The Anatomy of Harshness
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
In years of counseling couples, I’ve seen many a marriage torn apart by a husband’s harshness towards his wife. This attitude is so opposite of how many marriages begin – the man deeply in love with the woman of his dreams. It’s so opposite of everything that we recognize as the calling of God on the Christian husband – to love his wife as Christ loved the church when he laid down his life for her. How, then, are so many marriages lead to destruction by the harsh words and critical behavior of husbands?
How does harshness begin?
Harshness begins with seeing another woman.
I don’t mean a real woman. That’s not the temptation which first distracts the husband who is still enthralled with love for his wife. No, this sort of unfaithfulness is far, far harder to recognize as it slowly takes root in a husband’s heart. It’s a temptation which seems, at first, quite noble and godly.
I mean an ideal woman. A husband keeps in his mind a vision of a perfected, flawless, faultless version of the wife that he’s married to. He becomes attached to this woman, his idealized wife, instead of the very real and fallible woman that he’s married to.
And so, he begins to try to transform the wife he has, with her ways, into the way he wants his wife to be. He proceeds to point out where she falls short.
Harshness starts in man’s ever-analytical mind – and exits through the mouth, in the form of criticism:
Why aren’t you more disciplined? . . .
Why are you putting on weight? . . .
Why don’t you put your things away? . . .
Why don’t you want more sex? . . .
Why are you always late? . . .
Why is the house a mess? . . .
Why don’t you do more? . . .
Why don’t you have goals? . . .
He tries to carve and chisel her into the image in his head. And it hurts!
Men, critiquing your wife’s performance is does not help her! Most wives want to please their husbands, and our criticisms act like toxic barbs. They’re demoralizing. Over time, they make our wives defensive and combative.
What do you do when the weaknesses of your wife are exposed?
So many men become worried:
Did I marry the right person? . . .
Did I miss the early warning signs? . . .
Will it be like this the rest of my life? . . .
How will this impact my goals . . . my future? . . .
And so, they start disrespecting her opinions, correcting the way she uses words, stifling her initiatives with a laundry-list of reasons why she’s bound to fail.
But, men, love does not do this! Love is not harsh. Love is not critical when someone fails to meet up to its standards. It doesn’t worry about problems. It welcomes problems.
What did Christ do in order to perfect the church? When we were buried in our trespasses, did he rescue us with instructive criticism? Did he analyze each of our failures and construct a five-point plan for self-improvement? No – he welcomed our problems, and took them up upon himself . . . and through his giving himself up on our behalf, we are transformed into his perfect image.
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