One of the first things I said to Mark was a put-down. He was bragging about his well-paid job in the north of England (which wasn’t that well-paid – I think he was trying to impress me!) I worked out his hourly rate in my head and exclaimed: “I earn more than that in my part-time job in London!” I was just 17, outspoken and bold, and he liked my sassiness.
A few months into our marriage, newly 19, it grew thin and exacerbated our arguments. Mark always complained that I always had to be right, and moaned that we were always focusing on his errors.
We communicated openly, and felt that was a positive thing. However, a few years ago, right along with learning about respect, I realized often how unkindly we spoke to one another. I believed, that because we were close, I didn’t need to butter him up before I challenged him. We knew each other well enough for him to be able to take any complaint I had. Gracious as he is, he generally did listen to my complaints, albeit licking his paw.
As our community has grown here in Lima, Peru, we have a daily need to lovingly challenge one another.
3DM’s invitation-challenge teaching has been very helpful for us as a team when addressing issues and facing conflict. We taught our team to surround any challenges they had to bring to one another with some loving-invitational-fluffy stuff, or the ‘hamburger’ as we affectionately called it.
Some people needed a lot of bread and not much meat, and others could cope with a bit more protein!
I have realized the need to challenge Mark kindly and respectfully. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! Being submissive and respectful as a wife doesn’t mean never bringing challenge, but for me it means praying first and only if I feel God is giving me permission to, or if Mark specifically asks my opinion, I tell him what I think in a loving, kind, encouraging way. Plenty of bread.
And I have to remind myself that I am not the Holy Spirit or his conscience and I shouldn’t try to be!
So what does that look like in practice. Okay, well here is one I failed at, but how it should have been:
‘Mark, thank you for all the ways you help me around the house. I really respect the time you take to help me with the boys and make an effort to show me how you love me. One of the things I have noticed is that the dustbin (trash can) is always overflowing on Sunday morning because it is not emptied on a Saturday night. Is there any chance you could set an alarm on your phone to remind you to do it? Please? You know how our rubbish (trash) isn’t meant to be on the street until 8pm and how I hate going out of our gate after dark. I really appreciate how you protect our family and try to look out for me after dark.
Now, perhaps, especially to the British ear, that sounds totally over the top. And one of the problems we had when we started trying to encourage one another like this was that we doubted each other’s sincerity! It was hard to make it sound genuine. But as we have persevered, and laughed at one another (“
you are doing the hamburger on me, aren’t you? – get to the point!
”), we have managed to be more encouraging and kind in our challenges. But this is definitely one that requires some perseverance and grace if it doesn’t come naturally to be encouraging! (I have noticed that my American friends find complementing one another much more natural than what I have observed from my fellow Brits, who find sarcasm a more natural motivator –‘I didn’t know that you had such an aversion to helping around the house on Saturday nights!’)
But persevere we must, as:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger – Proverbs 15:1
How do you like your hamburger?