Tag Archives: confrontation

How Do You Handle Being Rebuffed When Attempting Reconciliation?

If we’ve lived and loved long enough, we all know the pain of a broken relationship. We also know the joy of reconciliation when that relationship is mended. Unfortunately, loving someone well and trying to reconcile with them provides no guarantee they will welcome restoration. When someone refuses to reconcile a broken relationship, frustration, pain, and self-doubts can grow. The desire to find a way to restore the broken relationship that works intensifies.

Sadly, there is no guaranteed procedure that we can follow to assure restoration of a broken relationship. Sometimes, all we can do is grieve the loss of that relationship. And that is what Jesus modeled for us. He is the perfect example of one who unselfishly poured out His love to His creatures and offered them the opportunity for reconciliation with their Creator. However, they would have nothing to do with Him.

In one of the saddest verses in the Bible, John records in a single sentence the fact that Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

Jesus’ response to the rejection of His offer of reconciliation was a deep grief and sadness that moved Him to tears and prayer for His people. We see the Son of God’s broken heart when He sits outside the walls of Jerusalem and laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

One of the most frightening truths that we all must face is the fact that we cannot force someone to love us, no matter what we do. Even if we take appropriate responsibility for harm we’ve done to them, confess our sin against them, and ask for forgiveness, there is no assurance they will respond in kind. They can choose to remain distant.

While an unresolved relationship is deeply disturbing, one of the most freeing truths is that no one has the power to stop us from loving them. And that’s all that God calls us to do, to love others the way He has loved us (John 13:34;15:12).

We all wish there was a “next step” that would make reconciliation work out every time. Sadly, there is no such step. However, at those times when our best efforts at loving are rebuffed, we do have the opportunity to share in our Lord’s sufferings, to experience His pain and His relentless longing for reconciliation (Philippians 1:29).

We need to guard against a false guilt that assumes we should be able to do something to “fix” every relationship — as if it all depends on us alone. While we must take responsibility for our part in a relationship, we must not assume that we are solely responsible for the breach in the relationship. Instead of holding another person responsible for their choices, we can tend to let people off the hook and blame ourselves for “not doing enough” or “missing something” that would be the key to unlocking the relationship.

That kind of thinking is not only demoralizing but controlling and unbiblical. God never asks us to assume responsibility for others, only ourselves. That needs to be our focus.

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Can a Wife Be the Abusive One in a Marriage?

Much has been written in recent decades about husbands abusing their wives, as it should. In more cases than we care to admit, husbands from a variety of backgrounds are physically and emotionally battering their wives with their fists and their words. This is a serious problem no one should take lightly (SEE When Violence Comes Home.).

Abuse in marriage, whatever form it takes, is ultimately about a pattern of exerting power and control over one one’s own way. When a marriage is marked by a one-sided pattern of control, the abusive spouse is not always the husband. Sometimes the abusive spouse is the wife.

While most wives are not able to control their husbands through physical threats and violence, some dominate their husbands through their words, looks, and other threatening actions. Similar to an abusive husband, an abusive wife may boss her husband around, talk down to him, call him humiliating names, and treat him in a very emasculating way. Generally speaking, her style of communication doesn’t invite open and free conversation. It tends to be intimidating or manipulative and is intended to shut her husband down. Whether it’s through a dirty look or a lecture, the point is unmistakable: He’s not there to think or share an opinion. He’s there to do not only what she tells him to do, but also how and when she wants it done.

Just as abusive men demand sexual intimacy without regard for their wives’ needs, abusive women can withhold affection or intimacy as a way of controlling their husbands. An abusive wife may also exert control by imposing arbitrary or erratic expectations. For instance, she may badger her husband to do something, but then get upset with him for doing it because he not’s doing something else for her instead. Imposing and then randomly shifting her demands keeps him off-balance. It leaves him second-guessing himself and her feeling superior. Other abusive women constantly harass their husbands for their recreational interests and even their deeper aspirations for life. If what he enjoys and feels passionate about doesn’t fit into what she deems important, she may ridicule him or look for reasons for him not to do it. If that doesn’t work, she can always find some way to make him feel guilty.

The bottom line is this: most things in the marital relationship have to be her way. She demands that her husband revolve most, if not all, of what he does completely around what is important to her, even though her demands are often unreasonable, inconsiderate, and constantly shifting. And when it doesn’t go her way, she feels “free” to let her husband know it. Whether she relentlessly grumbles and criticizes, threatens to leave, or turns cold and withholds attention and affection, the clear message to her husband is “things had better go my way or else.” It’s a message meant to intimidate her husband and wear him down to the point where he feels it’s not worth doing anything that would risk upsetting her again.

Of course, every marriage experiences painful moments of unreasonableness and control from both partners. But when those moments become the norm rather than the exception, it becomes abusive and denies a spouse the freedom to be who he or she is both within and outside of the marital relationship. Not unlike an abused wife, an abused husband feels coerced into being who his wife thinks he should be. Perhaps this is why the Bible doesn’t pull any punches when it states that “a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15) and that it is “better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (Proverbs 21:19).

Any marital relationship that is characterized by such patterns of control is not really a relationship. It is more like a dictatorship, where one partner rules over the other. Unfortunately, because of their own insecurities, most husbands in this situation let themselves get walked on and are afraid to stand up to the patterns of control with courage and love. Others try to ignore the way they are mistreated, only to blow up and turn mean or abusive. Neither is a godly response and is nearly always a sign of a man who has lost his heart.

To read some general ideas about a better way that doesn’t take the abuse lightly yet still offers the opportunity for forgiveness, healing, and restoration both in the marriage and in each spouse’s heart, read When Words Hurt .

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What’s the Difference Between Normal Marital Conflict and Abuse?

Every marriage experiences some degree of conflict. Most marriages experience strong differences of opinion. Arguments are not uncommon. Spouses are occasionally grumpy and unkind to each other. Spouses lose their tempers and can sometimes blow up at each other. Everyone is capable of being hypercritical or falsely accusing his or her mate. Small skirmishes for control over a particular issue can break out from time to time. These are all a part of the normal tension and conflict that inevitably arise when an imperfect man and woman join their lives together in a marital relationship.

Marital abuse, whether or not it involves physical violence, is very different. One key difference is that marital abuse is a one-sided, oppressive relationship where one spouse establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics an abusive mate uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

While normal marital conflict can at times seem far worse than what it really is, it tends to lessen in time because of the loving foundation of the relationship—“love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). That important foundation is painfully missing in a marriage marked by abuse. Because of the extreme levels of selfishness at work in the heart of the abusive spouse, marital abuse, if not confronted, will only escalate and get worse over time.

Another important difference is that normal marital conflict and marital abuse require different levels of intervention. While some married couples who experience normal conflict may require help from an objective and wise third party, many can eventually work through their differences by themselves within an atmosphere of mutual love, consideration, and forgiveness. Marital abuse, however, is a different story. Due to safety concerns and an abuser’s excessive self-focus and chronic complaints of being a victim, addressing marital abuse and restoring the relationship is a much more difficult and complicated process. It requires outside help from those who can provide guidance, support, and protection for an abused spouse as the abuser is confronted and held accountable.

While most abusive spouses will insist on joint-marital counseling once their pattern of domination and control is exposed, this is the last place to begin addressing marital abuse. For his or her own reasons, neither spouse is ready for the kind of honest and open conversation that is needed for marital counseling to be beneficial. Almost without exception, abusive spouses will derail the counseling process by trying to micromanage it. And most are far from being able to discuss their pattern of control without acting like a victim. On the other side, abused spouses will not feel safe enough to openly share their true thoughts and concerns, let alone admit to any faults they may have. They are understandably afraid that their partners will shut them down, twist their words, or later make them pay. Years of being controlled have also taught an abused spouse to see things mostly through the eyes of her (or his) spouse in order to avoid doing something “wrong.” Marriage counseling will not be beneficial until abused spouses recover the ability to think for themselves and the freedom to show up as a person in the relationship.

Abusive spouses who are truly serious about stopping their pattern of domestic abuse will agree to pursue a path of individual counseling (separate from their spouse). Their individual counseling is designed to increase their awareness and insight into how they try to control their spouse, the damage it has caused to their marital relationship, and why they feel such a deep and pressing need to dominate their partner and maintain a victim mentality. Joint-marital counseling is only possible once abusers stop playing the victim in the marriage, end all of their excuses, and consistently own up to their patterns of control and the harm it has caused. Only then are they ready to have honest conversations with their spouses and to continue their own journey of working through and finding healing and freedom from their own personal wounds and insecurities.

To read more about physical and non-physical abuse in marriage and what can be done to address it, please feel free to order our booklets When Violence Comes Home , When Words Hurt, and When Power Is Misused.

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What Is the Meaning of Jesus’ Teaching About Judging?

When Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged,” was He implying that we should regard everyone’s viewpoint equally?

Based on Jesus’ own actions, we can be sure He didn’t mean we should ignore and tolerate evil. Jesus wasn’t passively tolerant toward people who were doing evil things and promoting evil values. He often made judgments regarding their actions and confronted them ( Matthew 21:13; 23:13-36 ; John 6:70-71; 8:39-47 ).

Jesus taught in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets who consistently confronted evil—even at the risk of their lives1 ( 2 Samuel 12:1-12 ; 1 Kings 18:18 ). Like the prophets, Jesus illustrated that love is sometimes expressed through confrontation. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we must at times be as willing to compassionately confront evil and self-destructiveness in their character as we are in our own. A father who gives his children anything they want spoils them. Likewise, our heavenly Father would ruin us if He set no limits for us and indulged our every whim. Love for our neighbor involves the same principle. There are occasions when God requires us to confront serious error and sin.

When we confront sin in the right spirit, we are acting in love, not judging in the sense of Jesus’ words in this verse. When motivated by love, we won’t be self-righteous and feel that we are better in the eyes of God. A loving heart is humble, knowing that before a holy God all people are equal ( Romans 3:9,23 ;Galatians 3:22 ; 1 John 1:8 ).

Judging, as Jesus condemned it in these verses, is unforgiving condemnation—a hypercritical, self-righteous, vindictive spirit that continually seeks to uncover the faults of others while overlooking one’s own sins.2

Jesus’ warning against this kind of judging emphasizes that any measure we use to judge other people will be used against us. He said, “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” ( Luke 6:38 ). Jesus teachings elsewhere ( Matthew 6:14-15; 18:23-35 ) made it clear that self-righteous, unforgiving people will not be forgiven by God. Their rigid, unforgiving hearts demonstrate that they aren’t the children of God ( 1 John 3:14-15 ). Their refusal to forgive others demonstrates that they have never experienced the purifying power of the Holy Spirit in their own life.

Personal experience illustrates the truth of Jesus’ words. When we judge other people self-righteously and vindictively, they will respond to us in the same way. In contrast, if we are patient and compassionate, the people in our lives tend to overlook our minor failures and flaws.

More subtle, but no less damaging, is the internal effect of an unforgiving, judgmental spirit. Since we naturally project our own attitude upon others, judgmental people usually assume that other people are as vindictive and judgmental as they. This puts them under the crushing pressure of living up to their own harsh, unforgiving expectations.

Jesus’ words in this verse don’t require us to be passive in the face of evil. They require us to confront it in the spirit of compassion, humility, and love.

  1. In fact, Jesus specifically identified Himself with the Old Testament prophets and told His enemies that they hated Him for the same reason that their fathers hated and killed the prophets ( Matthew 23:29-37 ).Back To Article
  2. Jesus made this clear a few verses later when He said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye” Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye ( Luke 6:41-42 ). Back To Article
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