Sitting around the breakfast table on a Monday afternoon, sipping coffee and eating yummy weekend leftovers, my two youngest daughters and I catch up on the week’s events. These girls are now 18 and 20 years old, and the subject matter tends to be weighty. We recently watched a Henry Cloud video on the topic of wise, foolish, and evil people which sparked conversations reaching into every area of life.
In his video, Henry Cloud simplifies the characteristics of each type of person. The wise is willing to be open, talk, and listen to feedback. The fool does not want to hear feedback and often deflects, twists, and ignores truth until hurt and pain over foolish choices causes a change. The evil possess a heart of destruction and rarely change.
The Characteristics of Marriage
The girls and I talk often about relationship dynamics and what health looks like between couples, friends, and siblings. These girls were living at home when I divorced, and they have since begun to discover the beauty of a home life where the dark cloud of oppression is no longer present. The kids and I have experienced a journey leading to a world of love, kindness, and a happy home life, something we will never take for granted.
As we talked about couples we knew and the dynamics we’ve experienced, it led us to explore different types of marriages based on Dr. Cloud’s assessment. The benefits and struggles that are experienced are often due to the choices we make when feedback is involved.
A Frustrating Marriage
I smiled when I heard Dr. Cloud say wise people are simply recovering fools. A wise person is far from perfect but has learned that it is better to acknowledge and change when situations, experiences, and others expose faults. The wise understand they can avoid self-inflicted hurt through humility.
When a wise person is married to a fool, however, there are dynamics at play that prevent the flourishing of the relationship and often result in frustration. Consider the conversations of a marriage between a wise person and a fool.
The wise person has done something wrong, is struggling with an issue, or needs help understanding what to do. The feedback from a foolish partner tends to offer advice of little to no help. Because a fool does not want to address their own issues, their feedback is often comprised of a lack of understanding, annoyance over attempts to figure out the right thing to do, and advice that tends to make the situations worse. When a fool rejects wisdom, he continues down the path towards becoming evil, and feedback offered to his spouse can even turn into explotation and harm.
On the other hand, when the fool is wrong, feedback is avoided, denied, and even projected back to the concerned spouse. A fool doesn’t involve their spouse in issues going on in their life. Due to the refusal to take personal responsibility, fools do not see anything wrong and therefore need no help or input. They make decisions or refuse to make changes that typically make things worse.
Life in this marriage is like a road that is never ending: a choice between the path of wisdom or the path of the fool, at varying speeds. We sometimes head towards foolishness, but a bump in the road awakens us to turn around. The longer a spouse chooses to continue down the foolish side of the path, the more frustration is incurred and the relationship begins to splinter. Until the fool is ready to embrace humility, there is little hope of finding fulfillment in this marriage relationship.
For those reading this who know firsthand the frustration of living with a spouse who refuses to acknowledge wrong, be encouraged. The void this creates in life is fulfilled through a solid relationship with Christ. Don’t give up seeking after wisdom and righteousness. The days may be tough, but grace is always sufficient. Trust God for timing and decisions on how to handle your fool.
A Marriage of Denial
So what happens when both spouses in the marriage are foolish? I’m not talking about an unequally yoked couple, but a situation in which the husband and wife both have an immaturity and have started down the proverbial road to foolishness, resulting in an exchange of bad advice. This couple has a difficult time with personal responsibility and entitlement issues.
These conversations do not begin with the insight of trying to understand individual responsibility in problems or situations, nor do they include an understanding spirit for others. Instead, these conversations are reactionary, typically to poor choices or irritation towards others who have made good choices. The focus of the discussion is how wrong others are or how justifiable their own actions are. The spouse with the issue is only affirmed in their foolishness by the other spouse. Even worse, because foolishness dominates, each spouse is deceived into thinking this type of exchange is showing love one to another.
At times, grace will intervene and one spouse will awaken out of foolishness; but if both continue down this road, eventually one fool will turn on the other fool. A marriage like this is void of true growth, full of conflicts and drama, and lacking in peace. When those outside the marriage express concern, the justification, anger, and projection begin. These couples have a hard time making long term relationships.
None of us wants to admit that we might be in a marriage of denial. But even those in a frustrating marriage between a wise spouse and a foolish one may spend a season in a marriage of denial with both husband and wife embracing the pride of a fool. We can only resist being the fool in marriage by continually humbling ourselves and seeking the Lord’s wisdom.
A Nurturing Marriage
The best marriage occurs when two individuals who strive to be good, do well, and glorify God marry. There are good days and bad in marriage. Together, you deal with life struggles, your own sinfulness, and the busyness and exhaustion of raising a family. But no matter the day, you have a partner to share your every thought and concern. You do not fear retaliation or manipulation, and you bask in the beauty of vulnerability.
You pray for each other and with each other. When one has a struggle or a problem, the other is there to help balance the perspective and give positive, biblical feedback. Each helps the other on the proverbial road to wisdom through lovingkindness and truth, regardless of how difficult the truth may be. Truth is given in love and received with gratitude.
This marriage isn’t made up of perfect people; but because they have the common goal of receiving feedback with openness, humility, and a willingness to change, this couple thrives and their love is deepened with time.
I recently remarried, and I am beyond blessed to be experiencing a nurturing marriage. Life and the daily grind interrupts the honeymoon stage, but a marriage like this, I have found, deepens in love and gratitude with time and with each curve ball life throws at us.
I’m thankful for the conversations I get to experience with my girls. They are watching and learning firsthand how healthy relationships develop. By God’s grace, I see them both choosing spouses who will grow with them in a nurturing marriage!