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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Say No to Bitterness in Marriage

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird_MG_1233

All married couples want a relationship filled with joy and intimacy.  Sometimes the disappointments of life can steal our joy and leave us with the root of bitterness.

Hebrews says that bitterness will defile and harass our most valuable relationships.  Bitterness can leave our hearts hardened and cold.  Without realizing it, we end up exchanging a heart of love for a heart of stone.  Hardening of the arteries can be not just a physical thing, but sometimes a spiritual and emotional reality.

Cecil Osborne once said: “Marriage is the Ed_Jan2most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.”  Studies have shown that no marriages are free from occasional marital conflict. The famous marriage researcher Dr John Gottman commented recently: “when Julie and I do our workshops with couples, one of the main messages we give is that we’ve found that really good marriages, people who are really happy, have terrible fights, where they’re thinking at the end of the fight: Why did I marry this person?”

Some marital problems never go away, but the wise couple doesn’t get gridlocked on these unsolvable problems.  They refuse to go bitter inside. The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.”  No one can really change or fix one’s spouse. It is always better to work on oneself, which requires ‘the courage to change’.

How we interpret the meaning of marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself.  Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the challenges of marital conflict.   It is vital that married couples do not give up on their ideals and dreams.  This is why Dr Gottman encourages couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning.  Higher expectations for romance and passion have been linked with increased marital satisfaction.  Sometimes in a desire to get along, spouses give up something essential that actually fuels the romance and passion of their lives.  Bitterness is often about the death of our dreams.

marriage-ringsOne of the ways out of bitterness is through the use of gentle, self-effacing humour.  Aggressive humour like sarcasm kills marriages.  Blaming and mocking seals the coffin on your marriage. Dr Gottman found that successful marriages have on average five times more encouraging behaviours than negative behaviours.

Encouraging behaviours do not just have to be the extraordinary, like taking our spouse to Maui or to Crete.  Despite what Hollywood sometimes implies, a healthy marriage celebrates the ordinary, not just the extraordinary. After thirty-two years of marriages, my wife and I are learning afresh the joy of simple pleasures: taking regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

While doing my doctoral courses, I was pleased to discover that the social sciences have verified the benefits of forgiveness in healing marriages.  Dr Grace Ketterman found that couples who refuse to forgive pay a heavy price: “The physical costs of unforgiveness may include hypertension, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name just a handful.  Because negative emotions have a depressive effect and can suppress immune function, unforgiveness may even have an indirect link to major and severe disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.”  Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you will be forgiven’, say Ketterman, lie at the heart of marital harmony and health.  She speaks both as a psychiatrist of the Christian faith and as a victim of infidelity who chose to forgive and remarry her husband.

Research also indicates that shared spirituality can help protect against the roots of marital bitterness. Ordinary practices like attending church, reading the bible and praying together have been shown scientifically to strengthen one’s marriage.  Sadly I have found that many couples view the idea of praying together to be too intimate.

heartbreakBefore my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’.  Research shows that couples who view their marriage as something that God has joined together are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage. I have discovered that God invented marriage and believes in it; therefore marriages are worth fighting for.

Anything that we believe in, we invest in. I admire the courageous couples I know who have been willing to go to marriage counselors like Bonnie Chatwin.  There is no quicker way to make progress on marital bitterness than to go for professional help.  Social science studies prove that counselling is much cheaper than divorce lawyers.

My prayer for those reading this article is that our marriages may be sweet and full of joy, and that any roots of bitterness will be eradicated through the bonds of love.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD,102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. TheBattle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Why is it so hard to let go?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hirdlet_go_let_god

I often notice car bumper stickers saying ‘One Day at a Time’, and ‘Take it Easy’.  One of my favorite bumper stickers is ‘Letting Go and Letting God’.

Popularized by the 12-step movements. this phrase reminds us that excessive striving and drivenness is damaging to our health, our families, and our inner lives.

Our North American culture is becoming more and more frantic and fear-bound, especially in our shaky economic and political context.  Is it little wonder that A.A. teaches us that the first step to sanity is to admit that we are powerless over our problems and that our lives have become unmanageable?  This admission of powerlessness is very humbling to our ego.  It is a real death to our illusions of grandiosity and immortality

The 3rd Step to sanity is making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.  The heart of Step 3 is ‘Letting Go and Letting God’.  Most of us put enormous energy into remaining in control of our own private lives.  The idea of surrendering control to anyone, let alone God, can be enormously threatening.  Yet the act of surrender can be the most healing step that we may ever take.

CrossThe heart of spirituality, in fact, is surrendering our will and lives to God who really cares for us.  As Jesus was hanging in agony on the cross,  he cried out,  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  Such a surrender can be our choice one day at a time.  Either we commit our lives daily into God’s hands, or we commit our lives into our own hands.  Either God ends up at the centre of our lives, or our self ends up at the centre.  There is no greater disease than finding one’s self at the centre, the essence of self-centeredness.  As Dr. E. Stanley Jones puts it, anything that leaves you at the centre is off-centre.

Self-centeredness is rather like bad breath or body odor.  Everyone knows about it but yourself, though you can certainly detect in other people.  I have discovered that the heart of my problems in life is not usually other people. Rather it is my own self-centeredness.  As a teenager, I tried to live life seeking my own personal happiness.  I was never unhappier.  I have learnt the hard way that happiness is a by-product of serving others and caring for others in a Christ-like way.

The A.A. Big Book has a passion for honesty as a key to sanity and sobriety.  In one section, it ironically comments that blaming others and anger is a luxury that alcoholics cannot afford. You cannot indulge bitterness and finger-pointing and stay sober.  The truth, of course, is that none of us can indulge self-centered blaming of others, and stay healthy.  Bitterness always eats the bitter person alive.

“The deepest necessity of human  nature”, says Dr. E. Stanley Jones, “is to surrender e-stanley-jonesitself to something, or someone, beyond itself.  Your self in your own hands is a problem and pain; your self in the hands of God is a possibility and power.”  Why is it so hard to let go and let God?  Why does our ego so often fight self-surrender with all its might?  Because self-surrender is choosing to die to the false self, the self-centered way of living, that the true self might live for the sake of others.  “Fears, worries, anxieties, and resentments”, says Dr. Jones, “are all roots in the unsurrendered self.”

Letting go is to surrender to creative love.  Letting go is to align ourselves with God’s healing peace in our lives.  Letting go is learning to stop and smell the coffee, enjoy the sunsets, rejoice in our children.  Letting go is all about learning to slow down in our pressure-cooker world.  Dr. Jones comments that ‘the surrendered are quietly creative and actually produce twice as much as the unsurrendered with all their fussy activity.”  You may have heard of the old expression: ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get’.

Slow Train ComingAs Bob Dylan once wrote, ‘you gotta serve somebody…It may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody’.  The choice is ours one day at a time. We may choose to surrender to fear, to pride, to money, to resentment, to popularity, or we can choose to surrender to God who really cares for us.  My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us may learn to slow down, let go, and let God.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning Battle for the Soul of Canada 

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca