We’ve had quite a robust dialogue this past week, haven’t we? I think this is good. We all need truth tellers in our life to help us rightly divide the Word of God and also to see our situation more clearly. It’s both/and, not either or. Our blogger Veronica is right. Our ultimate truth tellers are God’s word and the Holy Spirit, not our own thoughts and feelings. However, Christians, even conservative Christians don’t always read the Bible and come to the same conclusions.
For example, there are those who firmly and passionately believe in the Reformed doctrine of “election.” Election teaches that God chooses or predestines certain people who will come to him for salvation. Which then also means that there are people He doesn’t choose and therefore won’t be saved.
Other Bible scholars disagree. They read the same Bible and see it differently. They say that God loved and died for everyone (John 3:16). Paul did say that some were elect (Ephesians 1), but he also taught that God wants everyone to be saved and understand the truth (1 Timothy 2:4,5). And 2 Peter 3:9 gives us a glimpse into God’s heart when it says, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” Everyone, it says, not just his elect.
We read the same Bible and yet come to different conclusions about salvation. I’m not a Biblical scholar nor do I know the original languages but as I read the whole word of God, I see many things as both/and, not either/or. For example, I believe that the Scriptures teach us that God does elect some individuals to be in the Body of Christ. That idea would correspond to the fact that God chose the Jews to be his special people. However, God never excluded Gentiles from coming to him by faith.
Therefore, let’s continue to sharpen one another like iron sharpens iron. Let’s stay in CORE while we do it, being open to the possibility that we are being in either /or mindset when the truth might be closer to both/and.
This week’s question: My husband is basically a good man. He is a school teacher and the music director/organist of our Church. He can be patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual. He can also be demanding, tyrannical and irrational.
He blames everyone and anyone for any problems that arise. It is a knee-jerk reaction to even the slightest, most inconsequential of events. If one of our children falls down, his first reaction is to scream an “I told you so” at them- never is his first reaction one of concern for their well-being or safety. He expects our older children- living away from our home with lives of their own- to always be at his beck and call. If he wants them to do something for him, it does not matter that they have jobs, plans, etc. He refuses to be told no. And, everyone cow-tows to him just to keep him on an even keel and avoid the rants and literal rages that he has demonstrated.
While he is a school teacher, his passion is the piano and he is an accomplished pianist and composer- just not as revered and accomplished as he would like to be. Whose fault is that? His parents. His father for having a health crisis when he was younger or his mother for not knowing or doing enough to promote his career. The children and I are also to blame because he has to work a “meaningless” job to put food on the table.
He takes no responsibility for any failure, real or imagined, in his life. He doesn't seem to have any concept that not everyone's life revolves around him and that people are allowed their own lives and opinions. He is negative in all aspects of his life, except, of course, if it relates to music.
I could write pages about this aspect of his personality, suffice it to say that he will always see the dark cloud around the silver lining. He is also very vocal about his negative thoughts and when he's challenged, he plays the victim and accuses the challenger of attacking him. It's to the point where conversation with him is seldom initiated because we all know what his reaction will be. Want his opinion? Just think of the most irrational response and go with that.
Answer:First, I’m confused. You say that your husband basically is a good man, patient, kind, loving, and always deeply spiritual. Then you go on for several paragraphs listing all the ways he is not patient, loving, good or spiritual. Perhaps what you mean is that your husband knows his Bible, can be charming and act loving when everything is going his way and everyone meets his needs and expectations in exactly the way he wants. When that doesn’t happen, (which is real life) watch out!
Now your question is: “How do I live with someone like that and how do I help my children live with someone like that?” The best answer I can offer you is that you will only be able to live with this (if you choose to) with CORE Strength. You will also need a good support system. Add to that an abundance of grace and truth having no expectations at all of a meaningful relationship or a mutual give and take with your husband.
I am reluctant to put a label on anyone but your description of your husband’s behavior if it’s accurate is typical of someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A craving for admiration, an attitude of entitlement and lack of empathy for anyone else’s needs are usually the three big red flags.
However, in order for you to stay well, let’s start with grace. In order to live with someone like this you will need to learn to lean hard into God’s loving grace, knowing that when your husband doesn’t treat you well or love you like you wished he did, you are still deeply loved and valued by God.
You will need God’s grace to continually forgive your husband and keep a clean slate of the wrongs he does against you so that you don’t become hardened by normal anger, bitterness, and resentment that you may feel. Your husband will never apologize or take responsibility for the wrong’s he’s done which makes it that much harder to forgive and let things go. Therefore, your strength must come from outside yourself. It can only be from God.
You will need God’s grace to biblically love your husband when you feel like screaming at him and grace to not repay evil for evil. Jesus calls us to love our enemies but we rarely have to live with our enemies day in and day out. To live in a relatively conflict-free relationship with your husband you will need to accept that you will always be the giver. God sees how much you give whether or not your husband notices or appreciates it. You will need His eternal perspective on your marital loneliness and suffering because you will feel unheard, unloved, and unvalued much of the time, which may tempt you to seek other male companionship or to become bitter and hard hearted.
You will need grace to not judge your husband and not have contempt for him as a man or as a person, even though truth tells you his attitudes and actions are sinful.
Grace keeps you humble, reminding you that you too are sinful and have your own brokenness. Grace keeps you mindful of the log in your own eye before trying to remove the speck in your spouse’s eye. Click To Tweet
You will also need to stay focused on God’s truth to stay healthy emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Your husband blames and shames and it’s tempting to believe his harsh words. Don’t do it. Listen to what God says about who you are and not your husband’s words. You will need God’s truth to explain to yourself and even your children that sometimes their father acts selfishly and it’s not wrong of them to say “no” or to ask him to consider their needs, and not just think of his own (Philippians 2:4).
You will also need truth to guide you when to confront your husband’s sinful behavior and how. There may be a strategic or teachable moment where you could say something that may cause him to press pause and think about his actions and you want to look for those moments and ask God to give you an anointed tongue.
We are to speak the truth in love to one another but it’s tempting to either
For example, when he’s inconsiderate of your needs or your schedule, you could say, “I know this is important to you, but this is important to me so I have to do this first.” Your goal in this kind of statement is to remind him that you are a separate PERSON with your own needs, feelings, and thoughts. You are not just a slave or a robot or a “wife” but a person and even if he doesn’t value you, you are going to value yourself.
You said you don’t want your children growing up to be like their father. Children do learn a lot from their parents, but their father isn’t their only influencer. You have a huge impact on your children and the way you interact with their father will say a lot to them about not only who he is, but who you are.
If you act as if he’s right all the time and entitled to act this way, they get the picture that men get to have their way all the time that’s “normal.” Therefore it’s important to speak truthfully to your children about things such as, “I think sometimes your father can be self-absorbed and not realize that you have your own plans. It’s okay to remind him that you can’t always accommodate him and stick to what you need to do for yourself.”
You say your husband is deeply spiritual. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks about the person who lives in the spirit and one who lives in the flesh. Perhaps in a moment when your husband seems open or more in tune with God, you could ask him which one he inhabits most often? Or when he is most negative or critical say, “You don’t seem to experience God’s joy or peace very much. Why do you think that is?”
Your words will probably have little impact on him but God tells us that His words are powerful and don’t return void. They have the power to cut right to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Ask God to use His Word, even those in the lyrics of the music he plays each week at church, to cause him to see the truth about why he is so critical, so miserable, and so unhappy.
Lastly, don’t forget you do need good relationships, even if it’s not in your marriage. Seek out healthy godly women who can encourage you, love on you, pray for you and hold you accountable to be the kind of person you want to be while living in this difficult and destructive marriage.
Friends, if you’ve walked in this woman’s shoes –what has helped you stay well (as this is her desire to do right now)?