Click here if you missed Finding the Root of Your Marital Problems, Part I
Where are you living selfishly?
Before you can ever begin to deal with any of the problems in your marriage, you must first identify exactly where you are living selfishly. Jesus said, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5). Because of this command, I often start here in marriage counseling because I know this is the root of the problem. I usually ask a couple to begin by making a list for me of every place in which each one is living selfishly. The plank needs to be removed from each eye before either can clearly see the real need in their marriage. I can not stress to you enough how important it is for you to first look in the mirror before you ever take a magnifying glass to your mate.
Let me speak very frankly with you. Unless you are willing to do this exercise, you can forget about solving the problems in your marriage. If you really want to get to the root of your marital problems, here is what you need to do: Find a piece of paper and get off by yourself. Ask God to show you the plank in your own eye. Begin by making a list of every area where you are living selfishly in your marriage relationship. Be specific. Is your thinking centered on yourself or on your mate’s well-being? Do your conversations begin and end with your views and opinions? Where are you failing to lay your life down and give to your spouse? But, a word of warning. Be careful that you don’t begin listing your mate’s faults, only your own. As you look at your list, you will see clearly what is causing the conflicts in your marriage.
How can you overcome selfishness in your relationship?
1. Choose to look honestly at your thoughts and motives. This first step is very important because selfishness begins in the thoughts and motives of your heart. Before selfishness ever becomes an action in your life, it will surface in the way you think about yourself and your spouse. Therefore, you must first detect selfishness in your heart and mind before you will be able to control it in your behavior. This is why Jesus said to the scribes, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4). Jesus knew their hearts were wrong, and so He encouraged them to examine their own thinking so that they might see the error within. This is also why you must probe you own thought life. Close scrutiny will enable you to see if the motives of your heart are selfish or not.
You examine yourself by simply focusing your attention on what you are thinking. How do you perceive yourself in relation to your partner? Do you think you are better, smarter, or wiser than your spouse? These thoughts reveal selfish and arrogant thinking that will result in actions that will cause conflict and little relationship. Remember, “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3). Don’t deceive yourself. Rather, be honest and think seriously about yourself. You are nothing apart from Christ and His transforming grace. Think this way because it is the truth. These thoughts will become the basis and motivation for new behavior.
2. Ask for revelation and conviction. Only when you begin to pray for the conviction of the Spirit in your own life will the changes begin. His conviction is the powerful motivation you need to make this dramatic turnaround. Do you remember His conviction and how it turned your life around to follow Christ in the beginning? The Holy Spirit has come to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He is the best one to show you what is wrong, what is right, and what the consequences will be if you fail to respond.
However, when I speak of conviction, don’t mistake it for condemnation. God’s conviction is the sweet and gentle prodding of the Lord that draws you to Him and causes you to willingly surrender to His way of love. Be sure you know the difference between conviction and condemnation. One is life-giving, the other is deadly. Therefore, ask God to reveal every place where self reigns in your life. Then go back and add each of these items to your list. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you daily that you might have the inward motivation to change. Ask Him to give you no rest until Christ controls these attitudes, motives, and actions.
For more information about Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please visit us at www.covenantkeepers.org