Morning friends, Thank you for your prayers and concerns about my spider bite. I did get some medication and the wound is better but I think the strong antibiotics are now troubling my stomach. Hopefully, that is what it is, and as I finish up the meds, that will go away.
Thanksgiving is this week, but I always start anticipating the New Year right about now. I don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think, plan, and pray about how I want to create my 2024 story. So many years I used to default my life story to what was “happening to me” never realizing that I had a choice on how the main character (me) in my story was going to handle “what was happening to me” and that how I handled it made a huge difference on the outcome.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to be empowered to write a new story in your life for 2024, I invite you to a free webinar I am doing on December 5, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: Moving from Breakdown to Breakthrough. The workshop will be given live at noon ET and 7:30 pm ET and you must register to attend as the workshop is done on a private webinar server. You can register here.
Hope to see you there.
Question: How do you honor and deal with a husband who has no self-control when he drinks and becomes emotionally abusive? I feel alone and have no friends who try to support me – since they think drinking is not a big deal for their husbands.
Answer: You ask a good question that is relevant for most of our readers. The first part of your question is how do you honor and deal with a spouse (or anyone) when he’s doing dishonorable things? The second part of your question is how do you honor and take care of you when he does those dishonoring things? Especially when you have no support.
Let’s tackle the first part of your question, how do you honor and deal with someone who has no self-control? Your issue is around your spouse’s alcohol and emotional abuse, but for others, it could be a husband who cannot control his temper, sexual appetites, drug use, spending, or a multitude of other things resulting in additional unhealthy and/or abusive actions and attitudes.
Learning self-control is an important part of personal growth and maturity (2 Peter 1:5-8). Even very young children learn to exercise self-control over their bodily functions by the time they enter school. No healthy child attends school wearing diapers unless they have another problem. Personal self-control continues to be learned by controlling one’s impulses (no hitting, even if you feel like it), managing one’s emotions, thoughts, time, homework, chores, responsibilities, money, temptations, etc. (See 1 Timothy 1:7; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 2:11-12).
The Bible also tells us that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When a person regularly demonstrates a lack of self-control or self-discipline, the Bible says that they are foolish and despise their own self (Proverbs 15:32).
No one can do this maturing work for another person. We can receive guidance but each of us must do the hard work. That said, what do you do when the person you live with, work with, or love, consistently lacks self-control? And, as in your case, those actions cause harm to you?
Let’s look at an example in the Bible where Paul faced this very dilemma. Paul began to speak up for himself before the Jewish High Counsel and before he could say what he wanted to say, Ananias, the high priest, commanded those standing close to Paul to slap his mouth (highly insulting and disrespectful to Paul). Furious, Paul lost control of his temper. He told the high priest off and those standing near to Paul were shocked and said, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?”
Paul quickly apologized for his disrespect, even though Paul was the one who was disrespected first. (Acts 23:1-11).
What does that teach us about how we are to “honor” others even when they behave dishonorably?
First, it requires that we have some measure of self-control. The most tempting thing when we’re dishonored by someone is to repay evil with evil of our own. That’s what Paul’s mistake initially had been. He insulted the insulter. In Romans, Paul cautions us not to let that happen to us (Romans 12:21). Jesus also reminds us not to retaliate to the evil done to us with evil of our own. That dishonors yourself, God, and the other.
So how do we honor the dishonorable? Let me be clear. We never honor their sin or evil, ever! However, we can honor a dishonorable person in two ways. First, we can choose to honor their inherent dignity as God’s image bearer even when they dishonor themselves through their wickedness. We don’t treat them as they deserve nor as they have treated us. Instead, we treat them as Jesus teaches, with love (Matthew 5:43-48). We don’t love our enemy because we hope it will cause him/her to change, we love our enemy because we don't want to allow their hurtful actions to change us. Honoring them reminds us that they are more than their corrupt behavior and potentially it might remind them who they truly are.
Second, we honor them by respecting their God-given freedom to choose. God gave human beings a wonderful and dangerous gift. Agency. Decision-making power. He lets us choose to love him or not. To obey him or not obey him (Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Joshua 24:15).
If your efforts to talk to your husband about his drinking and abusive behavior have fallen on deaf ears, it’s time to believe him. He does not want to change. When you continue to beg or push your husband to stop drinking you dishonor his agency. Stop. Instead, allow him to fully experience the consequences of his choices, including waking up in his own vomit, losing a job, and your presence and support (for other Biblical examples of honoring another’s agency, see Luke 15:11-32). The father allowed the prodigal son to make very poor choices, and let him go. Jesus let Judas make bad choices (John 13:17-30). God does not nag or force someone into change.
Next, let’s look at what it might look like for you to honor yourself when your spouse dishonors you. Honoring yourself means you affirm your God-given dignity and welfare. It means you exercise your own agency by making choices that protect you from further harm. Therefore, what might be different if going forward, you begin to define what access and/or limitations you allow your spouse to have to your heart, mind, body, emotions, and finances? If you began to honor yourself in this way, how might that change things?
You are ultimately responsible to honor (steward, protect, keep safe, nourish, and nurture) the life God has given you and the person God has created you to be. You don’t need to lean on the energy of hate and resentment to protect yourself from his verbal assaults when he is drinking. What might be possible for you if you calmly told yourself (and if it was safe, said also to him) the following? “You are a grown-up man. I want to honor your right to make choices you think are best for you. When you choose to drink to excess that is your choice. I too must make choices that honor me. When you choose to drink to excess, I don’t like the way you treat me. From now on I will stay in a hotel (or permanently move out) because of the way you treat me when you’re drunk.”
Friend, you do not have to continue to live like this even if he chooses to.
Last, you mentioned a lack of support. Getting healthy is always easier done in the company of other healthy individuals. It sounds like your friends may not be the best people to get support from during this time in your life. I’d highly encourage you to attend a few meetings at Al-Anon, which is a support group for those who live with problem drinkers. They understand how to support you as you get healthier and honor yourself and stop focusing on what he does or doesn’t do going forward.
Friend, how have you learned to better honor and care for yourself even while honoring the other? How has that helped you become stronger and healthier?
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