Behind Every Good Man

by | Feb. 28, 2009

LDS Life

A few years ago, at a _Time Out for Women_ event in Cincinnati, I sat with a few of the faculty eager to begin a Q & A session. Near the end of our lighthearted exchange with the attendees, one woman raised her hand and said, "How can we get our husbands to take the lead on things like Family Home Evening and Scripture study?" We were stumped. At least I was. How do you answer a question like that in two minutes? You can't - at least not adequately. The answer to the quesiton the sister asked in Ohio would begin like this: 1. There are no easy answers. 2. There are a number of things that might help. 3. Even if the ideas that follow don't help with your specific problem, I have no doubt that they will bless your marriage in other ways. *Criticism Doesn't Bring Change* We know that the Spirit has the power to change people, and we also know something that doesn't. Rarely is anyone criticized into change. It just doesn't work. And criticism is offensive to the Spirit of the Lord, the very Spirit that is a vital ingredient to help our marriage grow. Knowing what we know about marriage in the Lord's plan, it should be obvious to us that Satan wants us to dwell on the faults of our spouses. He loves it when we focus on their shortcomings and let our frustrations fester. Satan wants to see our marriages struggle. He delights in our resentments and our contention. He longs to hear criticism. He wants pride. As the evil spirit, he doesn't want the Holy Spirit anywhere near our marriages, because the Holy Spirit brings growth and humility and change for the better. When I'm tempted to think of the things I wish my wife would do, I simply think of things I should be doing, and I'm suddenly very forgiving. The critical spirit leaves, a spirit of humility returns, and my focus turns more inward. The fact is, we need each other. Satan knows this, so he tries to turn us into adversaries. In our popular culture, women criticize men, and men criticize women. Current philosophies teach that women don't need men, and men don't need women, and that we would all be more "liberated" without marriage. One writer even suggested that marriage is "slavery for women." God wants our marriages to succeed. He wants love and forgiveness and humility in our homes. In all my interactions with my wife and children, I have to remind myself that I am either serving God and his purposes or serving the devil and his. King Benjamin, while speaking to families who sat listening together in their tents, set up the contrast beautifully: "And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel on with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another." (Mosiah 4:14-15) This isn't rocket science, nor is it deep theology. The idea of avoiding contention is just common sense. But unfortunately, indulging in criticism is common practice. One of the definitions of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting a different result. Criticism doesn't work! "Constructive criticism" is an oxymoron. Elder H. Burke Peterson taught: I personally have a hardd time with people who say they believe in constructive criticism. My experience does not lead me to believe there is such a thing. My point of view is that criticism has a connotation that does not come from above. I think it is important to note that correction is different from criticism. The Lord discussed correction in his revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 121:43). He emphasized that any correction are to be performed when "moved upon by the Holy Ghost." I suspect that most of us, when we are tempted to criticize, are not being moved upon by the Holy Ghost, but are more often responding to frustration from unmet expectations. Elder Peterson continued, "Criticism is more judgment-oriented than correction, and most of us do not have sufficient knowledge to be critical of others, especially of a spouse and children who are still growing and developing as we are." I also suspect that many of us are critical of our spouses without intending to be. "Many women," according to Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, authors of _How to Improve your Marriage Without Talking About It_, "have no clue how critical and demeaning they are to men. When confronted about this critical behavior, the most common reaction is disbelief. 'I'm just trying to make him a better person'--that is, more thoughtful, considerate, responsible, reliable, and so on." It's easy to be critical without intending to be. But that's why we're talking--to see if we can make marriages stronger, no matter how humbling the process may be. Before something comes out of our mouth, it's always a good idea to ask, "How will this make my spouse feel? Is my comment really veiled criticism? The only time, the _only_ time, when criticism or correction might be acceptable is when it's invited--and even then, it must be given with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, with an attitude of love, patience, humility, and kindness. _Excerpted from_ Behind Every Good Man: Helping Your Husband Take the Lead at Home, _by John Bytheway, Deseret Book._ Click here to purchase Behind Every Good Man, or to learn more about it.
Comments and feedback can be sent to