"If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!" Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)
My dear friend's marriage was crumbling; her husband's heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.
Despite my friend's deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.
For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn't deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn't ... he doesn't.
Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn't care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.
Have you ever believed someone didn't like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?
There's a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!"
My research confirms this truth. I've spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?
Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person's intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn't completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.
And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I've anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don't.
For most of us, "searching for good" when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!
Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren't good. But in most cases, they don't want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.
The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the "good" explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is "for" you.
Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.
Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don't deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more on Shaunti Feldhahn's most recent research, see The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages
Visit Shaunti's website and blog for more eye-opening relationship resources at www.shaunti.com
Reflect and Respond:
The next time you are faced with a hurtful situation, pray to God for wisdom and ask yourself:
1) What is the truth in this situation and is there a more generous explanation for what this person did?
2) Is it really true that this person doesn't care about me, or am I allowing my thoughts to be controlled by my hurt feelings?
James 1:19, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (NLT)
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient and kind ... It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (NLT)
© 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.