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Monday, March 24, 2014

Dealing with A Mate's Discouragement

When our friends are discouraged, we reach out to help them. Always. It's a given, because that's what friends do.

But when the person who's supposed to be our best friend, the person to whom we're married, hits a rough patch, our attitude is often quite different.

We metaphorically stand back with our arms crossed in front of our chest, and say, "Suck it up. Get over it."

If we don't say it we think it.

What gives us the privilege of holding our mates to higher standards than we do our friends? And to higher standards than we hold ourselves?

I think it's partially fear. Fear that the person we need as a support in bad times isn't as strong as we think we need them to be, and that when one day we really need support, they won't be able to give it.

It's a weird kind of compliment, when you think about it.

The other component is a sort of contempt for the familiar; most of us grew up looking past where we were, to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Our towns weren't big enough; we had to find the wide world.

Our jobs weren't enough; we needed promotion, and more challenge (and money, and prestige).

And our mates are nothing if not familiar. We've heard their troubles and discouragements before, and we're just a little tired of it.

But we are the ones they need most, when the chips are down, and when the world seems bleak.

And sometimes, when we can't do our best for our 'other half', we've got to step back, and treat them with the grace we'd reserve for an honored guest.

Treat them like someone who's invited, and welcomed, and will only stay for a little while.

Because that's really what our mates are. Guests from Heaven, and it's there to which they'll one day return.

Do you sometimes have trouble being encouraging, when your spouse is depressed or lost? What do you do to become effective again?


  1. I do, Andrew. If it's a discouragement that I've contributed to, then I feel guilt that adds fear to the mix. And fear, like you've said, really muddies the cleansing waters of encouragement. If my husband lashes out at me when he's discouraged, I get sidetracked and often miss what's really going on. But as you've said, both of these situations are created because I'm too close to the hurt. I wholeheartedly agree that stepping back, getting some perspective and support can work wonders in our ability to reach out in encouraging ways. As always, it's a pleasure to visit and read your insights here.

    1. Please excuse the delay in responding - I was ill, and fell behind.

      Thank you for sharing your own experiences - it's so easy to get sidetracked, and to be too close to see the big picture!

      Blessings to you!

  2. What truth, Andrew! We have such little patience on our spouse's healing. And maybe the truth is that we have little patience for outsiders, as well, we just can't reveal our true feelings. But boy, after what I've been through recently with my health, I got a real compassion adjustment ... and I needed that. This has been a slow recovery for me ... one step forward, two steps back. I've got to really step up on my compassion in the future.

    1. Shelli, my comment below (God's adjustments) was supposed to be a reply to you! Sorry.

  3. Having grace for my spouse seems closely linked to having grace for myself. In both cases, it requires a deliberate decision to step back for a wider angle perspective...and a prayer to see the situation from God's perspective.

    Thank you, Andrew, for an excellent and thought-provoking post!

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    3. Well-said, Joe - thanks!

      (The deleted replies both contained mis-spellings of your name...clearly the keyboard is winning this round...)

  4. Sometimes God adjusts our attitudes with jewelers' tools, and sometimes He uses a hammer and a rock.

    Prayers for your health and a speedy recovery, Shelli!