‘Don’t talk badly about the ex in front of the kids.’ I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before. It’s great advice, and those who don’t heed it cause more problems than they know.
When I was starting out as a new stepmom five years ago, I didn’t really need to be told this, because it just makes sense in a ‘do unto others’ kind of way.
I’ve tried really hard not to violate this sacred rule. But I’ve been asking myself lately if it ends there.
One of the problems I’ve had since marrying Randy 5 years ago is finding information on blended families that’s also grounded in scripture. Understandably, that’s hard to find since the Bible teaches against divorce (except in certain cases).
But there are a lot of divorced people who are also Christians. Maybe they didn’t seek the divorce or anything that came with it, but they’re reaping the consequences of another’s choices. Or maybe they made poor decisions, came to faith after the divorce, or any situation you can think of. Whatever the case, we need information that’s unique to our situations. That meets us where we are.
Although sometimes it can be difficult to connect the pieces, everything we need to know can be found in scripture – even advice for a blended family.
God’s been reminding me of this a lot lately. A whole lot.
I think He started with this: Why are you praising me with the same mouth you use to curse those made in My image?
And it cut. Because my husband’s ex-wife popped in my mind immediately.
All my life I’ve prided myself with the ability to get along with anyone. No matter the personality, I’ve gotten along fine with everyone I’ve met. Except one, well make that two: my brother and the ex.
Although cursing may be a strong word for what I’ve said about her, I have said many uncharitable things in the privacy of my husband’s company – all in the name of venting.
There’s a place for saying something in confidence, but there’s no place for bashing a person, no matter what you call it and no matter how much you disagree with their actions.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been stewing on this one for a while now. It might have been a couple of years ago that God brought that verse to my attention.
And then He keeps bringing up this one: Don’t let unwholesome talk spew from your mouth. Instead speak only what’s helpful for building others up.
Unwholesome talk can be used to describe cursing, but I think it can also be applied to anything we say about another that isn’t for their good or someone else’s.
As I’ve thought on it, I’ve asked myself ‘What’s the difference between speaking out of love and gossiping or unwholesome talk?’
And I think I might’ve found an answer.
Like everything with the Christian walk of faith, it all comes down to the heart condition. The difference between speaking out of love and unwholesome talk about someone is the emotion it’s stemming from: love, the desire to encourage, or the desire to help versus anger, resentment, or frustration.
There are few cases where I could talk about the ex’s perceived faults with any kind of love, which leads me to the conclusion I shouldn’t say anything negative about her right now.
In case you’ve muttered something like ‘That’s crazy’ or ‘Yeah right’ while reading this so far, let me give you some other practical reasons.
You know that old advice about not talking badly about the ex in front of the kids? That’s a lot more difficult when we’re running off at the mouth when they aren’t there.
We develop the good habits to speak graciously about the ex in front of the kids by doing it when they’re not there.
It’s way too hard to turn it off and on depending on who’s present.
And we’re more content when we dwell on the good instead of the negative we can’t control.
I like the way Dr. Charles Stanley puts it in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 10:5 (emphasis is mine):
Remember, what you focus your mind on has lasting ramifications. This is because a thought reaps an action, an action reaps a habit, a habit reaps your character, and your character reaps your destiny.
Nothing we do is really a secret.
No matter what we do in private, it’ll come out somehow, because we’ll either give ourselves away with those nasty habits we’ve developed or God will bring it out in the open.
I’ll tell you what, the thought of God shining a light on that kind of stuff is enough to scare me straighter than straight. Yikes.
Now don’t think I’ve lost sight of the fact that we’re human and can’t be perfect on this side of the pearly gates. Perfection isn’t what I’m proposing here.
We’ll mess up for sure, but it’s the effort and accountability we need to work on.
As the old saying goes by Norman Vincent Peale, aim for the moon and you’ll at least hit the stars.
Well, Jesus is the moon in this analogy.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your thoughts on talking about the ex – even if you’re not part of a blended family. I’m sure you know someone who is and have made observations.