Written By: Sharon May, Ph.D. and Alan Hart, MS, MAT
I looked up at my reflection in the window as I did the dishes. “Did you see the attitude of my husband?” I complained to God anticipating compassionate agreement. I heard God say to me instead, “Right now all I see is your attitude Sharon, and it is filled with defensiveness and resentment.” I was shocked. I continued to wrestle with God in my thoughts. It is not fair! Why should I be nice when he has been critical! What was I to do?! Then a verse came to my mind.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
God was not asking me to be a door-mat and put up with bad behavior in my marriage. But He was asking me to become all He has for me to be, to be the best version of me. Then, live it out in all my life circumstances. Could I have talked with my husband in a kinder way instead of becoming defensive and angry? Yes. Yet, truthfully, it takes so much courage and control from the inside especially when we feel justified and when our reactive side is so automatic!
Each time we respond to life it is like a sculpture’s chisel shaping our character. Either carving out a negative shaped attitude, sharpening up edges for a critical spirit, or shaping a defensive wall in your heart. Until our character is so shaped that reacting negatively becomes automatic. To re-shape who we have become, which possibly is the person we were not intended to be or who we don’t want to be, in each circumstance we need to choose a different response that reflects our real character. A Christ-like, godly response. This is the journey of re-shaping our character.
So in each situation with your spouse, strive to use self-control and not react with anger, but slow down and share what you are really trying to say in a kinder way. Let go of the small things. Yet, don’t stuff complaints until they spill out in resentment rather make sure you talk constructively about the issues that matter. Work to change destructive patterns. Be patient, forgive, use kind words with a gentle tone. And continue to do good to your spouse even though you have not yet resolved the argument. And in the midst of all the strife, find one thing nice about your life and spouse.
What God says to us about living in a stress-filled world with difficult circumstances and even a hurtful marriage, is that who we are matters. He encourages you to be the best version of you, and integrate it in all areas of your life, relationships and marriage. And if you need to break old habits or re-shape your character to reflect who He intended you to be, start small in each circumstance of your day.
Remember your character matters when living life and loving well in marriage.