ, if we choose to complain and grumble about our lot in life, we hurt our walk with the Lord and we destroy our witness for Him. How can anyone be drawn to Jesus if we are so dissatisfied with Him and we don’t trust Him, ourselves? God is not saying we can’t ask Him for help. We absolutely can! And we can ask others for help, too, when we need to, and it is appropriate. But for believers in Christ, there is no room in our lives for complaining. We are to live lives of faith. Faith doesn’t complain – it trust God and seeks Him, inviting Him into the situation to do something glorious.

We also need to remember that God intends to use our trials to help us grow in our faith and spiritual maturity. The thing I am complaining about may be the answer to my prayers that God has sent to help me grow. Not that we should try to find suffering or put ourselves in suffering. But as a believer, I should have a totally different outlook on annoying and difficult things. They may be spiritual tests. They may be discipline for me to grow in my faith. They may be opportunities for God to do something amazing. In Christ, I can learn to count even my trials as joy. I can keep an eternal perspective rather than get wrapped up in the moment.

  • Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 1 Cor. 10:10
  • Do everything without grumbling and arguing,  so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation,among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life. Phil. 2:14-16
  • Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
  • Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Pet. 4:9

Arguing Is Ineffective, Detrimental, and  Unnecessary,  for a Believer

We can get our points across and have a voice, especially as we share things we know will honor and please the Lord. We can share the truth in love, using God’s wisdom and discernment. We can speak up against things that are wrong in God’s eyes. And we can do all of this without being argumentative, fighting, or involving sinful anger – IF we act in the power of the Spirit of God.

  • A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov. 15:1
  • Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 2 Tim. 2:23-24
  • But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
  • Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:1-2

The Ultimate Goal

We can’t do any of this in our own power. But if we belong to Jesus, we can invite Him to give us the power we need to control our words – and even to control our thoughts. That is the end goal. Total heart, mind, and life change by the power of Christ.
  • We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor. 10:5
  • Walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal. 5:16
 

Pray with Me

Lord,
We love You and want to love You so much more. More than anything or anyone else. More than even ourselves. Jesus, if You are our Lord, it means we are to submit every part of our lives to Your authority and control. Our words are often our area of greatest weakness, Lord. Our words reveal the hidden motives of our hearts. They demonstrate whether our sinful nature is in control or Your Spirit is in control. We want You to be in firm control of our mouths, words, and even our thoughts! We repent of our sinful words. Our words of condemnation, judgment, destructive criticism, grumbling, arguing, complaining, negativity, and insults. These things wound Your heart. They grieve You. They break our fellowship with You. We repent of these sinful words – and the sinful thoughts that birthed them. We want to take up our cross today and follow You. We crucify our sinful nature and all of its thoughts and words on the cross with Jesus. We receive Your new life and new nature for us. Thank You that You will empower us to walk in Your ways and to offer our mouths and words to You to use as instruments of righteousness rather than offering them to the enemy and sin to use to destroy others, hurt you, and destroy ourselves.
Let us act in Your wisdom with our words and let us use our words to speak Your Life – not death!
Amen!

Share Your Experience!

 
Let us know how things are going and if you notice anything different in your own walk with the Lord and your relationships.  Also, check in with us if you need some encouragement!
 
 
Much love!

A Wife Begins a 21 Day Fast from Negative Words

I am so thankful to this precious sister in Christ who has allowed me to share some of what God has been doing in her life and heart. It’s a blessing to get to hear from wives in every stage of this journey. Perhaps you may want to join her with this amazing idea? In fact, this would be a WONDERFUL Valentine’s gift to your husband!
Remember – the goal is not to change to get your husband to change, but to allow God to transform you! Check out this wife’s journal and observations for the first 10 days or so of her journey:
———
I have been reading your blog posts and realizing some things. I actually have even started a corporate fast (for 21 days) with my church but instead of food…
I have decided to fast from the following:
It has been 3 days of doing none of this to my husband and it has been HARD but I told myself if I mess up the fast I do not get my morning coffee (which is my favorite and the first thing I thought to fast). None-the-less I actually already notice a change in him a bit. His demeanor has actually been quite different like even after just a few days of this. I do have to say I am shocked. I always realize probably 80% of the things I say to my husband involve the above. But I think I am on the right track?
DAY 4
Sometimes I feel so empowered and close to God and then other times I feel like so low and dumb like why do I have to change and he doesn’t but I understand fully that is not the right mindset. It’s just hard.
My husband is cuddling me a lot more lately though.
DAY 5
He is still sleeping now at noon (after staying out very late with friends – again). I am with my coffee and Bible and praying for God to get me through today. I know I can’t continue mothering him. I know he has to make his own choices. It just hurts. To him, it is no big deal at all. He works 50+ hours a week and provides well.
I can tell you this much. I am not even going to bring up the fact he came home late. I’ve done it a million times in the past and where did it get me? Nowhere!
Time to try something new.
This will be so hard and I will want to be sarcastic! In the past I’ve even taken stabs at his manhood bc he has chose staying out late with guys over his wife, what kinda man does that? I’d say… “a gay guy?” I’m sure that didn’t help. I really can be so mean to him but it’s because things hurt me.
Even though I am upset, I am determined to stick with this fast.
I want change in my heart and my husband’s, so I know something has to change. Maybe when he realizes I no longer bring it up and nag and complain he may actually be able to hear God say it’s wrong? Or hear his own thoughts on things? Like you were saying.
DAY 6
I began reading “The Surrendered Wife,” by Laura Doyle and gave the finances over to my husband as she instructed. (From Peaceful Wife – this book helped me in so many ways in my own journey, but there are some things that are not biblical that have to be filtered out.)
He didn’t take it well. I mean he didn’t say much but just, “Ok,” and ended up leaving without telling me bye. When I called him he just said he was a little confused and that he would talk to me about it later when he got home.
  1. I control everything.
  2. I monitor what he does and spends.
  3. It creates that mother/son type relationship I hate.
  4. I thought he’d be happy to give all that up but I’m thinking he probably just is looking at it like he now has more work.
Laura instructs to just simply say, “I know you’ll fine time, you’ll do much better than me,” and leave it at that but now I feel like I should explain to him since he seemed upset.
LATER THAT DAY
After he came home I continued to be my “new” self and he didn’t ask about it. He took me on a date and never brought it up. I just kept practicing receiving and being sweet. On the way home he did tell me a whole long story about why he spent so much money yesterday helping a friend. 😂 He probably thinks I was mad about that and decided to give him all the financial burden as a punishment. I do things like that. But I just said, “Oh, that was nice of you!”
Idk, I actually feel very far from my husband right now. It’s almost like he has a wall up. He may feel very confused or that I am very different but I thought it would draw him towards me but he seems very distant.
Some things I am praying for as I fast:
  • Radical change for me. Extreme peace in my heart, that come only from the Lord, relinquishing control and idolatry of my husband. Being peaceful and fun and not uptight, worried, mad, and stressed all the time.
  • Radical change in my husband. His walk with the Lord and how he hears him, radical change in how he sees and handles finances.
  • Passion and intimacy to be restored in our marriage.
I actually, right now, feel far from my husband but close with the Lord.
It’s interesting. I feel a peace from God since I haven’t been controlling. I thought it would be a lot harder, and maybe it will be at times,  but I am a goal setter and I set out to not complain, criticize, judge, or be sarcastic for 21 days and I’m sticking to it. Throw in releasing control and being feminine and I think my husband is very confused.
I wish I could just tell him what’s going on and ease his mind to try to draw him close to me. Because right now is almost seems I know something he doesn’t and we feel distant but I know that’s probably not the best.
I’ve been reading your posts and the 8  Powerful Keys to Peace have been amazing to learn. Will be reading more today as I spend my quiet time with God!
I know this will be a hard road. And won’t always be easy. I got to this point where I realized I was upset I even married my husband and was trying to almost justify a divorce. And I realized that was so wrong and unnecessary and I was willing to change if that’s what God wanted. I am ashamed I thought that way. Especially after being able to, for the first time in a long time, see glimpses of what a good man my husband is and can be. (And I do mean only mere glimpses) but still they are there. And I’m taking this as God opening my eyes. And changing what I see.
DAY 7
I am really desiring intimacy, and even though I’m changing and being much better, it’s just still not there. But I am trying to remember, like you said, it’s been years of disrespect so he may not come around (quickly).
Also, this is strange, but as I’ve been spending more time with God on this subject of me as a wife it’s almost as if all these past incidents are being brought my mind, times when, at the time I saw myself as completely justified and mistreated and now I’m seeing myself as an ugly beast. Ways I’ve treated my husband in the past, and hateful things I’ve said.
Gosh, this is so embarrassing and I feel deeply like I want to cry and repent to him but I’m afraid to do because I’m not even sure myself if I’ve changed 100% and I don’t want to risk saying sorry and then doing something so disrespectful and harming again.
I feel as if I’ve truly harmed my marriage. And destroyed intimacy.
I haven’t apologized yet! I am just sticking to my fast and trying to hear from the Lord.
My husband has been in our bedroom all night with the door closed playing video games. I do know he had a hard day at work. He works outside and was very cold today. I had a homemade dinner waiting for him.
Before he went up to play he:
  1. Hugged me and kissed me and squeezed me.
  2. Fixed up the TV for me so I could watch a show I wanted to watch.
  3. And smiled at me.
I was super thankful!
That’s great and I didn’t complain about him saying he was going to go play for a little but I feel myself feeling all that aggression toward him again for choosing things over me. For not pursuing me sexually or wanting to spend time with me instead of video games.
10 STEPS BACKWARDS
To be honest, I completely messed up last night. My husband came home and cuddled me for like 2 hours, while he watched a movie. He did cuddle me, but I didn’t go for it. The whole time all I was thinking was I just want to get up and do something. I’m so annoyed this is every night he just wants to sit here and watch TV.
Finally, I brought this all up. I told him he’s never romantic. It was like word vomit and after almost 2 weeks of being respectful, I caved. He seemed mortified and told me I don’t want real life. Real life is him coming home from a long day and cuddling me when I want. Candles and flowers – that’s just not real. I get it but every now and then? He said he was sick of always feeling like he’s doing something wrong.
A BIG SURPRISE A FEW DAYS LATER
I decided to not say anything about the night before! Though he slept in, I got up and cleaned, had some Bible time and to be honest really felt some anger brewing in my heart. He hasn’t been seeking God the way I wish he would be. And then seeing him stay up late once again for something silly like video games was getting to me. I didn’t feel like even being near him.
THEN I started a gratitude journal. I wrote down all the things recently he’s done that’s made me happy, proud or impressed me:
  • He asked me to pray for his desire to read his bible.
  • He fixed our car when it was broke down.
  • He recently bought a book about prayer.
  • He’s been working so hard at work.
  • He’s been taking over the finances better than I ever thought he would!
After this, I felt a desire to go lay with him in bed. His sleepy eyes saw me and the first thing I did was SMILE. He smiled back, and I was so shocked by this but he immediately started kissing me and making love to me.
It had been about 3 weeks.
I think he is attracted to my quietness, my not having an opinion about EVERYTHING. My smile.
I wasn’t even thinking about sex at all and he made it happen! I was taken back but thankful for my time of being thankful because it completely changed my mindset!
(From Peaceful Wife – Our husbands are much more attracted to us when we act soft, gentle, feminine, and peaceful than if we throw verbal knives at them!)

SHARE

If you would like to share some of your journey and things you have learned along the way, we’d love to hear about it!

Or, if this wife’s story has encouraged you to try something similar, we’d love to hear about your plans, as well.

Note – I will be responding to the comments (Peaceful Wife), not the author. Thanks! <3

RELATED

The Peaceful Wife – Living in Submission to Christ As Lord (my book that outlines how to start this journey)

Stages of This Journey

Apologizing Stories – why some wives apologize immediately, and some wait until later

Why It May Be Wise to Keep This Journey Secret at First

Why Isn’t My Husband More Supportive of Me As I Try to Change?

Respect, Biblical Submission, and Intimacy  – Yes! There is a connection!
Let’s Talk about Sex! (a link to all my posts about sex)

Handling an Unwanted Divorce with Christlikeness

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Here is a question from one of my readers, followed by a response from a Christian brother who has been down this road and who has decided to entrust Himself and his children to Christ. I appreciate his willingness to share:

The Question:

My problem is an unrequited divorce. I know how God feels about divorce and I want to fight for my marriage. We have two young children. If there is any ounce of Christianity left in my husband, then he doesn’t seem to care that God hates divorce. 

He has moved on and is dating a non-Christian woman whom he allows to be with our children. We aren’t even divorced yet! I am afraid every time they go with them. 

I pray. I go to church. I pray. I talk to the members of my church. We pray. What else can I do? My children are court-ordered to see him and be exposed to their sinful, adulterous relationship. 

He and I have a terrible relationship and I don’t know how to get it back. We don’t communicate well, so we’ve stopped talking unless it has to do with the kids. Even talking then is strenuous. 

Should I be trying to tell both him and his girlfriend about divorce and its consequences? I’m trying my best law-wise to keep the case going so we don’t divorce, giving God a chance to reach him before that. And of course, I pray. 

Please help. 

 

The Response

Dear reader of April’s blog,

April has asked me if I was willing to share some of my experiences with unrequited divorce, and how God has led me to particular conclusions related to your questions. It is something that I have had to work out through my own unrequited divorce.

I am writing this three years after my own divorce. My divorce was unwanted by me, but my spouse was determined to leave. Communication before she left was awful, with threats about affairs being made and carried out multiple times. Before and after our separation, she entered a path of multiple one-night-stands and had a quick succession of short-term, live in boyfriends. Our children have seen and heard things that no child should ever have to see. Many men have come and gone from their lives in the three years since our separation. Currently she lives with a man who is not a believer and this appears to be a more long-term relationship heading towards a marriage. We have legally divorced, sold our family home, moved to different towns and have shared care of our children.

What I write comes from a place of deep hurt and personal experience with the situation that you are in. I have spent many, many hours in tearful, prayerful consideration as to how to deal with these situations as they arose for me. I have prayerfully considered all that I have written here, and I believe that the advice I am going to share is biblical advice.

(From Peaceful Wife – I encourage every wife in a situation like this to search scripture and to pray for God’s leading and wisdom for her. Ultimately, what you choose to do is between the Lord, your husband, and yourself. Reach out to trusted, mature believers/counselors for prayer and godly wisdom. And, of course, if your or your children are truly in danger, please contact the proper authorities.)

Fighting a divorce when a spouse is determined to leave

One of the things we may be most tempted to do when our spouse tells us they want a divorce, is to fight against it. This is a natural inclination! We don’t want a divorce, we don’t want our world shattered and we know that God hates divorce. Malachi 2:16 tells us this.

“For the Lord God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

It is right and good to hate divorce, it is the sundering of a covenant that is supposed to be lifelong and holy, and all parties involved in a divorce suffer because of it.

When my ex-wife told me she wanted a divorce, I felt total, debilitating fear. Everything that I believed to be true was a lie. All my security was taken away. So initially I fought for the marriage tooth and nail, with fear as my primary motive.

But, in fact, me fighting it just strengthened her resolve to go through with it.

The biblical principle that became clear to me through these situations was this. We do not have the ability to control our spouse’s decisions, and we should not try. Trying to fight a divorce when your spouse is adamant that they want to divorce is a form of control, and if they are not wanting God’s design for lifelong marriage in their life, then they will only fight that control even more. They are already rebelling against His will in their life, why would increasing the ‘height’ of what they perceive as walls to limit their freedom do any good? It won’t!

I believe this is the principle that is laid out for us in 1st Corinthians 7:12-16

“To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?”

An Example from My Own Life

This experience is burned in my mind, it is one of the times that I knew God’s presence so, so strongly. I was working alone and all of a sudden the scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” came into my heart. I felt strongly that God was reassuring me of His presence and lifelong care, warning me of something to come and to let it happen and trust Him.

Minutes later my ex-wife rang me. She threatened to have another affair and told me she was going to force me out of our home. I responded with these words, “I am not leaving you or the children, I love you and I am committed to you and our marriage. But you are free to leave if you want to, you have the freedom to choose.”

Even though my response was clearly giving her the freedom to leave and was not a response of control in any way, she still responded by telling me that I was being horrible, and she stepped up her efforts to force me to leave, including trying to manipulate me into an affair. Many years later, she told me that she did not want to be seen as the “bad one,” so she was trying to get me to cheat and leave, but in her heart she knew she was leaving no matter what. When a person is committed to the path that they are on, they are not willing to listen to advice contrary to it. If I had of said that I would try to stop her leaving, it would have escalated the issues even more.

Dear reader, I am not suggesting that this is easy to do! Every fibre in your body is (rightly) hurting and hating what you are going through. Your natural inclination is to fight, fight, fight to save the marriage you dreamed of having. I hurt with you and for you, but I am certain that the biblical principle is to let your husband make his own choices. What does this mean practically, when it comes to the legal side of the divorce?

I am not sure what the laws are in your country, but in my country a couple can apply for a ‘no fault divorce’. This can be applied for by the couple together, or by one member of the marriage. If it is applied for by one spouse only, the other spouse has the option to contest the application or accept it.

My ex-wife asked if we could apply for a joint divorce, and after much consideration and discussion with my counsellor, church leaders, and much prayer, I decided on the following approach. I told her that I would not apply for a joint divorce with her, because I had made my marriage vows and I intended to stand by them. I told her that if she chose to apply for a single applicant divorce that I would not fight her application for a divorce because she had the right of free choice, but nor would I support it. I believe this to be consistent with the biblical principles of honouring my marriage vows, of showing Christian love and giving freedom of choice. (Incidentally, the outcome was that she did apply for a single applicant divorce, I did not fight it and she was granted it). I do not believe that God would have you fight to avoid a divorce. I believe that God would have you graciously allow your husband the freedom of his choice, and leave the outcome in God’s hands.

Trying to tell the wayward spouse what to do and/or preach at or lecture him/her

One of the things that it is tempting to do, is to lecture our spouse as to why they are making the wrong decisions. Even if we have decided that we need to give them the freedom of choice, we are still naturally inclined to point out to them why their choices are wrong. I did this:

I pointed out to her that she had made wedding vows of fidelity for life.

  • Her response was “I didn’t mean them, I just decided that I was hot and you were hot and we had to be married to have sex”.

I pointed out to her that the Bible taught that God hated divorce.

  • Her response was “So what, I don’t think I believe in God anyway”.

I pointed out to her that the divorce would hurt our children so much.

  • Her response was “It’s too late for me to reconsider anything”.

I booked a counsellor to talk things through.

  • After a couple of sessions her response was “He’s an old man who doesn’t know anything”.

I told her that I was willing to forgive her affairs, sell our family home, move interstate so she did not have to deal with the shame of some of her more public actions, and start afresh.

  • Her response was “No, I just don’t want you. I want to hurt you”.

See the pattern here?

I don’t know your spouse, and I don’t know the dynamics of your relationship and communication. But what I do know is that if he is willing to leave the marriage and live with his girlfriend, then no amount of lecturing from you will change anything. You can tell him and his girlfriend that the divorce is wrong and the consequences of it until you are blue in the face, but it won’t change anything.

Only the Wise Listen to a Godly Rebuke

A warning is only of any value to someone who is on the same team and is listening out for it, willing to hear the voice of reason. Proverbs 9:7-8 says

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.”

Trying to tell a wayward spouse what to do is about as useful as cooling down a hot meal with a blowtorch. In the same way that a spouse who does not believe in the sanctity of marriage will only rebel against fights to save it, a spouse who is not willing to listen to reason will not listen to you lecturing them or telling them that any of their decisions are wrong.

Consider King David for a moment. He was fixated on Bathsheba, he lusted after her and was willing to kill to have her as his wife. If the prophet Nathaniel had lectured him about what he was doing, what do you think his response would have been? I suggest that if he was willing to commit murder and adultery to have Bathsheba, which he already knew was wrong, then someone telling him that he was doing the wrong thing whilst he wanted to do it would have had zero effect.

And yet, at the right time and with the right word from God he was convicted of his sin, and broke down in repentance.

It is not love to ignore the sin of our spouse, but our relationship with our spouse is different to our relationship with our children. With our children, we have a responsibility and a right to instruct them, to teach them, and to correct them. If this is done with love as the motivation it is a good and right thing. However, we do not have the same sort of parental authoritative relationship with a spouse, and certainly not with an ex-spouse. I think we need great discernment to know when and how it is a loving time and place to share with an ex-spouse what impacts their decisions have made. I believe, and have experienced, that God can and does open doors at the right time to share these things.

Dealing with your children being with the ex-spouse’s current boyfriend/girlfriend

This is one of the hardest things to deal with. Not only are you dealing with the betrayal of one who promised to love you for life leaving, not only are you dealing with the hurt of another partner (or partners), you are also dealing with the confusion and hurt of your children. The innocents.

The truth is, divorce hurts children very, very deeply.

Even though it has been three years since my divorce, my kids still hurt from it. I believe they always will. The tears they have shed, the questions they have asked, the memories of their little bodies clinging to mine as they tried to work out why mummy left, still hurt me too. I am a father who wishes to protect his children from hurt, and yet, here I am having to protect them in some ways from the one who is supposed to nurture and love them?! How do I do that? I too have been afraid for my children, (particularly for my daughter), who are growing up living with men who are not their father or brothers. How do I teach my children good values, when they are growing up surrounded by bad values? How do I set appropriate boundaries with them, when they have different or no boundaries with their mother?

These are Very. Hard. Questions.

I found inspiration in Mother Teresa. Someone shared with me an experience she wrote of, where someone asked her how she coped with all of the suffering of the children in India. They asked her “Don’t you wish you could save all of the children of India?” Her response was “Of course I do”. They then asked her “How do you keep going when you know you can’t save them all?” Her response was “I can save this one.”

What this experience showed me, is that I can only do what I have the actual capacity to do. I cannot make a difference with what goes on with my children’s mother. I cannot change the fact that she is likely to have many boyfriends, and the children will see this. I cannot change the fact that she smokes around them, swears around them, is happy to live in an unbiblical sexual relationship around them – because none of these things are considered by the laws of our country to be reason to remove a child from their mother (unless there is actual abuse going on, in which case I have every legal right to intervene). But what I CAN do, is provide an environment and sanctuary where they can experience and see a difference.

I can make a difference to them when they are with me.

I can live a life that is pleasing to God, with appropriate boundaries on my own relationships (incidentally I have not had any relationships since our separation). I can eat good food, teach responsible alcohol consumption, provide a smoke free environment. I can make a difference to them, with me.

I also believe it is absolutely appropriate and right to continue to teach your children about right or wrong values, even if their other parent is not living those values. It is not love to allow someone you have a responsibility to teach to believe that something bad is good. The primary consideration once your spouse has divorced you, in my view, is what is your responsibility towards your children.

Creating productive communication with the ex-spouse

As I was writing this for April, I had a conversation with my ex-spouse. It began with her letting me know that she had booked my son in for some dental work this week. It continued into a brief discussion where she said she had been proud of him for the way he played with a disabled child last week, and she said he had a kind heart. I responded by saying that he does have a kind heart, and I think he got it from her (because underneath all of the horrible things that have been done, she does have a kind heart). She melted, and apologised again and again for all the things she has done that has hurt me.

We talked some more about the kids, their future, and our future. We talked about ways that we try to build up each other in our children’s minds. I pointed out in the conversation that I could not support some of the things she is doing, such as her smoking, but that I have shared these things with the kids in a way that shows them that we all love her. She acknowledged again that she takes responsibility for all of the wrongs she did to me. This is not the first time she has apologised for what she has done. I have had many opportunities to talk about things that have hurt me, and she accepts hearing it now. She reiterates again and again her desire for me to have a happy life. She is changing.

What has brought about this change? How can we communicate about the children like that now, when we weren’t able to 3 years ago?

One of the fundamental principles that I believe should guide our responses in all communication with all people, is love. Whilst it is true that love speaks the truth, when we speak with love we also have discernment as to when we speak, who we speak to, and how we say it.

If the motivation for us saying something to our ex-spouse is fear, then that is a good sign that we are probably not speaking in love.

We will likely say something that is truth (such as the divorce is hurting the children), but it will likely be said in a way that achieves nothing. If we want to say something and it is marked with peace, love and joy, this is likely a fruit of the Holy Spirit in your heart. And it will bear fruit, which will be seen in your ex-spouse’s response. As I have slowly learned this principle, and have practised thanking her for the things that she DOES do for the children, things have slowly changed.

Reader, I am not going to pretend for a second that this was easy to begin with. When your spouse/ex-spouse is doing things that rip your heart to pieces, it feels almost impossible to see anything positive in them at all. But what I found, was that as I spent time in prayer and worship of the Lord, he enabled me to see her as a lost soul, and I began to hurt for her and for the decisions she was making. I began to see that we were both the same, both people who desperately needed God’s forgiveness and grace for our lives. I began to love her with a love that I hadn’t ever felt before. I understood how Christ could be on the cross hurting for the people who were killing Him.

And that is the key. Knowing Christ. The more I have surrendered my situation to the Lord and allowed Him to work, the more fruit I have seen in my life and hers. He has directly shared to my heart times when I just KNEW it was the right time to say something, and the responses to these conversations have been fantastic.

I ask you this, what can you actually do of your own strength that will change the mind of your spouse? The answer is nothing.

Any change that comes will come as a work of God in their heart, as they, themselves, are willing to listen to Him. Creating productive communication with your spouse is a matter of experiencing Christ yourself, practicing His principles of love and respect, and trusting Him with the outcome, even if you don’t see any changes for a long, long time.

I received a letter from my daughter two weeks ago. She is 6. It had her beautiful handwriting on the front of the envelope, where she had carefully written out my home address. It was a handmade card, with a picture on the front that she had drawn. Inside it had these four words “I love you Dad.” Do you know why I got that letter? Because it was the weekend that I did not have custody of my children, and their mother had organised this letter to be posted to me. She has photographs of me with each of the children next to their beds, so they can see me before they go to sleep at night. She will randomly text me, thanking me for things like teaching her how to drive a car. Things have changed. There won’t be a reconciliation of our marriage, but there has been such a softening of her heart over time, a reconciliation of friendship of sorts. We work together for the children now.

There is a scripture in 1stCorinthians 13 that says this, “Love never fails. Love may not restore your marriage, there are some things that have lifelong consequences and divorce is something that sometimes can’t be avoided. But I can promise you that love will produce fruit over time. It will first produce fruit in you, as you begin to understand the depth of the love of God in you. And it may well begin to soften the way for better communication with your husband also.

I am praying for you.

NOTE FROM PEACEFUL WIFE

Ultimately, each spouse in a situation like this will need to seek God wholeheartedly and seek to follow the Word of God and the Spirit’s leading. There aren’t super easy formulas and pat answers. This husband truly has sought the Lord with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength. As he was willing to lay down his will and his life in absolute surrender to the Lord, God has given him wisdom each step of the way. He trusted God to work in his wife’s heart. Because it is only God who can open people’s blinded eyes and raise them to new life.

I believe that as we learn to depend on Christ and we determine to seek to follow and honor Him above all else, He can show us His path for each of us.

The greatest goals are eternal goals. Things like – our spouse’s and children’s salvation. We can continue to pray for these things and allow God to use us however He sees fit to pray and to set beautiful, Christlike examples for everyone around us to see.

If you are facing severe issues in your marriage, please reach out for godly, experienced, wise one-on-one counsel if you need to – with a counselor you trust. And please seek to be as close to the Lord yourself as possible.

SHARE

If you have been in a situation similar to this and you believe that God has given you wisdom you would like to share (that aligns with scripture), you are welcome to share some general insights and spiritual treasures you have received.

If you would like prayer for your situation, you are welcome to ask for prayer.

However, I’d like to stipulate that we (the author of this guest post, readers, and myself) not attempt to give specific advice to people in the comments about their particular situations. A public forum like this is not a great place to share all of the details of a spouse’s sin. That is better done in private with a trusted, experienced counselor who can get to know your specific situation in person. And sometimes, if a person gets a lot of conflicting advice, it can be more confusing than helpful.

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