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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Love Came Down at Christmas

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Christmas is about love.  It is so easy to be cynical about love, to be hurt by what looks like love, to give up on ever being truly loved.  What is love, sang Tina Turner, but a second hand emotion?  When we are hurt, our heart can shut down. We can grow cold and jaded, singing with Tina: “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”  Sometimes in my life, my heart has grown cold.  Sometimes I lose my passion.  That is when God has broken in and renewed my heart with his love.  I remember one time when he literally baptized my heart with love.  It seemed like I was walking in an ocean of God’s love and healing.  I wish that I could live there daily.

Love means many different things to many people. For some, love is expressed through gift-giving.  We can thank the three wise men bringing gifts for the flood of presents given every Christmas.  But love is more than just giving people gifts.  Love is also about quality time.  We live in a frantically busy culture, particularly on the North Shore, where it seems like there is never enough time to do all that we want to do.  It is so easy in our task orientation to lose the relational focus.   Love stops to listen.  Love puts down the newspaper and the cell phone to give true face-to-face time.  Love is curious, open and present.  Love is willing to change.  Love is willing to grow.  Love is willing to admit that we are often wrong.

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Love chooses to encourage when everyone else is tearing down another person.  Love, in the words of 1 Corinthians 13, never gives up on you, always believes in you, always takes a chance on you.  Love realizes that sticks and stones do break our bones, that words will hurt and crush us.  Love says no to bullying.  Love grieves over the tragic loss of Amanda Todd.  Love never gives up, never lets go, always speaks blessing.  Love adds value.  Love cares.  Love respects.  Love allows you to be yourself.

Love doesn’t just talk the talk.  It walks the walk.  Love is practical, down-to-earth.  Love is a cup of cold water, the gift of a meal, a roof over our head.  Love is the washing of another’s feet, the wiping of their brow.  Love is meeting people’s needs.  Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche Community, said that love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things.  It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.  The Great Physician said that he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Love is the way of the cross, the way of suffering, the way of unselfishness.

Love is both a verb and a noun.  To say that God is love is true, but it can feel abstract.  What if God put love into action by entering our neighbourhood?  What if God came down at Christmas?  What if Christmas is actually about God embracing us?

This Christmas I invite you to look again at the baby in the manger, the Christ child.   Ask yourself if love came down at Christmas.  Ask yourself if this love might touch your heart.  The greatest is love.  May love fill you, your family and your friends to overflowing during this Advent/Christmas season.

 

 

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

 -an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book 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.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

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, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– 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, 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 


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Leaving and Cleaving: The Secret to a Healthy Marriage

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

What does it take to make a good marriage, or perhaps to make a good marriage better?

Veteran counselors, John & Paula Sanford, commented that “the greatest and most common difficulty we encounter in marital counselling is this matter of leaving and cleaving.”  So many couples that I know are stuck in their relationship, because they have never really left their father and mother.  Leaving is more than just physical leaving.  Leaving is also emotional, spiritual, and social.  Without adequate leaving, there can never be adequate cleaving.  True intimacy requires a death to an old way of relating in order to birth a new level of relationship with one’s spouse.

You may have heard the following in wedding services: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh”.  It is actually a quote from the book of Genesis Chapter 2 vs. 24, and reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:5.  Having taken many marriage services over the years, I have had the opportunity to observe both healthy and unhealthy relationships.  The unhealthy marriages invariably are stuck in the area of leaving.  There is an over-bonding, a ‘bentness’ towards one’s parents that keeps the couple from moving forward.  It is as if the umbilical chord, spiritually speaking, has never really been cut.

John & Paula Sanford comment that “independence or leaving is the first and continuing price of ongoing life.”  Leaving is a two-way street.  It is not only the couple that needs to leave, but also the parents that need to release their adult children to their new destiny.  That is why marriage services include the question: ‘Do you, members of the families of N. and N., give your blessing to this marriage?’  “Letting go and letting God” can be very painful for parents who have spent much of their lives child-rearing.  But unless we choose to let go, we emotionally kill and crush the very ones we love.

The powerful 1990 Irish movie “The Field’ illustrate the vital importance of letting go the ones we love.  The Irish father ‘Bull’ McCabe so wanted to cling to his son Tadgh that his inability to let him go ultimately brought about his son’s destruction.

Leaving without cleaving is also insufficient.  Healthy marriages require a commitment to cleaving.  John & Paula Sanford hold that “cleaving is the primary calling and task of honorable marriage…Cleaving is ‘a matter first of opening to one’s mate, then closing to all others”.  That is why marriage services will include the phrase: “forsaking all others, to be faithful to her/him so long as you both shall live”

Cleaving is not a one-time decision, but rather a daily decision to keep one’s heart open to one’s spouse, no matter what the pain and struggle.  It is always easy to give in to the temptation to isolate oneself and disconnect from real intimacy.  Cleaving is the commitment to love one’s spouse sacrificially, even to the point of laying down one’s life for them.  Cleaving is the commitment to washing one’s spouse’s feet, to serving them in big and little ways.  Cleaving is the commitment to listening deeply and sensitively when one would rather watch TV or get lost in a book.

One of the healthiest marriages that I know of is my parent’s marriage.  They have grown together in the past 60 years in a way that deeply inspires me.  They have learned through experience the importance of leaving one’s parents, of setting healthy boundaries so that their own marriage could blossom.  My parents also modeled for me the biblical call to true cleaving and intimacy.  After 60 years, they are better friends than ever.  That is what I want for my children in their future marriages, when they leave us and cleave to their spouses.

Leaving and cleaving is the secret to a healthy marriage.  My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us may learn how to truly leave our parents so that we may truly cleave to our spouse.

 

 

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

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book 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, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– 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, 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 


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‘Been Like a Mother to Me’

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My late mother never forgot the time that she opened up her Mother’s Day card and read the words: ‘You’ve Been Like a Mother To Me’.  “But I am your real mother!”, she said.  “Exactly”, I responded.  “That’s why I chose the card.  It’s wonderful that you were not only my birth-mother but also have been so genuinely motherly to me’.

I have been so blessed to have a mother who has been so full of care and compassion through the good times and the bad.  But not everyone has been so fortunate.  Some people have been raised by their birth-mothers who were so wounded that they were unable to express love and nurture during the formative years.  This can leave people with a big hole in their hearts and a sense of loneliness that is hard to express.

Drs. Dennis Cloud & John Townsend, best-selling authors of ‘Boundaries’ and ‘The Mother Factor’, believe that ‘mothering is the most significant, demanding and underpaid profession around.’  When they interviewed people about their definitions of true mothering, certain words came up again and again:  nurture, care, bondedness, cookies, and trust.  Drs. Cloud and Townsend were able to name five basic needs that must be met by a mother, in order for us to be healthy and secure:

Safety

Nurture

Basic Trust

Belonging and Invitation

Someone to Love.

 

Safety, says Cloud & Townsend, comes in the form of a person who is predictable, stable, and danger-free.  Without this person, the child remains in a state of panic or anxiety, unable to love or learn.  I give thanks for my mother who gave me this gift of personal safety.  I always knew intuitively that whether I was a success or a failure, obedient or rebellious, my mother would always be there for me.

The second need that mothers meet is ‘to nurture’.  Webster’s Dictionary says that to nurture is to ‘feed or nourish’.  When I was troubled at school by bullies or exams, my mother was always there to feed me, with cookies, milk, and a listening ear.  I remember going through deep struggles as a teenager about the meaning of life and career choices.  Mom was always there to listen.  True, I often rejected her advice and was closed to her deep spirituality.  But most important, her nurturing and food were always there when I was struggling.

The third need that mothers meet is ‘basic trust’.  Drs. Cloud & Townsend teach that basic trust is the ability to invest oneself in a relationship.  Healthy people let themselves need and depend on others without fear.  We live in a high-tech disposable age where everything is up for grabs.

There is an enormous fear of commitment and long-term intimacy.  Yet simultaneously many of us ache from the absence of such relational rootedness.  My wife and I have been happily married for 41 years.  I believe that a big part of why I have not self-destructed my own marriage is because of how healthy my mother was.  My mother modeled for me the value of hanging in there through the thick and the thin.  My mother demonstrated a deep faith and trust that good would always come out of even the most tragic situations.  With the help of her favorite comic writer Erma Bombeck, my mother could always find something to smile about, even when life was not ‘a bowl of cherries’.

The fourth need that mothers meet is ‘belonging and invitation’.  All of us, say Drs. Cloud & Townsend, have the need to belong to someone and to something bigger than ourselves.  Belonging and love are at the root of our humanness.  My mother, as a gifted chauffeur, was forever driving me to endless soccer, baseball, hockey, chess, swimming, & skiing lessons.  She knew that I had a deep need to belong and to grow.  My mom also did her best to involve me in Sunday school, confirmation classes, youth groups, and summer camps.  I had no idea how much I really needed the church family to be my ‘spiritual mother’.  Like many in our individualistic age, I figured that I could do any spirituality better on my own.  My mother never forced religion down my throat, but the door was always wide open.  Thank God for my mother introducing me to God’s family.

The fifth need that mothers meet is ‘someone to love’.  There is perhaps no greater wound in a child than having a mother who just can’t love you.  We know intuitively that everything about true motherhood is about love and caring.  Yet some moms have been so damaged that they are what Drs. Cloud & Townsend would call ‘Phantom Moms’: moms who are not really there in any tangible sense.  Others have moms who Drs. Cloud & Townsend call ‘China Doll Moms’: moms who are so fragile and stressed out that no one can get too close for fear of shattering them.  Without a mom who can show us real love, we end up feeling unwanted at a deep level and estranged from our true identity.  Thank you, Mom, that once again you came through for me in a very practical way.  For 62 years, my mom showed me time and time again that I mattered to her, and that she really care.  The love of Christ that I saw in my mom allows me to show that same love to others.

The best news of all is that even if our mothers couldn’t fully meet these five basic needs, God can make up for any love deficit.  As the Good Book puts it, ‘though your father and mother forsake you, I the Lord will receive you.’  My prayer for for those reading this article is that each of us may discover afresh the amazing love of God, especially as seen in the loving arms of our mothers.

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

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book 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. 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 


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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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Managing Anger in Marital Conflict

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

DPM 929 ( a doctoral paper for Dr James Ponzetti submitted to Carey Theological

St Jerome

 College)

St Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, agonized over how anger destroyed his relationship with his aunt. He wrote: “Tell me, how are we two going to face the Day of Judgement? The sun is witness that it has gone down on our anger not one day, but for many a long year.” (Ketterman, 2000) While St Jerome was obviously not married, his impassioned letter alluding to Ephesians 4:26 shows how vital it is to manage anger in marital and family conflicts.

Segrin, C. & Hanzal, A. (2009) observe that “no marital communication process has generated more scholarly interest than conflict.”  This is probably because as Garland (1998) puts it, “Whatever a family’s style of communication, conflict and anger are inevitable.”

The social sciences and seminaries often function in an academic apartheid. Never the twain shall meet. Both are poorer for it. My aim with this paper is to integrate the best of the social science and theological research in how we can help our families more effectively manage anger in martial conflict situations.

It was noted in the DPM 929 class how marital conflict has had more social science attention than the anger component in marriage.  Yet marital conflict involves many emotions, including both ‘hot and cold’ anger.  Hebrews 12:15 describes cold anger as ‘the root of bitterness which defiles and harasses many’.  Garland (1998) says that we must avoid allowing anger to take up Root of bitternesspermanent residence in our hearts. That is why anger, while encouraged in Ephesians 4:26, must be without sin or harming of others, and must not be taken to bed.  Wisely Ephesians 4:26 suggests that going to sleep with unresolved anger gives a foothold for the negativity which sacramental Christians would describe in their baptism as ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’

We know that anger can be expressed without sin because even the sinless Son of God in Mark 3:5 was legitimately angry at people’s insensitivity to others.  The challenge is how in the words of James 1:19 to be slow to anger.  Anger can easily take on a life of its own.  Waddell (Browning, D. & Evison, I.,1998) wisely comments: “Nothing kills marital love more than hardness of heart.”

In preparing to write this essay, fifty-five books on anger and martial conflict from the Regent/Carey and the Public Libraries were either read or scanned. The overall impression is that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages.  Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) observe that the ability of couples to manage marital conflict is key to the success of healthy marriages.  Some of the solutions in the books were creative, but many of them after a while seemed rather repetitive and predictable.  As well, around one thousand social science articles on anger and marital conflict were scanned through the UBC Library, of which one hundred and two were downloaded for closer examination.  It became clear that not all articles are created equal.

Managing conflict, says Gottman (Garland, 1999), is one of the central tasks of maintaining a marriage.  Gottman’s research Dr John Gottmanwas described both in class and in an article as the ‘Gold Standard’ of marriage research.   The Gottmans (2006) recommend that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. We need to rediscover anger as a healthy emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Gottman’s evocative phrase is “Look for the longing in each other’s complaint.”   Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side.  While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change.  The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr Gil Stieglitz, our past Coach for the Anglican Coalition in Canada, has been a major influence in helping our congregation become more proactive in strengthening and building marriages. Reminiscent of social exchange theories, Stieglitz (2004) says that love is meeting needs and that each marriage partner needs to aim to out-give the other at a 70/30 ratio.  We have found his ‘Five Problems of Marriage’ videos and books to be very practical in helping our couples manage anger in marital conflicts.

Thirty-four years of ordained Anglican ministry have taught me that alcohol abuse has a huge effect on anger and marital life.  Johns, A & Newcomb, M (2007) draw a strong research correlation between alcohol problems and anger-related marital conflict. Alcohol abuse has been scientifically linked with a much higher rate of physical violence during anger in marital conflict.  One study quoted by Johns (2007) showed that the rate of verbal aggression was 5 to 7 times higher among such couples experiencing marital conflict. Since 1982, I have been privileged to do many AA ‘Fifth Steps’ which has convinced me that supporting people’s recovery from addiction is a key to helping them manage anger better in marital conflict. When feelings and pain are suppressed through substance abuse, the checks and balances around anger in marital conflict often disappear. The Bible describes this phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:2 as ‘the searing of the conscience’. One of the reasons I strongly value the Twelve-Step process is not only for its helping people stop abusing substances, but also for its value in helping people manage anger and repair the damage done to marriages through past inappropriate anger.

It was reported by Vogel, D and Werner-Wilson, R (2008) that men are more likely than women to withdraw during marital conflict which results in wives feeling rejected. This withdrawal (Gottman, 2006) heartbreakcauses emotional distance, loneliness, and a lack of romance.  Ironically this is not about the husband not caring but because his over-caring makes him so anxious (Garland, 1998).  The husband’s withdrawal is associated with increases in the wife’s blood pressure, norepinephrine and cortisol, all of which are linked to poorer cardiovascular and immune outcomes (Loving, T., & Heffner, K., 2004) Cortisol is a useful hormone in the short-term ‘fight or flight’ response, but is very destructive long-term to the white T cells which fight off cancer.

Stonewalling in marital conflict (Gottman, 1999) is one of the more serious indicators of future marital collapse.  Faulkner, R., & Davey, M. (2005) observe that “women have considerable tolerance for physiological arousal and, thus, can maintain high levels of engagement. Men, in contrast, experience this arousal as being highly aversive and act to dissipate it by withdrawing from the conflict”.  The tendency for men to withdraw seems to be linked with the higher tendency for men to physiologically ‘flood’ during marital conflict. When the heart rate goes above 100, the ability to rationally process marital conflict significantly decreases (Gottman, 2006).  Gottman recommends the strategy of an agreed-upon ‘Time-out’ until the spouses can emotionally de-escalate.  This gives the wife more security and hope for resolution rather than when the husband just shuts down and goes away without any context for readdressing the conflict later.  Thomas Jefferson wisely said: “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”  (Tavris, 1992)

Marital anger for women (Cox, D & Clair, S, 2005) is often experienced as a threat to intimacy and connection.  This results in many women internalizing their anger in the form of self-hate, obsessive thoughts, and guilt, which paralyzes their ability to constructively make use of the emotion.

Anger, even when inappropriately processed in marital conflict, has a number of payoffs.  When we are hurt or threatened by our spouse, we tend to feel helpless and weak.  When the anger emotion clicks in, it can give us a surge of strength, power and control.  This need for control has been linked with some of the worst of the physical violence in marriage.  In the Twelve Step process, we reverse the control need by admitting in step 1 that we are powerless over our condition/addiction/marriage.  ‘Letting go letting-goand letting God’ is at the heart of true recovery.  I am reminded of Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 that God’s grace is sufficient for him, enabling him to realizing that when he is weak, he is strong.

Anger is associated with physiological and biological transitions, with the increase of our heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  The instinctive, natural way to express anger, says Spielberger (APA, 2009), is to respond aggressively.  Assertiveness training has been developed as a more effective way of managing marital anger than either stuffing one’s anger or dumping it on others. I have read many books on assertiveness training over the years which have been helpful but sometimes lack the needed gentleness of the ‘soft startup’ recommended by Gottman.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged couples to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other spouse. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. Garland(1999) comments that “anger expressed in venting becomes the first step toward murder, not toward reconciliation (Matthew 5:22).”  Neither blowing up or clamming up really helps us manage anger in marital conflict (Cosgrove, 1988).  Tavris (1982) found that “aggression frequently has precisely the opposite effect of catharsis: instead of exorcising the anger, it can inflame it.”  Many people are afraid of marital anger because of its tendency to get away on us.  Plato wrote “[when reason] is asleep, then the wild beast within us, gorged on meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime it won’t commit.”

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) reported that spirituality, especially practices such as prayer between a couple,  is closely linked with reduced marital conflict.  The shared Praying Hands picturevision and relation virtues such as selflessness and unconditional love have been linked with better marital functioning in times of anger and conflict. Couples indicated that their involvement in scripture reading and regular church attendance increased their commitment to relational permanence.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) found that couples were able to increase their sense of interpersonal space by detouring their anger to God in marital conflict.  In my pastoral work, I have found that praying together can really help a couple, though most find such activity too intimate.  It is vital that the couple do not use prayer or the bible as weapons to win a fight, but rather as a way to resolve conflict and build a healthier marriage.

Mahoney, A. &  Pargament, K. ( 1999)  found the benefits of spiritual involvement as a couple to include greater global marital adjustment, more perceived benefits from marriage, less marital conflict, more verbal collaboration, and less use of verbal aggression and stalemate to discuss disagreements for both wives and husbands.  Before my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) observe that couples who view their marriage as being a sanctified object (whom God has joined together) are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage.  Part of the improved handling of anger in marital conflict comes out of the religious couple’s allegiance to their meta-narrative and their God’s ethical expectations.  Even after thirty-two years of marriage, I still have to resist my tendencies to selfishness and irritability.  My faith is a major motivator to keep working on myself.

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. listed studies showing that the value of forgiveness is linked with better managing anger in marital conflict.  Gordon, K. &  Hughes, F. (2009) identified three elements of forgiveness:

 (a) regaining a more balanced and compassionate view of the offender and the event,

(b) decreasing negative affect towards and avoidance of the offender, and

(c) giving up the right to seek revenge or lash out toward the offender.

Ketterman (2000) observes 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 Jesusforgiven’, 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 remarried her husband.  Forgiveness is indeed a practical proven key to managing anger in martial conflict.

Another key to managing anger in marital conflict is the reduction of blaming behaviour.  Gottman (1999) calls this learning how to complain without criticizing.  Gottman (1999, 2006) talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) which are greater long-term indicators of divorce than mere anger. Research by Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) showed that blaming one’s spouse for marital conflict is negatively associated with marital satisfaction.  Couples that habitually blame one another are some of the most difficult to help.

Contempt has a major impact on how we manage anger in marital conflict. Day (2003) noted how “Husbands who were more extroverted were more likely to express anger and contempt during times of relational difficulty.”  Gottman (2006) defines contempt as including “hostility or disgust (rolling their eyes). Contempt often involves sarcasm, mocking, name-calling or belligerence.”  Contempt is the opposite of honour and respect.  Steiglitz (2004) teaches extensively in his books and videos on the need for husbands to honour their wives daily, which he defines as ‘adding value’ and ‘putting them first above our other priorities’.  He also emphasizes the need for wives to respect their husbands, which he defines as ‘acknowledging value’ by ‘finding and affirming his strengths in the sea of his weaknesses.”  Such acts of love go a long way in repairing the damage done through what he calls our S.A.D. (Selfish, Angry, Demanding) behaviours that we may slip into when our needs are not being met.

One of the more recent emphases in marriage research has been to study not only dysfunctional couples, but also long-term successful couples. Matthews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) noted one study of 576 couples who had been married for 50 years or more.   The three qualities attributed to such long-term success were trust (82 percent), loving relationship (81 percent), and willingness to compromise (80 percent).

Matthews and Hubbard also noted that the wedding ringsindividualism of North American culture militates against healthy anger management in marriage conflict. They suggest that the way forward is to rediscover a theology of marriage that focuses on the common good, the value of community, discipleship and missional orientation. Marriage, said Matthews and Hubbard, ‘must have a purpose, a goal, a task beyond ‘being together’.

Osborne (1988) insightfully noted that “Marriage is the most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.”  As Gottman and others have observed, no married couples have been found to be free from anger in marital conflict. Gottman (2009) commented: “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.  The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.”  David Mace, in Ridenour, F. (1989) notes how the Lauers studied three hundred marriages lasting fifteen years or longer. All the couples had times of anger and marital conflict. The key to these marriages was that they chose not to attack each other, but rather work on the anger. Mace (1986) compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm.  In our DPM 929 Class, I was reminded how healthy marriages and families are foundational to the health and stability of our society

How we interpret the meaning of anger in marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself.  Lester (2003) holds that

“the hermeneutical process is central to the experience of anger. Individuals and communities decide what is threatening as they interpret life situations through the lens of their own narratives – their values, meanings, and beliefs.”

Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the gottman-love-lab-3challenges of marital conflict.   This is why Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) encourage couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning.  It is important that couples in conflict do not give up on their ideals and dreams.  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.

Positive affect (such as humour or affection) during marital conflict was the only predictor of both marital stability and marital satisfaction 6 years after the wedding. This has also shown to be true for long-term couples dealing with conflict (Gottman, J. and Driver, J., 2004). Positive affect cannot be faked but rather cultivated over time with a series of enjoyable events. As suggested in DPM 929, a healthy marriage has learnt to celebrate the ordinary not just the extraordinary. My wife and I handle anger in marital conflict better when we take regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

In Gottman’s interview with Wyatt, R. (2009), he emphasizes the value of a soft-startup in managing anger in marital conflict.  Many couples, commented Gottman, say to their spouses “The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you’re a screw-up.” Such personal “you message” attacks do not help couples manage anger better. Garland (1999) says the “I and we’ messages of a soft start-up are “the difference between speaking the truth (Eph 4:25) and the judging of others that Jesus warned against (Mt 7:1).  Carl Roger’s active listening model has not born up under clinical research with married couples. It seems to be too demanding to expect one’s spouse to act as a detached Rogerian therapist in the midst of marital conflict (Gottman, 2006).

Anger in marital conflict is handled better when there are approximately five times as Making Marriage Workmany positive behaviours as negative behaviours. Couples in crisis usually only show a corresponding ratio of 1:1 (Gottman, 1999, 2006).  The need for a five to one ratio seems to come from the greater emotional impact of negative behaviours on a marriage. Garland (1998) poignantly notes that “truth, especially when it leads to conflict, must be wrapped in words and actions that build rather than tear down love for one another.”

Another well-researched principle for managing anger in marital conflict is the willingness to accept influence from one’s spouse. Gottman (2009) says “If you don’t accept some influence, then you become an obstacle and people find a way around you and you have no power.”  This is an area that I have had to work on our thirty-two years of marriage.  My wife reports that I have improved in this area.  Sometimes it is hard to recognize our own stubbornness and defensiveness because it may be hidden in strengths like perseverance.  Going for marriage counselling from time to time can be a real strength, though it is challenging to motivate both partners to be willing to go.  We have many couples in our congregation whose marriages have been deeply restored through a willingness to do the hard work of going to a professional marriage counsellor. The particular clinical counsellor that we bonnie chatwinmake the most use of in our church is Bonnie Chatwin who is both a nurse and a clinical counsellor trained at Trinity Western University.  I have been invited in a number of times by Bonnie and the couple to co-counsel in particularly challenging situations. One of my greatest joys each Sunday is to see couples in church whose marriages were over, but they did the hard work with a counsellor that enabled them to find new ways to rebuild their marriages and to handle anger more effectively.

We have one couple in our previous congregation who were divorced for six years after an angry misunderstanding.  The man kept on serving his wife in practical ways.  The wife kept saying to me: “Some day I would like to marry my husband again”. Finally on Father’s Day 2002, they were both kneeling to receive communion and she said to me: “I would like to marry him again some day.” We married them that Sunday at the end of the service, and then remarried them legally later that week.  I have followed up that couple with the Dr. Gil DVDs on marriage, and they are still together seven years later.  This remarriage not only affected the couple but also their extended family and friends.  Every restored marriage give hope to many others, especially to the younger generation that often lives together in a misguided attempt to marriage-ringsavoid the pain of divorce.

 I have seen some couples who refused counselling because they thought that it would be too expensive, only to spend far more on a divorce settlement.  I can think of a case where a successful entrepreneur was so devastated by the divorce that years later, he is still trying to rebuild his life and his career.  Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) confirmed that marriage counselling actually saves couples money compared to the costs of divorce and the medical costs associated with the reduced health of couples involved in marriage breakdowns.  Sadly though marital counselling is cost-efficient, many insurance plans do not reimburse for martial therapy.  Several couples I know have initially experienced great resistance from their insurance company over the area of paying for marriage counselling. Thankfully this was often positively resolved.

Sometimes Christian couples on the North Shore are suspicious of counselling in general, based on horror stories that they may have heard from others.  Not all counselors have the same professional competence or sensitivity to the Judeo-Christian values.   By the time that a man may be ready to go for counselling, the woman may have already emotionally detached years before. She may not have physically moved out, but she is no longer there.  Both husbands and wives on the North Shore often stonewall each other as to whether they are willing to try out marriage counselling. Many men see counselling as an admission of weakness, neediness and failure. I see it as an act of great courage that will reap great benefits if the couple does not give up.  Sometimes just when the couple are making progress in their counselling and the woman feels safe enough to finally open up, the man will pull the plug and claim that the counsellor is biased towards the wife.  “I will never go back to counselling”, a man told me. “We will just live as roommates”.  I encouraged this individual to rethink his stance.  Because many people on the North Shore are wealthy and successful, they are used to getting their own way all the time. Dominating their spouse from a power position does not work these days, especially as women have the ability nowadays to be financially independent.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the work of Dr. Gottman and others who are offering practical social science insights as to how we can better manage our anger in marital conflict.  The irony is that many of these research-based insights such as soft-startups, accepting influence, forgiveness, and positive affection all take us back to the historic Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage and healthy relationships.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-author of the award-winning book 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.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

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, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– 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, 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 

 

References

American Psychological Association (2009).  Controlling Anger — Before It Controls You. Retrieved June 20th 2009 from http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html

Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) Treatment of Marital conflict and prevention of divorce. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 24, 461-473.

Browning, D. & Evison, I., Series Editors (1998) The Family Handbook. Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press.

Cosgrove, M. (1988) Counselling for Anger. Dallas, Word Incorporated.

Cox, D. & Clair, S. (2005).A New Perspective on Women’s Anger: Therapy Through the Lens of Anger Diversion, Women & Therapy, 28, 77-90.

Day, R. (2003) Introduction to Family Processes, New Jersey, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Gottman, J. and Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers.

Faulkner, R., Davey, M., Davey, A. (2005) Gender-Related Predictors of Change in Marital Satisfaction and Marital Conflict. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 33, 61–83.

Garland, D. (1999) Family Ministry: a Comprehensive Guide. Downers Grove, IVP Academic.

Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) Conflict Management Style and Marital Satisfaction. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 321–334

Gordon, K.,  Hughes, F., Tomcik, N.,. Dixon, L., and Litzinger, S. (2009) Widening Spheres of Impact: The Role of Forgiveness in Marital and  Family Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 1–13.

Gottman, J. & Driver, J. (2004) Daily Marital Interactions and Positive Affect During

Marital Conflict Among Newlywed Couples. Seattle, Family Process, Vol. 43, 301-304

Gottman, J., Gottman, J., & DeClaire, J. (2006) 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage. New York, Crown Publishers.

Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, Crown Publishers Inc.

Johns, A., Newcomb, M., Johnson, M., & Bradbury, T. (2007) Alcohol-related problems, anger, and marital satisfaction in monoethnic Latino, biethnic Latino, and European American newlywed couples,  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 255–275,

Ketterman, G and Hazard, D. (2000). When I can’t say “I Forgive You”, Colorado Springs, NavPress,

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) How Religiosity Helps Couples Prevent, Resolve, and Overcome Marital Conflict.  Family Relations, 55, 439–449.

Lester, A. (2003) The Angry Christian: A Theology for Care and Counselling. Louisville,Westminster John Knox Press.

Loving, T., Heffner, K., Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. (2004) Stress Hormone Changes and Marital Conflict: Spouses’ Relative Power Makes a Difference. Journal of Marriage and Family. 66, 595–612

Mace, D. &  V. (1986) The Sacred Fire: Christian Marriage Through the Ages. Nashville, Abingdon Press

Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) Blame, Control, and Marital Satisfaction: Wives’ Attributions for Conflict in Marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 663-674.

Mahoney, A., Pargament, K., Jewell, T., Swank, A., Scott, E., Emery, E., and Rye, M. ( 1999) Marriage and the Spiritual Realm: The Role of Proximal and Distal Religious Constructs in Marital Functioning. Journal of Family Psychology. 13, 321-338

Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000)Religious Beliefs and Practices and Catholic Couples’ Management of Anger and Conflict, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 7, 22-36

Mathews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) Marriage Made in Eden. Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

Osborne, O. (1988) The Art of Understanding Your Mate. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Ridenour, F. (1989) The Marriage Collection. Grand Rapids, Zondervan.

Segrin, C., Hanzal, A., & Domschke, T. (2009) Accuracy and Bias in Newlywed Couples’ Perceptions of Conflict Styles and the Association with Marital Satisfaction. Communication Monographs. 76 , 207 — 233.

Steigltiz, G (2004) The Five Problems of Marriage, Sacramento: Faith Productions.

Tavris, C. (1982). Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Touchstone Books.

Vogel, D., Werner-Wilson, R., Liang, K., Cutrona, C., Seeman, J., & Hackler, A. (2008)

The Relationship of Physiological Arousal with Demand and Withdraw Behavior: Examining the Accuracy of the Escape-Conditioning Hypothesis. Sex Roles, 59, 871–879.

Wyatt, R. (2009) An Interview with John Gottman, PhD: Couples Therapy and Marriage. Retrieved June 12th 2009 from http://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/John_Gottman#author109


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Humbled by the Mystery of Marriage

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdDr JI Packer picture

The famous Vancouver-based author Dr. J.I. Packer once commented that “marriage, being the most delicate and demanding of relationships, as well as potentially the most delightful, is a terribly difficult topic on which to write wisely and well.” In spite of such concerns, Dr. Packer agreed to write a foreword endorsing a Gold Medallion Book Award winner entitled “The Mystery of Marriage”. “Rarely”, says Packer, “has a new book roused in me so much enthusiasm as has the combination of wisdom, depth, dignity and glow … that I find in these chapters. “

The author, Mike Mason, believes that marriage comes to everyone as an intense invasion of one’s privacy. That is why he believes that there is in us “a secret resentment of the demands of marriage, a reluctance to give way any more than is absolutely necessary.” In all of us, there is a struggle between the needs for dependence and for independence, between the urge toward loving cooperation and the opposite urge toward detachment, privacy, self sufficiency.

 

One of the hardest things in marriage, says Mason, is the feeling of being watched. It is the constant surveillance that can get to one, that can wear one down like a bright light shining in the eyes, and that leads inevitably to the crumbling of all defenses, all facades, all the customary shams and masquerades of the personality. Being watched, for Mike Mason, is an ambivalent but life giving experience. “Being watched by one who loves is not like being watched by anyone else on earth! No, to be loved as one is being watched is like one thing only: it is like the watchfulness of the Lord God Himself …”

Loving Wisdom

Marriage to Mike Mason is a profound paradox, full of ambiguity. That is why he believes that ” … there is nothing in the world worse than a bad marriage, and at the same time nothing better than a good one.” To be married, says Mason, is to have found in a total stranger a near and long lost relative, a true blood relative even closer to us than father or mother.

 

Marriage for Mason is an act of contemplation. It is a divine pondering, an exercise in amazement. “Marriage, as simply as it can be defined, is the contemplation of the love of God in and through the form of another human being.”

Part of the mystery of marriage is that you can never exhaust the uniqueness and otherness of one’s partner.  Along with growing familiarity, marriage brings a growing sense of the strangeness and unknowability of one’s spouse.  As Mason puts it, ‘There is just something so purely and untouchably mysterious in the fact of living out one’s days cheek by jowl under the same roof with another being who always remains, no matter how close you manage to get, essentially a stranger. You know this person better than you have ever known anyone, yet often you wonder whether you know them at all.”

Love, for Mason, is an earthquake that relocates the center of the universe. Our natural tendency is to treat people as if they were not “others” at all, but merely aspects of ourselves. In a loving marriage, we cease to be the centre of our own universe. The very purpose of marriage is to draw us beyond ourselves, to “get us out beyond our depth, out of the shallows of our own secure egocentricity and into the dangerous and unpredictable depths of a real interpersonal encounter,” That is why marriage is so disturbingly intense and disruptively involving. “Angering, humiliating, melting, chastening, purifying, marriage touches us where we hurt most, in the place of our lovelessness.”

 

Marriage, says Mason, is one of God’s most powerful secret weapons for the revolutionizing of the human heart. It is a heavy, concentrated barrage upon the place of our greatest weakness, which is our relationship with others.

Heart

Marriage to Mason is the beating heart of society itself. Why do people love weddings so much? Because “every time a wedding takes place, the highest hopes and ideals of the whole community are rekindled”. For most people, says Mason, marriage is the single most wholehearted step they will ever take toward a fulfilling of Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbour as oneself.

 

Marriage is inevitably the flagship of all other relationships. One’s own home is the place where love must first be practised before it can truly be practiced anywhere else. My prayer for those reading this article is that love will first be practised in our homes and our marriages, so that it may truly overflow from our homes to bless the rest of our world.

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

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

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

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 V4A 0A5, Canada.

– 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 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