“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.