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The self-righteous wife

December 11, 2012

By Trillia Newbell

I’ve spoken to newly married girlfriends who have shared their frustrations with their new spouse. There is generally some area that the women wish their husbands would improve on, and they are growing weary waiting. We generally come to the same conclusion—their husbands may need to grow, but perhaps the wives are struggling with being judgmental and self-righteous. We can look at our men, see sin, and be too quick and eager to point it out.

I relate. That was me.

I remember my wedding like it was yesterday. It was a cold, yet beautiful December day. All of our decorations were red, white, and green to reflect the season. It was exactly what we hoped it would be and more.

After the honeymoon we returned to our home eager to start our new lives together as one. But soon the fairytale ended and real life began. It didn’t look quite like I had imagined. There were no glaring problems. No deep-rooted sin issues. Yet I was extremely aware of my husbands’ shortcomings, and I wasn’t holding back on sharing my thoughts.

I was quick to point out sin and eager to share “observations” about how he could change or grow as a leader, all under the pretense of being his helpmeet. I judged my husband harshly our first year of marriage. I was quite self-righteous. I thought I was right, and I played the role of his “holy spirit.” Like I said, I masked it as being his helpmeet. Wrong!

Wasn’t I helping him by sharing my wisdom and insights into every single part of his life? Surely he needed my help to become a godly man. (Obviously I’m speaking tongue-and-cheek.) I was filled with self-righteousness and self-absorption. There was a plank in my eye the size of a California redwood, but all I could see was the speck in his (Matthew 7:3).

Tongue for Blessing and Cursing

James addresses the problem of the self-righteousness. “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10). With my tongue I would bless the Lord and curse my husband made in the image of God. Though God views my husband as clothed with Christ’s righteousness, there were times when all I saw were filthy rags.

Most of my corrections stemmed from a desire to fill some perceived need of mine and had little to do with his sanctification. My desire was that he would change for me, not to please and glorify God. My observations were generally (not always) selfish.

Again James helps us see why we might quarrel for selfish gain. He writes, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder” (James 4:1-2). Though we did not always fight outwardly, my heart was often committing murder. I would be angry and harsh. My “needs” weren’t being met, and so I would fight.

Growing in Grace

I am aware I am not alone. We’re not all patiently waiting for our husbands to change and grow. We can be judgmental, angry, and often accusatory. When we fixate on little preferences the result can be extremely damaging. We can become dissatisfied, bitter, and even long for another man. Women, we can be hard on our men. We have to remember that there isn’t one-size-fits-all for godliness.

But most of all, we must pray for them. Our job isn’t to be their “holy spirit” by calling out every sin we sight. Thank God, our heavenly Father doesn’t treat us like that. God is gentle and kind, slow to anger and abounding in love. God can help us learn to love our husband with a love that is tender and kind and filled with affection and grace.

Now, nine years later, I’m still learning how to lovingly help my husband, but even more I am learning how to enjoy him. I have grown in looking for areas of grace and gifts. God has helped me use my tongue to encourage, build up, and praise him for how God has made him, rather than tear him down for how God didn’t make him.

And just as I’m not surprised by my sin, I’m equally unsurprised that God would help me grow in this area. God works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). He provides a way of escape for our sinful self-righteousness (1 Corinthians 10:13). He promises to finish the good work he began in you and in me (Philippians 1:6). This is good news for us! God is faithful.

Amazingly, even when I fell into the temptation to judge my husband God remained unswervingly committed to forgiving me because my sin—not in part but the whole—is covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. And sister, so is yours.

Trillia Newbell is a freelance journalist and writer. She writes on faith and family for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and serves as managing editor for Women of God Magazine. Her love and primary role is that of a wife and mother. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, Thern, and their two children, Weston and Sydney.

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