It was Girls' Night. There we were, five 30-somethings munching on snacks while Sleepless in Seattle played in the VCR. We ate. We giggled. And we complained … about our husbands.
It all started when one of the girls said, "The other day Scott didn't come home from work until 9 o'clock! Then he got on the phone with his old college roommate, and they were still gabbing when I went to bed. Has he forgotten he has a wife?"
The rest of us giggled and muttered, "Men!"
"Scott's an angel compared to my husband," someone else chimed in. "On Thursday, he worked late and went straight to the tennis courts. The kids and I were all in bed before he came home. No call, nothing."
Again we muttered, "Men!"
Then it was my turn. "Jimmy has what I call the Peter Pan Syndrome: He won't ever grow up! It's always something—golf, tennis, hunting … "
Everyone agreed. We were on a roll, and our gripe session ended up lasting almost three hours.
It never occurred to me that our conversation might not be pleasing to God. I figured it was just innocent girl-talk. Jimmy knows I love him, and hey, everybody else does it, right?
But on my way home, I started to think about Jimmy's every flaw. In the following days, I found myself criticizing him more often—and compounding the problem by complaining to the other women.
I soon realized that griping about my husband wasn't honoring to him. I felt like a traitor, especially after reading Christ's words in Matthew 7:3-5: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Ouch. That hit me between the, well, eyes. I wanted to pray, "But, Jesus, you don't know my husband." But I knew that wasn't true. I wanted to say, "There's no plank in my eye!" But that wasn't true either.
God started to reveal my own many faults. I soon realized, I'm not dealing with a mere plank. I have an entire lumberyard to clear! As I took an honest inventory of all that "lumber"—especially with the ways I was treating my husband—I began to see Jimmy as less flawed. I realized I'm not the only one in this marriage who has something to complain about!
I constantly lose things, but Jimmy never complains. I forget to do things that are important to him; he doesn't complain. I sometimes spend money foolishly; no complaints. I withhold my feelings, bottling them up until I finally explode. Still, he never complains.
Jimmy puts up with a lot being married to me.
Pulling the Planks
I asked God for forgiveness and decided I wouldn't badmouth Jimmy anymore. And I took Jesus' advice to concentrate on my own "planks," which turned out to be a full-time job.
The Bible tells me to honor, respect, and love my husband. As I began to focus on those things, I discovered I didn't have time to worry about Jimmy's failures.
I also had to admit Jimmy's failures weren't ultimately my problem. They're between him and God—just as my failures are between God and me. While I can pray for Jimmy, if he's not the husband he should be, he ultimately must answer to God. Just as I must answer to God for how I treat my husband.
Not until I have sorted out my own sin can I lovingly speak the truth to Jimmy about his—and then only if God leads. I must pull the plank from my eye before picking at the speck in Jimmy's.
Part of me still wants to say, "Lord, if I don't point out his shortcomings, how will he ever change?" But surely the God of the Universe can reveal Jimmy's weaknesses to him without my help. I just have to trust God.
Whew! What a relief—to me and to Jimmy. No longer do I nag him about every little issue. And no longer do I whine about him to my friends.
Now, when the other girls are grumbling about their hubands, I just say, "I can't complain. I'm just grateful he puts up with me!"
Rhonda Rizzo Webb is author of Words Begin in Our Hearts: What God Says About What We Say (Moody). Visit Rhonda at www.rhondawebb.com.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.