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Telling the Truth With Love and Respect

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People often decide that it is best to remain quiet when feeling unloved or disrespected. They suppress those feelings, but avoiding the real issue can actually be unloving or disrespectful.

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”
Ephesians 4:25 (NLT)

Can practicing love and respect in your marriage lead to acting “too nice” even when you feel hurt or irritated by something your spouse does? Husbands and wives seem equally affected by the idea that living the Love & Respect way (as explained in my books) means you must keep the peace by remaining silent to avoid conflict.

Avoidance isn’t healthy

My wife, Sarah, and I often talk to people who decide that somehow it is best to remain quiet when feeling unloved or disrespected. They reason that if they were “really spiritual,” they would not have negative feelings, so when irritations happen they suppress those feelings. We tell them that while they mean well with this approach, it is not healthy to be too accommodating on matters that matter. In fact, avoiding the real issue — feeling unloved or disrespected — can actually be unloving or disrespectful in the long run.

It may be tempting to avoid potential conflict by saying nothing, but Scripture does not advise this approach. While there is “a time to be silent,” there is also “a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7, NIV). And as difficult as it may be, during those “times to speak,” we should be truthful. Your spouse deserves the truth from you, even if you are prone to “put yourself in neutral” and let others push you around. Take small but steady steps to learn to decode your negative feelings, and then be honest with your mate. The key, of course, is to tell the truth honestly and gently.

A gentle answer

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to “be honest” in a way that triggers an argument. Then it’s natural enough to conclude that your spouse did not want to hear what you had to say. Not so. The way in which we speak incites the conflict, not the content.

So we need to change our speaking ways, as did one wife who needed to speak up truthfully to ask what her husband was truly feeling, as well as to make clear how she was feeling. She explained, “My biggest struggle is with assuming that he is thinking bad things about me, and with reading bad intentions into his innocent statements. Gradually, I’m learning to communicate my fears to him, to react in a more respectful manner when I’m feeling hurt, and to accept the love that he shows me in so many ways.”

This lady gets it. Ephesians 4:25 is positioned within a larger context that has much to say about Christian relationships, including marriage. When he wrote to the church in Ephesus, Paul told them to “throw off your old sinful nature … let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:22-23 NLT). Then, in his first specific suggestion for how to do this, he said, “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body” (Ephesians 4:25) When Paul told the Ephesians to “tell the truth,” he was adding holy emphasis from the Old Testament by quoting Zechariah 8:16. A prophet to Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon to rebuild the temple, Zechariah spelled out how they could know God’s blessing: “These are things which you should do: speak the truth to one another, judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates” (NASB). From the Old Testament to the New, God places a premium on telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When Paul said, “We are all parts of the same body,” he spoke of the church body, which certainly includes all married believers. Then, too, who is a closer “neighbor” than your spouse?

Your spouse deserves the truth from you. Do your best to tell it with love and respect.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is the author of Love & Respect. This article was adapted from his book The Love & Respect Experience: A husband-friendly devotional that wives truly love.

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There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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