A question I often ask the couples I counsel is, “In general, is your spouse getting up in the morning with the purpose of trying to displease you or show you a lack of concern? Is your spouse intending to be unloving or disrespectful?” For the most part, couples answered, “No, I wouldn’t be so strong as to say my spouse is premeditating evil.” “So,” I pressed, “even though on occasion your spouse can be nasty or selfish, you are married to a person who has basic goodwill toward you?” Almost all the couples answer the same: “Yes.”
While I was greatly encouraged by most of my counselees saying their spouses had basic goodwill, I also had to recognize that a small percentage were saying that their spouses were acting so badly on a consistent basis that they did indeed believe their spouses held evil will toward them. Even more to the point, Scripture clearly attests that we live in a fallen world in which some people choose the dark side. David describes the wicked person like this: “Even as he lies in bed he makes evil plans. He commits himself to a sinful way of life. He never says no to what is wrong” (NIVR). The Proverbs also speak of evil people and their premeditations: “He who plans to do evil, men will call him a schemer” (Proverbs 24:8), and still worse, “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:26). There are evil-willed people, yes, even toward God.
Scripture also points to how evil can destroy a marriage. A husband can love his mate, but deep within her soul she turns her heart against what is good. She becomes an adulterous, wayward wife with seductive words “who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God” (see Proverbs 2:16-17). And in Malachi 2:13-14, the prophet tells wayward men that God no longer honors their offerings and instead is “acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (NIV).
I get a lot of mail from spouses who have been the victims of evil treatment by their partners. These partners made a decision to no longer act in goodwill. As you read these lines, you may be a victim of your spouse’s evil will. I do not know your situation, so I have no way of knowing if you are totally accurate in your assessment and if your spouse does indeed have an evil will toward you. What I do know, however, is that it is a serious thing to make the severe judgment that someone is completely evil willed.
As Sarah and I conduct Love and Respect conferences and counsel couples across America, we often see that people can pass too severe a judgment on their spouses, convincing themselves they are married to Hitler’s distant cousin. But we must never label a Peter as a Judas, even though on a certain occasion Peter did act like Judas. As you recall, Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Since that fateful act, Judas has been seen as one of most sinister traitors in all history. But Peter was also a traitor, denying his Lord three times, just as Jesus said he would (for an account of both acts of treachery, see Matthew chapter 26). Everyone knows, however, there is a 180 degree difference between the spirit of Peter and the spirit of Judas. Full of remorse, but not repentance, Judas committed suicide (see Matthew 27:1-5). Peter matched his remorse with repentance and was restored in fellowship with his Lord (see Matthew 26: 74, John chapter 21).
To repeat, when a spouse fails to do good and does bad, this does not automatically mean a spouse lacks good will. Don’t conclude your spouse is evil willed until you have honestly looked at what you did prior to your conclusion. Your spouse may be reacting to what you did that violated them at the core of their being and so they reacted in a way that violated you. A spouse’s evil act (anything from thoughtless, harsh, or cruel words to committing adultery) can put a couple on the Crazy Cycle. When your spouse gets mean or nasty it is easy to label him (or her) evil willed. Granted, you may not use the term “evil will” but at the moment you are certainly not experiencing good will and your natural inclination is to react unloving or disrespectfully. But if you are trying to live out Love and Respect, your spouse’s temporary feistiness, nastiness, or selfishness must be distinguished from evil character.
Does evil will exist? Clearly the Bible says it does! I don’t know your situation or the right decisions for you to make in your marriage. But why do I caution people to withhold judgment of another as evil willed? Once you profile another as evil willed, there is little hope of reconciliation. Once impugning the motives of another, intimacy with that person will disappear. You will no longer be allies, but enemies. For all practical purposes the relationship is over. However, this is not to minimize evil! I am not seeking to call evil good, but as in all things, we must be careful to look at the facts and not rush to judgment.
Next week I will share the personal story of my own father, who appeared to have evil will.
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect, by Dr Emerson Eggerichs, PhD