“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom” (Matt. 5:3).
Be humble, not proud. At first, arrogance can be disguised in the clothes of confidence and look attractive, but ultimately the pride will cause your downfall (Prov 16:18).
So keep in mind that you’re not all that. None of us are. Some are hotter than others. Some have better self-control than others. Some can get their point across without yelling as loud as others. Some are more punctual, polite, health aware, money conscious, emotionally intelligent, or spiritual; but in the end, we are all in need of God’s gifts. We are all dead in our transgressions without Christ. We are all poor, even bankrupt; and being rich in Christ, requires that we admit our poverty instead of flaunting our strengths.
It’s especially difficult to admit your own faults when your spouse is doing a fine job of pointing them out. We get defensive and in that defensive posture, we tend to accentuate the positive in ourselves and often seek to point out the defects in our spouse. “Right back at ‘cha!” You may have already noticed, but just in case you haven’t; defensiveness usually isn’t helpful for the holiness of your relationship.
Maybe right now, you’re looking good compared to your spouse as she is spouting off about your inadequacy. Maybe you want to say to him, “You need to take a look in the mirror, bud.” And that’s true. Your spouse does need to look in the mirror, see her harsh criticism as a sin, and repent; but your defensiveness is not a mirror and it isn’t going to bring out holiness in your spouse.
Lay aside the defensiveness and do this:
- Listen. Hear what’s going on with your spouse. What they are saying might have less to do with you that it appears. Or maybe there is some validity to their complaint. Say a quick prayer that God will allow you to endure the criticism to be able to really hear. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19-20).
- Be nice even if it hurts. Your defensiveness will provoke their anger; their anger will provoke yours, and so on. Your kindness is much more likely to lead to their repentance.
- Own your own poverty. Apologize. You don’t have to agree that it’s as bad as what your spouse thinks, but apologize for your contribution. By the way, an apology with an air of arrogance is not an apology at all. Remember, you are trying to be “poor in spirit.”
- Remember the goal. Even if your spouse doesn’t receive your new approach to criticism as positively as you would like, remember this: you’re not practicing humility for the sake of your husband or wife. You are doing it because Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
A holy, proactive marriage begins with a husband and/or wife admitting their own inadequacy so that they can be open to the powerful work of God inside them. Don’t exalt yourself. Humble yourself and let God exalt you. That’s the way of Jesus and the way of husbands and wives who follow him – all the way to the Kingdom of Heaven!
Richard and JeannaLynn May