You. Owe. Me.

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Recently, my husband and I had an argument about how to get rid of some junk in our garage.  I wanted to post it on Craig’s List for free.  He wanted to take it to the dump. I didn’t want to pay to get rid of it.  He didn’t want it sitting on our front yard.  We compromised and agreed that I could post it on Craig’s list for three days and if it wasn’t gone he could take it to the dump.  Three days later, very little of it had been picked up and my husband had figured out what could be taken to the Reuse Center and what needed to go to the dump.

About a week later, we were talking with his parents, right in the spot of the yard where the junk had been.  My in-laws commented on a square chunk of grass that had turned brown.  The brown spot was from a window that sat there for three days and ended up at the dump.  When my husband’s parents asked him about it, he was gracious as he explained how it happened.  He did not put me down, get angry or speak demeaning of me.  It was my fault, but he extended grace.  I was grateful.

Tim Kimmell, Executive Director of Family Matters has been testing this hypothesis: Most marriages don’t fail because they lack love … they fail because they lack grace.  Authors and speakers, Justin and Trisha Davis, say it this way, “When grace is missing from a marriage, three words dominate that relationship: You. Owe. Me.”

So what is grace?  The theological definition is:  unmerited favor, undeserved favor.  Kimmel’s definition of grace is, “giving your spouse something they desperately need, but don’t necessarily deserve.”  Philip Yancey, author of What’s so Amazing about Grace, writes that “Grace is an attitude toward others.”

What does grace look like in a marriage?

  • Giving someone the benefit of the doubt
  • Granting forgiveness
  • Actively seeing things from the other person’s perspective and responding accordingly
  • Allowing for differences, in a respectful and kind way
  • Not bringing up the past
  • Not jumping to conclusions or making assumptions
  • Serving, expecting nothing in return
  • Trusting each other
  • Keeping a big picture perspective by asking, “It this issue worth all the emotional energy?”
  • Doing what is in the best interest of your partner

Reminding ourselves of what grace is and reminding ourselves of ways we give it will help us to be grace givers. But sometimes that is not enough.  We know we ought to extend grace, and we want to extend grace, but we still don’t. Perhaps this is why – grace seems unfair. The reality is, it really is unfair.  But, does that mean that we shouldn’t give it?  Do we look at grace differently if we are the one giving it verses the one needing it?  Do we perceive the unfairness of it as negative only when we are on the giving end of things?  What about the times when we need grace extended to us?

The next time you find yourself unwilling to give grace to your partner, remember the last time someone extended grace to you and how good it felt.  That’s why it’s called “Amazing Grace.”

8 thoughts to “You. Owe. Me.”

  1. Assume goodness!
    Unless you know for certain they weren’t, assume the other person’s intentions were good!
    Going forward to tackle a problem with that attitude allows for constructive dialogue.

  2. The problem with “assuming goodness” is that the Bible says (and history confirms) that NO ONE is good, “not even one” (person) — see, for example, Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3, Romans 7:18 (etc.!!), Luke 18:19.

    Marriage is supposed to be a vision of Christ and His Bride, the Church. In marriage, we are supposed to give grace to each other, absolutely. The article is spot-on. But giving grace is hard — as Laura points out towards the end. Giving grace is a sacrificial giving — because the person receiving it has, by definition, failed.

    I do agree that a healthy marriage has more grace in it; that in a healthy marriage (Christian or not), you partner with each other for each other’s good. It is healthy to remember that in a marriage it is the two of you “against the world,” so to speak — not against each other. (Facing the world, that is to say, and in unity.)

  3. Thank you! I’ve never seen this idea in print, at least not without a surfeit of psychobabble. Grace seems harder & harder to come by in this world, and I’m heartened to see it promoted simply and beautifully.

  4. Hello guys this is my first time reading your post. I was blown away by the wisdom and insight received. I will practice grace in my own relationship _ because of your writing I’m encouraged to do so.

  5. Thank you for a wonderful blog post. As Heather mentioned, marriage is supposed to be a vision of Christ and His Bride, the Church. When Paul stated that man must love his wife just as Christ loved the church, I believe this is exactly what he was speaking of, Grace! I plan to send couples that I work with to your blog to read this as I think it is written very eloquently.

    Thank you again!

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