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Is it Time to Drop Your Defenses? - Crosswalk Couples Devotional - April 4

  • 2022 Apr 04

Is it Time to Drop Your Defenses?
By Jen Ferguson

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” - 1 Peter 5:5, ESV

Can I just confess? I hate to be wrong. I hate criticism and constructive feedback. I don’t like being called out when I do the wrong thing. It all makes my skin crawl. Because of my strong dislike for this, I have come up with quite a few workarounds that I think shield me from the blame that I should (in most cases) accept. For example, if my husband, Craig, calls me out on something, my brain races through past events to quickly come up with a potential justification for my actions. I can recall and catalog excuses where I can firmly point to external circumstances or people that affirm the case I am pleading. I can tell him why he shouldn’t take something personally or how he should perceive my actions. It sounds something like:

If you would have, then I wouldn’t have…
You know this bothers me, so I am completely justified in…
Don’t you know why I’m so short-tempered? I’ve had no breaks, so much work, and the kids!! Oh, the kids…

But the very plain truth is this is not healthy behavior. And since God doesn’t like to leave me in my unhealthy state, He’s invested in helping me own what I need to own without it destroying my joy, confidence, and self-image. How? It’s a process, but here’s what I’m learning:

1. I am not what I do. I seem to be particularly sensitive to criticism about my work — whether I’ve done a perceived good or bad job. I have a hard time separating my worth from my works and so I can place an inordinate amount of value on how people view my performance. In addition, I have little grace for myself over the mistakes I make. When people bring me their feedback, my first instinct is to defend what I’ve done in an effort to retain my value. But the truth is, someone’s feedback should never have that kind of power. My value is independent of anything I say or do. The more I work on separating my work from my worth, the more receptive I can be to the iron sharpening iron and the more I can allow people around me to help me look more like Jesus. And if my goal is to become more like Him, I can welcome feedback instead of trying to deflect it.

2. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I hate disappointing people, hurting people, or letting people down. I try hard a lot, but there’s no way I’m ever going to be perfect. When I remember that I’m designed to need Jesus, it helps me to give myself grace for when I fall short. The truth is, if I was always strong or capable enough for others, they would be deceived in thinking they don’t need Jesus, just other people! Instead of trying to justify my incorrect action, I can seize the opportunity to show myself and others that I need a lot of grace from God and others, too.

3. I can assume good intent. Sometimes I infer that people are criticizing or judging me and they actually are not. Even if I think they may be acting catty or passive-aggressive, I can still choose to believe the best. This keeps me from harboring bitterness and resentment. And if there seems to be a repetitive pattern, I can ask clarifying questions instead of possibly sitting with an assumption that isn’t true. Chances are, they aren’t trying to tear me down, but instead, they’re simply advocating for their own needs. Taking everything personally means I’m often left tired and spent and that is not a recipe for a healthy relationship.

Jesus didn’t hesitate to let people know how they can grow and become healthier. He told the truth with kindness, love, and a heaping measure of grace. How would this impact our relationship with our spouse if we spoke and listened with this same manner? The truth is, defensiveness builds walls. Walls bring separation. Working through mistakes, misunderstandings, and shortcomings with truth, grace, and love, however, breeds intimacy and connection. And that’s what makes marriages thrive.

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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