Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:37-38)
In this Luke passage, Jesus is using the illustration of a basket of grain. Back in Jesus’ day, when a person received a measurement of grain that has been filled up, then pressed down, shaken, and running over into their lap, then they had been given all the grain possible. This is not a stingy measure; it’s an abundant measurement of more than expected. His illustration is meant to be a picture of forgiveness. When you realize the transaction that you have been given, you then use it to give to others in the same way. We do not extend forgiveness to receive it back. We extend forgiveness because we understand how much of a measure we’ve been forgiven, and we live out of that overflow.
Forgiveness for all – including your spouse.
This passage addresses our tendency to judge other people and the sad reality we can easily apply it to our marriages. Do we judge our spouse, condemn them, and withhold forgiveness? Oftentimes the answer to that question is yes because they know us better than anyone else and if we are not careful it can cause serious conflict. In our marriage, withholding forgiveness often plays itself out in the form of criticism.
Are you constantly looking for the fault in your spouse?
Do you feel attacked every time you do something good or bad? It’s always the worst or never good enough?
Do you prepare yourself for what is going to be said to you when your spouse finds out?
Do you find yourself bypassing all the good things your spouse does and only point out the negative?
If you answered yes to any of these questions above, that is a good indicator of criticism in your marriage. Emotionally, this can cause damage if not discussed or address. The question is, how do we live out of the overflow that God has given us to all people, especially our spouse? Here are three ways to counteract criticism.
1. Check your “you” statements
“You always” or “You never” are phrases that can cause destruction. You can easily avoid conflict and manipulation by checking your “you” statements. Here is an example.
My family is running late to church. As we all pile in the car as quickly as possible I say, “YOU can’t ever be on time are YOU being slow on purpose?”
In this statement, the “you” is soul crushing and negative. Though we may not realize it, YOU is an attempt to manipulate behavior by belittling and criticizing the situation by making it personal. Conflict is there, its always there when you talk to each other like this. In the moment it feels good to jab, but it is not helpful long-term.
A better statement would be.
My family is running late to church. As we all pile in the car as quickly as possible I say, “It’s really important to me that we be on time to church.”
In this statement, you are saying the same things without attacking or being critical. You are communicating the why behind your comment.
2. Monitor your complaints.
Have you ever heard to phrase “misery loves company?” Sadly, many spouses love to complain together about everything in life. This is not a healthy practice for couples and it can start to be damaging to your marriage when the complaints start being thrown at each other through criticism. Constant complaints make you both feel like you are not being heard and you may start to feel bad about yourselves. Do you find common ground in talking about someone in a negative way and for a moment, it feels like you are connecting?
Challenge yourselves to monitor your complaints by agreeing to avoid saying negative things about people. Make it a point in your marriage to remove that person from your conversation for a period of time. It might be an in-law, relative or maybe just a family friend. When you slow down your complaining together, you slow down your criticism of each other.
3. Assess your assumed letdown.
When you ask your spouse to do something, but in your mind, you assume that they are not going to get it done. You are assuming letdown and over time this causes anger, frustration, and disappointment for both of you. Eventually, you both stop asking each other to do anything and it creates emotional distance. To fight this threat, whoever is assuming letdown must identify the source of this emotion.
Start by asking yourself:
Are my expectations so high that my spouse will never meet them?
Have I experienced letdown as a child and now I live out of fear of letdown from your spouse?
For this element of criticism, you have to find the source of your assumed letdown. You may want help your spouse find the sources, but it is best to self-evaluate the current situation. Once the sources are identified, then you sit down and discuss how this plays itself out in criticism.