By Debbie McDaniel, Crosswalk.com
One day, something terrible happened. We found a leak. And though we had no idea how long it had been there, over time, the slow, steady dripping had taken a toll. The damage occurring was not even evident, until it all started breaking through, on the dining room wall. Complete mess. And what we found was amazing. The cause of it all? One teeny, tiny drip through a small hole in a little pipe behind lots of thick wood and strong sheet rock and layers of paint had caused such havoc. One slow leak, constant, steady, dripping one tiny drop every few seconds, over time, was strong enough to cause destruction.
As I cleaned up part of this whole big mess, my mind went there. To this verse. To the truth behind it. And the damage our words have the potential to cause in our very own homes…where there should be love.
"...and the quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof" (Proverbs 19:13).
Never really liked that verse very much. Maybe because the truth hurts a little. No, it hurts a lot.
Before I got married, I vowed I would never be a nagging wife. And then I got married. And stuff happened. And stress of life came. And busyness surrounded. And things pressed from all sides. And as much as I love my husband, we don't always do the things the same way or see exactly eye to eye. And then kids came along and life became even more full. And demanding.
And over the years, words would sometimes flow. Constant. Steady. Dripping. Words that wielded power to tear down, and held the potential to become disastrous.
Truth About Nagging
- Many people who nag don’t even realize they’re doing it. They think they are just trying to help.
- The one nagging falsely assumes that they are changing the other’s behavior. Yet forgetting that God is the only One who can truly change another’s heart.
- Nagging is not only a weakness of women. Men nag too. It goes both ways. And though it’s normally talked about within the framework of a marriage, many parents struggle greatly with nagging their kids.
- Often those that nag fight hard and strong. They’re quick to voice opinions, have a strong need to be heard, be in control, and sincerely believe that their words are somehow benefiting the other person.
Yet God reminds us of this. Sometimes our words say more about us, than the other person. The constant battling reveals our own hearts, our own selfishness for things to be the way "we" want them to be. And whatever good we think we're doing, with all of our "reminders," and prompting words, may actually be causing worse damage.
You may say, "Well, you don't know my spouse." No, but he does. And his ability to bring change to even the hardest of hearts is amazing.
And whether you find yourself doing it because you want to help, or because you’re angry, or because you feel like they’re not listening, or maybe because you secretly believe they need to be more like you, none of the above makes it right.
The Dangers of Nagging
Though nagging words leave us feeling zapped, drained, and depleted in the moment, other hidden dangers often wreak much more destruction in the long run. Where it builds and festers unseen. Tiny drips over time causing more damage than what we can see on the surface.
Here’s truth - you can’t nag someone into change that lasts. It just doesn’t work. You may see a short term solution or be able to get what you want because you spoke long and loud enough, but in the end, it may actually have the opposite effect in what you’re meaning to do.
Because under it all, distrust builds, walls go up, distancing occurs, intimacy is affected, our loved ones feel like they’re constantly on the defense, or under attack, and frustrations and irritations press from all sides.
So, how can you tell you might be nagging?
A great clue - If you’ve said the same thing 100 times, 100 different ways, and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough.
How to Stop Nagging
1. Choose to admit it’s a problem. Stop pretending this destructive pattern is just your “personality.” It’s harmful and may be destroying your home and the relationships with those you love most. “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand” (Proverbs 27:15–16).
2. Choose the right words. Choose to speak life words. Choose to encourage. Choose to voice concerns in a more healthy, honest way than with sarcastic words or constant reminders that tear another down. Nagging tends to shame and blame, calling attention to areas that your loved one may already feel vulnerable about. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
3. Choose the right tone. Nagging can be condescending. It can breathe irritation towards the other that will immediately put the hearer on defense. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).
4. Choose the right time. All marriages and relationships will have matters to discuss. The truth is, we don’t always view things the same way. Sometimes we need to talk it through. Find the best time for honest conversations that seek to find healthy solutions to problems. It’s probably not the time that your husband is late for work and headed out the door. Or when either of you are in the midst of kids homework and family responsibilities. Find a time to talk openly, honestly, remembering that you’re on the same team. “Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time” (Proverbs 25:11).
5. Choose the right attitude. Choose love. Choose to accentuate the positive rather than constantly focusing on the negative. Because love covers over a multitude of sins. We are not perfect. Neither are those we live with. But when we overly focus on the faults, rather than the strengths, those we love may feel like they just can’t ever get it right. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Our marriage, maybe like yours, is in a constant process of change and growth. We are a work in progress, forgiven, set free by His grace, and striving to become more like Christ day by day. That’s where true freedom lies, to really thrive, together as one.
Pressing in today, towards him, asking for his help, relying on his power. There is grace. He is with us.