Friday, 21 May 2010


It has been said that “Resentment is the poison you drink expecting the other person to die”. Resentment, anger, bitterness, acrimony and hatred are the emotions that most often accompany those who come to me for marriage counseling. Did I mention that these couples are Christian?

It is hard to believe how badly we can hurt someone that at some point in our lives we thought we couldn’t live without. How can we go from becoming one to living parallel lives, barely speaking to one another and devoid of intimacy? There are several reasons this happens but let me focus on just one for now.

The Book of Matthew, chapter 14 verses 29-30 tells the story of the Apostle Peter getting out of the boat he was in and actually walking on the water toward Jesus. “But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me Lord’, he shouted.”

One reason resentment builds up is that we take our eyes off of Jesus. We readily forget that we as sinners have been forgiven much. We are quick to forget that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says; “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us” (forgive me my debts as I forgive my debtors). Who among us if we actually paid attention to what we were saying would want the Lord to forgive us like we forgive others? Not me! So what does it mean to keep my eyes on Jesus and how would that help me to be more forgiving?

I remember when I was growing up (shortly after the crossing of the Red Sea) there was usually an older boy that I looked up to. I would try to hang around him whenever I could. Almost by osmosis I found that I would pick up his mannerisms, his way of talking, etc. A number of years later, I worked with a man who had a very bad stutter. I idolized him. I found that within a few weeks I was stuttering.

Keeping my eye on Jesus is for the purpose of becoming more like him. I do that by spending time with him, hanging out with him, learning everything about him that I can. It means talking to him regularly, thinking about him often and hanging around people who, like me want to live a life style that would please him. The closer you get to Him, the more you can grasp who he is and what he has done for you the more difficult it will be for you to hold a grudge, the more difficult it will be for you to be unforgiving and resentful. I suspect that like me you will start to imitate the one you have been hanging around.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Dr. Seuss on Marriage

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose

There may be some wisdom for us married couples buried in this simple Seuss observation. Specifically we have a choice in how we view our marriage, in how we think about our husband/wife; in how we talk to our mate; how we treat our spouse and in how we talk about them to ourselves and others. We make those choices throughout the day. We can focus on our partner’s little idiosyncrasies, the ones that drive us nuts, or we can choose to reflect on their admirable qualities. We can choose to dwell on how he/she has failed to meet our expectations or think about those things that our praise worthy. We can tell friends and family about how our needs are not being met or we can or we can share what is good, wholesome and positive about the person we have married. We can mumble and grumble during the day about the shortcomings of our spouse or we can remember those positive virtues that drew us together in the first place.

Dr. John Gottman, a professor and highly regarded researcher in the area of marriage, claims to be able to predict with 94 percent accuracy which couples will stay married and which will divorce. It is not surprising that what we say about our spouse, what we think about our marriage and the way in which we interact with our spouse will contribute to the success of our marriage or its demise.

Gottman has found that four specific behaviors are present in marriages that are near the brink of failing:
(1) Criticism – attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with blame, instead of focusing on a specific behavior or issue.
(2) Contempt – intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. This can manifest itself in sarcastic humor, insults, body language, etc. A genuine lack of respect.
(3) Defensiveness – is characterized by behavior that is unwillingness to accept responsibility, that makes excuses, that blame shifts and that is quick to play “yes-but” to name a few.
(4) Stonewalling – is exhibited when one or the other partner begins to regularly tune the other out. It is though you are talking to the wall.

The cure – apply Philippians 4:8
8For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Marriage Referee - You Have to be Kidding

I must be honest; I am not a television watcher per se.  I was an ardent fan of the evening version of the Cooking Channel when they actually cooked and shared recipes.  While I think Guy Fieri is engaging I don’t particularly enjoy watching him drive around the country and eat.  Where do you apply for that job?  Then there is the Iron Chef whose producers expect me to believe that the chefs learn of the secret ingredient at the same time as I do.  That is about as believable as me trying to convince you that having a root canal is a pleasurable experience.  So it was not without some angst that I said to myself “self you need to watch that new TV show “The Marriage Ref”.
If you are not familiar with the format the show has a host who introduces three celebrities who along with himself judge the merits of a domestic dispute.  If the episode I saw is typical this is meant to be a comedy.  The celebrities tend to be comedians and the disputes tend to be over trivial matters.  The partners make their case hoping to sway the judges to agree with their respective position.  A decision is rendered on the spot and the participating couples appear to be reasonably good sports.

A Nielson Rating above zero would be a travesty, “Wrestle-mania” would be more intellectually stimulating.   Why would a couple go on national TV to air an inane dispute over whether they should have meat loaf or cucumber sandwiches for dinner?  And then have four people, two of whom who have divorced over lesser issues, make fun of you. 

As someone who was around when the Red Sea was parted, I understand that my view may be that of an old curmudgeon.  Is it fair to say that the institution of marriage is not held in the highest esteem by our twenty-somethings?  Somewhere around half of all marriages end in divorce.  It stands to reason that at least another 25% are most unhappy but staying together.  Wouldn’t it serve the greater good to have a program that portrayed marriage in a positive light, where the husband is characterized as one who is a competent leader of his household and not some blithering idiot, and that his wife is an intelligent and respectful helpmate instead of one who covets her neighbor’s husband.

Who in their right mind would ever watch a program like that?   I used to – it was called the Cosby Show.                        

Your thoughts?