(I write from a slant of having been a disrespectful, controlling, Type A, perfectionistic, outspoken, go-getter kind of woman. This post may best fit women who are approaching relationships from this same slant. My prayer is that it might be a blessing to everyone. AND, please keep in mind, I am assuming that you are dating/courting/engaged to only a man who is a true follower of Christ. Scripture is clear we are only to marry other believers.)
Sometimes when we are first learning about treating our men with respect and honor, we cut out criticism, negativity, lectures, nagging, blaming, shaming, bossing our men around, etc… and we begin to learn to build them up, affirm them, praise the good in them, bless them, and respect them – and
We may think that we should never say anything that could come across as disagreeing or negative in any way. That is actually not a healthy place to be, either.
When I focused only on the negative things in my husband and was driven to bring up all of his perceived faults in my mind and when I was negative, disrespectful, critical, judgmental, condemning, etc… That was not a good place to be. I was tearing my husband and marriage down. I was destroying intimacy. Greg began to shut down and shut me out. He did not feel safe with me, and rightly so. For a period of months, I was in the “frustrating quiet phase” where I didn’t know what was disrespectful or how to talk without being negative, critical, blaming, judgmental, self-righteous, prideful, and sinful. So, I barely talked at all while I prayed, studied, and sought God with all my heart for hours and hours every single day, seeking His wisdom. In time, I began to be able to understand what it meant to speak without sinning and to use my words to give life, hope, encouragement, respect, honor, and blessing.
And then, in time, I began to learn how to bring up my concerns in a respectful way.
It is not a gift to allow a brother or sister in Christ to go on and on in sin without a loving, wise, gentle rebuke. How I needed a rebuke for so many years in my marriage! A wise, godly rebuke is life-giving. We will be talking about receiving constructive criticism and rebukes soon. But, there are times when we do need to share our concerns or bring up sin issues that we see – with friends, with family members, with a boyfriend, with a fiance, with a husband, with children, or with church members.
This requires us to look at our own sin first:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5
Our son had a speck embedded in his eye last Friday. I tried to flush it out that morning, but it stayed stuck in the cornea almost over the pupil, unbeknownst to me. It was a tiny speck. I realized it was still there Friday afternoon at 4:50pm. Ten minutes before all of the eye doctors offices closed for the weekend. Awesome. My son and I ended up in the emergency room – and for $150, they numbed his eye and used a wet sterile Q-tip to remove the speck. If that didn’t work, they planned to use a needle to “flick the speck out” of my 13 year old son’s eye. I can’t tell you the panic that set in for my son when he heard that!
As a pharmacist, I have seen what happens when people leave specks in their eyes. After a few days, the inflammation and infection that can set in can be really nasty. If someone continues to do nothing about a speck, they may eventually lose their sight, depending on the severity of the situation. So, Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t try to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Just let it stay there and fester.” But He does say that we need to remove the 2X4 from our own eye first. It takes clear vision to carefully, precisely remove a speck.
When I have prayed and diligently sought for God to expose all of my sin and I have repented of every single trace of sin in my life and am walking in the power of God’s Spirit and walking in obedience and holiness, THEN, I can see clearly enough and hear God’s voice clearly enough to seek His wisdom and prompting about addressing sin in another person’s life. I desperately need God’s wisdom in order to do this. If I am ensnared in my own sin, I cannot see clearly enough and will probably only cause more damage if I try to address someone else’s sin.
Ultimately, we must be careful to hear God’s voice and be sensitive to His timing, and the words we truly believe He desires us to say. We are not responsible for the other person’s response. But we are responsible to speak the truth in love, gently seeking to restore our brother or sister to right relationship with Christ.
- If we speak truth without love, we will only hurt other people, not bless them.
- If we seek to only show love without speaking truth, we will tolerate sin – and God’s love doesn’t tolerate sin.
God has this amazing combination of holiness, love, truth, mercy, grace, forgiveness, justice… all of these opposing characteristics that come together in One amazing God.
(Note – if a person is not a believer, then his/her greatest need is Christ. Addressing specific sins may be rather pointless until they are able to experience the forgiveness and power of God’s Spirit in their lives to overcome sin through the victory Jesus Christ provides.)
Some ideas about when to address concerns/sin:
- When someone is well-rested
- When there is plenty of time to talk
- When he/she is in a pretty decent mood if possible
- Ideally, not when the person is sick, exhausted, tired, overwhelmed, stressed, super hungry, or already feeling extremely discouraged.
- When you are completely sure that God is prompting you that now is the time and you have peace about what you believe God desires you to say, and what you believe He wants you to say lines up with Scripture
- When your own motives are pure – you are not seeking retaliation, harm, revenge and you are sure you are acting in the love of God, not resentment, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, hatred, or malice. (For more on this, please check out Spiritual Authority)
- It is probably best to only address one issue at a time. No one likes to be hit over the head with a litany of his/her sins. That can feel like an ambush.
What does this look like?
Here are some possible examples (AFTER we have addressed all of the known sin in our own lives and repented to everyone to whom we need to repent, we are walking in close fellowship with Christ, we are filled with His Spirit, and are carefully listening to Him and seeking to obey Him in all things):
I respect and admire you very much. Some of the things I admire most about you are X, Y, and Z. You inspire me in my faith by the way you _____. I’m so thankful to have you in my life. I’m thankful that you are honest and vulnerable with me and that you allow me to be honest and vulnerable with you. I’m glad that our relationship is a safe place to share our ideas, feelings, concerns, struggles, and temptations. I appreciate how you are open with me and are willing to put your finger on issues in my life that I might want to pray about. I would like to share a concern with you for you to prayerfully consider – if now is a good time. (Wait to be sure he says it is.) I have noticed that sometimes:
- when you are rushing/frustrated, you tend to sound harsh. It is harder for me to hear your heart through an angry sounding tone of voice.
- you don’t feel safe being honest with me. (Ladies, this is probably a better approach than, “You are such a liar!”) I always appreciate and respect when you are honest – even if something is hard for me to hear at first. It would mean the world to me to know that you will tell me the truth, even if it is hard. I will do my best to listen calmly and not to overreact.
- X seems to be a temptation/struggle in your life. How can I best be on your team and bless you as you seek to follow Christ in this area?
- when you feel disrespected, you may react at times by doing X, and then you seem to really regret that later. I don’t want to ever make you feel disrespected. In fact, I don’t intentionally try to disrespect you. I know I have a lot to learn to speak the masculine language of respect fluently. When I feel loved by you and you respond to me gently and just hold me and talk to me softly, I feel so much more safe. I want you to feel free to share if I have done something that makes you feel disrespected. I would appreciate it if you might be able to share that information with me gently and calmly. That is how I can best hear what you want me to hear.
- when you are angry, you might say hurtful things to me. I would like to be able to process disagreements and share our differing opinions and ideas without hurting one another. It would mean a lot to me if we can just focus on the one issue at hand, and not call each other names, go after each other’s character, or assume the other person has evil motives. I know we both truly love each other and we both have good will toward each other. I know we can learn to disagree calmly and respectfully without having an argument or a fight.
- your temper can be an issue when you are frustrated. Is there something I tend to do that makes this temptation more difficult? How can we approach this issue together?
I’m so thankful for the ways God uses you to sharpen me. Thank you for allowing me to share, as well.
Remember, it may be best to only share ONE THING at a time. Then, most likely, that would be the only time you bring that thing up. This person will probably need some time to digest and pray about what you have shared. To bring it up over and over would probably be nagging. Yes, there may be times when God desires us to bring something up more than once.
(If there is a very severe situation – fornication, infidelity, major addiction to porn, abuse, drug/alcohol addiction, uncontrolled mental illness – we may also need to get outside help if someone is truly not safe. In the more severe situations, we may need to follow Matthew 18:15-17. If there is serious abuse going on, the authorities may need to be involved. I am not writing for women with abusive relationships – they will need more specialized help than I can offer.)
With “normal issues,” we can trust God to bring about conviction in our man’s heart (or other people’s hearts). We are not the Holy Spirit. We can approach our brothers and sisters in Christ as team mates. We are all together in the Body of Christ to strengthen, pray for, encourage, exhort, and build one another up.
Sharing a concern:
Here is an example of a way that we might respectfully share a concern when there is a BIG decision to be made for an engaged couple:
1. Show your man that you understand how important this is to him and why he would be interested in this opportunity.
2. Show your full support.
3. Share your concerns and feelings briefly and, if possible, unemotionally – think bullet points.
4. Give him time to think, pray, and process.
I know that you really want to take this overseas job opportunity. It does sound amazing. I am sure you would be great at the job and I can see how it fits you in so many ways. I know that you are seeking to hear God’s voice clearly about this important decision. If this is truly something you believe God is calling you to do, I will support you fully. I am praying for God to give you His wisdom about exactly what to do. I do have a few concerns, that I would like to share with you, please. (If he is ok with that, then proceed.)
- I am concerned about being so far away from our families. I feel really sad to think about getting married then moving away so soon. I am not sure how my parents might react.
- I am concerned about how I might adjust to the culture/that I don’t know the language well. I think I may feel a bit out of place and homesick.
- I am concerned about my safety there.
- I don’t know if I can find a job there. What are your thoughts about that? What if I can’t find a job? What roles and responsibilities do you envision each of us having when we are married and then living there? What are your expectations for each of us individually and as a married couple?
Thanks so much for allowing me to share my concerns. I’ll give you all the time you need to process, pray, and think about them. I know you have a lot weighing on your mind right now, and I am definitely going to be praying intently for God to give us both His wisdom, guidance, peace, and direction. I will support whatever you believe is best, and I so appreciate you caring about my feelings in this decision.
Then, give your guy time to process and think about these issues – days or weeks, even. Pray for God’s wisdom for you both. Then listen to your fiance’s ideas and suggestions. Pray some more. Seek God’s wisdom and His will and rest in His sovereignty and peace.
Other brief examples of sharing concerns:
1. I am concerned that you are not getting enough rest.
2. I care very much about you, and I am concerned that you are not taking good care of yourself – not sleeping, not eating well, not having the time you need with God. What can I do to help?
3. I know that this has been a rough couple of months with your job. I want to support you in any way I can. I know you have faced some really severe challenges. And I want you to know that I totally believe in your ability to handle this and to figure it out. I’m praying for you. If there is anything else I can do to bless you, say the word.
4. I love and admire you so much. I am not sure that I can deal with the smoking thing, though. That is a really important issue to me. It would mean a lot to me if you might consider quitting smoking, please. (Then, let him think about it! Probably best not to pressure him any more and let him decide if, when, and how he wants to quit. He will ask for your help if he needs it.)
Remember, my words are not the key. Sensitivity to and obedience to God’s Spirit is the real key here, ladies!