I’m no expert on any of this and am just learning what the Lord has to teach me as I go, but if you’re interested in bumbling along with me, you can read all of the posts in this series here.
I’m assuming you’ve heard of this lady named Oprah, yes? And the power of something called “positive self-talk?”
Not that Oprah created the concept or anything. But when I think of personal pep talks, she definitely comes to mind.
I’m honestly not super-great at positive self-talk. I can beat myself up with the best of them. But I can also be disdainful in general of the potency of motivational quotes and rah-rah speeches. Probably because, deep down, I’m a bit of a cynic (I prefer “realist,” but when the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, semantics are pretty moot).
And yet, I can’t ignore Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
And I would assume that includes the things we tell ourselves.
It definitely includes the things we say about our husbands.
Which is why–in many ways–positive husband talk is one of the best things we (I, me…preaching to myself) can do for our marriages.
I am blessed to be surrounded by women, who, in general, speak positively about their husbands. I have several close Christian friends who have never “husband-bashed” in my presence. And unless I have a serious case of marriage amnesia, I think I can claim the same.
I mean, honestly, Shaun is pretty easy to praise. He’s kind. He’s witty. He works hard. He’s a great daddy. He loves the Lord. He’s genuinely my best friend. And he’s super hot too, so there’s that.
I have few (if any) legitimate complaints.
And any I do have are usually brief and certainly don’t bear airing to anyone else but him (or the Lord).
STILL! This does not mean that I’m always perfect in the way that I speak to him. (Or about him, although this is not my main struggle).
Recently, two incidents came to my attention that made me analyze more closely how I communicate my regard for my husband to him and to others.
In one case, the claim was legitimate. I was tired/hormonal (not an excuse, but it was the context), and I responded shortly/dismissively/disrespectfully to one of his requests in front of someone else. And that person noticed! I have since apologized to Shaun, but that incident is lodged in my mind as an example of a time when I failed to present a godly snapshot of marriage.
In the other example, my “rudeness” was completely misunderstood as I was only pretending as part of an inside joke between me and Shaun–one that he finds hilarious and one that it never occurred to me could be misconstrued. But still. It affected this person’s opinion of my treatment of my husband.
What we say about and to our spouses matters (duh) but, especially (for women), in the context of how we display respect to our husbands. (Because I don’t know a single man who values “lovey dovey” over words of acknowledgement, affirmation, and praise).
I have an acquaintance who has mentioned several times that she becomes frustrated with the way her husband goes about certain tasks and that she would just rather do them herself. She’s not negative, per se. Simply dismissive. And yet, I can’t help but have a different view of her husband (and their relationship) than I would otherwise have.
I overheard another conversation recently (because I was in close vicinity and incapable of moving) about a wife’s refusing to even consider her husband’s wishes on a certain subject that I can’t unhear, and it has–whether it should or not–created an image of their marriage in my mind.
I’m not saying we should lie. Or that we should present a rosy picture when there is genuine conflict at home. I’m just saying that proclaiming it to the world–like a stranger in a restaurant the other day was doing too loudly for me to ignore–is doing no one (least of all, us) any good.
Yesterday, with at least mild fear and trembling, I asked Shaun if he felt like I used kind, respectful words with him in general (because I know the answer to “all the time” is no).
His response? “In general? Yeah! I mean, sometimes, you can be short. But for the most part, yeah.”
Phew. I passed (although you could argue that what else is a guy going to say to his seven-month-pregnant wife if he values his life? ).
I knew what he meant, though. Especially in the last several months, there have been certain days when I’ve felt like I could crawl out of my skin with irritation for no good reason. (Thank you, pregnancy hormones). So, even though, for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this post, I generally find it easy to be nice to my husband, that’s not necessarily what actually comes out of my mouth if I’m especially tired. Or emotional. Or fed-up with kid drama. Or…
If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a justification for speaking snippily to my husband all day every day.
None of them would cover my sin, though.
And none of them would change the fact that–even when he takes it well or says he understands–I am not “building him up according to his needs.”
The Lord has been impressing this on my heart in pretty much every area of my speech lately, if I’m honest. But it might as well start with how I speak to and about the man God has given me to respect, love, and serve for a lifetime (because if I can’t speak words of life to him, how am I ever going to hack it with everybody else?).
But, Abbie. What if I struggle to find even one nice thing to think or say about my husband? I get this. Completely. Not about my husband. But about a different relationship in my life in which I fail miserably in this area more often than not.
And I have a challenge for both of us: let’s pray for the Lord to reveal one tiny thing for which we can praise this person. For at least one word that we can genuinely speak that will be “life” and not “death” to this person’s soul. No matter how much we think they don’t deserve it. (Because what do we deserve except eternal punishment and separation from God in hell? Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!) And for strength to keep our mouths shut until we hear from the Lord what that word might be.
And if you find your husband easy to praise, ask yourself: when was the last time I said out loud–either to him or to someone else–at least one of those good things I know to be true of him? I’ll be asking myself the same thing.
I’m not naive enough to think that every (or any?) marriage makes it so very easy to focus on spouse-thankfulness. But neither am I cynical enough to dismiss the benefits (to our husbands, to ourselves, and to those who hear us and are encouraged) when we choose praise over criticism. Not to mention that, when we do right, it brings glory to God!
I am grateful for the godly example of women who have realistic, yet unfailingly positive things to say to and about their husbands. And I pray the Lord would make me more like them each day.
Feel free to shout out something you love about your husband in the comments! (Just don’t forget to actually say it to him too ).