In my last post, we talked about watering our marital garden to have greener grass - even greener than that on the other side of the fence! One of the watering strategies I presented was kindness.
I hear a lot about kindness lately. My son’s school focuses on one Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) every month so kindness gets a focus for an entire month. Yet, other than “being nice” I’m not sure people really know what kindness is. So let’s break that down a bit. These descriptions work for all relationships, but I’ll focus on marriage here.
For me, kindness comes down to grace and mercy. My pastor describes grace as getting something don't deserve and mercy as not getting something we do deserve. From a God standpoint, that means that we get his love and salvation, despite our sins separating us from Him. God’s mercy means that we don’t get his condemnation (since Jesus paid the price) or His reminding us of our sins every time we go to Him.
In marriage, grace and mercy work much the same way. When we water with grace and mercy we are giving our spouse things we may feel he doesn’t deserve and not giving him something we think he does deserve. You can see that this runs counter to what the world tells us, right?
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say our husband has been frustrating us lately. He’s getting on our every last nerve. We are confident we are in the right and he’s in the wrong. Our normal inclination may be to give him the cold shoulder, turn away in bed, snap at him when he talks to us, and belittle his efforts to make things better. After all, we are right and he is wrong.
Grace in this case means giving him a hug when we want to walk away. We give him a beer or soda when he comes home instead of assuming he can take care of himself. We give him the gift of asking about his day instead of ignoring his need to talk about what happened at work. We give him our attention and eye contact when we want to put distance between us. We give him a kiss when we would rather turn away.
Mercy in this case means not giving him our back when we sleep. It means not slamming the dishes around as we prepare dinner. It means not having that edge to our voice when we talk. It means we do not trash him to our sisters or friends when we really want to talk (over and over) about our virtues and his sins.
I know this is hard. I have marital frustrations, too. But when we take the time to water with kindness (grace and mercy in this case) we will find a much greener field of grass than when we water with negativity and harshness. Research by The Gottman Institute says that it takes 5 positive comments to balance 1 negative comment. Think about that for a minute. FIVE! That’s a lot of grace and mercy to balance one negative remark. Let’s spend this week finding opportunities to share grace and mercy with our spouse for a greener marital lawn!