Pet Pain

None of us are immune from experiencing mistreatment, but have you ever wondered why two people can experience this and the effects are so different?  One person eventually moves on, accepting the realities and they become stronger, but the other becomes enslaved – blaming every weakness, shortcoming or failure, on the things that have happened to them?

 

The process of emotional healing looks very different for each of us and I would never suggest that there is an appropriate ending time for your pain.  We are unique creations and so our grieving is individual.  Have you ever been devalued and written off as insignificant?  Have you been forsaken by someone that you love?  Have you been the recipient of rude confusing behavior?  Have you been slandered or blamed for something that wasn’t your fault?  Did they seem to get away with it?  Did you choose to not tell what they did?  That old high road is a hard one to walk.  If for some reason, you are still experiencing extreme pain after a significant period of time, beware – your pain may have become your pet pain.

 

Do you believe that keeping quiet about the details of the mistreatment, betrayal or slander is the right thing to do?  Maybe you are protecting someone that would be hurt if the entire truth came out.  Maybe you are protecting a marriage.  Maybe you are protecting another’s reputation.  Whatever the reason, I commend you for your integrity.  You have made a commitment to not run your mouth around – even if they do kind of deserve it.  What’s the downside of handling it this way?  When you watch your offender get away with their crime, or even be rewarded in some way, it will be natural for you to replay what has happened and then your hurts become a familiar and comfortable pet pain.  You can take your pet pain out of the cage any time you like and it’s comforting to cuddle with.  Beware – this type of pet grows into a monster called bitterness and bitterness requires a heavy price to us and those that love us.

 

Why would we want to keep a pet named pain?  When things are done to us, we feel victimized, and victims often feel like losers with no control over the situation.  We are in control when we decide to take our pet out for some quality time.  Even if you’ve forgiven, you might still have difficulty accepting the realities and crave a sense of control.  You do not have to live as a victim.  Realize that when other people treat us badly, there is not necessarily something wrong with us.  Actually, when another human being treats you badly, it says more about them, than it says about you.  Seek out relationships with people who value you.  You’ll feel like a winner with them.

 

If you are not moving forward and still in pain after a significant amount of time, get some help.  First, I always encourage you to spend significant amounts of time, praying and reading God’s word.  Ask Him to help you understand your part and to take responsibility and ask Him for the healing and guidance that you need.  Secondly, get input from a wise trustworthy friend and/or counselor that is not personally involved.  Be aware that they can’t fix you and be willing to hear hard things and do hard work.  Work to get to the point that you despise the pain, instead of seeking alone time to go cuddle up with it.  Sound familiar?  It does to me.  At times of my life, when I experienced heartache from another human being, I would go out to the garden, on a drive or hike with the intention of praying, but often found myself cuddling up with my pet pain instead.  It’s a process – do the work and when you get distracted by your puppy, just tell him “no, not now”.  If needed, give yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night to cuddle.  Soon you may not feel the need to cuddle at all.

 

 

Get ready to move on.  Stop paying the price of reliving what someone else did to you and don’t view every new relationship as though the same things will happen.  Realize that what they did to you, doesn’t say anything about you and good things happen because of you.  God says that you have a future full of hope and He is truth and justice.  If there is anything that God needs to deal with, He will do so, when and how He chooses.  Sorry pet pain, we’re finding you a new home.

 

 

The Memory and Legacy of Your Father

This post is dedicated to those that grieve on Father’s Day.  Your Dad is no longer here to celebrate this day with you.  You would love to pick up the telephone and catch up with him, or sit beside him as he relaxes in his favorite chair, but you can’t.  He is gone, and it is not by your choice, that you can no longer spend Father’s Day with your earthly father.

 

I understand the void that you feel.   36 years ago, my father took his own life.  It was just 3 months to the day before my 18th birthday.  He was only 42 years old and there was so much life to be lived.  There was so much good to come, but he couldn’t see that – his pain overwhelmed him.  I miss him but there is something else that I miss too.

 

Since his death, I miss what he has missed out on.  He never met his son-in-law.  He has missed watching his grandchildren grow up – every milestone and accomplishment, and he never got to see the woman that I’ve become.  I could be sad, and sometimes I still grieve, but mostly I now choose to remember that he loved me and that he called me endearing names like “smiley”.  He looked at me as though I was the best thing that he had ever done with his life.  Now, I realize that even though my Dad was with me for only a short time, he gave me so much.  He taught me to feel deeply when I love and to think thoughtfully and God has not wasted any of my grief.  The pain that so easily could have become bitterness has become compassion, which has evolved into a deep longing to have others see the light of Christ in me – in order to glorify Him.

 

If you are missing your father today, and wishing that he was here with you, try to remember that there is an abundance of the fatherless.  If you have been blessed to have a father invest into your life, even if it was for a shorter time than you would have chosen, take that and use it to bless another life.  You can continue your Dad’s legacy by pouring into someone else.  Giving of ourselves takes our focus off of our own pain and is deeply therapeutic.

 

You can probably imagine that this was an extremely difficult post to write and share.  I have bared my heart to you and my deepest hope is that someone will be helped.  I want this to be a Happy Father’s Day for you.  May you have many pleasant memories of your Dad this weekend, and every single day, and may your joy spill out onto others!

The Road to Reconciliation and Peace

What does reconciliation look like?  Has it occurred between two parties, simply because they are able to be courteous to each other?  Is it possible to forgive without reconciliation occurring?

 

Forgiveness is the responsibility of the offended and it is required by God.  It is not contingent on the offender apologizing or asking for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is possible, even if the offender never realizes what they’ve done, or even if they refuse to take responsibility for their actions or words.  Forgiveness does not release the offender from their guilt but it releases the offended from the burden.   When we’ve been hurt by another person, it is a challenge to forgive but it is a choice that must be made and refusing to forgive, puts a wedge between us and God.  You see, for the most part, forgiving is vertical – it is between you and God.  He requires you to forgive, enables you to forgive and He restores peace between you and Him, when you forgive.  Forgiveness is usually not a one-time occurrence but instead, many singular moments of obedience.

 

Biblical reconciliation, which brings lasting peace in a relationship, goes deep.  In order for it to begin, both parties need to be ready.  The offender will need to be ready to hear the entire truth of how they have hurt, without resorting to excuses or anger and ready to take responsibility.  The offended must be free of bitterness and if they haven’t already done so, they must be ready to forgive.  Reconciling is a process of deconstructing the relationship and then building it back up.  It goes something like this:  realization of wrongdoing, grief and remorse, confession or admittance, forgiveness desired and restitution, if necessary.  Restoration of the relationship can now begin and trust can be rebuilt.  In true reconciliation, there is no room for defensiveness or excuse making and if the offender is in this mode, it is not yet possible.  If the hurt party is bitter, unforgiving and punishing, then it is not yet possible.  Notice that in both cases, I have said “not yet”.  Give it time and let God deal with the hearts of those that are involved.  Pray for yourself and the other party.  In time, there may be softened hearts and then the process can begin.

 

God’s word is our source of truth – so I would like to share my favorite story of offense, remorse, forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s the story of Joseph, which starts in Genesis 37.  Joseph was a golden boy.  He was gifted and favored by God and preferred by his earthly father.  He attracted blessing but he was also the subject of jealousy and evil plotting.  His own brothers concocted a plan to get rid of Joseph and he was sold into slavery.  Once in a new land, Joseph was again favored but through a twisting of events, he was lied about and went to prison because of it.  In prison, Joseph aided others and the person that he helped to get out of prison, forgot about him for years.  Finally, through amazing circumstances Joseph was released from prison and became very powerful.  If anyone had reason to be embittered, it was Joseph and he could have used his power to punish those who had hurt him but Joseph had a soft and forgiving heart, and most of all, he knew that his sovereign God would bring good out of all his hardships.  Looking for help from the wealthy land of Egypt, his brothers came to this land where Joseph was now a powerful man.   They never imagined that they would run into Joseph again.  Joseph recognized them but they didn’t realize that the man in charge was their brother.  In Genesis 42, we over-hear the brothers expressing remorse over what they had done to their brother and we see that Joseph was secretly listening to their discussion.  In Genesis 44, the brothers lament that their current hardships must be a punishment for their previous sins.  These are key moments in the story and I believe crucial to the reconciliation that is about to happen.  Joseph reveals himself to them and there is a tender reunion and healing words.  Without the brothers becoming remorseful and taking responsibility for their motives and actions, do you think that this family reunion would have played out this way?  In order for reconciliation to occur, the offending party must be able to see how they have hurt the other party and then take the next courageous steps.

 

If you’ve hurt someone, the greatest gift that you can give to them, is to confess and apologize, naming the specific wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness.  The magnificence of healing then begins to occur for both parties.  If you have been accused of offending and are having trouble getting to the acceptance and confession stage, try remembering a time when someone hurt you.  How did you feel?  What would have helped you?  Did they take responsibility or did they merely give you the “I’m sorry if” – the un-apology?  The un-apology adds insult to injury.  Remembering a time when we were the casualty, softens our heart and prepares us to take responsibility for our own actions and words.

 

Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t always occur.  Sometimes the offender cannot be trusted.  Sometimes the parties would rather avoid the unpleasantness of confrontation by playing nicey-nice or simply just avoiding the other party.  Sometimes the involved hearts are hardened.

 

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to be continually forgiving each other and also praying for and being open to the possibility of reconciliation but it must be genuine biblical reconciliation.  If you have hurt someone, check your heart for readiness and then it’s up to you to make the next move.  If you’ve been hurt, prepare your heart for future reconciliation, by doing the work of forgiving, ridding yourself of bitterness and punishing attitudes.  I hope that you’ll begin to travel the road of reconciliation and that you’ll be blessed with the final result of peace within your own heart and mind as well as peace between you and others.

Backwards, In-Place or Straight Ahead?

It’s a period of change, or the process of changing from one circumstance or condition to another.  We’ve all gone through it and most of us are going through some form of it right now.  It is transition.

Transition comes in many forms and for many reasons.  It is one of the most common aspects of living the human experience.   A wedding, childbirth, returning to school, a job change, retirement, death of a loved one, relocation, divorce, empty nesting, down-sizing, health crisis, losing a friendship, geographical separation from a spouse and countless other changes.

Traveling through transition can be forbidding.  The emotional pain of letting go and the fear of the unknown, can grip us and sometimes we get stuck or even begin to take steps backwards.  Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life”.  Since we know this to be true, why not stop fighting it and instead, embrace it?  Yes, the key to success during transition is to accept the realities of it – but how?

It starts with our perspective and I’m not going to sugar coat this – it won’t always be easy. If we find ourselves mentally curled up in the fetal position or perpetually with a heavy-heart, we must change the way that we are perceiving the process of change. View the transition as an experience that you are marching forward into.  Look straight ahead and focus on the good things to come.  If you are unable to imagine the good things in your future, go to someone who knows you well and ask for help with seeing the possibilities.  Reach outward to others who are trustworthy and have the ability to help you analyze your circumstances and separate each problem.  Once each problem stands alone, you can more easily deal with it and it will be merely one stepping stone on your journey.  Share your struggles and allow others to shoulder some of your burdens.  Accept practical helps along the way.  Check your outlook and attitude regularly – is your heart heavy or light?  All of this minimizes the internalization of your struggles and will help you to prevent overwhelm within your mind.

Experiencing difficulties is usually not something that we seek out or enjoy but I do encourage you to remember.  As you experience your next transition, you’ll remember and know that you’ll survive.  Think back.  Did you grow stronger and wiser?  Are you more kind, compassionate and giving?  Don’t forget to share this with others as they are experiencing overwhelming stress during periods of transition.

If you have been attempting to march forward through life by the power of your own strength, separated from the One that created you, knows everything about you and yet still loves you with an everlasting love, I would like to tell you just a little of my story.  When I was seventeen, I faced a huge transition – my father’s first suicide attempt.  At that time, I placed my trust in Christ’s payment for my sins and He became Lord of my life.  I cannot imagine experiencing life’s difficulties without my Lord at the helm.  He doesn’t remove the challenges but He supports me while I walk through them and He uses them to mature me.  He is the Living Water that sustains me during the droughts of my life.  If you don’t know Him, I encourage you meet Him.  He never expects you to get cleaned up enough to meet Him.  He says come as you are.  Meet the One that made you, gives you breath, died for you, resurrected Himself and intercedes for you – Jesus Christ.  Meet Him, trust Him and watch Him bring a beautiful metamorphosis out of the challenge of change.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Playing All Your Hearts

Rare and generous, they are created with a unique capacity to love.  They give of themselves liberally and expect very little in return.  This is the bright side, but what about the dark side?  Too often, these large-hearted souls attract a person that is unable to return love due to their own circumstances, personality, emotional problems, mental illness or addictions.  Worse yet, sometimes their love is met with critical, rude or malicious behavior.

 

It would feel better to be like most others – able to let it roll off and move on but usually the person who loves deeply does not do this with ease.  They put great effort into relationships and when there is failure, their emotional wound can be deep.  If they are the type that is willing to examine themselves, they will probably blame themselves for the failure.  If this is you, you may long to be like others but God created you with this capacity to love and yes, there will be times that you will get hurt.  The question isn’t “how can I avoid getting hurt” or “how do I make the hurt go away quickly?”.  The real question is “what will I learn from the experience?”.  The greater the investment, the greater the gain and in every failure, there is always a gain.  Learn to look for this and be thankful for it.  What you gain isn’t always from good.  Sometimes, it is a lesson learned from a negative experience.

 

If you are that person who is putting all of your cards on the table, and they are all hearts, it is crucial that you are learning from the good and bad that comes out of your relationships.  People with a great capacity to love, will often take two or three steps forward, while the other person involved takes fewer steps, or even none at all.  Every healthy relationship is like a waltz.  Even though the gait and physicality of each person is different, there is a rhythm and mutual movement to make the dance beautiful and mutually satisfying.  A waltz wouldn’t work if only one person wants to dance or performs all of the movements?  What should we learn from this?

 

First, remember that trust in a relationship must be earned and trusting too soon, will eventually lead to difficulties.  Second, in order for a relationship to withstand the test of time, each person should, in their own way, be giving to it.  Reciprocation doesn’t have to be exactly in the same fashion or equal amounts but there should be energy poured into the relationship from each side.  Third, invest appropriately – don’t take three steps forward when the other person isn’t also taking steps forward.  Finally, in a situation where only one person gives, you have a ministry – consider whether or not this is acceptable to you.

 

Whatever the reasons, when a relationship is unfulfilling, it can cause heartbreak to the person who has loved and poured into it.  Your investment isn’t wasted.  Even if the other person didn’t appreciate you, they probably benefited from knowing you and with the insight that you have gained, go out and love again but this time, know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

A Little Help Getting Unstuck

Experiencing anguish is a part of living life but what does it mean when we continue to feel the pain at an overwhelming intensity level, even after many months or even years have passed?  If this is you, you might be stuck.  Today, I would like to offer you hope.  With a little help, you can get unstuck and begin living a joyful life again.

 

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting that there is an appropriate amount of time to grieve.  Grief is as individual as we are.  There is a point, where we each intuitively know that our grieving is no longer healthy.  At this point, we must find a pathway to moving forward with our life.  Essentially grieving is healthy until it isn’t.  Are you emotionally paralyzed?  Is your physical health beginning to suffer?  Do you no longer believe that you can or should be happy again?  Have you lost and not regained motivation to do the things that need to be done, or that you previously enjoyed?  Can you see little or no progress from when you first experienced the grief causing event?  Don’t despair, there is help available.  Make an appointment with a trained and qualified counselor, and go to your first appointment prepared to be transparent and looking forward to getting better.

 

I’m writing from experience.  This past year was a tough one – a full year of experiencing one relationship failure after another.  Each situation was unique and caused a different level of anguish but when combined together, I was overwhelmed.  I did my very best to work through the process of grieving, as well as making difficult decisions, but I finally realized that it was time to get some assistance.  Vanity is powerful.  I had been able to tolerate the minor panic attacks and a relapse into adrenal fatigue, but realizing that my hair was falling out in great amounts and that I was eating my grief and gaining weight, moved me into action.  I located a qualified counselor and began sessions.

 

How does a counselor help?  A counselor is unbiased.  They won’t allow you to continue to reinforce incorrect thinking.  They will help you to arrive at the vital acceptance of circumstances that you cannot change.  They will help you to see that you have a bright future ahead of you.  Essentially, you have been on an oval race car track.  Your car only turns left and goes around and around but never moves forward.  With the counselors help, you can get off of that track and begin to move forward again.

 

Sharing this with my readers is difficult for me to do but I believe that God has asked me to be authentic with you.  I’m hoping that there is at least one person out there, that might be helped by this post.  I do want to caution you – be aware that not all counselors are helpful and some will interject very non-biblical ideas.  Have your discernment sharpened and look at things through a biblical lens.  I’m happy to report that I am doing much better – I am a stronger woman and full of spunk according to my counselor.  Best of all, I am looking forward to a bright future.  I am learning new things to better myself, have taken on a new writing opportunity for my church, I’m looking forward to my children’s next phase of life and the next season in my marriage.  You can look forward to a bright future too.  I’m hoping that this year will be a blessed one for you.

Telling Yourself Truths

The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? – Proverbs 18:14. Careless words and actions can and do hurt – sometimes they cause pain for a very long time.

 

The woman that dishonestly or unfairly vents her thoughts about another woman to her husband, children or others.  The person that tells only their side of the story, to make the other person look bad. That man that comments about another man’s character being dishonorable. The group that chatters together conjuring up stories of sinful activity.  The person, when asked about someone, reacts with a raised eyebrow or even a very slight derogatory comment.  The woman that excludes another woman from her life or makes another woman feel unwelcome without a genuine reason.  The woman that uses body language to ignore another woman. The person that tells half truths about someone to mislead others.  The young person that gossips, excludes or uses unkind words about a peer or another family. Finally, the person that makes the mistake of listening to one side of the story and allows their opinion to be swayed.  It might seem benign – “after all, it will never get back to the person and so what if it does – they deserve it and it makes me feel better”.

 

It is never harmless.  It always damages the person that has been hurt, as well as the person guilty of the hurting. It can be a firestorm in someone’s life – taking years to recover but just like a forest that has been burned away, if handled correctly, beautiful growth can emerge.  How can beauty come up out of these ashes?  First, when you are believing a lie about yourself or the situation, you must tell yourself a truth.  Here are some examples.  “They are twisting the story” can become “the truth will come out in the end”.  “They are getting away with ruining my reputation or turning other people against me” can become either “I have earned credibility and other people won’t automatically believe this” or “if they don’t know me very well, I shouldn’t be overly concerned about their opinion of me” and ultimately “God’s opinion of me is the only opinion that matters”.  “I feel like women despise me” can become “I have women in my life that value me”.  “There must be something wrong with me” can become “it is not because of who I am.  It is because of how they choose to behave or who they are.”  Second, you have to trust and believe that God is a God of justice and that He will not allow this to go on forever.  Third, if you find that you are obsessing about an offense against you and stirring the pot of stew so to speak, there are techniques to help you manage this.  Try limiting your stewing sessions to five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bedtime.  If your mind tries to stir the pot during the other times of the day – just remind yourself “not now – later”.  Soon, you may not need those sessions at all.  Finally, do not resort to vindictive or childish behavior.    It might make you feel better in the short run but in the long run, it will hurt you.  These healing actions will protect you from bitterness taking root.

 

Women are especially vulnerable to perceiving that another woman’s grass is greener.  Insecurities or jealousy of another woman’s accomplishments, character, personality, physical appearance, husband, children or even a pure admiration that she might receive from men or even other women, can cause an insecure woman to behave rudely, cruelly or even maliciously.  A husband is the leader of his wife and therefore he is responsible to watch for these behaviors.  Keep in mind, she may be very adept at concealing these behaviors from her husband. Husbands, you can make a difference in this area.  She may not want you to, but she needs you to lead her and hold her accountable.  I realize that a peaceful environment is difficult to give up but coddling bad behavior, emboldens it.  Parents, if you notice that your daughter is involved in this type of behavior, hold her accountable and train her up correctly while you still have influence in her life.  This is not innocent conduct and even words or actions that you might deem harmless, may be hurting another human being.

 

Are you wounded?  Maybe others have excluded you, talked about you, lied about you, rejected you and worst of all, at times, maybe it has affected your children.  If you are wounded, then you know the pain that this can cause.  I offer comfort to you – you probably did nothing to deserve this treatment.  I offer encouragement to you – get back out there and find others that have healthy self-images, because they will be able to love you and they will celebrate everything about you.  I offer reassurance to you – that you deserve to have people in your life that will give back to you.

 

We are raised in imperfect homes with imperfect families and often we have insecurities or emotional problems but the Bible tells us to esteem others as higher than ourselves.  When we do, spirits can be lifted – marriages, families and friends built up.  Let’s be willing to be honest with ourselves and take a good long look at our reflection in the mirror.  Let’s search our memories and our hearts.  Each of us could probably find a time when we have been guilty of spreading or listening to careless words, being unkind or not holding ourselves or others accountable.  Would you join me in committing to not being part of the problem as you move forward with your relationships?

I Think We’re Missing It

Yesterday after church, my son and I braved the inclement weather and the crowds, to get his Christmas shopping done. He’s 15 now and learning to drive. As he drove the 20 miles of snow covered highway, we talked about a smorgasbord of topics. I silently pondered “this is what Christmas is about – relationship”. You see, that morning at church, I had the opportunity to talk to several people. Many are suffering from feelings of depression, or the stress of everything that has to be accomplished this week. It got worse. Once I arrived at the mega store, I noticed empty eyes, frowns and scowls. I kept feeling as though we’re missing it. That morning at church, we sang beautiful songs about the Savior that came as a babe and for a brief moment, we became focused on relationship. We are His and He is mine – that relationship. The relationship where the King of kings left the glory of heaven to humble Himself and serve us by dying and paying for our sins. He paid the ultimate price so that we could be reconciled with God. The most important relationship that we will ever have.

I hope that you will press the pause button on your week and really consider this. It isn’t the gift, the perfect meal or decorations that will be remembered. They will remember the relationships that were built, strengthened and restored. With all of my heart and a smile on my face, I wish you and yours a very blessed Christmas and a new year filled with beautiful memories.

Thank you so much for reading and I love your feedback too!

Contentment in All Things

We didn’t allow a lot of television consumption in our home, but on my daughter’s first birthday, we went out and bought several episodes of VeggieTales.  My children grew up on those moral teaching, silly song singing vegetables.  Many times, I sat with them and enjoyed the clever ways that the creators brought their messages to life.  One episode has always been my favorite – Madame Blueberry, A Lesson in Thankfulness.

 

Although Madame Blueberry was struggling with discontentment in the area of “stuff”, the lesson taught me that discontentment is a toxin that can get into the bloodstream of our life and poison every aspect.  The writers of this episode boiled it down – the cure for discontentment is having a thankful heart.  Eighteen years later, I still remember this lesson and try to apply it regularly.  Today, we will address contentment in our marriages.   The apostle Paul teaches us some very important ideas that can be carried into our marriages.  He said that we can be content in all things and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  I would surmise that this includes being content in our marriage.  He taught us that God might not take away all difficult things but God’s grace is sufficient to get us through and that God’s power will be shown through this.  These principles can be utilized in our marriages to bring us greater happiness, peace and longevity.

 

There are marriages that survive and even thrive throughout all of the ups and downs.  Have you ever wondered why some marriages break apart and end in divorce while other marriages last until death do us part?  It isn’t because one marriage was easy and the other was hard.  One major reason is contentment – either a lack of contentment or a thankful heart.  A thankful heart chooses thankfulness – it chooses to focus on the good rather than the bad.  Whether you’ve been married for thirty years or one year, you are on a path together and you will have beautiful times and at other times, you may seriously question why you chose this person.  Remember, love is not a feeling but it is a choice.  When you are choosing to love in the way that God intended, you are living out the Gospel in your home and choosing to extend grace and mercy to each other.  This is a journey and any couple that makes it to the successful end, will tell you that it was not always easy but it was always worth it.  In every marriage, there is a daily opportunity to overlook each other’s weaknesses and flaws and deal lovingly with your spouse’s sin.  How in the world do we do this when our spouse is creating tension, angst or pain in our life?

 

We must realize and remind ourselves that we are imperfect too.  Each of us has the human condition – sin.  We have a tendency to look out for our own interests and we don’t like being wronged, inconvenienced, embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Also, we all have traits that even if they are not wrong, they still annoy the people that know us the best.  Once we realize this, overlooking our spouse’s faults becomes much easier.

 

I’m not suggesting that you never voice your concerns.  Some things do need to be voiced out of serious concern for the health of your marriage or even the mental, physical or spiritual health of your spouse or children.  How you go about voicing these concerns is crucial – check your motives.  You will never change your spouse and your love should never be conditional.  Only God and your spouse can do the actual work necessary for change.  So, once you have discussed your concerns, you must only very sparingly bring this up again.  For example, you may have concerns about the way that your spouse parents your children.  If it is not an issue of physical endangerment, emotional or spiritual abuse, you can voice concerns for your children’s sake but you cannot force change.  Your spouse may be abusing their body with food, alcohol or tobacco.  It is appropriate to express your concern for their long-term health and even your worry about losing them to an early death but once you have let them know how you are feeling, you have to let it go.  Policing them and harping on them will only drive them further into the abuse.  Another issue in marriage can be the lack of emotional support and encouragement.  Again, I think that it is important to help your spouse understand the deficiency and how it affects you but don’t bludgeon them.   An important part of being content in this area is being intentional about noticing the times that your spouse does support and encourage you.

 

There are areas where contentment is not appropriate.  First, if there is physical endangerment, being aware and vigilant is crucial, especially to protect children who cannot protect themselves.  If your spouse has abused or endangered you or the children, don’t justify this behavior.  Getting yourself and the children to safety is the first priority and then attempt to get your spouse the help that they need.  Second, you shouldn’t allow or enable controlling and manipulative behavior.  Instead, acknowledge it.  Once you’ve learned to recognize it, you cannot be controlled or manipulated unless you allow yourself to be.  Also, controlling and manipulative behavior has probably impaired your ability to trust your own judgement or decision making skills.  If this is you, seek wise counsel to help you make sense of the situation.  If enabled to continue, controlling and manipulative behavior will negatively impact the development your children.

 

If you remember only one thing from this post, remember that you are not responsible for changing your spouse – you are responsible for loving them.  Sometimes loving them means keeping your mouth shut.  Sometimes loving them means holding them accountable.  Sometimes loving them means not allowing them to control and manipulate you or the children.  Sometimes loving them means getting them to professional help.  Don’t exaggerate behavior that can be overlooked and don’t throw the safety net under someone who needs consequences.  May God richly bless you and your marriage with the peace of a thankful contented heart.