Shed the Shame: 4 Ways Shame Adds A Burden to Our Marriage

There’s a gentleman in our church community who’s introduced me and my son to backpacking. Ethan and I have fallen in love with it. We talk about it frequently as, every time we go, we enjoy it immensely and learn something new to apply to our next experience.  That, by itself, would make a good marriage blog.

Find something (potentially new) to with your spouse.
Learn something new about each other.

Now back to my original thought…

One thing we’ve learned about improving our backpacking experience and thus, improving our enjoyment, is to do whatever it takes to shed unnecessary weight in what we carry. I’m not just talking about watching the pounds of equipment but identifying every ounce we put in our packs. Why? Anything we allow, ultimately, somebody has to shoulder it. So Ethan and I spend a good week laying out and identifying everything we intend to take on our journey.

It’s such a simple metaphor and yet, completely profound. If you don’t stop to identify what you’re taking in to your marriage, you may not notice the full weight of the burden in the first part of your marriage journey. But over time, you’ll experience the relational gravity of it and assume the marriage (or your spouse) caused it instead of recognizing that you may have potentially carried it in. Remember: Whatever you allow into the journey of your marriage, somebody has to shoulder it.

This past Sunday, we dealt with the issue of shame at KfirstAnd when I thought about how shame applies to marriage, this backpacking metaphor kicked in. Far too many couples are having their passion, hope, and peace crushed under the weight of shame. What is shame? I describe it this way: guilt is the regret I feel; shame is the guilt I wear. We begin to bear shame when we take our perception of what we don’t have, what we’ve done, or what’s been said and apply it to our identity.  Never forget, “the two become one.” So what you carry, dramatically affects your spouse. 

What causes shame? 

Difference in Upbringing
Good and bad, your history has developed your expectations, built filters for listening, and formed your responses. And at times, if your spouse had a different background, you can see, and even impose, shame upon them as if their upbringing was completely wrong. Just remember: “different” isn’t necessarily “wrong.”

Personal History
The both of you carry into the marriage a bit of baggage (personal history). You carry the experiences of success and failures; victories and devastation. Shame-based thinking take the past and inflicts the future with it. I’m always amazed at the little things in life (tones, scents, scenarios) that trigger something from my past that can cause guilt to resurface and shame to be worn.

Lack of forgiveness
From refusing to forgive your spouse, other people, to even forgiving yourself, unforgiveness doesn’t have to do have anything to do with your marriage to impact your marriage. Inflicting unforgiveness is a violent action against your heart (not to mention the shame you bring upon others). And the more you hold against others, you carry into your marriage. Why? What affects you will infect your marriage.

It’s astounding how much we underestimate the issue of comparison. We spend more time comparing and identifying what we lack instead of appreciating and investing into what we do have. Shame is the offspring of comparison; we either force shame upon ourselves for what we don’t have or see others in shame for how much better we have it.

In the words of one of my favorite preachers, Christine Caine, “The human creation was not made to feel the burden of shame.” That not only applies to individuals, it applies to your marriage. 

My challenge to you today is this: Like my son’s and my preparation for backpacking, take a block of time to really review if your “packing” unneeded shame-weight. Have a talk with your spouse and set up a time (say in a week) to talk about any shame-based thinking or actions that are happening in your marriage. Imagine how much lighter your marital load will feel when you eliminate the unnecessary shame from your marriage. It won’t stop you from working on your journey, but it’ll make the burden that much lighter.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.


“Just like the picture”: 4 Approaches to Developing the Uniqueness of Your Marriage

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14

As a pastor, I tend to visit the same places in my city. Admittingly, I’m a creature of habit but this goes deeper than that.

I visit the same coffeehouse every day. I go to the same chicken place on Wednesdays. I get my haircut at the same location by the same person every other week. Familiarity and frequency helps me to develop connection with people in the community. It helps me develop relationships and moves conversations past “weather talk” into deeper things (this would make a great blog idea for pastors).

Last week, I had a conversation with the young lady who cuts my hair. Amidst talking about her family and the salon she manages, a statement about she only likes to cut guy’s hair. When I enquired why that was, she talked about her frustration with ladies who are excited about an image clipped out of a magazine of a someone’s hair and demand that be done to them. More often than not, they’ll leave upset that the result doesn’t “look like the picture.” She says that people don’t get the number of components that are in play with the hair styles they covet.  The type of hair, shape of head, how well they take care of their hair, etc.

In other words, customers were demanding the picture perfect results but don’t account for the factors at play.

That conversation got me thinking about how that translates to marriage. Quite often, I meet couples who take for granted the UNIQUENESS of their marriage (heck, I still do it). We chase the picture of perfection that we see in someone else and want to get there without the hard work of dealing with the individual factors you both bring.  While we all understand that we married someone quite different from ourselves, we still get frustrated. But I’m afraid many assume your individual differences compound your marital problems instead of seeing how they add into the your uniqueness. Your perspective of how you perceive your differences changes the scope of your marital health.

I love what the Psalmist says,

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14

If we believe in the “oneness” of marriage, can we not look at our marriage in the same light as the Psalmist looked at individual lives? Your marriage is “wonderfully complex” and the “workmanship is marvelous.” And I wonder if the first step to embracing the wonderful complexity of marriage is to accept what makes you both distinct. Differences are a good thing; they’re not automatically an impairment. Just because our spouse and marriage are different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means we have a unique marriage and bring unique individual qualities to the marriage.

Simply said: Stop trying to achieve an image. Build your marriage from the inside out.

Finding uniqueness means that marriage will never look “just like the picture” of some else’s marriage. Don’t cookie-cutter yourselves. You may seek health, but EVERY couple works with different factors that are peculiar to your marriage. Consider…

  • Your backgrounds.
  • Your personalities.
  • Your likes and dislikes.
  • Your skill-sets.

How do you develop the uniqueness of your marriage?

1. Look at the reality. No one is perfect, and therefore, there is no perfect marriage. So my recommendation is to stop seeing perfection in others and stop expecting it in your spouse and/or marriage. The only things to expect in yourself and your spouse is humility, teamwork, and growth. In my opinion, there are only two types of marriages: Those who work on them and those who don’t. Be the first type.

2. Learn to appreciate your spouse. Vision is everything. The direction of your marriage will go in the direction of your focus. And if you learn to look for the good in your spouse, your marriage will go in that direction. Differences do not automatically mean “wrong,” many times, they simply mean “different.” And when you bring value to those differences, you bring value to your spouse.

3. Learn how to express appreciation. Silent appreciation is not appreciation at all. Let me take that a bit deeper: appreciation with strings attached is not appreciation at all. Gratitude has the ability of elevating our attitudes above bitterness. Let it be said of your home that, while you don’t have marital health figured out, you do have an atmosphere of which health can grow. And that atmosphere is “appreciation/gratitude.”  A rule that I try to enforce with my family (as well as my staff): For every negative thing, be sure to bring up two to three positives. The simplicity of the exercise will help retrain your negative mind into a more positive one.

4. Pray for blessings on your spouse and ask the Holy Spirit to bring change in you. Sometimes we can spend too much energy trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit instead of releasing Him to bring the change only He can bring.  I think we can transform our attitudes by first praying for blessing upon our spouse and then allowing the needed change in our marriage to BEGIN with ourselves. Humility in the heart paves the way for the formation of healing and health.

When it boils down to it, the more you follow a “perfect image” of a marriage that you’ve seen on social media or in someone you know, the more you’ll wind up frustrated in your marriage. The more you follow a Perfect Savior, the more you’ll see your imperfections and see an opportunity for His grace to shine through your marriage.  The two of you, as a unit, are “wonderfully complex” and His “workmanship is marvelous.” Today…

Be the blessing your marriage needs.
Be the change your marriage needs.
Love your spouse through the love you’ve received from Christ.


Thanks for letting me ramble…



2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 10

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Philippians 2:1-4

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Marriage Blog: Don’t think like your spouse.

Thinking blog

I’ll start of with my main point:

The goal in marriage is not the think alike.  The goal is to think together. 


There’s only one way to say it: Anne and I are different.

We were raised different.
We have different hobbies.
We have different view points on a number of things.
We speak different love languages.
We look different (she’s hot…I’m not).
I’m engulfed in sports.  She’s be fine if they’d never existed.
She craves sleep. I’m fine running off of minimal sleep with power-naps.
I am patient but hold grudges.  She has a short fuse but forgives quickly.

We are different.

So many couples get caught up on compatibility…which I think is a farce.  People feel their marriage sucks because their spouse is so, well, different from who they are.  You battle so hard with the mindset that the two of you need to think alike.  And if you don’t, something major is wrong with your marriage. I’ve had one too many appointments with people who have used the phase, “We are just too different.”  Your difference is what makes you unique.  It makes you special.  Yes, you are different. But…

…in my opinion: that is the making of a great marriage.

I’ll say it again:

The goal in marriage is not the think alike.  The goal is to think together. 

It’s time for you to stop working so hard to think alike and take the same effort and put it to thinking together.  You don’t NEED to think like your spouse. Your spouse doesn’t need you to think like them. You’ve got to get your mind out off of how different you are approaching it, and into how your differences enhance your abilities to work together.  (Immediately, my mind goes to the absolutely terrible cartoon “Captain Planet” with the war cry of “With out powers combined…”)

When scripture says in Genesis 2 that the “two become one”, we take it as we have to become something we are not.  We need to approach marriage as not losing ourselves but finding fullness first in Christ and then becoming a unit (differences and all) with our spouse.  Don’t lose who you are.  Keep being you.  Because with Christ, plus your differences, combined with your spouses differences help create “cord of three strands not easily broken” (Ecc. 4:12)

Stop worrying about thinking like him or her.  Stop stressing about how different you are.  Embrace the differences and work hard on working together.

Thanks for letting me ramble…



2 Minute Marriage Devo – Day 1

Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we are in our Annual Marriage Series at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God and we’re going through devotions for couples. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.