That’s an important question to prayerfully consider. “Are you an eraser or a highlighter in your marriage? Both are useful tools provided we are using them in the best way for our spouse.” And that’s the important point we want to “highlight” in this Marriage Insight. What’s the BEST way to do this?
Are you curious to know what it means to be an eraser or a highlighter? We were. Our good friend Debi Walter wrote about this in her ministry blog for The Romantic Vineyard. And as we read more, we’re glad we did.
FYI: We now are making this info available in Podcast form. To listen, instead of reading this Marriage Insight, just click on the Podcast button to the right. →
Eraser or Highlighter?
So, with Debi’s permission we’re going to share what she wrote. Plus, we’ll add a few of our own thoughts on this matter. Debi, from her (and her husband Tom’s) web site, Theromanticvineyard.com starts out by saying:
“Erasers are used to take away errors giving an opportunity to do it right. Highlighters are used to emphasize something you don’t want to forget. In marriage we can use both—to help or hurt our relationship.”
So first, lets look at good ways we can be an eraser within our marriage:
“How are we to use erasers in a way that will benefit our marriage most? Proverbs 19:11 says, ‘Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.’ Do you find it difficult in the heat of the moment to choose to not make a big deal out of something your spouse did that you don’t like?”
Practicing Good Sense
We have to say that it is real easy to go in a negative direction on this point. We don’t always practice “good sense” when we feel we are offended by our spouse. This is something that God has convicted me of many, many, MANY times as it pertains to how I approach Steve. I can easily get caught up in “right fighting” when I feel I’m right and Steve is wrong on a certain issue.
We’ve talked about the Right Fighting point in a past Marriage Insight but essentially:
“A right-fighter is someone who struggles to win arguments, even if they doubt their own view. A right-fighter is someone who gets overly emotional or angry when people don’t agree with their opinions. Someone who is a right-fighter insists on having the last word in an argument or refuses to back down no matter what.” (From the Familyresource.com article, “Are You a Right Fighter?”)
God has often reminded me of this quote and also the scriptures: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2) “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12) Fighting to be “right” can sometimes take us in wrong directions. Please be aware of this.
I’ll never forget Steve’s countenance one time when Steve and I were arguing together. He looked so defeated and frustrated. He said something like, “I can never win with you. No matter what I say or do, I’m always wrong. Just because I can’t put my thoughts together as readily as you do, that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. I just can’t think as fast on my feet as you do when we’re arguing.”
Immediately God stopped me and talked very directly to my heart. He let me know that I was taking advantage of Steve in my “style” of fighting. Steve’s thoughts were just as important as mine. But I was being dismissive because to me, my arguments appeared to be “righter” than his. I was mowing over him with my arguments because I could think of good “comebacks” faster than he could. And there was nothing good or kind about that.
And what do I think is more important to God? Being what I consider to be right, or being kind in my approach to the whole issue? I can still make the points God would have me make (if indeed they truly ARE important to make). But it can all be done in kind and loving ways.
God convicted me to slow down, and truly listen to what Steve says—reading between the lines of what he could be trying to communicate is important too. Respecting Steve’s viewpoint and making sure he feels heard and valued is more important than being “right.” Overall, it’s the right thing to do. THEN we can come up with Win/Win solutions together that work for both of us, not just for one individual.
Negative VS Positive Erasing
I want to warn you not to be a negative eraser, like I was (and can be if I’m not careful). Don’t mow over or erase the importance of listening to and showing you value your spouse’s opinions.
Below, Debi names off a few of the “positive ways we can be an eraser”:
• Choose to overlook when our spouse irritates us.
• Think the best of them when something happens we don’t understand.
• Focus on the good we love about them, rather than the areas that still need attention.
• Don’t vent to others about their struggles and/or sins.
Being an eraser requires a commitment beforehand to do this. Otherwise we are caught up in the emotions of the moment and will most often react.
How often Christ has modeled this for us in our own lives. He doesn’t nit-pick every mistake or sin. He gently chides us in the areas where change is needed. And He patiently forbears with us as we struggle. He remembers what we are made of. We would do well to aspire to treat our spouse with such kindness.
Be a Positive Highlighter
But what about being highlighters within our marriages? As Debi Walter says:
Highlighters are the exact opposite. They emphasize something to make it more visible. How can we use a highlighter in a way that will benefit our marriage most? Jesus tells us this analogy that will point us to part of the answer.
’Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’ (Matthew 7:3-5 ESV)
Realizing our sin and how it impacts our spouse will help keep us from being quick to judge our spouse–highlighting our own failures and sins, rather than theirs.”
Isn’t it amazing how quick we can be to remember and highlight our spouse’s failures, but we can gloss over our own? We don’t see it that way. We truly believe we are justified in highlighting their our spouse’s failures. To US, our “stumbles” don’t seem as bad.
We SO appreciate the approach that Gary Thomas makes on this point. He points out that we ALL stumble and fall short of the glory of God. The ways in which you “stumble” are different from your spouse’s. But we all stumble.
Being a Stumble Highlighter
Unfortunately, we can additionally get caught up in the comparison trap on this matter. Gary writes:
“If you’re thinking, ‘But in my case, my spouse really is the worst sinner,’ then know this: Jesus is talking specifically about you [when he brings out the speck/log principle in Luke 6:41-42]. This is precisely the attitude he finds so offensive.
While we tend to rank certain sins, in the glory of God’s goodness every mark of sin—whether an errant attitude, a prideful spirit, or a lust of the flesh—is vile and offensive in his sight. I’ve seen wives who have abused food turn around and disdain husbands who struggle with pornography. I’ve seen controlling and arrogant husbands disdain wives who watch too much television. Both seem completely blinded to their own shortcomings.
We’re not called to judge our spouses—ever. We are called to love them. Additionally, we are not called to recount their failures in a Pharisaic game of ‘I’m holier than you.’ We’re called to encourage them. We are not called to build a case against them regarding how far they fall short of the glory of God. However, we are called to honor and respect them.
We learn to appreciate our imperfect spouse by getting in touch with the reality of our own sin, humbly asking God for forgiveness, and honestly realizing that we’ll never be asked to forgive anyone as much as God has forgiven us. (From Gary Thomas’ article, “How to Appreciate an Imperfect Spouse”)
Being a Highlighter of the Good
Yes, we realize that some spouses stumble in huge ways. Where there is abuse and sexual sin, we need to handle it differently than other types of difficult situations. But beware. Lets work to be highlighters of the good, more so than dwelling on the negative, whenever possible. And where there is negative, lets work together to try to change it in a positive direction by applying ourselves to learning a new skill set, etc.
Here’s something more that Debi Walter points out on this matter of being a Highlighter in your marriage:
Highlighters are also used to remember something we love in a book. How important to make much of those things we love about our spouse. Quips we can easily recite to ourselves when we are tempted to highlight the negative.
Here are positive ways we can be a highlighter:
• Be quick to confess your sin to your spouse when necessary, and ask forgiveness. (This is highlighting your own need to change, a healthy habit in marriage.)
• Think often on those things you love most about your spouse. (This highlights their strengths.)
• Communicate to them those things. Be specific.
• Commend your spouse and their positive character to your friends and family—especially your children. Let them hear your accolades of affection.
Remind yourself daily of the Gospel and how Christ’s finished work has informed your life and impacted your marriage to live this way.
We are all a work in progress. Our highest priority is to come alongside each other and help us each be the best version of ourselves we can be, for the glory of God.
Erasers and highlighters are common tools found in every marriage. Let’s not allow our marriage to be one that highlights the bad and erases the good. If this is an area in need of change, plan a night together to talk about it.
And that’s what we hope you will do. This is what Debi and Tom, and Steve and I do. We’ve learned that 47 years of marriage doesn’t guarantee 48—especially as it pertains to growing a loving, healthy marriage. We have to continue to work on it to make sure it grows in a direction that God (and we) can consider to be “good.”
Lets keep in mind that God points us to be a highlighter when He tells us in Philippians 4:8-9:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.“
May it be so, Lord! Help us all to do this, we pray.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to be a highlighter and invest in growing their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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