Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be compassionate toward your spouse when you’re angry with him or her? It gets even harder when we let our anger turn into bitterness because we’ve chosen not to forgive them.
Ironically, keeping this same mindset and practice in place inevitably creates a hard heart as well.
An angry or unforgiving spirit is the true culprit and compassion-killer in marriage and life. It’s like anger and bitterness point us in the wrong direction—leaving us lost and disoriented in life and marriage.
When I was a young wife and my husband offended me, I unfortunately thought it was my job to, at least internally, hold him responsible, even if he asked for forgiveness.
[bctt tweet=”I felt like I needed to protect my heart from my mate by focusing on how he had hurt me, so that I wouldn’t be caught off guard again. #foolishfocus #becompassionate” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
Never mind that this kept me locked in a very self-absorbed prison and half-blind position! Never mind that I have a Savior who does a much better job of protecting my heart than I do!
If compassion is something you need more of in your marriage, then consider some of the ways God’s word says we can find and grow in it.
6 Ways to Show and Grow in Compassion in Marriage …
1. Consider how you would feel.
Compassion begins and grows with knowing and recognizing how you would feel if you were in your spouse’s shoes. Remember this iconic verse …
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” —Luke 6:31 (NIV)
This, of course, is set in contrast to an over-focus on the hurt you feel because of your mate’s offensive actions. You have to move past your pain to see how your mate might currently feel due to the conflict you’re both experiencing.
If they are like you and me (and they are!), you can bet they feel hurt and want nothing more than to reconnect with you. At least, once they calm down and clearer heads prevail.
If, however, they’ve let anger fester into bitterness, this might not be what they feel on the surface.
Bitterness makes the heart hard, and can keep you from knowing when
your heart is truly broken.
Just don’t make your mate’s same mistake by resisting compassion and softness. Be the bigger, more Christ-honoring spouse! Which means being compassionate, but also not making a big deal about your compassion to your mate. 😉
2. Accept and understand your mate’s brokenness and human frailties.
Let’s consider Jesus’ example of this …
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” —Mark 6:34 (NIV)
Jesus could very well have landed and looked around only to think, “What’s wrong with these people?! Don’t they know how right and strong I am? But all they want to do is paw on me, and sponge off my miracles all day long! It’s enough to make a Savior throw His hands in the air and walk away!”
But isn’t that more like the way you and I talk or at least think in reaction to our mates when they repeatedly hurt us or want more from us than is fair or normal?
Instead of coming at this from a focus on our mate’s sins, we need to focus on their brokenness and human weaknesses. Sorry to break it to you, but your mate is not and never will be perfect. In fact, you show just how imperfect you are if you think your mate ever will be!
[bctt tweet=”We must compassionately remember and embrace our mate’s imperfections, like Christ does for us! #belikeChrist #compassionofChrist #thespouseIwanttobe” username=””]
3. Choose compassion because you’ve been chosen by God.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” —Colossians 3:12-13 (NIV)
This means that putting on a heart of compassion is my job and duty as God’s chosen child. I never have the choice or right to avoid being compassionate toward others and, in particular, toward my mate.
4. Remember compassion is designed to be shared.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” —2 Cor. 1:3-4 (NIV)
God is never stingy with compassion or mercy. He abundantly pours it into our lives, so that we will have more than enough to share with others—including our often irritating and sinful spouses! 😉
In fact, if we don’t extend the compassion we’ve been extended by God, His compassion for us will dry up! Conversely, if we share it, God multiplies His compassion for us! How cool is that?!
5. Let your ‘compass’ be Christ’s compassion.
This is one of the most powerful truths I’ve discovered about learning how to forgive others and, in particular, my mate. Consider …
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
The navigational key and compass here is to forgive “just as in Christ God forgave you.”
If Christ, who is sinless, was willing to forgive me of my sins, then who am I to withhold forgiveness and compassion from others?
It doesn’t matter how wrong my mate’s sin was/is or how ugly and hateful he’s acting. In comparison to Christ, I stand as guilty of sin as my spouse does.
Let that move and motivate you toward compassion!
6. Make it easy to return and/or save face.
Most of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son.
What seems most memorable about this story of a self-indulgent and rebellious son was the father’s response as his son returned home.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” —Luke 15:20b (NIV)
But we often forget that this story began with the father showing compassion even after being painfully insulted by his son’s demand for his inheritance long before his father’s death. It was as if his son was saying, “I wish you were dead!”
Yet this father (who represents our heavenly Father) willingly obliged in hopes of eventually winning his son back.
If we hope to be like our compassionate Father, we must also keep that as our goal. We must make it easy for our mates to return to us—allowing them to save face.
Absorbing their debt against us through the vehicle of compassion then paves the way for reconciliation and healing to take place.
Are you willing to join me in becoming more compassionate spouses? I sure hope so!
The image below is a prayer printable. Click on it and it will load into a new tab. Then click on the … in upper right corner to download it.
If you’d like to learn more about the process of forgiveness, then consider subscribing to MM. You can take a peek at this link—Subscribe—to see what you’ll get when you do. Just an FYI – I offer a free ebook, Forgive U, as one of over 35 free resources in my Subscriber Library! And click on this link—”The Spouse I Want to Be” to read more posts in the series.
Also, I’d love it if you’d check out my guest post, “8 Dos and Don’ts for Showing Love to Your Man” over at Angel Penn’s place today! She’s doing a marriage series, “I Still Do,” that includes my post as well as so many other wonderful bloggers. You really need to check it out!
What has motivated you to show compassion to your mate?
What fears do you struggle with in offering this unconditional gift to your offending spouse?
Here are some other lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Mondays, Tea and Word Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Recharge Wednesday, Porch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies Wednesday, Encouraging Word Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Destination Inspiration, Tune in Thursday, Heart Encouragement, Moments of Hope, Grace and Truth, Faith and Friends, Faith on Fire Friday, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday
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