Thursday, August 30, 2012

Never. To Anyone. Ever.

There has been a little "inspirational picture" floating around face book recently and within the past month I've seen it appear on several friend's walls.  The first time I saw it, I winced, but ignored it. Then the second time, and subsequent times, I really wanted to comment but I knew that comments would have the potential to blow up and cause a mess.  While I like a good discussion, I do prefer to keep it in my own space rather than take a mess to someone else's wall.
However, at this point, I've seen it enough times that I really want to share my thoughts on it.

The picture has several versions but the words are the same on all of them. They are:
"Don't talk bad about your husband. To anyone. Ever."

Now this is where I assure my friends who posted this, I am not picking on you.  I know you well enough to know where your heart was when you posted it.  To be honest, I mostly agree with the statement.  My problem comes with the absolutes at the end.  

None of us are married to perfect men, however, many of my friends are blessed to be married to pretty good ones.  So, in our case, the statement simply serves as a reminder to keep our petty moaning to ourselves.  (See my post from several weeks ago, R-E-S-P-E-C-T)

However, none of us know the entire story of what goes on behind closed doors in anyone else's marriage. I don't think any of us has the right or authority to make such an absolute statement.  

I can hear the disagreements, "Jody, you are taking this too literally, you know what is meant by this, why do you have to pick everything apart?"

I'll tell you why; because there are certain sects within Christendom who DO teach this to its absolute, literal meaning.  They believe and teach with iron inflexibility that anything wrong within a marriage is the woman's problem and that the man is always right by virtue of being born with an X chromosome.  For women stuck within sects that teach this, to see such statements blithely plastered up by other christian women who they know and respect simply adds another layer to their bondage. 

Let me suggest some alternatives, although I know they would never reach meme status because they aren't attention grabbing enough. 
" Avoid talking badly about your husband." (see I even fixed the adverb issue)
"Carefully consider before you make any negative remarks about your husband."
"Speak respectfully to and about your husband at all times." 

I would also like to offer some examples of how and why it IS ok to sometimes say negative things about your husband.
1. First rule of course is to consider to whom you are speaking. I'm not every advocating to randomly run your mouth about your husband.  Trusted friends who know your heart AND who are brave enough to speak back to you in truth and love are the only ones who should hear these comments. 
2. Sharing the things that you think are wrong with your husband can result in these sisters sharing back that their husbands do them too!  You are not alone, your husband isn't some moron/monster who is trying to make you crazy... he's simply a man.  This can be a huge relief!  Many of us in the circles where this statement would be popular do not have extensive experience with men and haven't had numerous adult male/female relationships.  It's entirely possible and probable that your man is simply being a man and you need to know that. But if you keep it bottled up inside and never tell anyone your frustrations, you'll never find out.  To find out that other couples who you know and admire have the same issues can be extremely freeing. 
I wonder how many marriages that come apart so "suddenly" have been quietly breaking for years and if one member had ever felt free to ask for help, the marriage could have been saved.
3. You may find out that your fears are founded in truth. You may share issues and be counseled that no, this is NOT normal or acceptable; Your husband is wrong/sinful.  If you have chosen wisely in step number one, this revelation will come accompanied with guidance and support as you consider what to do next. 
4. Without exposing sin, repentance and healing can not come. I have a friend whose husband was in sin.  She kept it hidden for years. Being the good wife, covering for him, taking the blame herself, doing ALL the things that good christian wives are "supposed" to do.  Finally she realized that her marriage was over no matter what she did, so she brought it to light.  Because she was willing to risk the embarrassment (and the possibility of being rejected), the sin was exposed,  repentance was real, accountability was demanded, and support was given. The marriage was saved, the family restored.  Yes, much of this success was because of the response of leaders of whom help was requested, but without the wife stepping forward and breaking the taboo, none of it would have happened. 
5. There is another scenario. The wife truly is living in a deplorable situation and the husband simply isn't going to change. There is no spirit of repentance, ALL of the burden of making the marriage work is on her. I have at least one friend in this situation. To apply the rule of "never, to anyone, ever." would sentence her to a fate of carrying this burden alone, for years.  I truly think that this is cruel and not supported in scripture anywhere. No it doesn't give her an excuse to bad-mouth him to all and sundry, and the lady I am thinking of right now does not. But without the support and love of others I don't think she would have the emotional stamina to persevere for years upon years of living in the emotional hell she does. 

Ladies, sisters, I'm not scolding anyone for posting this type of little picture, but please, take a second thought about what it might be saying to someone who is in a different marriage situation than you are.  Do you really want to be hanging a sign that says, "Don't come to me, I don't want to hear about your problems."  If your marriage is good enough that you can post such a thing, then perhaps you have some wisdom to share and some lessons to be passed on to others who aren't there yet. Perhaps you have some love and support to offer to those who will never, through no fault of their own, be in that place.  Don't shut them out. 

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