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Me! Me! Me!
Acknowledging my sin helps me view myself honestly and without pretense.
by Dave Boehi
Direct Link to article on FamilyLife: Me! Me! Me!
If you went through premarriage counseling, you may recall some of the subjects you discussed with your pastor or counselor—things like communication, personality differences, finances, and resolving conflict. But you probably didn’t hear your counselor say anything like this:
“Barbara, I want you to look at Dennis. Do you realize he’s a wretch? He’s selfish, and he’s potentially an adulterer and liar.”
“Dennis, look Barbara in the eyes. Do you realize who you are about to marry? Another wretch.”
These words obviously had an impact on Dennis Rainey, who told that story on FamilyLife Today®. And from my experience in marriage I have concluded that an honest discussion of our sinfulness ought to be part of any basic premarriage curriculum.
In recent years I’ve become more aware than ever that I face a never-ending battle against my natural sinfulness and selfishness. As I go through each day, my thoughts are often focused on what I want and what I need. I think about how I look … what I’m about to do … what I wish I was doing … what I will do after work … what I want to say and eat and watch and read. Life is all about Me! Me! Me!
And that makes marriage a challenge, because I married a woman who, for some strange reason, doesn’t always agree with what I want. She has Me! issues of her own.
We all do.
Some may think these words are a bit harsh. What good does it do to dwell on the fact that we are sinners?
I would agree—if that’s where I stopped. But there are a number of practical benefits to acknowledging that we are sinners. For one thing, only when we acknowledge our sin will we truly understand grace.
In his book, When Sinners Say ‘I Do,’ Dave Harvey writes:
To say “I am a sinner” is to stare boldly at a fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at. But when we acknowledge that painful reality in our lives, several great things become clear. We find ourselves in good company—the heroes of our faith, from Old Testament times to the present, who experienced the battle with sin on the front lines. We also acknowledge what everybody around us already knows—particularly our spouses.
But, by far the greatest benefit of acknowledging our sinfulness is that it makes Christ and his work precious to us. Like Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32).” Only sinners need a savior.
Acknowledging my sin helps me view myself honestly and without pretense. I know what I am and what I am capable of doing. And that makes Christ’s work on the cross all the sweeter.
And then consider that the relationship of a man and woman in marriage is a picture of Christ and His church. When we demonstrate to our spouses the same grace that Christ demonstrated to us, we experience true oneness in marriage.
My wife loves me, forgives me, and remains committed to me in spite of all the times I’ve hurt her and failed her. And vice versa. As 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love, because He first loved us.”
Marriage works when a husband and wife remember that they are two sinners living together in a state of grace. It stops working when either of them forgets.
Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared in the June 2, 2008 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter.
- If they have not mentioned God or faith in their message(s) so far, let them know that you believe that prayer is powerful and that you would like to pray for them right now.
- You may want to include a statement like, “Would it be okay if I prayed for you right now?”
- Don’t feel compelled to pray for everything all at once. Short prayers over time are a powerful encouragement.
- Assure them of God’s presence, power and love.
- Make it personal by using their name at least once in the body of the prayer.
- Incorporate Scripture in your prayer whenever possible, especially if your mentee is a believer.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
by Peter Scazzero, p. 141
“When we are children, creating a defensive wall to shield us from pain can serve as one of God’s great gifts to us. If someone suffers emotional or sexual abuse as a young child, for example, denial of the assault on his or her exposed humanity serves as a healthy survival mechanism. Blocking out the pain enables him or her to endure such painful circumstances. It is healthy to not fully experience painful realities when we are that young so that we survive emotionally.
The transition into adulthood, however, requires that we mature through our “defense mechanisms” of denial in favor of honestly looking at what is true–at reality. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Unconsciously, however, we carry many offensive maneuvers into adulthood to protect ourselves from pain. And in adulthood, they block us from growing up spiritually and emotionally.
The following are a few common defenses:
- denial (or selective forgetting)–We refuse to acknowledge some painful aspect of reality externally or internally. For example: “I feel just fine. It didn’t bother me a bit that my boss belittled me…and that I got fired. I’m not worried in the least.”
- minimizing–We admit something is wrong, but in such a way that it appears less serious than it actually is: “My son is doing okay with God. He’s just drinking once in a while,” when in reality he is drinking heavily and rarely sleeping at home.
- blaming others–We deny responsibility for our behavior and project it “out there” upon another: “The reason my brother is sick in the hospital is because the doctors messed up his medications!”
- blaming yourself–We inwardly take on the fault: “It’s my fault Mom doesn’t take care of me and drinks all the time. It’s because I’m not worth it.”
- rationalizing–We offer excuses, justifications, alibis to provide an inaccurate explanation of what is going on: “Did you know that John has a genetic disposition toward rage that runs in his family? That’s why the meetings aren’t helping him.”
- intellectualizing—We give analysis, theories, and generalities to avoid personal awareness and difficult feelings: “My situation is not that bad compared to how others are suffering in the world. What do I have to cry about?”
- distracting–We change the subject or engage in humor to avoid threatening topics: “Why are you so focused on the negative? Look at the great time we had as a family last Christmas.”
- becoming hostile–We get angry or irritable when reference is made to certain subjects: “Don’t talk about Joe. He’s dead. It’s not going to bring him back.”