It is absolutely human nature for all of us to respond to criticism by defending ourselves.
God asks us to respond in the power of His Spirit as His disciples – we are no longer slaves to our old sinful selves. Let’s look at how we can respond to criticism in God-honoring, life-giving ways.
I didn’t think of myself as a contentious wife for those first 14+ years of our marriage. I thought I was the BEST Christian wife EVER!!!!! I thought it was only my husband who needed to change. But now I know that I was a contentious wife. 🙁 Makes me pretty sad to think about it.
Some characteristics of a contentious woman (I know this stuff well… this was me!):
- I believe I am always right. I am PRIDEFUL.
- I believe I know best. I believe I know better than my husband – about everything. And, really, I believe I know better than God and His Word many times, too. MORE PRIDE!!!!!!!
- I believe that everyone should do as I say. People should all submit to me and do what I think they should do (not that I would ever word it like that, of course! But I have SELF as an idol and I expect others to bow to me, too.) If only everyone would listen to me, things would all be wonderful! I believe I am the only one who knows “God’s will” or “the right thing” to do.
- I believe I am above reproof, rebuke and criticism. If someone dares to criticize me, I will defend myself to show him how wrong he is and how right I am. Or, I will turn and attack some character flaw in the one giving me criticism and not deal with the concern this person brought up. I refuse to look at my own responsibilities, faults and sin. I may be entirely blind to my own sin. (That was me, too!)
- I believe I have the right to rebuke/criticize/”help” others because they “need” my “help” and my “wisdom” so desperately – and, because I so obviously know best.
- I focus so much on being “right” about every little issue that I am willing to sacrifice the unity and intimacy in my marriage to “win” each little battle. I may win a battle by defeating my husband with my attacking words, but I may lose his heart. That is not really a win!
- I am REALLY stressed, lonely, worried and afraid a lot. I am trying to carry the weight of the family that God designed for my husband to carry. And I am also trying to carry the weight of God’s sovereignty on my little, tiny, wimpy shoulders. Problem is – I am NOT God. I am NOT sovereign. And I cannot begin to carry that kind of weight. I don’t have the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control because I am not controlled by His Spirit, I am firmly controlled by SELF. I have not died to self. I have SELF as lord, not Jesus.
- I am willing to argue ANY point TO DEATH. I will not drop it until I win. Because – I am “right,” of course! And being “right” in my mind is much more important to me than unity in my marriage or unity with Christ.
- I verbally tear down my marriage and my husband. The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
Now, I know why so many of my prayers were not answered all that time. God was in opposition to me because of my immeasurable pride and arrogance.
THE CURE FOR CONTENTIOUSNESS:
- Humility. Lots of it. Humility before God and humility before my husband. I acknowledge that God has wisdom, I do not. His wisdom is INFINITELY higher than mine. And I acknowledge that my husband may have wisdom to offer to me that may bless me and benefit me and our family.
- Die to self. I must crucify my old sinful self with Christ on the cross and accept the LORDSHIP of Christ.
- Refuse to argue. God commands us, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life. Philippians 2:14-16a
- I need a proper understanding of Who God is and who I am – a sweeping, grand view of God’s sovereignty, power and holiness and a clear view of my sinfulness, impotence, weakness and helplessness.
- Speak with a pleasant, soft, gentle tone of voice and a friendly expression on my face.
- Recognize and stop acting in disrespectful ways.
- Speak the language of respect fluently.
- Willingness to accept correction.
God’s Word has much to say about the wise and foolish and how differently they respond to correction, criticism, rebuke and reproof.
It is my prayer that we might learn to properly respond to criticism and correction in a way that honors and pleases God. I see that correction can be a blessing to me that helps me to grow in holiness.
– Do not rebuke an evil one, lest he hate you, but rebuke a wise one, for he will love you. Proverbs 9:8 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
– Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice. Proverbs 23:9 NLT
– The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 NIV
– Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Proverbs 9:7 NIV
– a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Proverbs 13:1b. NIV
– A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. Proverbs 17:10 NLT
NOW WHEN MY HUSBAND (or anyone) CRITICIZES/REBUKES ME:
- I listen.
- I breathe.
- I try to relax and be calm.
- I don’t defend myself.
- I do not attack him.
- I prayerfully consider his words and understand that God may be speaking to me through my husband.
- I weigh the criticism against God’s Word.
- I humbly repent and apologize to God and to my husband if the criticism is valid.
- I seek God’s will, not my own.
- I thank my husband for his godly leadership. (If it is not my husband, I thank the person for his/her concern and courage to bring up the issue with me.)
- I ask God to give me the power and wisdom to change for His glory.
- I thank God for the rebuke and for His willingness to correct me and make me more like Christ.