On many occasions, when presenting a marriage seminar, I would use the following illustration and with remarkable consistency get the same audience response. A young man came home from the office and greeted his wife with a gentle kiss. It was obvious from her response that she was not a happy camper. He decided to ignore it and went out to mow the lawn. He extended the outside work to keep him busy till dark. After showering he crawled into bed where his wife was laying reading. After some minutes he reached over and touched her leg and asked, “What’s wrong honey?” She responded—at this point I’d look at my audience and cup my ear waiting for the response–, “Nothing!” would be the answer.
I would use this illustration because I was speaking to the same audience as the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Ephesians (4:25) instructing them to speak truth one to another—professing Christians. Professing Christians do not generally think of themselves as not speaking the truth. This simple illustration, with which the majority identified, drove home the reality of how easily and frequently even Christians fail to speak the truth. The necessity of being intentional about speaking the truth became evident to the audience.
When it comes to our marital relationship why is so important to be intentional about speaking truth one to another? No doubt there are numerous reasons, but I would like to suggest three very important relational reasons. First, speaking the truth shows respect for your mate. It says “I believe you can handle the truth even if it is not pretty and even if it is discussing to you.” For example, a situation that frequently arises in the counseling office is a man’s admission to using pornography. To speak the truth and come clean with his wife says, “I did not respect you enough to refrain from this sin, but I am choosing to respect you enough to admit my sin and trust you to forgive me and stand with me as I defeat this ugly practice in my life.”
The second thing that speaking the truth to one another does is it demonstrates that you value your mate. The woman who has spent money furiously and squanders her husband’s trust, demonstrates that she values him and his hard work to provide for her and the family when he inquires into the fact that they are experiencing more month than money by responding, “I have been foolish and misused the funds that you have made available. Would you please forgive me?” He may be hurt and angry and not immediately feel valued. But upon reflection he will begin to have a sense that she is sorry, that she does appreciate his hard work and that she values his character that undergirds his commitments and his ability to forgive her.
The third product of speaking the truth to one another is the building and affirming of trust. When a wife asks, “Why were you late tonight?” and her husband responds, “I stopped and had a beer with Jim and Joe at Pappy’s” rather than making some lame excuse which is quickly dispelled when she kisses him and smells the beer. He knows she does not like him to stop and have the beer, but when he lies about it he erodes her trust. She may not like the beer, but she can live with it. But, if she cannot trust him to be truthful, the foundation of the relationship suffers serious damage.
So, once again, this simple and straight forward protocol coupled with its companion protocols provides a framework for a healthy marital relationship as well as “treatment plan” that contributes to the restoration of damaged relationships. Our Designer has provided the instructions for a safe and properly functioning marriage.