3 Ways to Keep the “Little Things” from Building Big Bitterness
“He said he would finish building the bookshelves 3 YEARS AGO!”
“She said she didn’t mind if I joined the Monday night golf league, but now she complains every time I go.”
“He didn’t fix the car like he said he would.”
“I want to live in the country, but we’ve been stuck in this neighborhood for 10 years.”
Do you have a dream that remains unfulfilled?
Is your spouse standing in the way?
What happens when you bring it up in discussion?
Do you get a big fat "NO!"? Does a fight ensue? Perhaps you get no response at all?
These “little” things frequently occur in marriages. They’re annoying little nuisances that we try to ignore, shove in the corner of our heart, and attempt not to let them bother us.
But over time, it's these little things that stack up, building into something big without us even noticing. (Satan is sneaky like that.)
How does it happen?
As thoughts of nagging issues come to us, we invite them in, allow them to pull up a chair and prop up their metaphorical feet. We visit them often, letting them know we haven’t forgotten about them. We even feed these thoughts.
Do you know how?
Think about it. When your spouse does something that angers you, what naturally happens?
If you’re anything like me, you quickly think of those annoying little nuisances (aka our spouse’s offenses), and repeat them to yourself just to make sure they’re still there, sitting in your corner.
Like ammo waiting to be used against our spouse. We don’t want to let go of the hurts these thoughts cause.
Because we feel we’ve been treated unfairly… even when the thing our spouse did (or didn’t do) wasn’t sinful. And we think we need to hang on to these hurts to justify how we feel: angry, frustrated, disappointed, unloved, uncared for, fed up, etc.
So, what do we do with these nagging thoughts and annoying issues?
How do we make them go away?
First, you must recognize what the thoughts and issues are.
If someone asked your spouse what resentment(s) you hold toward them, what would they say? Do you think they’d be able to answer quickly? Why or why not?
Why DO you resent your spouse?
If it helps, write down your answers. Keep them in mind as you read this post.
Isn’t it interesting how most times WIVES hold resentment over things that aren’t done, and HUSBANDS resent the fact that they feel like they can never please their wife?
Do you see how the two are related?
“You said you would ___________!”
“Please. Stop nagging me.”
As she continues pressing, he thinks, “No matter what I do, it will NEVER be enough! Might as well not even try.”
The cycle continues.
And the little becomes bigger in both their minds.
Second, we must choose how we respond: with Resentment or Grace.
Resentment according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.”
Simply put, it is a form of bitterness and unforgiveness.
Whether or not our spouse has sinned against us, when we…
Harbor feelings of resentment
Feed the thoughts that have propped up their feet in the corner of our mind
Sit ready to fire off the ammo if necessary
Add our spouse’s “offense” to the running list we keep of their failures
Hold onto the hurt these issues cause us
…we are gripping tight to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a sin.
So, while we’re busy focusing on our spouse’s sin, we’re sinning against them in our response.
When we label our resentment correctly- call sin, sin- it can be dealt with Biblically.
And we don’t have to let it fester until it has infected our lives and marriage.
Grace, we know, is God’s unmerited favor toward the unworthy (us).
Romans 5:8 tells us: God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
While we were still sinners.
If Jesus can DIE for us while we were active sinners- stubbornly rebelling against Him, can we extend grace and forgiveness to our spouse for… forgetting to put their socks away?
Third, we need to extend grace and forgiveness to move forward.
In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus and Peter have a conversation that addresses such forgiveness.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother and sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
The word “sin” in this passage means to “miss the mark.”
Has your spouse missed the mark you’ve drawn for them?
Read that again.
Has your spouse missed the mark YOU have drawn for them?
A personal example
My husband hasn’t finished the bookshelves when he said he would. I could…
Add this “offense” to the ongoing list I have in mind
Give him the host of reasons why I “need” the shelves done
Tell him how he’s wronged me and broken my rules
Let this fuel my resentment, leading to further division and anger
OR I could remember…
This offense is against MY rules, it is NOT a sin defined by the Lord
God has not asked my husband to give me everything I ask for; nowhere in the Bible does it say Happy Wife, Happy Life
I’m not perfect; there’s a lot for which my husband could resent me… is that what I want from him?
I cannot control what he does, but I can seek to understand why he does what he does. Why didn’t he finish the shelves? Is he overwhelmed with other responsibilities? Is he not sure how to tackle the next step in the process? Does he simply need help?
Whatever the reason for unfinished projects, it most certainly is not a personal one against me.
Think back to the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus said when someone sins (misses the mark), forgive them seventy-seven times.
That means forgive them over, and over, and over, and over again (Check out this song by I Am They. Let it minister to your heart). Unlimited forgiveness. Forever forgiveness.
Because that’s what Christ does for us.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
To uproot resentment toward your spouse, try the following:
Identify the list of “offenses” you’re harboring, ask your spouse to do the same- write them down
Choose to forgive him/her and let go of the list- burn it! Release your spouse from the resentment to which you’re clinging
Seek forgiveness from your spouse for your part in the situation (No matter how “small” it may seem. Remember, small things grow to big bitterness if not dealt with)
For extra encouragement, check out Help! My Marriage is “Stuck”- How do I forgive my husband/wife when they’ve hurt me so badly?
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrew 12:15)
Check it out
To further discover the impact that harboring resentment can have on your life and marriage, check out How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse (Part 2): What Happens if I Don’t Forgive My Spouse?
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