Wives Giving Up on Hubby

“You’ve given up on dad, haven’t you mum?”

“Try that strawberry slice. You’ll love it.”

“Mum! I’m serious. You’ve given up on dad, haven’t you?”

“Don’t be so silly. You’ll understand relationships better when you’ve been married to Brad as long as dad and I’ve been married.”

“Mum, I don’t want to end up like you and dad. I don’t want to give up on Brad like you’ve given up on dad.”

“This really isn’t a nice way to have a mother – daughter catch up. Can’t we talk about something nicer?”

“It was auntie Barbara that made me see it?”

“What does my silly sister have to say about my marriage? It’s none of her business!”

“No, she hasn’t said anything. But I’ve been watching. When uncle Max was diagnosed last year I saw auntie Barbara change overnight. Suddenly she was caring and kind to him. I’d never seen her like that before.”

“Well, the poor old goat gave us all a scare there for a while.”

“Yes, but it showed me that auntie Barbara had given up on him. She’d kind of cornered him out of her life, until he took sick.”

“Well, your uncle is a difficult man. I tried to warn her, but she thought she knew best. She got what she deserved as far as I’m concerned. She could have had a gentleman, but she fell for Mad Max.”

“Mum. You’ve frozen dad out of your life.”

“That is a terribly impertinent thing to say!”

“Mum, it’s true. You avoid him. You don’t like him. You frown at him, mock him and find any excuse to be away from him. You’ve given up on dad.”

“I haven’t given up on him. I’m still with him, aren’t I? God knows how hard that is at times.”

“I don’t want to give up on Brad.”

“Well, my dear, men aren’t always what they seem. And you put your hopes in them and they let you down. Your fantasies won’t change the realities of life.”

“So, are you angry at dad?”

“No! I’m not angry. I may be disappointed, but I’m not angry. I got over that years ago.”

“But you gave up on him.”

“You keep saying that and it’s not true. I’m still married to him. I still cook his meals, wash his clothes and we still go to bed together.”

“Mum I care about Brad. I want him to be happy. I want him to succeed. I want him to be delighted in me. But you don’t feel that way about dad.”

“It’s called growing up. Or call it ‘reality check’ if you want. Brad is not going to be the man you want him to be.”

“Maybe so, but I still don’t want to give up on him.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.”

“I made a promise to love him for better and for worse. If I start to despise him isn’t that because I’m thinking about myself and not him?”

“Do you know how difficult it is to live with dad? We always talked about moving into a bigger house and now he’s set on staying where we are because he likes it here. And he still sings Sinatra songs in the toilet, at the top of his voice. The neighbours tell me that Frankie was in good voice this morning. I know we can afford to go to Bali, but he just doesn’t want to go. I’ve given up a lot to be married to your father.”

“Mum, you’re talking like dad owes you something. Your talking like it’s all about YOU.”

“Well, I have a right to be happy. ‘The pursuit of happiness’; isn’t that what life is all about?”

“Mum, if you are living for yourself then of course you’ll despise dad. But if you saw yourself as dad’s treasure, you wouldn’t give up on him.”

“Honey, I didn’t plan to give up. But your dad is impossible. Do you know he still puts his elbows on the table, after all these years? I’ve had to give up nagging him, because he just ignores me. And he still wipes his hands on my clean tea-towels and then leaves them bunched on the bench. I think he just does that to infuriate me. If I didn’t ‘give up’ as you put it, I’d have gone crazy by now.”

“Mum, I believe I am God’s gift to Brad. I am his helper. So I have to help HIM, not myself. I want to bless him, for who he is, even though he won’t be all I want him to be.”

“Well you just keep at that as long as you can, honey, because I don’t see you keeping that attitude for very long.”

“Mum, I don’t want to discover that I can love him, and care for him, and put up with his foibles just because they gave him a few months to live. If I can do it because he’s dying then I can do it while he’s strong and healthy too, can’t I?”

“You’re a good girl. You’ve always been idealistic. So what can I say? Yes, you can do it. You go ahead and do it.”

“Mum, would you help me?”

“Your relationship with Brad is your own business. I don’t believe in meddling in my children’s marriages.”

“Mum, would you show me how to not give up? Would you show me that you can still care for dad, even though he annoys you as much as he does?”

“That’s a big ask, my dear. I don’t want to make that kind of promise.”

“Then, would you let us work together? Maybe if we help each other we can both learn how to never give up on our husbands.”

Resentment Revisited 2

This is the second part of an article exposing our human tendency to withhold forgiveness and to allow resentment, bitterness and anger to rule our hearts. (see below for links to the first 2 articles on Resentment: Resolving Resentment and Resentment Revisited)

Our human heart objects to forgiving others and relies on several tricks to excuse its unforgiveness.  One trick is to give partial forgiveness and then stop forgiving, as if you now have a right to be hard hearted, because you have already shown grace.

We saw that resentments come from our unresolved issues of the past, where withholding forgiveness makes issues out of those things we hold onto.  Now let’s look at another source of resentments.

The Way I Want It

Another source of resentments is our selfish desire to have things our way.  We all want to be loved, valued and appreciated, and we all want to have an easy life if we can get it.

Once we have determined the way we want things to be we can easily fall into resentment of those who upset our plans, block fulfilment of our will and so on.

If we don’t get the attention we want from family, spouse or friends we can become resentful.

If our spouse and family continually frustrate our hopes and dreams we can become resentful.

If our personal capacities let us down we can resent ourself and even resent God for making us with such limitations.

If you want peace and quiet you will resent those who take it from you.  If you want lots of intimacy, you will resent the spouse that is not interested.  If you want to live in a big house you will resent those that obstruct that objective.  If you want to be the centre of attention you will resent those you must compete with and those who don’t value you as much as you want.

“We weren’t supposed to start a family so quickly.”  “I wasn’t counting on your health being such a problem.”  “I didn’t expect your family to be so interfering.”  “Why don’t people just leave me in peace?”  “I really thought you were going to make something of yourself.”  “I never expected you to be so much like your mum.”  “I thought I could trust you to make wise decisions but you just keep messing things up.”

How do you like things to be?  Do your spouse and family frustrate your hopes and dreams?  Have you forgiven them yet or are you carrying resentment toward them?

It Is Not Fair

Justice issues are another interesting area of resentment.  Are you intolerant of injustice?  Such intolerance appears to be very noble, but you may actually be a slave to bitterness.

I have seen people get on their high horse, as the expression has it, and go charging into a situation in defence of justice.  They are incensed by something they will not let pass: someone wrongly judged; someone not sharing properly; selfishness displayed; or whatever.  The justice champion cannot but dive into the situation and berate the offender.

A common expression of this motivation is the “It’s not fair!” claim so readily heard from the mouth of children.  What they are really saying is, “I’m offended by that”.

A wise parent teaches a child that life is not fair and that each of us must respond to our situations with godly character, grace and faith.  In the absence of such wisdom children learn to fight about the matter of fairness and become demanding, intolerant, hyper-sensitive and so on.

Don’t be fooled by your noble and righteous indignation at those who are selfish, arrogant, loud, exploitative, thoughtless or whatever.  I dare suggest that your reactions are evidence of issues you have not resolved, rather than a divine calling to right the wrongs on earth.

Cleaning the Garage

As I visited friends a few weeks ago I saw their neighbour trying to clean out her garage.  The mother of the family directed the exercise and her tone and demands clearly indicated that she was driving the project and had little trust in getting the help she needed voluntarily.

She shouted like a sergeant-major and found fault with the efforts of her husband and teenage son.  Within half an hour the husband drove off at high speed, revving his motor in what seemed to be a show of machismo, as if to say he is a real man and not really dominated by his wife.  The husband did not return until the whole ordeal was well over.  Several hours later the woman was still scolding the children helping her.  She was on a crusade and it sounded like a dreaded ordeal for all involved.

She probably had very good reasons to act as she did.  Her husband probably lets her down repeatedly.  Her children probably resent being recruited into her projects and subjected to her ugly attitude and tone.  It is probably a toxic experience for everyone.

And that’s consistent with the warning in Hebrews.  If you allow a root of bitterness to grow inside you then many people will be defiled (Hebrews 12:15 ).  In fact, the whole process gets poisoned.

And in such a case it is probably impossible to imagine handling the situation differently, without any resentment, but with plenty of grace.

Resentment Free

If all resentment was removed and thorough forgiveness given then there would be no hurt, disappointment, frustration, shame or similar negatives in the way of getting the job done.

In such a case a happy discussion and negotiation could be explored to see how best to achieve the objective.  Where disagreement exists then godly wisdom can be applied to come to a gracious agreement that does not grow a crop of bitterness.

Accusations and vilifications would not occur.  Despairing thoughts and emotional outbursts would not be part of the process.  Any ruffled feathers would be soon smoothed over by finding God’s grace and keeping that grace as the key quality of the whole exchange.

Manipulation would not be resorted to, nor taking command of the lives of others so as to squeeze from them the required obedience.

And I think to myself (to quote a line from a song), “What a wonderful world!

How Else

Many a frustrated person will protest by asking, “If I don’t get angry and let people know how they let me down, how can I get them to do the right thing?”

I fully sympathise with the question, but please stop a moment and consider its implications.

The only mechanism you have developed in order to get things done to your satisfaction is an evil and toxic mechanism.  You are highly unqualified to lead any project at all if your skill set is limited to anger and abuse.  Rather than being a person of grace who can bless, train and lead others, you are so limited that your only powertool is toxic treatment of others.  You are actively sowing poison into others in order to get your will followed.

And who is to say your ideas of the “right thing” are correct?  If you have to contend with people to get them to fit in with your idea of what is right, then maybe you are the one who is out of order.

Why is YOUR way or YOUR priority, which others don’t seem to be supporting, the way that must be enforced?  What if you are trying to control and drive people to fulfil your agenda when God does not care as much for your agenda as you do?

Remember Martha telling Jesus to force Mary to do what Martha wanted, and Jesus saying that Martha had it wrong (see Luke 10:38-42).

Put Down that Knife

If you are a control freak, totally sold out to the offences that drive you, and determined to have your way, your justification, your vengeance or whatever else YOU think is vital, then you will have already gagged at what I am saying.  You will have your knives drawn to cut me down to size and let me know how justified you are in being angry, resentful, indignant, controlling and demanding, since you are standing on holy ground and everyone else is mired in irresponsibility, foolishness and self will.

But remember the words of Christ.  If you do not forgive you will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14).  If you demand that others pay their debt to you then God will deliver you into the hands of ‘tormentors’ (Matthew 18:34,35).  And the torment you display suggests you are already under God’s sentence of punishment.

Check out my article titled Resolving Resentment to see the Biblical basis for these claims.

You have abandoned God’s grace and the mental and emotional distress that now drives you to torment others is a stinking mess that YOU have made.  Others have not made it for you.

You desperately need to apply forgiveness to all those who incense you and who you feel so offended by.  If you do not then you are doomed to deeper misery than you currently have and you will burn off more and more of your family and friends.  You are TOXIC, despite your prideful belief that you are on God’s side.

Better Solutions

People are selfish and irresponsible.  Your spouse, family, friends and associates fit that description.  You will be let down and hurt by those people.  That’s an everyday part of life.

You will either resent life or you will bring God’s grace into it.  As you learn to forgive and extend grace to people who do not deserve it, just as you want God to extend His grace to you when you don’t deserve it, life will become a blessing and a joy, instead of a wrangle.

In order to resolve differences and difficulties you have with your spouse, family or friends, you are best to start with a clean heart and free spirit.  Resentment, anger, frustration, jealousy, wilfulness, prejudice, and the like are barriers to the better solutions you need.  Remove those barriers immediately by giving open hearted forgiveness to all those who offend you.

Then work with God and your spouse, family and friends to find a godly and blessed solution.

You may have to change your priorities, because they are unrealistic.  You may have to accept others for who they really are, not who you want them to be.  You may need to inspire others to see the merit of things you hold dear.  You may need to see the wisdom of their different way of doing things, and give up your limited concepts about how things and what things are to be done.

You Choose

There are only two options in dealing with the upsets of life.  You either find and give God’s grace to those who offend and fail you, or you become bitter toward them, a root of bitterness springs up in your life and you and many others become defiled.

If your relationships involve contention, argument, disappointment, resentment, wrangling, hardness of heart, or similar negative elements, then you have already made bad choices in the past and are living with the toxic results.

I don’t have to live your life or live with you.  If you want to go ahead and mangle your life then do so as much as you want.  But please don’t live in deception any longer.  You are not a noble agent of God, but a miserable, selfish and bitter person who has personally chosen to come under the power of evil and to damage all those around you.  If you choose to live in unforgiveness then you have everything you deserve.

If you are willing to humble yourself, let me encourage you with this wonderful news.  By you simply following God’s instructions, forgiving all who offend you, God’s grace and His heavenly blessings will be released into your life, no matter how desperately bad things are right now.

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your offspring may live” Deuteronomy 30:19

The earlier articles on Resentment can be found by these links:
Resolving Resentment http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/01/02/resolving-resentment
Resentment Revisited (part 1) http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/09/12/resentment-revisited

Resentment Revisited

Resentment is probably the most prevalent disease in relationships and marriages today.

In my previous Resolving Resentment article (http://chrisfieldblog.com/2012/01/02/resolving-resentment) I showed how Forgiveness is the key to unlocking and removing the resentments that poison relationships.

I now revisit Resentment to help bring home its presence and to help people grapple with its impact in their heart and home.  This article is in 2 parts so after you have read this, look for Resentment Revisited 2 to complete the thoughts I want to share with you.

Resisting Forgiveness

Our human heart is totally selfish and proud.  It resists forgiveness and chooses resentment.  Resentment is really just a soft label for bitterness.  Bitterness is totally toxic and means we have refused to show God’s grace to those we are offended by or angry with.

Our determination to be bitter means we quickly develop a variety of Objections to Forgiveness.  And what is more we can even pride ourselves that we gave partial forgiveness and have put up with the other person better than others might.  At heart we can be real ‘stinkers’!

Limited Forgiveness

A common approach to forgiveness is to give Partial Forgiveness and to applaud ourselves for doing so.  At heart we are Objecting to forgiveness, and using Partial Forgiveness as a way out of forgiveness.

We see an example of this in Peter the Apostle.  Peter accepted Jesus’ teaching about the need to forgive, but in his heart Peter really wanted to take a hard stand against those who offended him.  Look at the historical record of the event, recorded for us by Matthew the Tax Collector.

“Then came Peter to him (Jesus), and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21,22

Peter thought that forgiving his brother SEVEN times was pretty good.  Imagine being offended by the same person the same way Seven Times!  That would be SO offensive.  Forgiving someone Seven times sounds pretty impressive under those circumstances.

Surely there has to be a limit to forgiveness.  If a husband continues to forget anniversaries, continues to drink too much, continues to embarrass his wife in public, continues to waste money, continues to ignore his wife’s advice, or continues any other offensive behaviour, then SURELY there must be a limit to any forgiveness.

And what about a wife who continues to ignore her husband’s wishes, continues to rubbish him to her friends, continues to nag him about his failings, continues to manipulate him, continues to frustrate his interest in intimacy, or continues any other offensive behaviour?  Surely there must be a limit to forgiveness in such cases.

Unlimited Forgiveness

Jesus responded to Peter’s question about limited forgiveness by saying there is no real limit to forgiveness.  We are to forgive and keep on forgiving.  What ever we think is our absolute limit needs to be multiplied ten times and then multiplied by the original number all over again.

If we offer ‘partial forgiveness’ then we have not truly forgiven.

And there is nothing to boast about that we have put up with this or that for so long or so many times.  There is no room for pride in our partial forgiveness.

What Really Happens

People normally put up with something that bothers them for a while, then decide they have a right to explode, react, get angry, resent the action and be bitter toward the offender.  People even see their short lived patience as a badge of honour and they usually broadcast the fact that they have been tolerant, as if that excuses their anger, resentment and final UNFORGIVENESS.

“I haven’t said anything for three days, but you just keep on doing what you are doing and so, ENOUGH is ENOUGH!”  “I’ve had a belly full of your behaviour and I’m not taking it any more.”  “This has gone TOO FAR!”  “I’ve been patient with you, and I haven’t said anything before, but I just have to tell you that I am angry with what you are doing.”  “You have no idea what you have put me through and how patient I have been!”

Despite all those high sounding self affirmations about how wonderful we have been putting up with the other person’s faults, what really happens is that we give in to Unforgiveness.  We choose to be Unforgiving and to then be angry, resentful, judgmental, condemning, etc.

Our pride justifies our anger and unforgiveness and we commend ourselves for having temporarily endured the offence, when in truth we have violated God’

Human Limits

Whether we actually ‘forgive’ or just try to tolerate the other person’s behaviour for a while we usually have pretty short limits.  Peter thought that forgiving SEVEN times was pretty impressive.

It could even be that Peter was proud of his incredible willingness to forgive an offender Seven times.  He had no hesitation in offering the idea to Jesus, as if it was a pretty good offer.

Our human hearts are evil and so we don’t want to act like God or Christ and to forgive.  That is why Christ warned us that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven, Matthew 6:15.  We are so prone to reacting badly to other people’s failures, while wanting to be excused from our own.

Resentment is Resentment

Whether you give in to resentment the instant you are offended, or whether you forgive someone seven times before you give in to resentment, Resentment is still Resentment.  Anger is still anger.  Bitterness is still bitterness.  Unforgiveness is till unforgiveness, even if you gave partial forgiveness for a while before you reverted to unforgiveness.

Your temporary tolerance, incredible patience and limited forgiveness don’t count for anything.  You have allowed a root of bitterness to spring up and to defile you and those around you (Hebrews 12:15).  Your heart reaction is wrong, and you failed to give God’s grace to someone who needs it.

What is more, you set yourself up as judge.  Despite God’s warnings that we are not to judge others (Matthew 7:1) a person who becomes angry and resentful has stood in judgement of someone.  In fact, they have set themselves up as “Judge, Jury and Executioner”!  They judge the person to be out of order, find them to be “guilty” and then prescribe the punishment.  The punishment is that the offender is subjected to the anger and resentment of the one standing in judgement.

Our choice to resent someone means we think we can stand in God’s place and lord ourselves over the other person.  And that’s pride.

Growing Your Resentments

Where do resentments come from?  Obviously they come from our decision to be angry and unforgiving toward those who offend us.

By that process, however, we each grow our own garden of resentments, based on our past decisions about the things we will resent.  Some people have a flourishing garden of resentments and live their lives in a perpetual state of reaction to people who offend them.

Since this is so very debilitating, as well as against God’s instruction to show grace to people and even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43,44), we should have a closer look at how this process takes place in our lives.

People I Dislike

When we are offended by a person or a situation and allow resentment to spring up we easily become resentful of all people or situations that remind us of that original offence.

You will be familiar with the idea that, “I just can’t stand people like that!”  Whatever the “like that” is in your case, and whatever it is that you can’t stand, it represents a pet resentment you are growing in your life.

The problem for you is that you have been offended in the past and not given forgiveness to the one who offended or wronged you.

Guess what might be unresolved in your life if you say things like these.  “I can’t stand bossy people.”  “I can’t tolerate such injustice.”  “That look on someone’s face makes my blood boil.”  “I have absolutely no time for people like that.”  “Don’t raise your eyebrows at me when I’m talking to you!”  “You just think you’re SO superior, don’t you.”  “I’m not going to let that happen to me ever again.”  “I won’t have someone looking down at me.”
People have issues about being belittled, ignored, misunderstood, misrepresented, falsely accused, taken for granted, used and rejected.  Some people engage the rest of their lives trying to even some score, prove some point, vindicate themselves, right some wrong or otherwise react to some offence they have never forgiven.

Learned Intolerances

Every time we fail to show God’s grace to someone who wrongs us we become trapped in bitterness.  We are warned that the only alternative to giving grace is to have a “root of bitterness” spring up in our life (Hebrews 12:15).

We don’t like the word ‘bitterness’ so we use such terms as resentment, anger, frustration and intolerance, because those things sound reasonable, and can even be justified as a righteous response to someone else’s evil.

The examples can be quite obvious, like having a bossy older sister causing people to be intolerant of strong minded women.  At the same time we each have unique and personal opportunities to learn intolerance toward certain types of people or behaviour.  Our intolerance is really a sign of a root of bitterness inside us.

People despise the favoured child in their family, feeling wronged by not getting the same attention.  People despise the over confident person who always outperforms them.  People resent others who get privileges they did not get.  And on it goes.  Much of the energy behind feminism is fuelled by feelings of resentment toward males.

What are your intolerances?

Resolve It

Discovering your intolerances and uncovering your bitterness is not a game where you get to bring up how others have hurt you.  It is a vital challenge to your heart, calling you to whole-heartedly forgive those who have offended you in the past.

Don’t revisit your pain, but RESOLVE IT!

All the unfinished business in your heart needs to be removed by you forgiving every offender who ever wronged you.  Give up your unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and anger.  Despite what those people have done, your only hope of a better future is for you to forgive them.

If you do not forgive them you end up in the hands of spiritual tormentors, as Jesus warns in Matthew 18:34,35.  So the mess you are now in is not because of the way they treated you but because of your refusal to forgive them.

Stop blaming others for their faults when YOU are the worst enemy to your happiness and blessing.

Grow up and resolve your issues right now, by choosing to forgive people who don’t deserve to be forgiven, just as you want God to forgive you even though you don’t deserve it.

There is More

If you find these thoughts helpful then look out for the second part of this article on Resentment Revisited.  I have additional practical insights to share with you, so you can be free and so you can help others.

Look out for Resentment Revisited 2.

Expectations

We all have expectations.  Optimists have positive expectations.  Pessimists have negative expectations.  And most of the issues we have with people and life are based on our expectations.  So a question we should ask is, ‘Why have expectations at all?’

Expectations lead us to the pain of ‘hope deferred’ (Proverbs 13:12).  If our expectations are not fulfilled we become upset and that can lead us to strife with others or cause us to pull back from them.

People often express displeasure with others based on their expectations.  Consider the conversations you hear among your friends, or even on the media.  People often express their disapproval of the actions of their spouse, children, boss, employees, friends, government, etc.

But just because we hold an expectation does not make us right.  Our expressed disapproval might sound like an expression of high moral values and our privileged right to find fault with others, but it is actually a violation of God’s instruction to us that we are not to judge others, otherwise we will be judged (Matthew 7:1).

Wrong Expectations

Our expectations can be completely wrong, no matter how deeply held.

A wife might complain, “My husband comes home and watches TV!”

Well, that puts him among millions of other husbands.  So, what’s the problem?

The problem is she had a different expectation.  She may really want him to do chores, or to give her personal attention, or to play with the kids, or help the kids with their homework, or make repairs or just be busy rather than appearing lazy.

Whatever her expectation it is the basis for her judgment, disapproval, frustration, resentment, etc.

Similarly a husband may complain about his wife not pleasing him, when she does many things for him that other wives do not do.  The problem is not the amount of things she does, but whether what she does matches his expectations.

Those expectations could lead to bitterness, feelings of rejection and even divorce.

These issues are often brought up to couples planning to wed, to show that the families of origin have different modes of operation and different values, which lead the couple to have different ideas of what they and the other should do.

The word EXPECTATIONS cuts to the heart of this problem.

Susan’s Expectations

Recently my wife expressed disappointment with me because we had arranged to chat about something and her expectation of how I would engage in the process was different to mine.  I did not realise she had a specific expectation of me and my failure to meet her expectations was a disappointment to her.

This simple moment of mismatched expectations became a good prompt for me to distil the process of unfulfilled expectations impacting our lives.

Expressing Expectations

We all encounter times when others, especially our spouse or family members, do not meet our expectations.  And at times we may even feel that God has not met our expectations.

Consider how easy it is for people with expectations to say such things as: “He wasn’t supposed to do that”; “I never expected to hear her say such a thing”; “Why did God let it happen?”; “Are you just going to sit there and do nothing about this?”; “I never thought you’d let me down like this”; “You don’t care, do you?”; “You’ve really let me down this time”; “Life wasn’t meant to turn out like this”; “Why did this have to happen to me?”; “I deserve better than this”; “I have every right to be angry”.
On the other hand, people often find themselves facing the disapproval of others without really understanding what they have done wrong.  “I had no idea I was supposed to do such a thing”, “What in the world did I do wrong now?”, “Why can’t you be happy with what I do?”, “I did it the way you said”, “I thought you’d like it, that’s why I went out of my way to do this for you”, “What’s the use? No matter what I do I get in trouble”.

Inner Needs and Desires

Expectations are based on our inner needs and desires.  We want people to please us.  We want things to go well for us.  We want things our way.  So we set up expectations that others will please us and we will get our way.  When this doesn’t happen we accuse the others of failing us, rather than facing our own inner expectations.

When our expectations bring us into strife with others we can be sure that they are based on pride and selfishness.  When our expectations cause us to feel hurt by others it is most likely that we have made that person an idol in our life and are looking to them to bring us fulfilment and personal benefits which we should be looking only to God to bring to us.

Expectations and Wants

Our expectations are closely linked to our wants.

Consider the interchange of the word ‘expect’ and ‘want’ in the following sentences.

“Surely you don’t expect me to believe that!”

“Do you expect me to wait around all day for you?”

“The children expect me to wait on them hand and foot.”

“I expect you to take notice of my wishes and to fulfil them.”

“I expect this mess to be cleaned up by the time I return.”

If we have many expectations of others then we could also be seen as someone who is highly demanding or desiring to control others.  Expectations, wants and demands are often interchangeable.

Death to Expectations

Imagine what life would be like if you had no expectations and made no demands on others or on life itself.
If you saw your life as a responsibility to please and worship God and to fulfil His will for you life, with no expectations more than that life will happen and you will enjoy eternity with God when this life ends, then you would not end up in arguments with people about how they fail you.

If you had no expectations of others, or of life itself, you would accept whatever comes your way and do your best for God’s glory.  Husbands would love their wife no matter how she treated him, and wives would submit to their husbands no matter what he was like.  Parents would love and train their children without resorting to disapproval, manipulation or control.  People would serve God whether it was easy or hard and endure all manner of challenges with faith and patience.

Expectations are Toxic

When we hold expectations of others we elevate that person to the place of an idol in our lives.  We see them as a source of something we want, when God is our source.  We think that if our spouse, parents, children, others or society was to treat us a certain way then we would be fulfilled and happy.  But we are to be fulfilled and happy in God, not by the provisions of others.  If we look to others then they are effectively an idol we have put our trust in, in the place of God.

Expectations of God

We are to have positive expectations of God, because He is holy and totally reliable.  His word is true.

But even there, we must remember that God is sovereign and that when God does us good it may not be the way we would have ordered it.

Deep trials are often a way of God doing us good, as we see illustrated in Psalm 107.

We also see how David the shepherd boy faced two fearful menaces, a bear and a lion.  That’s not what the average shepherd sees as a good thing.  They would not normally order such experiences if they had the choice.  But for David his encounters with the lion and bear qualified him to take on Goliath and become a champion (1Samuel 17:36).

David’s famous Psalm 23 talks of having our head anointed with oil and sitting at a banqueting table.  But the road to such a place is through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

Claiming Scripture

God assures us that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28) and we are to believe that God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).  We also know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38,39).

So we are to have high expectations of God.

Yet Revelation 4:11 tells us we are not on the planet for our own pleasure but for God’s pleasure.  Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

We are to live in high expectation of God, while at the same time trusting God when things appear to go wrong, and allowing God to take us on His road, not the road of our choosing.

Let Go

As we mature in life we have each learned to let go of things.  As we do, we experience increased freedom.  So why not accelerate your personal growth right now by taking stock of your expectations and letting go of them?

Let go of your expectations of your spouse.  You probably expect them to please you and fulfil you.  Well, let go.  Give up such expectations.  If you get such things treat it as a blessing, not as a right you can demand.  Choose to love and serve God, no matter what your spouse is or does.

Let go of your expectations toward your children or parents.  Much of what you want them to be or do is probably linked to your personal values and wishes.  Thank God for your family.  Trust your children to God.  Do what God asks of you as a child and as a parent, and leave the rest to Him.

Let go of your expectations of life.  It has been said that ‘happiness is a means of travel, not a destination’.  Enjoy the life God has given you and do all you do to the glory of God.  Rejoice, whether you abound or are in lack.

Ask God to show you your expectations and as you discover them from time to time, probably by feeling upset by someone not meeting your expectations, ask God to forgive you for holding such expectations and for judging others, and then give up that expectation altogether.

I believe there is great freedom for us all to enjoy as we do.

Resolving Resentment

I pointed out recently, in an article titled Marriage Big Issues, that resentment is a real danger in our relationships. (The link to Marriage Big Issues is at the end of this article)

To assist those who are struggling with resentments or other issues in their marriage or relationships I want you to see the key to resolving resentments and dissolving many of the issues and problems that can destroy relationships.

One of my granddaughters, just eight years old, told me today that she prays about her tendency to get angry and now has greater control over her anger.  Last night I saw her quietly leave the table after something upset her and she came back a short while later in a perfectly happy mood.  She had prayed about the feelings she was struggling with.

So the keys to resolving resentments and related upsets are not hard to access.  Even a child can apply God’s truth to become free.

Power Tool

Back in the 1980’s I taught a marriage series in which I included a session on the Marriage Power Tool.  Susan and I had proven the power of this key on several occasions and so I could confidently teach and recommend it.  That ‘power tool’ is the key to Resolving Resentments which I am sharing here.

God’s Power Tool for repairing relationships is FORGIVENESS.

It may not sound impressive or catchy, and it may even be something you most want to avoid, but it is the wonderful and simple key to unlocking hurts, resentments, pain and hopelessness in many relationships.

Forgive the Offender

Jesus gave extensive teaching about our need to forgive.  In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus included the words, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).  Then Jesus immediately followed the prayer with a challenging instruction.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14,15

Forgive or else!  If you refuse to forgive then you won’t be forgiven.  It’s as simple as that.

To nail the message home Jesus later told a parable about a king who forgave a servant who owed a great debt.  That forgiven servant went off and threatened someone who owed the servant a small debt.  Because the servant refused to pass on the grace of forgiveness, the king threw the servant into prison, demanding that the whole debt be paid in full.

Because the servant would not forgive he was not forgiven.  See Matthew 18:23-35 for the record of this parable.

And to make the matter all the more relevant to us, Jesus ended the parable by saying that God will treat each of us that same way.

“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.  So likewise will my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” Matthew 18:34,35

Resentment Resists

What makes Forgiveness so very important when people argue or are upset with each other is that our human heart is drawn toward resentment, rather than forgiveness.  Rather than forgive the offender, our selfish human heart gets upset, hurt and resentful.  So making the choice to forgive is a very powerful thing to do.  It defies the natural instinct of our selfish human heart and enables us to release God’s grace.

When we are upset with others we become ungracious toward them.  Our words and attitudes tend toward despisement and resentment.

Common responses people make toward each other betray the edge of resentment, rebuke and cynicism that are in place.  “So you finally decided to turn up, did you?”  “It’s about time you decided to help.”  “I do hope it’s not too much trouble for you to make yourself useful.”  “I suppose you think it was MY fault.”

All of these jibes shout our resentment and our failure to bring God’s grace into the situation.

Practical Examples

A wife may be resentful of her husband who seems keener to be at work or out of the home than to meet the practical needs of the family.  Similarly a husband may resent his wife who would rather talk with her friends than be there for him.

When a wife or husband is agitated by resentments they will speak them into the relationship, even if trying not to.  A wife calling her husband to urge him home will tend to display in her tone and her words that she is disappointed and accusing of her husband for not being home yet.  A husband trying to make comment about something he wants his wife to change will invariably bring disappointment and accusation into his tone and words.

However, if the husband and wife have fully resolved their resentments they can address the issues without bringing their resentments into the equation.

“Hi honey, are you getting home soon?  We’re waiting to eat together and so I’m hoping you can join us.”

“Sweetheart, can I get you to end that phone call so we can have a little catch up time before dinner?”

What do you resent?

There are many things that can be resented in relationships but the common ones will centre on food, time, intimacy, laziness, control and similar core issues.

When resentment enters the picture it is very easy for ungracious words and heated exchanges to erupt.

“Of course you liked the meal.  It’s full of fat.  When are you going to do something about your weight?”

“Why do I have to do it right now?  We have plenty of time to do that, but not much time for just being together.”

“I knew you’d be thinking about intimacy, but what about all those chores that haven’t been done?”

If you could identify the things you resent, and then ask God to help you forgive the other party for the failings and hurts that you attach to those resentments, then you can begin removing the barriers to your relationship.

Powertool

Susan and I have found over the years that some rather tough moments have been turned around in an instant, just by one or the other facing the resentments and choosing forgiveness instead of the selfish choice.

That doesn’t mean it is easy.  We have both faced times of struggle in coming to the place where we would give open hearted forgiveness to the other.

For us the issues have not been great dramatic reasons to resent the other, but the personal disappointments and frustrations that come with living life alongside someone who has a different approach or value system about some things than we do.

We have found forgiveness to be an absolute powertool for ourselves and for those who will accept it.  But it has to be activated.  Just like a machine that has to be switched on, forgiveness takes an active choice to activate it.

Everything Can Be Forgiven

I know that people are jealous about their hurts.  We are all likely to think, “Well you just don’t understand what I am going through”.  We want to have a right to hold resentment and bitterness in our heart.  We want vengeance and we want the other person to admit they are wrong and change their ways before we will give them forgiveness.

Be assured that all can be forgiven.  Adultery can be forgiven.  Incest can be forgiven.  Violence can be forgiven.  Betrayal can be forgiven.  I have helped people address these very issues and find forgiveness where they thought it was impossible.  Everything can be forgiven.

And that means that everything is fixable.  There is no ultimate sin against you or your marriage that gives you the right to put an end to the relationship.  Only God can end your marriage, since He is the one who joined you as one flesh in the moral miracle of marriage.

Jesus Christ was murdered by men who hated Him without a cause, supported by the very people He came to save.  And on His deathbed, Jesus said, “Father forgiven them”.

Everything can be forgiven.

Get God’s Grace

Giving forgiveness is a divine act.  It puts you into God’s territory.  In fact, the Bible calls forgiveness “the grace of God”.

The Bible tells us to be very careful to show God’s grace or a root of bitterness, which we like to call resentment or some other soft label, will spring up and pollute and destroy.

“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:15

If you can’t forgive then you need to encounter God’s grace.  It is hard to give away something you have never received.

You are a rotten selfish sinner and you are worthy of nothing but God’s judgment.  But God sent Jesus to die to pay your penalty for you.  If you accept Christ as your saviour you receive God’s grace.  Then you can start to give that grace away to others, by forgiving them, just as God has forgiven you.
Find the Marriage Big Issues article at http://chrisfieldblog.com/2011/12/22/marriage-big-issues