Replacing Negativity with Grace

If you’ve been to any type of women’s gathering, odds are good that at some point in the conversation, talk has turned to husband bashing. If not bashing, at least complaining with heavy doses of negativity. And we all know it only takes one spark to start a forest fire. All it takes is one wife to fire the first shot, and all the other women dash through the starting gates like horses at a racetrack.

“I can’t stand it when my husband does (fill in the blank) …”

“Oh, me too!  Mine is worse!  He even (fill in the blank) …”

You know how it goes.

In this day and age, marriage is hardly held in high regard. Even those who are happily married still succumb to the temptation to badmouth their spouse when the opportunity is ripe.

In public:

 I’d venture to guess that the easiest place to speak negatively against one’s spouse is in public, when the other half is not present. It can happen all too fast, and often in the subtlest of ways. I so appreciate the policy of one godly woman in our church.  She has been married for over twenty years, and has much experience in women’s ministry. She knows how talk can turn on a dime from casual conversation to an onslaught of husband gossip. As soon as she catches the changing of the tide, she holds up her hand and says, “Nope!  Stop right there!”

In our homes:

Besides chit-chatting to others about what bothers us about our spouse, we can often be quick to verbalize those annoyances right to our spouse’s face.  “Geez, it really bugs me when you leave your wet towel on the bed!”  “Can’t you just put the peanut butter back where you got it when you’re done?”

Author Ashleigh Slater can relate. She and her husband, Ted, have found that it works to their advantage to practice grace when the nagging friend named Annoyance knocks on the door. She writes, ‪”The keys to our longevity are found in those moments we decide to assume the best of each other instead of the worst. In those times we choose forgiveness rather than bitterness. On those days we offer grace, not irritation.”

Wise words of advice.  Though the change might not happen over night, it is worth asking the Lord for help to tip the scales in favor of grace and forgiveness towards our spouse.

In our hearts:

From Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, we know that sin isn’t limited to the words that come out of our mouths. It originates in the fertile soil of our hearts.

The biting words that find their way out in frustration toward our mate have already germinated and found root in our hearts and minds before they are even verbalized — for “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  When we let negative thoughts grow and flower in the gardens of our minds, the evidence will soon be seen by all who pass by.

Strengthening the Team:

Here are some helpful questions we could be asking ourselves before we slide down the slippery slope of negative thinking and speaking:

  • Is what I’m about to say encouraging my spouse and building him up? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Am I taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ?  (2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Do my heart and attitude reflect the fact that my spouse and I are on the same team? (Matthew 19:6)

In her book, Team Us: Marriage Together, Ashleigh Slater gives numerous tips and practical suggestions for how to strengthen the team mentality in marriage. After all, as soon as we say, “I do,” we are no longer two, but one.

As Ashleigh points out, “…Unity flourishes when members of a team focus on and play to each other’s strengths, not weaknesses.”

The next time you are tempted to think or say something negative about your spouse, either to his face or to others, pause first and consider what’s best for the team.




Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging (2018), A Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief. She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing, editing, and digital marketing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@katemotaung).

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