“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

“And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” – Bible

John and Jane were talking to their marriage counselor. John had set up the appointment because he felt their marriage was in trouble – and he was convinced Jane needed a lot of help if they were going to make it.

John fielded all the counselor’s questions; Jane said very little. So the counselor asked John to sit for a time in the waiting room while he talked to Jane. John reluctantly agreed to do so.

After some substantial coaxing and encouragement Jane begin to explain her side of the story. Every time she tried to express herself at home she was laughed at and put down. John criticized everything she did. The food was never right and the house was never clean enough.

So Jane had basically shut down. There was no intimacy between them (which was one of John’s big complaints) and she refused to do anything or go any place with him – she knew it would be constant criticism.

The counselor called John back in and tried to help John see Jane’s side of the story. But John was convinced he was just trying to help her better herself; it was Jane’s problem, not his, and certainly he didn’t need to change!

Then there were Carl and Carol. Carol spent the majority of her time with the ladies in various social groups. Most nights Carl came home to an empty house and an even emptier kitchen table. Carol was out with the ladies again.

Carl was the one who took care of most of the chores around the house, both outside and inside. He was tired of washing the clothes and generally keeping the house clean.

But when he tried to explain his frustration to Carol she strongly defended her actions. She needed the time with her lady friends. She was faithful to Carl, was very frugal with money, and never gave him any trouble. He was being unreasonable and she saw no need to change.

One of the most difficult barriers to overcome in improving our relationship with our spouse is the recognition that we might need to change a little ourselves; the problem is likely not all our spouse’s fault.

The following statement is crucial to all relationships that are to remain healthy and continue to grow and improve: if we are unwilling to recognize that we all fail from time to time in our relationships, we will also fail to make the changes necessary to maintain and improve the relationship, and disaster will be hard to avoid.

As we learn from the Bible, without repentance, there can be no redemption and restoration. This is true in our vertical relationship with God, and it is also true in our horizontal relationships.

All horizontal relationships, and we focus specifically on husband and wife, involve people who fail from time to time. It is difficult to admit failure, especially for men. Men are designed to want, even to crave, respect. When a man fails, he believes he is at risk of losing the respect of those aware of his failure. And who is more aware of his actions than his wife.

Ultimately though, all of us dread failure. We live in a society that focuses on performance; only those who perform well get rewarded. So we are unwilling to admit we fail, and when we do we try very hard to shift the blame elsewhere.

Perhaps the solution is focusing on a word we don’t hear much: humbleness. It’s certainly no secret that we all make mistakes. We aren’t any less of a person if we admit it. And only by admitting it can we then take the steps necessary to improve.

Let’s humble ourselves before our God and our spouse and seek restoration for all our relationships.

Roger Rollins is the executive director of The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. Contact him at 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com or www.aikenfamco.com.