How do we rebuild trust after a poorly handled conflict? The first step is to own our stuff.
It can be scary to take ownership of the sinful words or behavior we displayed in a conflict. Part of the fear could be that our spouse might use it as “ammunition” against us either now or later. Ownership is a very vulnerable decision. But our part is to do the right thing.
We can’t control our spouse to make them own their part. That’s their responsibility before God. But we can take responsibility for what we do.
A word of caution here: don’t own what isn’t yours in order to try to keep peace. Your intention may be good, but it is a subtle form of dishonesty. It only hurts you and your marriage in the long run.
Here are three benefits to owning your stuff:
1. It shows character.
Frankly, it takes a measure of guts to swallow one’s pride and admit that they were wrong. It also takes introspection and self-awareness to recognize one’s sin.
2. It builds trust.
Trust is built as our spouse hears us specifically describe what we’ve done wrong. They realize that we “get it.”
3. It brings healing.
It brings healing to our relationship with God. Refusing to confess our sin hardens our hearts to God. But when we own our stuff and confess it to our spouse, we are honoring God and making room for his Spirit to work in us.
It also brings healing to our marriage. In the Bible, James writes, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Lack of ownership in a marriage keeps the wounds open. It creates distrust and gives the enemy a foothold in our marriage.
But when we confess to our spouse our part in contributing to the conflict, or confess where we sinned against our spouse, it opens the door for healing in the rebuilding of the relationship.
When owning our stuff, here are some things to remember:
A. Excuses are not ownership.
If at any point we begin giving reasons for why we did or said what we did, then we are diluting the ownership of what we did or said. We are not building trust nor are we bringing healing. We are simply injecting justification under the guise of ownership.
B. Pointing at others’ sin is not ownership.
The Gospel of John tells the account of religious leaders bringing to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They were so focused on her sin that they didn’t see their own sin.
If we try to point out our spouse’s wrongs in the conflict or tension, we’re not fully owning our stuff. We have to guard against deflecting focus from ourselves by pointing out the wrongs of our spouse.
C. Blame is not ownership.
It’s as old as the Garden of Eden. Adam blamed Eve; then Eve blamed the serpent. Neither of them took ownership for what they did.
Usually, blame is framed with statements like: “I did it because you…” or, “I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t….” Blame isn’t honest because we are not accepting responsibility for our own choices.
So do the right thing in your relationship with your spouse. Own your stuff, and over time you’ll see growth in yourself and you will build your marriage!