Hands Down

Put on a heart of compassion, kindness,

humility, gentleness and patience.

Colossians 3:12

Do you remember that classic Sunday comic strip from Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, Linus is eating a sandwich and Lucy is nearby as he begins to ponder. “Hands are fascinating things,” he says. “I like my hands. I think I have nice hands. My hands seem to have a lot of character. These are hands which may someday accomplish great things. These are hands which may someday do marvelous works. They may build mighty bridges, or heal the sick, or hit home runs, or write soul-stirring novels. These are hands which may someday change the course of destiny!”

A moment of silence. Then Lucy’s one-line reply: “They’ve got jelly on them.”

Even as we laugh, we know that Lucy’s comment is typical of the way she treats other people. And, unfortunately, it is also a picture of how easy it is for you to treat your spouse the same way. Rather than encouraging your spouse and building him or her up, you choose instead of be the voice of criticism and harsh reality.

Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert in sociological research at the University of Washington, conducted a 10-year study to determine the types of communication — both verbal and nonverbal — that make it least likely for a marriage to survive and go the distance.

The four critical elements he determined as being the most detrimental?

Criticism — nagging, deflating, picking at each other

Contempt — rolling your eyes, discounting the other’s value

Defensiveness — refusing to hear the truth or to deal with self

Stonewalling — retreating, withdrawing, not saying anything

When was the last time you caught yourself speaking in that manner to your fella or gal?

Do any of these behaviors characterize the way you treat your spouse? In order to minimize conflict in your home, you need to be supportive of each other by what you say and how you say it.


Take a look at how you are relating with one another and see how you can use attitudes and words to strengthen and encourage one another. Would you say you are generally encouraging or critical to your spouse? How would your spouse answer that question? What are the first words out of your mouth when your spouse has a dream or an idea? Do you tell him or her why that is dumb idea or do you help explore the subject without judgment? How about at least once a day completing this sentence, “I Love You, Because________.”


Invite the Lord to intervene in your conscience every time you feel like taking your spouse apart. Bite your tongue before you exercise any of these critical words. As Pia Mellody has often said, “close your mouth and breathe!”