Woman #1: Every ounce of mental and emotional energy I have I need to survive this marriage. He’s so harsh and negative toward everyone and everything, that I don’t feel like I can even breathe.
Woman #2: I just don’t feel safe. His words, they cut like a knife.
Woman #3: He treats me like the enemy, but then he expects me to be available whenever he’s interested.
Woman #4: I’m tired of being his mother. He constantly blames and criticizes me for everything that goes wrong. Nothing is ever his fault.
John Fuller: Those comments reflect the pain and suffering that some women are facing maybe on a daily basis. It’s not the marriage they wanted or expected and now they feel trapped. Maybe you know how they feel. On today’s Focus on the Family, we’ll offer some understanding and hope to both men and women who are dealing with abusive, destructive relationships. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, this is such a difficult and challenging topic, especially in the Christian community. For me it’s hard to fathom how a loving couple who vowed to care for and cherish one another can become so dysfunctional in their marriage, but the research is clear. In America, nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute. One in four women and one in nine men will experience severe violence from someone they love. If this has been your experience, we grieve with you and for you. And we’re praying that you’ll get the help you need. We’re going to offer that help on today’s program along with some resources that can change the dynamic of your marriage.
John: Yeah, there is hope. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help. We do have caring, Christian counselors who are available to hear your story and advise you on some next steps towards healing. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And, of course, your call is confidential. And, Jim, we should note that abuse can go both ways. In a majority of cases, it seems, wives and girlfriends are the victims of physical, emotional, and other kinds of abuse, but men can be victimized as well.
Jim: That’s an important point, John. And, men, we get it. We know you’re out there and we want to present a balanced message here. But our guest today specializes in counseling women who are experiencing abuse and much of our conversation will be within that context. The fact is, we don’t focus on this issue enough. We need to bring it into the light so we can better understand what abuse is and learn from it. And, ultimately, bring God’s healing and restoration to broken relationships.
John: Our guest is certainly qualified to do just that. Leslie Vernick is a licensed, clinical social worker. She is committed to rescuing people trapped in destructive relationships and knows first-hand what those kids of relationships are like. Leslie has written a book called The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. And here’s how Jim started the conversation on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Paint a picture for us, because you do work with so many couples and so many women. What does this look like? I think we all understand physical abuse and the idea that we need to protect ourselves from that. If you’re in that kind of relationship, you need to seek safety, get out of that physical location, all those things that we’ll talk about in a while. But paint that picture for us, what we’re talking about with emotional destructive abuse.
Mrs. Leslie Vernick: You know, the church has rather been silent on that whole topic. They’ve sort of said, of course, if your husband is beating you or threatening to kill you, if he stabbed you, of course, you need to leave. But you know, the Bible is quite clear that reckless words for example, pierce like a sword.
Leslie: And that life and death is in the power of the tongue and that God’s Word is clear that what we say and how we say things to people regularly over time can affect their spirit. “A broken heart or a crushed spirit, who can bear?” And so, I think that God validates the reality of our harsh words on someone’s soul, spirit, and body. And I think we as Christians, need to validate that, too. Now we all say bad things at times. That doesn’t mean that it’s gonna crush a person. But when that continues day after day, week after week, as in a marriage when you’re with someone all the time and they’re constantly belittling you or demeaning you or disrespecting you with their words or their tone, rolling their eyes, snickering at whatever you say, it begins to undermine who you are as a person and it can destroy you.
Jim: Leslie, we’re talking today predominantly about women that are on the – the wrong end of this, where their husbands are approaching life in that way. Perhaps people feel that they’re in sync with the Lord and they’re going to church and they’re paying tithes and they’re doing everything they need to do. But verbally, they can attack with their words. We don’t put it that kind of category. Help us better understand why this is as important. You just get a bit of that, but you gotta get through our thick heads as men. So, why – you know, that little sarcasm, that – that negative thing that we say, almost sometimes we think as humorously, is really destructive.
Leslie: Well, I think the biggest thing that a man needs to understand, as well as a woman, is if someone says “Ouch,” like this isn’t funny to me, this hurts, that that’s when the person, the spouse, whether it’s a man or a woman, needs to wake up and realize that I don’t get pleasure at someone else’s expense and then expect to have a good relationship with them. And so, if your wife or your husband is saying to you, you know, the way that you talk to me is demeaning and disrespectful and it cuts me off at the knees and it makes me feel like I can’t even respond. It makes me feel crazy inside, because we never have a conversation that goes anywhere. Um, it’s always a blame or an attack, shifting truth around and reality is distorted. I can’t know you and have a conversation with you if we can’t talk about things honestly and freely. And so, whether it’s a man who’s doing that or a woman who’s doing that or both, um ,when one person is giving someone feedback, that this isn’t working for them, that’s when the person needs to wake up and say, “Okay, what do we need to do differently?” But in destructive marriages, that doesn’t happen.
Jim: Give us, uh, more of the example, because again, you counsel with so many couples. Uh, you touched on it there, where a man might be verbally abusive. Play it out for us. What would be a statement that’s over the line?
Leslie: Okay, so let me give you an example that we would just drop our jaws at and it’s not a recognized form of abuse, but it is abuse. And I’ll call it “indifference.” Indifference to a person’s feelings, just like we talked about, can be abuse if it’s regular and repetitive. So, Susan – I can’t remember the name I called her in the book, but I’ll call her Susan now, she felt her husband had been ignoring her for long periods of time. Anytime she would ask him for attention or take a walk, have a conversation, do something together, he would always have something more important to do, whether it’s his sports, his work, his television, whatever, what he wanted to do always came first, except for sex. When he wanted sex, he expected her to be immediately available and warm and loving and friendly. And she found that, over time, harder and harder to do. So, she wired up her courage and we worked together on her having a very direct, but respectful conversation with her husband and this is what she told him. She said, “You know, honey, I know that you are unhappy with our sex life and that you’d like me to be more warm and responsive in the bedroom. But I just can’t manufacture those feelings when you ignore me for long periods of time, and we don’t have anything else in common. We don’t do anything together. You ignore me most of the time and whenever I ask you for something, you shoot me down. Wouldn’t you rather have a wife who’s loving and warm and friendly in the bedroom than someone who’s just doing her wifely duty?” So, that was the question she asked him. You know what his response was? “Of course, I would, but if wifely duty is all I get, it’s good enough.”
Jim: Hmm, wow.
Leslie: Now that statement completely cut her off at the knees, because what he’s really saying to her is that you are an object to use, not a woman to love and that completely crushed her spirit. And how’s a woman to live like that in a long-term relationship?
Jim: Well, and that – what shocks me in that statement is the lack of desire on the husband’s part to actually want to do better. I think there is – and it could be an excuse, but some men again, we’re thinking in a one-directional way. We struggle thinking in multiple layers (laughing), and you probably know that. But it’s not an excuse. I mean, when your spouse says to you, “I need help,” there needs to be a response that’s affirming and hopefully, a thankful heart to say, “Thank you for pointing out these blind spots.” Why’s it so difficult for men to react in the better way?
Leslie: I think two – men have two things – destructive men have two things in common that are real Achilles heels for their growth. One is, they cannot tolerate hearing any negative feedback about themselves. So, when a woman would say something like that, instead of reflecting and saying, “Wow, boy, she’s really hurt. I never thought about it that way before. I need to get my act together,” they will crush her, or they will withdraw from her, but they won’t listen to her. And so, the behavior never changes, because he’s not willing to hear it. It’s sort of like when you look in the mirror and you see that you have dirt on your face. Most people would then self-correct. They would say, “Oh, my gosh, the feedback from the mirror is telling me something’s wrong. I need to do something differently.” But for these men, when they receive feedback from their wives that something they’re doing is painful, harmful, destructive, foolish, you know, “Don’t spend the money on that investment. That’s gonna crash the bank.” They won’t hear her, and they will use the headship card. “I’m the head. I get to make the final say.” And then she has no say, no voice and their finances go down the tubes and she’s supposed to just submit and be happy and never mention it again.
Jim: I want to bring a little bit of balance to this, because uh, again, where is that line where, um, you’re both trying hard. You want to do the right thing. You want to be all you can be to your spouse, in this case, to your wife. But yet, you fall short. Where is that line between abuse and just normal trying to do better and falling short sometimes?
Leslie: You make a great point, Jim, and we’re not talking about that kind of marriage in this book. The kind of marriage you just mentioned is a disappointing marriage or a difficult marriage, okay. So, a disappointing marriage, you know, no couple has all 52 cards in their marriage. There are some things that are missing, and you learn to live with that graciously and you forbear, and you endure, and you grow, and you work together and that’s how it is. And that’s how most of our marriages are. Maybe I’d like to write a book someday, “How Do You Live in a C-Minus Marriage?” because a lot of people are in a C-minus marriage most of the time. They have A-plus moments and they have D-minus moments and most of the time, it’s C, C-minus. And we need to learn how to live that way in a godly way. But we’re not talking about that kind of marriage in this book. We’re also not talking about a difficult marriage. A difficult marriage is where there’s a lot of external stressors. Um, there could be in-law problems, job stressors, financial difficulties, special-needs children, personality differences, values differences. And how a couple negotiates those, if they’re both willing to be respectful and both willing to work on things, a difficult marriage doesn’t need to turn destructive. But that’s not what we’re talking about in these marriages. You said, “How do they do it when they both are really trying hard?” In the destructive marriage, both aren’t trying really hard. One isn’t trying at all.
Jim: What about, uh, for the wife that is hearing this discussion. She’s thinking, “Okay, that is my husband. I’ve been trying for years to talk to him about this. He seems to respond occasionally, but he gets a C-minus. Um, he’s still grading in that area.” What are some things that she can do to better arrest his attention, to get control here?
Leslie: I talk a lot about that in my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, because when husband is acting wrong, I think there are things that we can do to influence and invite our spouse into healthy change. And so, when we as a woman, talk in a respectful, non-demeaning, non-shaming way to our husband, when we continue to encourage them and affirm them in the things that they’re doing right, I think most men want to be better men. Most men want to be good husbands. Most men want to make their wives happy. And so, I think a woman has a lot of power in a C-minus marriage to perhaps encourage her husband in certain areas. But I also think she needs to understand that there may be certain areas that he never is able to change or wants to change. I’ll just give you my own personal story. My husband may not want me to say this (chuckling), but I’ll say it anyway, um, because I don’t mind. He’s not a A-plus handyman around the house.
Jim: (Chuckling) Okay, I’m…
Jim: …I’m with him. (Laughter)
John: He’s probably painfully aware of that fact.
Leslie: And he’s painfully aware and you know what? It doesn’t bother him a lick.
Leslie: He doesn’t care he’s not a A-plus handyman. My father was an A-plus handyman, so when we got married, I was looking for an A-plus handyman and that wasn’t his deal. He grew up in an apartment. He didn’t need to fix a whole lot of things. His dad didn’t need to fix a whole lot of things, so he never learned those things. And he can fix some things, but most of the time we hire out for those things. And I have come to just – that’s okay. He doesn’t need to improve that. He doesn’t need to work on that. Um, that’s who he is. That’s what he is. He doesn’t like to do those things. He does a lot of other things that are wonderful. But that’s not what we’re talking in these kind of marriages. We’re not talking about C-minus. We’re talking about D-minus and F behaviors.
Jim: Let’s talk about the shoe being on the other foot, as well, since we’re on the subject. How often does the abuse go the other direction, that, uh, you know, a husband is trying the best he can and his wife’s not responding either. Maybe she’s over the years developed quite a callous and there’s a lot of suspicion about the husband’s motivations. But sometimes the shoe is on the other foot.
Leslie: Well, absolutely and I debated long and hard when I wrote this book if I was gonna write it to men and women or just to women. And I have just been torn by that, because I did write a – an article, “Men Are Victims of Domestic Abuse” as well. And so, I have information on my website for them. But in the end, I felt like I had a better audience with women to talk to them about the things I wanted to say. And I used up every single word they allowed me and so, I didn’t have enough room to (laughter)…
Jim: Oh, there you go.
Leslie: …Include men in the book. But yes, men can be victims of abuse, too.
John: What does that look like, Leslie? And – and how often do you see that in couples?
Leslie: You know, I’d like to tell men who are listening to this story, that I’m not anti-men. I have a great husband. I have a great father, who rescued me from an abusive mother, and I shared that story in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. So, I grew up with an abusive mother and I grew up watching my mother abuse my father verbally. So, I lived that story and so, I definitely know that occurs. I know that there are good men who try really hard. But I wrote this book for women who are in the situation, but I don’t let women off the hook, because when you are abused, you can lob some pretty abusive verbal bombs back of your own after you get good and angry. And so, part of what I try to help a woman is, how do you deal with this situation in a godly way? Because you can become destroyed either by becoming full of depression and self-hatred or you can become destroyed by becoming an abuser yourself.
Jim: Well, let me make sure I understand you. What you’re saying is, those that are being destroyed can end up being destroyers.
Leslie: They absolutely can.
Jim: You have to be careful of that…
Leslie: That’s right.
Jim: …As well.
John: Hm. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest today is Leslie Vernick sharing insights from her book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and you can get your copy at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to the conversation with Leslie Vernick on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Leslie, let’s speak to the woman. Maybe you could describe for me a woman that is in a – an abusive relationship, but help me better understand because I’m maybe lost in that. I don’t realize that I am. It’s probably common because everybody thinks everybody else is kind of reacting or living in the same soup that this person’s living in. How does that realization hit as you’ve seen that work experientially in your practice? When does a woman go, “Wow! That is me and I’m in trouble.”
Leslie: You know, I think that a lot of times that’s true. We live with something. It’s sort of like the frog in the boiling water. They live in it for so long, they don’t realize they’re being burned. Um , and so, I think that when a woman begins to wake up and realize that, “Oh, my gosh, I’m in a destructive marriage. I’m in an abusive marriage,” they have one of two reactions. Either they can begin to start retaliating with some verbal – I wouldn’t say abuse of their own, but trying to be stronger, trying to stand up for themselves. And they may not do it in the right way, so it makes things worse. And then they start to shut down. Or they may try to shut down and just try to pretend all is well. And I think in the Christian community, we’ve encouraged women to sort of – to do the latter. We’ve encouraged them to just shut up, put up with it, that he’s a sinner. You’re a sinner. Forgive him. Love him better and hopefully, he’ll come around. And that does not work in these kind of situations. If you chronically feel afraid in your marriage, that’s a sign that you’re in a destructive relationship. You shouldn’t feel afraid in your marriage.
Jim: Now you mean physically afraid.
Leslie: Physically afraid, emotionally afraid, financially afraid…
Leslie: …Sexually afraid, spiritually afraid. You can’t open your mouth without something coming at you that’s gonna hurt you. You feel afraid.
Leslie: You know, and so, those are all ways that someone can be harsh, hard or dominate and have control over you. And so, when you feel afraid in your marriage, then that’s a red flag. If you’re afraid in your dating relationship, that’s a red flag. If you feel chronically controlled, like you have no choice. You have no voice. You have to do what the other person says. You can never say no. It never goes your way. It’s all about them all the time. Then that’s a destructive relationship, because you’re not free to be the person that God’s called you to be. You’re not free to be yourself. You’re not free – free to express your own opinion or your own ideas without being shot down or snickered at or told you’re ridiculous or crazy or ungodly or unspiritual, stupid. Another thing is, if a woman feels – or a man – feels confused, like, “Wait a minute I thought we agreed to this and now you’re doing that.” And that happens a lot. Or, “I thought you told me this and now you’re saying you didn’t say that. Wait a minute. I thought we had this conversation and now you’re saying we never had this conversation.”
Jim: So, really knowing reality.
Leslie: That’s right and you’re constantly scratching your head saying – let me give you an example. (clearing throat) A woman told me, she said, “I told my husband that I was really angry that he was late.” He didn’t come home from work for two hours and I said, “All you need to do is give me a phone call. I totally understand that your schedule’s variable and sometimes things come up. Just be respectful and call me.” “Okay, I’ll call you.” So, the next time he’s late, she said, “You told me you’d call me.” He goes, “I never said that. You’re just being controlling. You’re trying to control my life.” And she’s like, “What! I thought we had this conversation. I thought we were gonna agree that you were gonna call me and now you’re calling me controlling because all I want is a little respect.” And these kind of circular crazy-making conversations go on over and over and over again. And so, you constantly feel confused.
Jim: Leslie, how much of these behavior patterns do we actually bring into the marriage? I mean, you talked about watching as a young girl your mother and father and your mother abusing your father. So, you come into marriage bringing a certain amount of baggage in that regard. You maybe haven’t seen a healthy, uh, marital relationship. So, you’re modeling these things. How do you sit down early on in your relationship and in your marriage to understand what’s coming into the marriage and how we need to help one another? Can you be that honest in your first, second, third year of marriage?
Leslie: I think you’re gonna have to be if you want to change those patterns. You know, everybody comes into marriage with suitcases.
Leslie: You said “baggage,” suitcases. And it’s really important to know what’s in your suitcase and it’s really important to figure out what’s in your spouse’s suitcase, too. And if the two of you can work on that and talk about that and understand how family patterns or family of origin patterns or what you thought was normal is not normal at all. I remember a woman saying to me (chuckling) in my counseling office, she said, “Well, how often does your husband curse at you?” And I said, “My husband’s never cursed at me.”
Leslie: “Really! Never, ever?” “Never, never cursed at me once.” She looked at me like I was lying. She goes, “I don’t know a single other woman in all of my family, we’ve been Christians for generations, that their husband doesn’t curse them out. I can’t believe your husband doesn’t curse at you.” Because for her, it was totally normal that, that should happen in a family…
Leslie: …Even from a man who’s an elder, a man who’s a pastor, a man who says he’s a Christian…
Leslie: …That he has no problem verbally abusing her with bad words.
John: You’re touching on something, Leslie, that I think we should probably address just head on and that is, that many of us in the Christian community don’t realize that there are abusive marriages around us. What are some of the signs that we can look for and how can we even begin to help somebody see that’s not normal? Uh, what you just described there, a husband cursing at his wife all the time, that’s just not normal.
Leslie: Is it not only not normal, it’s not healthy or godly. And I think we’ve been afraid to say that. I think we’ve just been afraid in the church to say that to – to one another. I remember getting a phone call. I get phone calls all the time from people I don’t know at all, but she said, “I’m a small group leader and I have a couple in my group and I just sense there’s something wrong with their marriage.” You wonder, how do you tell? She goes, “The wife never can talk. Every time we talk about something, she’s always looking to her husband. You know, am I saying the right thing? Can I say this? Is it okay with you? Are you gonna be mad at me? But she won’t open up her mouth until she gets his okay that she can speak. Whenever she says something that he doesn’t like, you know, he nudges her, and she shuts down. If he says, ‘We’re going now,’ she can’t say, ‘Well, wait a minute. I’m finishing up my conversation.’ She shuts down and goes.” And so, she knows that this woman doesn’t have the freedom to speak up, to be herself, but that she’s under the thumb of her husband. And she said, “What do I do? I feel so afraid for her.”
Jim: Well, and you’re describing there a – a control factor, it sounds like to me, that you know, that other person, that husband is trying to utterly control his spouse and…
Leslie: That’s right.
Jim: …The unhealthy nature of that.
Leslie: That’s right, but sometimes we get really confused in the church, because we – some men and some teaching in churches describe headship with – synonymous with “control.” Like if I’m the head, I get the final say. If I’m the head, I get to tell you what to wear. If I’m the head, I get to tell you what to do, because I’m the husband and I get my way. And it becomes very confusing when you’re growing up in that kind of church and when you’ve heard those kind of words all your life, to stand up against that and say, “Wait a minute. I don’t think that’s what the Bible says when it describes headship.”
Jim: And frankly, that distortion is what gives fuel to those who oppose the Gospel, uh, especially in the feminist movement, to point out to these examples where that definition being distorted ends up communicating to the world something that’s not truly from God’s heart.
Leslie: Well, let me give you a story that is – is an absolute true story. I’m gonna change a little of the details, but – but I worked with a woman who was very afraid of her husband. He never physically abused them at all, but he was very scary emotionally and would rage, break things, pound fists – holes in the wall. (Clearing throat) One day his daughter didn’t do something that she should’ve done, and he was berating her, and the woman was getting stronger. And she said, “I want you to go to your room.” She said that to her daughter. And she said to her husband, “Please, you know, stop talking to her that way. That’s not good for her.” Well, he began raging even worse, throwing things around. So, she ran to the bedroom with her daughter, locked the door and he said, “Open the door.” He’s pounding then on – pounding, pounding, pounding. Finally, she’s scare – was scared and called 911 and the police came. Her pastor was so against what this woman did because she called the authorities, because it’s his house and if he wants to break down the door, it’s his house. He can break down the door. She had no right to lock the door and she had no right to call the police and they put her under church discipline…
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Leslie: …For that.
Jim: For protect – because she was trying to protect herself…
Leslie: Protect herself…
Jim: …And her daughter.
Leslie: …And her daughter.
Jim: Well, that unfortunately, is again, in my opinion, just a real misapplication of that headship. And in fact, Leslie, you speak in, uh, your book, you talk about Genesis 2 and the “helpmate.” As we close today, give a better definition and what the Scripture’s actually telling us there in what the helpmate truly is.
Leslie: You know, so often we’ve told women to just be quiet and prop your husband up. Be his helpmate and – and which we really said is being his enabler. Enable him to just continue to sin without (laughing) any consequence. And that is absolutely the worst thing a woman can do, especially early in the marriage, because if she can be a strong helpmate early in the marriage, she can begin to change some destructive patterns before they become entrenched in the relationship.
Jim: Leslie, I want to make sure everyone is hearing what you’re saying. Really, the goal and I believe this, uh, the reason God brings two people together is, so that we can become better and more focused on Him. And as a helpmate, what I hear you saying is so awesome, that the Lord provides your helpmate so that she can make you a better person in God, that God’s character is shaped in you in part, because of her relationship in you. That you – together you guys are better and that’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?
Leslie: I’m saying that’s the possibility. That’s the goal and so, it takes a person to receive that fighting on their behalf. But if a woman knows how to do it wisely, there is amazing things that she can do. And I have seen men wake up when they know their wife is for them, but there are gonna be some tough consequences if they don’t wake up, because the…
Jim: That’s a…
Leslie: …Marriage is gonna be damaged.
John: This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest is Leslie Vernick, talking about her book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.
Jim: John, I really appreciate Leslie’s insights and her passion to help husbands and wives do better in their marriages. And when we aired this program in the past, we heard from so many of you about how it impacted your relationships. For example, a man named Mark described how his wife has been emotionally abusive over the course of their 15 year marriage. But he was quick to add that he’s not exempt from being abusive to her in return. That’s a common dynamic in marriages today. If you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you back. But Mark went on to say how thankful he was that we addressed this hot issue, and that it inspired him to call us for help with his marriage. That’s exactly why Focus is here. And why we’re sharing this program today. We want to bring hope and healing to more marriages just like Mark’s. And if we can do that for you and your spouse, contact us. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait 15 years to find a better way to live. God’s got a plan for your marriage, and we’d love to help you get on the road to restoration.
John: It all begins with that call and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with one of our Christian counselors who can pray with you and hear you out and then point to resources that we have. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Another resource I highly recommend is Leslie’s great book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. This is a challenging message for all of us. But, the words we say, the non-verbals that we communicate without thinking can be so damaging to those we claim to love the most. And I’d like to put a copy of this book into your hands. If you can send a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today, we’ll send a copy right out to you. That’s our way of saying thanks for helping us rescue hurting marriages and offer couples a better alternative.
John: Yeah. We hope you’ll join our support team. Again, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate and get Leslie’s book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Coming up next time, we’ll have Leslie back describing what a healthy relationship should look like.
Leslie: In a marriage, both people have to give honesty. They have to give caring. They have to give respect and both people have to give responsibility. In other words, I am gonna take some responsibility for the care and the maintenance of this relationship. And both people have to be willing to be repentant when they mess up.