Today I was in the kitchen preparing lunch for me and the kids. After I had the kids’ lunch ready, I went to work on my meal. As I began doing so, my husband asked if I could make extra chicken for him since I was preparing some for my salad. I have no idea why, but I just didn’t want to do that. Maybe it was my hunger or the fact that I had just spent time making lunch for three little people, but I just flat-out didn’t want to do this for my husband.
I had a little war within myself. I thought, “Dani, why are so dang selfish that you can’t just cut up a little extra chicken for your husband?” So I went to work on preparing more food for him. The problem was, because I didn’t want to, I was stewing in resentment. I felt like I should, so I just did it.
As Christians, we usually think that this is the right thing to do. We’re supposed to love each other and give generously. While that is true that God has called us to be generous, God places more importance on the state of our hearts. Second Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” According to scripture, I was giving out of compulsion, not love. This was absolutely not an act of love.
When I came clean to Josh and told him how I felt, he told me he knew something was up. He could tell I wasn’t acting in love by the way I was stewing about it. There was no joy in my giving.
I’m so thankful for my husband because he didn’t take it upon himself to try to make me feel better about my resentment. He accepted me where I was, but he also allowed me to own that resentment so that I could process through what was going on in my heart. After all, my feelings are not his responsibility.
So, if my actions weren’t a manifestation of my love, what was it? What God was telling me in that moment was that I was more concerned with appearing loving rather than being honest with my husband. The issue wasn’t selfishness; it was dishonesty and fear of man. (Side note: Saying “no” and being honest with your limits doesn’t mean you’re unloving!)
Thank God for his conviction, right? He understands that we’re not perfect, but he accepts us anyway. While we’re trying to cover up our sin in the name of “showing love” or “doing what we should”, God’s just saying, “I know you’re not perfect. That’s why you need me every single moment of the day.”
The solution to my resentment was not to cover it up and just try harder to be nice. I don’t know about you, but that’s never really worked for me. The problem with resentment is that it breeds into an awful kind of bitterness, and bitterness is at deadly odds with love and connection. The more I just try harder, the more my heart will disconnect from the very person I’m trying to love.
The answer is to be honest with our limits and the condition of our hearts. If you’re concerned with how people will react to your limits (Will he still love me? Will they get mad?), begin asking God what He thinks of you instead. Understand that you are accepted, even if the people around you don’t accept your limits. Then, with this honest view of your limits, ask God to meet you, to give you the grace you need, and to increase your capacity to love.
If we are giving under compulsion as though we don’t have a choice, it’s not love. What looks like loving actions is probably just fear of man—fear of what others may think or fear of others’ reactions when we say “no”. Love is always a free offering. It is a sacrificial choice we make.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)
I appreciate your feedback! What are your thoughts? Have you caught yourself giving under compulsion and feeling resentful about it? What has helped you get to a place of loving freely?
For more on this subject, I recommend:
John Townsend’s and Henry Cloud’s “Boundaries” series
Danny Silk’s “Keep Your Love On”