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The Hidden Agenda
Most people have agendas, many of which are hidden. As a marriage counselor, the most frequent hidden agenda I see is a simple two word phrase that couples are convinced will make marriage counseling successful: “Fix him” or “Fix her.” After all, our issues are smaller and theirs are bigger. If the spouse’s bigger issues are addressed, my little issues will go away.
Marriage counseling, at best, has a 50% success rate with the best of counselors. Although there may be many reasons for this, marriage counseling is often not successful because husbands or wives find it difficult to see beyond their hurt. They look at the hurtful actions of their spouse while having a difficult time seeing or understanding how their own actions are impacting the marriage. In other words, we see ourselves more as the victims of our spouses, rather than active participants in a bad marriage. If we do recognize our own actions, we understate how our actions impact the other person. Or to put it another way, we see our own actions as the speck, and our spouse’s actions as the log.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Why is it important that we see our actions as the log?
If we see these verses in context, Matthew begins the chapter about the importance of not judging others. It seems natural for us to look at other’s actions, doesn’t it? We like what they do or we don’t. We think they’re right or wrong. Yet Jesus is calling us to focus on our own actions before even looking at the other person’s actions. Why? Because we won’t see clearly unless we deal with our own issues (logs) first.
Seeing our actions as “the log” is to recognize that we are 100% responsible for our own actions, inactions, responses, interpretations, heart desires and expectations. The more you see yourselves as having specks and your spouse as having logs, the more likely you’ll be the victim, and likely grow in anger and resentment. Marriages will not improve if we see ourselves as the victims of our spouses (I am not speaking about those who are being abused, yet there is a personal responsibility in abuse cases to act to protect self and children), but can improve if we first work on ourselves.
Removing the Log
If we don’t remove the log, we won’t see clearly. Jesus emphasizes the need to remove the log from our own eyes so that we may see clearly (have the right perspective) to help remove the speck in another’s eye. Removing logs is not as complicated as surgery, yet it requires both humility and endurance. The removal process starts with acceptance that there is a log (not a speck). It continues with asking the Lord to reveal what is in the heart. Prayerfully consider these questions: What are my behaviors (fruit)? What do I want when I act that way (heart)? What do I feel as though I need? Why do I need this? Does God provide this? What do I expect from my spouse? Why do I expect this? Often, husbands or wives become upset at their spouses because they are not loving them to the extent that is needed. This may be due to insecurity and looking to the spouse to meet this need for security, yet such security can only be found in a relationship with Christ.
After you prayerfully consider these things, ask for forgiveness from God for your sins. Then ask your spouse for forgiveness for how you’ve sinned against them. With God’s help, keep the log out of your eye through daily renewal with Him, refusing to return to past behaviors, and getting what you need (security, worth, etc.) through your relationship with Christ.
Don’t Play The Blame Game
Recognizing that we own up to 100% of what we do does not mean that we take 100% of the blame for a bad marriage. In fact, the “blame” may be 30% you and 70% them. You are not to blame for your spouses actions or inactions. They are not to blame for your actions or inactions. Yet you both will influence one another for the better or for worse. By removing the log from your own eye, you will see more clearly to share your concerns with your spouse, and you’ll be able to influence your spouse for the better with your positive responses.
We may have certain agendas, desires, and wishes, yet God calls us to look at ourselves and our own actions before we even look at our spouse’s actions. Are we loving our spouses? Are we enabling our spouses? Are we sinning against our spouses? Are we respecting our spouses? Improving your marriage will always start with the one you can change. You.