By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
“I’m tired of waiting for him to change,” a woman said to me recently. “I’m tired of hearing apologies,” she went on to add. “My husband apologizes and then does the same things, over and over again. I’m growing colder towards him.”
I’ve heard this complaint thousands of times. Perhaps it fits your life as well. You want change, you complain, nag and grumble, only to receive arguments, pushback and promises.
Why do problems persist in marriage with no apparent change? Why do spouses argue and fight over the same issues, only to end in dismay and discouragement?
Arguments continue for several reasons. They persist because the real issues are not being addressed. Perhaps the person in the wrong hasn’t fully owned up to the problem and, more importantly, hasn’t fully determined to change. They promise to change and perhaps even intend to change, but inwardly they are not different. Change comes first from the heart and then moves out to behavior.
The question is whether there has been a ‘heart change’ that will lead to true behavior change. Consider that a heart changed by God will exhibit the following traits, according to the Apostle Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5: 22-23). If a person’s character does not reveal these traits, one must question whether a heart has truly changed.
Contrast these qualities with what is said about the heart of stone: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36: 26).
How does this apply to making changes in our marriage?
First, a heart of stone is cold and hard. A heart of stone—filled with self---pushes for its own way. This stony heart is filled with pride and resists humility. While we may offer a brief apology for wrongdoing, if it doesn’t come from a soft, reformed heart, true behavior change will not follow. A stony heart can be dead and cold;
Second, hearts not softened become harder and harder. A stony heart may be warmed temporarily, but will soon enough become cold again. Apologies are short-lived and behavior change is superficial. If you want true change, look for a changed heart. You might wonder why you don’t see true, lasting change—it is because resentment and anger reside in the cold, stony heart. This heart actually becomes harder and even more resentful, turning away from you;
Third, change cannot come from willpower alone. Rather, change comes from a heart given over to God. Determination alone is not enough to bring about true, deep change. For as much as one may want to be different, difference occurs from a changed heart;
Fourth, a heart of flesh, controlled by the Spirit, is warm and soft. A heart of stone is cold and hard while a heart of flesh is warm and soft. The heart of stone is dead while the heart of flesh is alive. The heart that is alive will want to please others. That heart will be sensitive and warm toward the needs of others. You will feel the difference;
Finally, a Spirit-controlled heart exhibits the fruits of the Spirit. A heart of flesh, controlled by the Spirit, is open to the work of the Spirit. Feeling that ‘Godly sorrow that leads to repentance,’ this heart leads to true, deep change. (II Corinthians 7: 10) Having repented, owning our wrongdoing, we are changed by the work of God in our heart.
Do you hear apologies again and again with no lasting behavior change? The problem may not be intentional, but rather a heart issue. If you would like further help to restore brokenness in your marriage, we are here to help. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse.
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