Sitting back on the couch, I tucked my feet under me to get more comfortable. I looked around the room at the group of young ladies sprawled about, some on the floor leaning against the brick hearth, others settled into plush furniture like me, eager to hear what would come next. We came from various backgrounds and most had only been married a short while. Being the oldest student, I’d been married the longest, eight years, but the differences didn’t matter much in this place.
Our mentor was a lovely woman, strawberry blonde hair worn in a perky, flipped bob. She exuded that kind of warmth and joy that drew us all instantly like young moths to a benevolent flame. This godly woman was about to impart the best marriage advice I’ve ever received.
“Never, ever, ever man-bash your husband with your girlfriends.” Her normally radiant smile was missing as she said this, and she punctuated the second ‘ever’ by wagging one perfectly manicured finger. She was deadly serious.
This wasn’t really a news flash to me. My own mama had often said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” It was a mantra of sorts growing up and I had more or less tried to follow that advice in regards to my marriage. However, I had never really heard the reasoning that this wise woman shared with us that day.
She went on to give us three good reasons to never, ever, ever trash talk our husbands to our peeps.
If you trash talk your man, your girlfriends will forever see him through colored lenses. Your people are loyal to you. They will likely feel indignant on your behalf. Long after you’ve gotten over your angst or discontent, when Mr. Jerk-face is back to being Mr. Wonderful in your heart, your girlfriends will still see him as the thoughtless, selfish, clueless clod you’ve made him out to be. Your disgruntlement is temporary and you have every motivation at the end of the day to see the man who shares your bed in a more flattering light. Your peeps have no such motivation to see him any differently than how you portray him with your words.
Man-bashing leads to uncovering your husband. Her terminology here is taken from Genesis 9 when Noah had imbibed a bit too much wine. He lay ‘uncovered’ in his tent when his son, Ham walked in. (This is definitely not how any of us want to stumble across our dads, eh?) Well, Ham ran out and proceeded to tell his brothers about their father’s shameful state. The brothers did the respectful thing and covered their father’s nakedness, earning his gratitude and blessing. Ham, on the other hand, received a curse for humiliating his dad. When we reveal details that are best kept private, we risk humiliating our men. If it’s something he wouldn’t want the world at large to know, your girlfriends don’t need to know it either. Uncovering our husbands shows a profound lack of respect.
Trashing your man makes you look stupid. Our mentor mama stated this truth, once more holding up that beautiful manicured finger for emphasis, the characteristic sparkle back in her eyes. If you are ranting about your husband’s flaws, his inconsideration, his slovenly ways, his cluelessness…what does that say about you? What sort of idiot would marry such a loser as you describe? Huh.
This wisdom was spoken into my heart at just the right moment. You see, my friends, it’s not so much when we’re first married to our Prince Charming that we need to hear such things. It’s after we’ve picked up his smelly socks for the thousandth time, after we’ve braved the bathroom after he’s been doing the crossword puzzle on the throne for twenty minutes, after the sparkle and mystery have worn off, that’s when we’re tempted to speak out of turn.
My husband and I celebrated 23 incredibly sweet years of marriage yesterday. I think of this woman’s words often and am so grateful she shared her reasoning. In honor of the occasion, I’d like to share one more reason to abstain from this common cultural practice.
Words have life. Our words shape our perception, and our perception determines our reality. What do I mean by this?
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your vision is clear, your whole body also is full of light. But when it is poor, your body is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34, Berean Study Bible)
This is not speaking of your physical eyes, rather, it is speaking of your perception. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and that our greatest command is to love. First, God, then others. (Matthew 5:14 and 22:36-40) When we are perceiving through this lens, our earthly experience (our body) is filled with light and love and wonder. When our vision is clouded, we live in offense and darkness.
This is so important to grasp. When we speak aloud negative words about our husbands we give them power, we cloud our vision and tarnish our perception of this one we vowed to honor and cherish. And make no mistake, ladies. Whether our husbands ever know of the words we spew or not, they will sense how we are perceiving them and will respond, likely in a way that will perpetuate our discontent. Negative words will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, wounding and tearing the foundations of our marriages.
I asked my husband what he thought of this topic and he said,
“You make me want to be a better man. That’s because I know how crappy I am at this husband thing, all the ways I fail at this, but you see me as more than that. After 23 years you know all my flaws and still choose to see my best parts. That is what makes me want to be better, to live up to how you see me.”
I don’t know about you, my friends, but I want to see the best bits. Not just in my husband, but in my children, my friends, and heck, even in my checker at the grocery store. It begins with the words I choose to speak.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:22, NIV)
Gracious Father, I thank you for the example you set in your Word. You speak words of blessing to me, your bride. Though I fail every single day as your beloved, you still tell me I’m complete and perfect and without blemish. You see me as I will be one day and that makes me want to be better for you. Let me extend that same gracious spirit to those in my sphere. Help me to savor the best bits in them, and to only speak words that bring life and light. Amen.