Since my post last week encouraged the extending of grace to our mates, I felt it was important to explain the difference between giving grace (peacemaking) and enabling unhealthy behavior (peacekeeping). After all …
I’ve provided a series of questions below that can function as a trouble-shooting guide—along with prayer—to help you distinguish between enabling your spouse and extending grace.
Enabling or Peacekeeping:
- Are you more concerned about keeping the peace and not angering your mate than addressing issues related to your spouse’s emotional, relational, physical or spiritual well-being?
- Are you fearful that your spouse will not be able to handle a particular situation as well as you do, so you reason that you must continue to carry that burden for him/her?
- Have you avoided communicating certain desires or boundaries to your mate, because you like the safety that relying only on yourself provides?
- Have you avoided communicating certain desires or boundaries to your mate, because you fear you won’t be needed if you stop doing for your mate?
- Do most of the boundaries you’ve communicated to your spouse appear more like idle threats, because you rarely if ever follow through?
- Do you minimize and rationalize the negative impact of your spouse’s negative behavior, simply because it “feels” or “sounds” unloving?
- Do you feel and act as if you are superior to, or more intelligent than, your spouse and therefore should control or have the last say on what your spouse does/thinks?
- Do you feel and act as if you are more mature than your mate and therefore should take care of him/her?
- Do you feel that you don’t have the right to address a certain issue in your relationship?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you are probably “enabling” your mate in some way.
Most of the time when we enable our mates, we are concerned more with our own personal safety than our mate’s growth or the health of our marriage.
It may seem like an oxymoron, but we can extend grace every time we interact with our mates, even when we are setting a boundary or identifying a problem.
Extending grace or “peacemaking” looks like:
- Giving your mate the benefit of the doubt when he/she does something hurtful on occasion. If your spouse develops an offending and ongoing pattern, then the gracious thing to do would be to follow-up with number two below.
- Asking respectfully to have a heart-to-heart with your mate about a problem in your marriage, and then really maintaining a giving and receptive spirit throughout the conversation. You should focus on listening to understand, rather than speaking to be understood.
- Forgiving your mate continually for continuing to sin against you. This does not mean you never address an issue. Forgiveness simply is the way to keep your heart open and tender toward your offending mate. I believe that only Christ can truly give you this ability over and over again (see Col. 3:12-17, Heb. 12:14-15, James 3:17).
Each of these expressions of grace involve dying to ourselves—not protecting ourselves. When we truly extend grace to our mates we are doing it out of the grace God has shown to us—trusting “God” to protect our hearts. If your spouse is abusive, then the gracious thing to do is to deal with the abuse with the support of a counselor, pastor or team of pastors/counselors.
Which of the enabling patterns listed above are hardest for you to stop?
Which of the expressions of grace listed above do you want to focus on more in the days ahead?
In case you’re interested in viewing some amazing photos of my son, Jordan and my new daughter in law, Sarah’s honeymoon, then you can view part 1 here and part 2 here. They traveled to Seattle, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia. 🙂
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