Most of us would agree that unhappy marriages consist of unhappy people. We know that we may not be able to change our spouse, but we can change ourselves.
According to author Dr. Gary Chapman (“The 5 Love Languages”), marriages fail for three primary reasons: lack of an intimate relationship with God, lack of an intimate relationship with your mate, or lack of an intimate understanding and acceptance of yourself.
Let’s take a brief look at the last of these. You might think we should begin with our relationship to God, but the fact is, one’s relationship with God is greatly affected by one’s self-understanding. If you are struggling with a marriage in crisis, it is possible — indeed, necessary — to look deeply at yourself and begin to make some changes.
Most of us are poor evaluators of ourselves. We tend to underestimate or overestimate our value. We perceive ourselves as either useless failures or as God’s gift to the world. Both of these extremes are wrong. The truth is that your pattern of feeling, thinking, and behaving, which is your personality, has both strong and weak points.
According to Dr. Chapman, three perspectives go into any self-concept: (1) the way I see myself, (2) the way that others see me, (3) the way that I think others see me. Numbers 1 and 3 are often identical, but number 2 is almost always different. People simply do not see us as we see ourselves.
The person with inferiority feelings can be assured that 99 percent of the people who know him perceive him to be smarter, more attractive, and of greater value than he sees himself. Why live under the illusion that people think you are dumb, ugly, and useless when in fact that is not the way people perceive you?
No two people are alike. There are scores of people who have greater abilities than you in particular areas. In some tasks you excel. In others you have very little, if any, ability. That is true for all of us. Why should you exalt your weaknesses?
Someone who struggles with low self-esteem may well blame himself or herself for the failure of the marriage. Then he or she will plead with the spouse for a chance to start over. When that is spurned, he or she may sink into deep depression and may even entertain thoughts of suicide. Those people allow the weakest part of their personalities (their feelings of inferiority) to control their behavior.
What is the answer to that downward spiral? One of the most powerful words in the Bible is the admonition of Psalm 15:2, which challenges us to speak the truth in our hearts. We are to tell ourselves the truth. Jesus said the truth liberates us (John 8:31-32).
Here are several truths about you. You are made in the image of God. You have tremendous value. Your abilities are many. You have scores of characteristics that others admire. Certainly you have experienced failure. Who hasn’t? But that does not mean that you are a failure. You will be a failure only if you choose to fail. On the other hand, if you choose to succeed, nothing, including your feeling of inferiority, can keep you from your goal.
One of the first steps in turning your thinking around is to realize that God has not given up on you. The apostle Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). In spite of all that has happened, in spite of all your failures, God still intends to bring you to wholeness. He has some strong and positive purposes for your life. You must tell yourself the truth and behave accordingly.
The opposite personality type is the individual who feels that he or she is the “greatest.” He can do no wrong. “If there’s a problem in our marriage, it is obviously on the part of my mate.” When confronted with his own failure, this narcissistic personality will admit in a philosophical way that he is not perfect, but insists that the real problem lies with his spouse.
What truth will liberate the person with superiority feelings? It is awareness that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We all stand in need of forgiveness. When we feel superior at times, we need to recognize that we have failed as much as others have.
If you are an “I am superior” personality, realize that you are human. No one is perfect. Admit your failures to God and your spouse. Be as specific as you can. On the road to confession you will find many friends. The road to self-righteousness gets lonelier each day.
The message of the Bible is that we are responsible for the quality of the life we live. Want to change your marriage and the quality of life you live? Start with changing yourself.
Gary Moore is currently a part-time staff member at Cloverdale Church of God in charge of Adult Education. He’s served as associate pastor there for the past 14 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He also does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. For information on his workshops and retreats, contact him at [email protected] .