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Beloved Unbeliever - Part 2

Guest: Jo Berry

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February 19, 2016

Lay Down Rights and Take Up Responsibility



Question: Dr. Dobson, with regards to my spouse’s bad behavior, I have been taught by Christian leaders who say as believers, "We have no rights." If I understand what they say, I should not even notice instances of disrespect because I have no right to be defended. Do you disagree? 


Answer: Perhaps. That "no rights" philosophy would be unbeatable if both partners were totally mature, unselfish and loving. Unfortunately, we are all riddled with imperfection and self-serving desires. Therefore, we need reinforcement and accountability in order to do what is right. When only one member of the family buys the "no rights" concept and tries to implement it, a marriage can be blown apart. Why? Because the nonparticipating spouse begins to crawl all over the "line of respect." He gets the lion's share of everything—money, sex, power, fun and games, etc. Knowing the partner's spiritual obligation, he feels entitled by divine decree to do as he pleases. 

The Christian spouse who is clinging desperately to this theological understanding is not made of steel. Nor is he blind. He sees instance after instance of disrespect, and does his best to ignore them. But they go straight into a memory bank, whether he wishes to store them or not. That's the way he's made. Then one day when his resistance is down, perhaps when he is exhausted, or in a woman's case, during the pressures of premenstrual tension, a hydrogen bomb can be detonated that may blow off the head of her startled husband. A "no rights" position would have carried that person through a short race; unfortunately, life is so daily, and the runner weakened on heartbreak hill. 

I must hasten to offer an important disclaimer. Any recommendation can be carried to extremes, including defense of the "line of respect." There are millions of women, especially, who need nothing less than an excuse to harangue their spouses over perceived violations of one sort or another. They do that better than anything else in life. Their poor husbands live with a constant barrage of complaints and criticisms, know they can do nothing right. Then here comes Dobson advising, "Hold 'em accountable, ladies!" 

That's not what I intended to say. Remember that 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us "love is not easily provoked." That tolerance is certainly evident in good marriages. Husbands and wives must overlook a multitude of flaws in one another and now howl over the speck in a partner's eye when the accuser has a log sticking out of his own. Prolonged anger can kill a marriage—especially when it reflects perceived wrongs from the past that have never been forgiven. 

Thus, the love must be tough concept does not suggest that people become touchy and picky; it does hold that genuine instances of disrespect should be acknowledged and handled within the context of love. And certainly, when major violations occur that threaten the relationship, such as Linda's husband running to see a sexy divorcee night after night, they should be met head-on. By confronting him when he got home she would not have been fighting for her "rights," at all; she would have been defending her marriage! We've seen what happens when that defense is lacking. 

From Dr. Dobson's book Love Must Be Tough.

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