Manipulating Motives

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Our pastor often asks the question, “Why do you do the things you do, and who do you do them for?” It’s a great question to help discover what motivates you in the mundane of everyday life.

But have you ever thought about how we can use our motives as a tool for manipulation in marriage? Not sure what I mean? Read the following blog post from Ed Welch–and please don’t skim. His point is one you may not get with a quick read. It requires thoughtful reflection in order to see if this issue has found a home in your heart/marriage.

Who Cares About Motives?, by Ed Welch

Human beings have a complex inner life of motives and intentions. If we ignore them, we won’t understand people. But sometimes—we just don’t care about people’s motives.

But I didn’t mean to…
In a relational conflict, a claim of good intentions is a self-righteous way to have immunity from all blame or responsibility. For me, that means I could go a good six months in my marriage without asking forgiveness because I was only blatantly malicious once or twice a year, maybe less. “But I didn’t mean to hurt you” was my unassailable defense, and it was the end of the conversation. Meanwhile, though I was satisfied with my acceptable motives, I had missed what was important. My wife was hurt and my response to her was indifference—a convenient though treacherous sin. Under the guise of good intentions lurked “Who cares if you are hurt.” I simply did not love her.

Courtrooms are savvy to this. “But your honor, I didn’t mean to . . .” If defendants don’t come to their senses at that moment, judges will make sure they do or they will let defendants talk themselves into a harsher penalty. If you claim good intentions, the judge simply does not care, and the judge is right.

Meanwhile, we act as though “I didn’t mean it” closes the case in our favor. But it doesn’t. The person who was hurt is hurt even more, an opportunity to unify a relationship is missed, and there is now a stalemate in which both feel completely misunderstood.

How can we do this better?

I didn’t mean to and I am so sorry.
Recently, I was putting my grand-daughter in her car seat and unintentionally pinched her with the buckle. She didn’t even wince, but I felt horrible. I asked if I had pinched her, she said “yes.” I asked if it hurt, she said “yes.” I apologized, then apologized again, then asked her to forgive me, which she did. Here is my point: I did not intentionally pinch her with the buckle. But whether I intended to or not, she was hurt by what I did. Since I love her, my natural reaction was to ask her forgiveness. Love and compassion could do no less.

Biblical counseling is certainly interested in motives but sometimes they just don’t matter. What matters is how you react when someone says: “You hurt me.” Do you defend yourself or respond with love and compassion?

These are great questions to ask, and it’s best to ask your spouse if they feel like you don’t really care about them. You may be surprised to discover you have been blind to hurting your spouse. It’s never too late to go back and ask forgiveness for pain you’ve caused, whether you meant to hurt them or not. The fact remains–where there is pain, loving attention must be given, or you aren’t loving your spouse in the way God intended.

You can read more of Ed Welch’s post on CCEF’s website.

About Debi Walter

Face it, marriage is hard work. But when cultivated daily the fruit produced will satisfy for a lifetime. We're here to help with ideas and encouragement along the way. Having been married 40 years and counting, we share what we've learned with practical tips, Biblical Truths, Date night ideas to help you plow your own vineyard for God's glory.
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3 Responses to Manipulating Motives

  1. Cassie says:

    When we are so close to someone it is easy to hurt them. And like you said sometimes we don’t even know! Thank you for the reminder!


    • Debi Walter says:

      Thanks for commenting, Cassie. It’s true and sad that the closer we are to someone the more likely we will hurt each other. Knowing this fact helps us guard the relationship and be proactive when it comes to apologies.


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