“MOM! He took my balloon!” she yells.
“Mom! She’s driving me nuts with it! Can’t she just stop?!” he responds.
I found it interesting that the accusations were flying at each other, although they were both speaking to me.
I walked into the room where the skirmish loudly played out, and observed the two siblings hurling angry words at each other.
“If he’d just stop being so rude all the time…”
“She needs to just STOP – I don’t want to listen to her, I want to read my book…”
“You should play with me!”
“You should go away!”
“MOM!” In stereo, no less.
Oh, the drama.
“Okay, so both of you are angry, both of you are judging the other. THIS stops now. Let’s stop throwing gasoline on the fire here,” I began.
I didn’t even get started…
“But she started it!”
“That’s not true – he started it!”
“I am not interested in who started it. I am putting an end to it. Whichever of you is the more mature will love first,” I said.
“I love you both dearly,” I stated gently. “The two of you are going to have each other for your whole lives, and God has given you to each other to help you learn how to resolve conflict and develop healthy relationships so that your marriages and work relationships are wonderful. Now is when you practice how to do those things. That means hurling insults is unacceptable. That means judging each other is wrong. You are both wrong. You need to apologize for what you have done that is hurtful, ask forgiveness, and then we can work through the issue. And, like I said, the more mature of you will love first.”
I waited. Thankfully, I had intervened before the conflict had risen to a stage where feelings were deeply hurt and needing to be processed at a high level – that takes a ton of time, active listening, reflecting back to the other, etc…
“I’m sorry I made the balloon scream in your ear,” she said. “Will you forgive me?”
“Yes. I’m sorry I yelled at you,” he said. “Will you forgive me?”
“Okay, so let’s work through the problem…” and I began coaching them through resolving their conflict, now that the emotions had been dealt with (and surprisingly easily this time – usually it takes longer, but sometimes, if caught early before deep wounds are inflicted, a reminder of the Word is all it takes.)
And later I pondered how many of the daily dramas could be avoided if we would simply stop judging each other, and focus instead on what God wants from US.
But instead we judge. And in literally 100% of the marriages I’ve interacted with over the years (and it’s been hundreds), 100% of both people in the marriage are focused on the other person’s behavior to some degree. From Adam in the garden (the original vocal blamer – “that woman You gave me…” blaming both Eve and God in one sentence!) to the children and married couples of today, we are a culture of relinquished responsibility, focusing on another’s shortcomings instead of focusing on what we can directly impact: Our Own Behavior and Choices.
From what we’ve seen, as long as individuals in a marriage stay focused on blame, the marriage isn’t going to improve.
The world reinforces this. And we end up serving the enemy when we judge, blame, and abdicate ourselves of our part in the difficulties.
Luke 6:37 states: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
“If my husband would just stop/start (insert wants here) then things would be better.”
“If my wife would just start/stop (insert wants here) then things would be better.”
We need to STOP being so selfish about our own “happiness” – think James 4:1-3, which says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
What’s missing is Truth. And the Truth is that as long as we focus on other people’s behavior, instead of our own, as long as we are deeply immersed in blame and fault-finding, the relationship is NOT going to change.
Dare us all today to own our blaming others for our relationship difficulties for what it actually is: judgment.
Dare you today also to do something radically different in your relationships – and sincerely, with God’s help, otherwise it won’t make a difference. Dare you today to stop blaming your spouse and instead, confess your part in the problem to both him/her and God. Truly be sorry. Stop blaming and being a grown up. ASK for forgiveness. And stop keeping the record of wrongs. Start fresh today. If God’s mercies are new every morning, why are you keeping a record of wrongs? Forgive 77 x 7 times and then move on.
And if you are abused, verbally or physically, may I gently, lovingly ask you if what you are currently doing is what God wants from you? If there are no consequences – note I didn’t say, “judgment” – for bad behavior, it will repeat itself. Remember Proverbs 19:19, which says, “Short-tempered people must pay their own penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”
And yes, Proverbs 24 shared volumes today on these lines. I’m specifically thinking of Proverbs 24:10, which says, “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”
In times of trouble, we need to LOVE, and not judge. I’m not suggesting that this is easy, but if we will actively choose to THINK like Philippians 4:8 tells us, we will be closer to contentment, and then have the strength of Christ within us to love at this level.
Dare you to choose LOVE today. Double dog dare you to ASK Him to help you do this, to show you what it looks like in the midst of the situation you are currently in…
Triple dog dare you to actually check a few of the imbedded links above and LISTEN to Him…at the very least, to read the verses below, asking yourself how you are doing right now in your marriage…and if it’s not going well, might I suggest you are trying to do these things yourself, instead of through the strength of Christ (see Philippians above for the answers…).
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
May we love better today, in all of our relationships, especially the difficult ones. May we fully realize how inept we are when we try to do these things in our own strength instead of His. May we actively pursue real relationship with God such that we find His peace, joy, and comfort in the midst of our daily challenges.
Glad to be on the journey with you!
Love to you,