Defensiveness is ugly. It doesn’t look good on anyone.
“Stop being so defensive!”
Me defensive? You’re the one who’s being defensive!
“But I” “But you” “At Least I” “Well I don’t”. Defend, defend, defend, because there’s just no way I’m wrong here. No. Way.
Joe and I have both struggled with defensiveness in different ways.
I have a natural stubbornness that says don’t tell me how to do it. I hated when Joe would point out to me “a better way” to do what I was doing. I have my own way of doing things, and I like that way best. Keeping that attitude caused many conflicts because I was not willing to listen and would defend my way. I got really good at playing defense.
Sometimes I played so well that Joe just gave up and quit the game. Did that mean I won? No, it means we both lost.
Joe is sensitive to criticism or especially if I point out any area where he may have failed.
He often makes the jump in his head from “Hey hon, this is an area that you could work on” to “You’re a total and complete failure and don’t deserve to be my husband.” This was a huge struggle for him early on because of his past and being told he was worthless as a child. Those were difficult voices to drown out. It became easier for him to to believe those lies about himself and withdraw from communication altogether.
Changing the defensive stance:
1. Think rightly of ourselves:
Why do we defend ourselves so vigorously? Because we choose to see ourselves through the lens of pride. Thinking too high or too low are both forms of pride. Defining ourselves as we want to instead of as God defines us.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
Think soberly. When we understand who we are in Christ- that we are sinners saved by grace- then we realize that we have equal footing in God’s eyes. Whether we think we’re all that- or whether we think we’re worth nothing- both are not who God says we are. When that sinks in then it’s so much easier to say, “I was wrong.”
2. Think rightly of our spouse.
Our default is often to look down on our spouse, and see all the reasons that I’m better than him. But Christ-like love is choosing to consider others as “better” than ourselves. But that’s not a punishment. God has given us our husband or wife as a gift. They have something different to offer. They may even have a better way. It is possible 🙂
3. Think rightly of correction.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
We all need correction in our lives. And it’s no fun when it has to come from your spouse, I know. It’s sometimes feels easier to take correction from anyone but that person you married. This is not agreeing to a verbal bashing or being told you’re an idiot. This is agreeing to hear your spouse’s point of view with a humble spirit. They may be right. When I’ve gotten to a place to lay down my defenses, Joe ends up being a huge blessing in my life by pointing out things I normally wouldn’t see. But I miss that blessing if I’m too busy defending myself!
Challenge: Play more defense! But instead play together on the same team. Spend that same energy protecting and defending your marriage from self-defense and pride.