This post on Sacred Marriage: Holy Honor was written by Jeffrey Chen, who is pursuing a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary. Jeffrey has a passion for sharing God’s love with those around him. He blogs at The Wayvy Life.
Hey everybody! Welcome to Week 5 of my series on “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, where we will be discussing chapter five of the book. The chapter is titled “Holy Honor: Marriage Teaches Us to Respect Others” and focuses on learning how to honor and respect our spouses. Thomas talks about how contempt can ruin relationships. When we grow in our disdain for our significant other, our hearts harden for each other. Instead, Thomas insists that we have contempt for contempt.
It can be difficult at times to not point out the shortcomings and flaws of our spouse. After all, we probably know them better than anybody else, and therefore know their strengths and weaknesses better than they may know themselves. It is tempting to tell them what they are doing wrong or could do better, believing this will help them improve as a person. However, while I believe criticism can be helpful at times, it is only helpful if it is provided with good intentions, and it is well received and accepted. This is not often the case unfortunately. Typically, we criticize others to make us feel better about ourselves, and this is understandably not usually taken well by our spouse. Contempt breeds contempt.
So how do we avoid the vicious cycle of unhealthy criticism and disdain for our partners or close friends? Fortunately, Thomas offers some insight into a few practical ways we can work on building contempt for contempt, instead of fighting contempt with more contempt. First, he tells us to adopt a holy double standard, meaning instead of focusing on what your spouse can improve upon, seek out how God can change you instead to be a better partner. Do not obsess over your spouse flaws. Rather, show them respect and compassion just as Jesus does for us despite our weaknesses, and become more like Jesus yourself to benefit your partner and your marriage.
Thomas also advises that we gain a new understanding of our partners. Shift the energy you spend on bringing them down to trying to understand them and their lives better. If you spend much of the day apart, take the time to really find out what their day is really like. Thomas suggests questions such as “What is the most difficult part of your day?”, “When do you feel like giving up?”, “Are parts of your day monotonous?”, and “Is there something you constantly fear?”. You’ll probably get some surprising answers, and realize that although their day may look quite differently from yours, it is just as hard and draining in its own unique way.
Finally, Thomas also suggests cultivating gratitude, which I am a huge proponent of. Do not take what routine duties your partner does for granted. Thank them for making a meal, bringing the kids to school, providing for the family, doing the laundry, helping out with dishes, playing with the kids, etc. Appreciate their efforts instead of growing comfortable in expecting them to do everything. As Thomas writes, “Contempt is conceived with expectations; respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.”
At the end of the day, anybody you are in relationship with is a broken person. They will always have flaws and screw up sometimes. It does no good to resent them for their mistakes. It does a lot of good to give them grace and remember they are a child of God. Have compassion for them when they fall short of perfection, and be thankful when they are caring and loving. They deserve to be respected and honored not because of what they do, but because of who they are – a creation of God. I hope you can learn to do this not just for your spouse if you have one, but for every single person you cross paths with in your journey of life. Just as Jesus loved all people while on Earth, God is pleased when we do the same.
As always, please feel free to reach out to me for feedback, questions, suggestions on topics, or anything else. I’m happy to chat about anything and everything. I hope you can take away something helpful form this post. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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