“I want a more positive world,” she says. Me too, friend.
If we want a more positive world… it starts at home. There was once a woman who backed up that statement. A woman who truly laid it all down to make the world a better place… the one who begged God to send her to the poorest of the poor… Mother Teresa. And her advice was, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Lord willing, the love we plant here will grow and spread out to the world. Change doesn’t have to stay here, but it does have to start here. In our hearts. In our homes.
And if we want a more positive home… it starts with the relationship that started it all. The relationship that trickles down and through and over all our other relationships: the marriage.
It was five years ago that the Lord first started showing me that the way I was speaking to my husband wasn’t exactly reflecting the kindness I wanted to hold in my heart. You see the post-it I shared at the top of the post? The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21. There’s a reason why that post-it is faded and crinkled and worn. Because it is hanging on my fridge, and has been doing so for the last five years. Reminding, convicting, guiding this wife and mama who daily needs His grace. In fact, that particular post-it note has survived two halfway-across-the-country moves, that’s how much those words mean to me.
Thanks to Jesus’s love in my heart, things have changed a lot in the last five years. But I still need a refresher now and then.
And February… the month of love… is the perfect time for a refresher. The perfect time to do the No-Negativity Challenge again.
The No-Negativity Challenge is something I tried those five years ago, and this is what it means: not saying anything negative.
To my husband.
For a whole month.
No nagging, no bossing.
No complaining, no whining.
No I-wish-we-coulds or why-don’t-yous or if-only-I-hads.
The No-Negativity Challenge is about something I won’t give to my husband. It’s about stopping my hurtful words, negative attitudes, and unrealistic fears, before they start.
Does it sound hard? It is hard. But there are four things that the No-Negativity Challenge can do for you:
1) It makes you realize what is really coming out of your mouth. The conscious decision to not say anything negative forces me to think about what I’m saying… before I say it. The No-Negativity Challenge can help us to stop hurtful words before they come out of our mouths… whereas, before, maybe we wouldn’t have even realized we were saying them. Forever sounds even harder… but committing to one month can heighten our awareness to our habits. It can show us what our own negative words are really doing to our marriages.
2) It causes an evaluation of what’s in our heart. The funny thing about marriage… or any close relationship, really… is that it causes what’s inside of you to come out. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Matthew 12:34). If we stop our words from coming out… they have to go somewhere. They have to go to a place that causes us to check our hearts. As in, Wow, I was really going to say that… in that manner? Why is my heart like this? These realizations can drive us to our knees and closer to Jesus, if we let them.
3) Stopping an old habit can be the first step to starting a new one. I’ve had more than one friend ask me lately, “How can a wife who struggles with kindness learn to speak with patience and grace to her husband?” In the stress and the mess that is life as a young family, when we find an area that really needs growth, I believe it is super important to break down the changes we want to make into small, manageable steps. When it comes to this marriage and motherhood journey, the one that so often drives us ill-prepared women of faith to our knees, I’m taken back to the words I first learned in nursing school, the ones penned by Florence Nightingale herself: “First, do no harm.” First, do no harm. Because maybe it’s time to start by stopping.
4) It can be fun. No, seriously. Try it as an experiment on your husband. Join me for the No-Negativity Challenge for one month… but don’t tell him. Make it like a game for yourself, to make it a little easier, a little more palatable. (This part is not an option for me, as my husband subscribes to these emails. Talk about being held accountable.) Don’t tell him, and see if he notices. Just see. See if anything changes in your marriage.
I realize this is a loaded post. So let me add a few clarifiers:
~ The No-Negativity Challenge doesn’t mean we won’t allow one negative utterance to escape our lips… absolutely and perfectly… all month long. It means a commitment to hold our words carefully in our hearts before we speak them. We might slip up with a complaint or a nagging comment. But the No-Negativity Promise will help us be more aware that we’ve done it. And like my good friend used to say, “Just because you forget to eat breakfast one day, doesn’t mean you go on not eating for the rest of your life! You eat breakfast the next day!”
~The No-Negativity Challenge doesn’t mean that Hard Things can’t be discussed. (If your spouse brings up the budget, or child discipline issues, you don’t have to run out of the room holding your ears.) Of course complicated things come up in marriages that need to be talked about. But the No-Negativity Promise helps us with the how we talk about these things. It helps us think… Is this particular discussion worth an argument?
~Lastly… the problem with writing a blog post like this… one that speaks so specifically to an area of marriage that can be wide and varied… is that you don’t know who might end up reading it. Every marriage is different, and there are marriages that go through really hard things. If you are in a season of your marriage where you are feeling like you really need to speak up, then this post is not for you.
Now that we got through the details, I have one question for you…
Will you join me, friend? Will you join me for the No-Negativity Challenge? For this month, the month of love? Comment below and let me know (I won’t tell, promise, in keeping with Helpful Tip #4.) I know that this is hard… pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. A comment as simple as YES will do!
I hope you’ll join me, friend, in giving the best Valentine’s gift we might never give,
In His Grace,