Brownie Points: 4 Reasons why they may not be good for your marriage.

Cards.  Candy, Socks (one of my favorite gifts). Flowers.  They’re all those things that we purchase and hear someone say, 

“Somebody’s gonna get some brownie points for that.”

In the completely accurate source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Brownie Points are given a phenomenal definition. They’re a hypothetical social currency, which can be acquired by doing good deeds or earning favor in the eyes of another.  Regardless of the etymology, they’re essentially used for the purpose of earning approval of someone.

NOTE: I am not against gift-giving.  I’m not opposing to doing thoughtful things for your spouse.  In fact, acts that are kind, thoughtful, loving, and/or romantic should be consistently a part of your marriage (key word: consistently).  They should be the natural outflow of a healthy marital relationship.  The little things matter and need to be actively seen in marriage. But the connotation that “Brownie Points” carries, can actually be a very unhealthy to you and your spouse.  According to the definition, in the context of marriage, little acts are done to curry favor and approval that, apparently, either didn’t exist or have disappeared.  The love we see in our marriage should be spilling out from the love of Christ.  We see that love described in 1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

And because of that here are 4 reasons why brownie points may not be good for your marriage. 

1. Score keeping. Couples that keep score deteriorate. Why?  If you’ve done more acts of kindness for your spouse, you can sit back and do nothing until he/she gets caught up with what you gave.  It fosters the misunderstanding that “marriage is a 50/50 proposition.” 50/50 simply means “I give in proportion to what you give me.”  So you sit back and keep track of who did what and, often, make statements about how much more you’ve given.  But a healthy marriage is 100/100.  That means that a spouse gives all that they are regardless of what the other gives. “Love is…kind.” I give100% because that’s what type of love Christ gave me. The kindness in his immense generosity knows no bounds. 

2. One upping.  I’ll admit, I like to outdo what I’ve done before because I love Anne and enjoy doing more for her.  But “one upping” can flow into an unhealthy mentality when 1 of 2 things happen.  First, when it’s become about pride instead of about love.  We perform an act of kindness/romance and stand back and say, “Look what I’ve done for you.  You’re lucky to be married to me.”  Now no body in their right mind is going to actually say that but that’s the heart behind it. Secondly, it fosters manipulation.  “Can you do _________for me?  I did __________ for you last week.”  There’s a terrible danger of taking what is supposed to be kindness and/or romantic and it’s become a weapon used to “make” your spouse do what you want him/her to do. Remember, “love…does not insist its own way.”

3. Sets the precedence that “favor” with your spouse is something to be “won.”  I don’t think there has been a time that Anne has ever had to earn my favor.  Have we had conflict?  You better believe it.  Do we annoy each other?  At times.  But love isn’t “arrogant or rude.”  It doesn’t let the marriage operate so that one person must be satisfied so that favor may be granted upon the spouse.  How arrogant are you if you demand that your favor must be curried? Love is unconditional because it’s what Jesus showed us. And scripture tells us that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  

4. Can make forgiveness dependent upon actions. Scripture tells us that “love is…not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” Most people struggle with forgiveness because they mistaken it for trust.  They are not the same thing.  We don’t let our spouse have to earn forgiveness by actions. We love and forgive based upon what was modeled in Christ. Trust, on the other hand, is built over time. It’s grown by the fruit (consistent actions) of a healthy, contrite, and teachable heart. Is it tough to do when our spouse has broken our hearts?  Absolutely. But love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Love never fails.  

Hear my heart.  Keep doing the little things for your spouse.  Don’t do it because of what you can get out of it nor do them as penance for wrongs that have been done.  Let them flow out of the love that you saw and experience from the love of Christ.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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