I was recently at a leadership event where a very well-known speaker was talking about the importance of being self-aware. There were probably about 3000 leaders in the room and he asked us two questions:
- “How many of you would say that self deception is something you really struggle with, or a significant problem in your life?” (About 10% of the people raised their hands.)
- “How many of you know someone who is really self deceived?” (Nearly the entire room raised their hands.)
Unless everyone in the room was thinking of the same person, do you see the statistical problem?
What’s worse: We don’t know we’re blind.
Sure, we can see other people’s sin just fine. We’re experts at that. But when it comes to our own sin, we simply can’t examine ourselves as clearly as we need to.
The same is true of marriage. Your spouse is more aware of your sin than you. I know it stinks. But it’s true. And, you are more aware of your spouse’s sin than they are.
Why You And Your Spouse Need To Be Confronted
Satan wants to use this “secret knowledge” you and your spouse possess to deftly destroy you and your marriage. But God wants to leverage it for good. More specifically, He wants to use it to grow you both to become more like Christ.
This side of Heaven, one of the most significant things God is up to with you is growing you to be more like Him–for His glory, and for your own good (not to mention the good of those around you, who are consistently hurt by you). And in order for you to be more like Him, you have to be made aware of ways you aren’t like Him.
The person who knows you most intimately and thoroughly is in the optimal position to help you see things about yourself you can’t see.
Insert your spouse.
That’s why it’s so important for a husband and wife to have an environment where the truth can be spoken in love.
Since marriage reveals what’s wrong with you, your relationship extends a unique opportunity to observe areas of your lives requiring the most urgent attention. If you always ignore your spouse’s sin, you are directly opposing one of God’s purposes for you as a spouse. Worse–and detrimental to you and your marriage– you’re obstructing the volume of growth your spouse experiences.
Before You Confront
Before confronting your spouse, always take a look at yourself first. Is there any way you might be influencing your spouse’s behavior? Notice the word, “Influence”. You aren’t ever the cause of their sinful behavior, but are you creating a supportive and helpful environment for them to overcome their sin? If not, start with confession. Always start with your own heart. Click HERE to better understand what confession looks like.
Should You Confront?
Sometimes, overlooking how your spouse was wrong is the best way to express your love and help prepare them to receive correction at a later time.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
Think about how God deals with us for a second.
Our sin against God outnumbers the cells of our bodies he put together. Yet God in his wisdom doesn’t choose to overwhelm us with all of our sin all at once. He chooses to reveal our sin strategically so that we are in the best position to accept it and make things right. In fact, if he were to reveal all of our sin to us at once I believe we might be crushed with despair to the point of death.
God isn’t out to crush us. He’s out to restore us.
Because of this He reveals our sin to us in a way that primes us for restoration. We should mirror this mentality when it comes to our spouse.
Even though we will be confronted with the reality of our spouse’s sin every day, this doesn’t mean we should be following them around confronting them 24/7. Neither does this mean compiling a mental–or heaven forbid written–sin spreadsheet on our spouse just waiting for the “right time” to confront them. Remember? Love keeps no record of wrongs. Don’t do it.
We should keep an eye out for appropriate ways to overlook our spouse’s sin.
When you choose to overlook you are making a decision to actively love your spouse without letting the offense stand in the way. You could summarize overlooking as follows:
Overlooking = Forgiveness + Active Love
Here’s some things to help you consider whether to overlook or confront your spouse:
- It is a minor offense
- It is a matter of preference
- It isn’t causing any harm to others
- It isn’t causing harm to your spouse’s walk with Christ
- It is part of a longer-term problem of which your spouse is already aware, which is already actively worked on and might require a lifetime to overcome
Don’t overlook if…
- It is a serious offense
- It is a clear and increasingly severe issue of sin
- It is causing physical or emotional harm to you or others
- You are experiencing increased bitterness, fear, or anxiety in response to this behavior or sin.
How To Confront Your Spouse
Strictly after you have navigated the previous steps, be willing to verbalize, “You were wrong,” speaking the truth in love.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Here are a few tips as you consider what it looks like to speak the truth in love to your spouse.
|Focus On||Rather Than|
|One Issue||Many Issues|
|The Problem||The Person|
|Facts||Judgment of Motives|
|“I” Statements||“You” Statements|
|Understanding||Who’s Winning or Losing|
***Chart adapted from FamilyLife’s Art of Marriage Workbook
With all of this in mind, and if you decide confronting your spouse is the most restorative and loving thing to do, I want to suggest you speak the truth in love using a two-step process:
- Commit. Affirm your commitment to the marriage and your love for your spouse. Maybe something like, “I love you, I’m committed to you, and I’m hopeful about the ways we can grow through this together.”
- Confront. With a heart to truly help your spouse change to become more like Christ, gently attempt to help them see what they can’t see. “I feel ____________ when you _______________ It would mean a lot to me if you would ______________.”
Confronting your spouse isn’t easy but it’s a key ingredient of a healthy marriage. Be willing, but also be careful. Read what Galatians 6:1 says:
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
Typically the temptation for conflict to happen during a confrontation occurs when we start to take too much responsibility for the change that we want to see happen in our spouse. When we confront with a spirit of control, the confrontation will typically turn into conflict.
God wants to use you in the process of restoring and changing your spouse but remember that he is the author of that change…not you. Surrender your confrontation to God before you speak. Ask him to use your confrontation in the process of change, but trust him with the timing.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.