Put Off Nagging, Put On Love

My husband and I can be counted among that strange stock of people who like to make To Do Lists.

We get excited about action steps and dry erase boards. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the organizational software we installed on our computers. One time we spent an entire evening cataloging our sloppy 12-page To Do List in our shiny, new computer program. It was exhilarating and very, very nerdy.

To Do Lists can be a beautiful thing. But sometimes things get ugly when you become a slave to your To Do List. What’s worse is trying to put shackles on your spouse and make the To Do List their master, too.

One way I try to share my To Do List chains is by nagging.

When I say nagging I am not talking about how I might lovingly mention to my husband that he probably shouldn’t eat that entire cheesecake in one sitting because I can hear his right subclavian artery crying for help.

When I say nagging I mean the stereotypical, habitual, manipulative complaining that we women often try to justify as “reminding.”

Digging Up Idols

Recently a friend of mine gained some serious traction in her struggle to stop nagging. This was deeply encouraging, and it made me take an honest look at my own nagging.

I made a few observations about her and what God is doing in her life . . .

She took her nagging seriously and called it what it is. Nagging is neither patient, nor kind, nor respectful. It’s impatient, rude, and demeaning. Nagging is not loving; it’s your garden-variety sin. My friend’s attitude toward nagging changed when she saw how her sin offends our holy God and denigrates people made in his image God.

She owned it. My friend decided not to blame her nagging on the people in her life or on her circumstances. She took responsibility for her sin and said, “It isn’t anyone else’s fault that I am a nag.”

She dug into the Word of God and let God dig through her heart. She also invited me and a few other friends to take up shovels alongside her. As she dug deeper into the motives of her heart, simultaneously sowing the seeds of the gospel of grace, she asked herself, “What is it that I am ultimately wanting more than I want God?” (What a great question to ask when you want to find out why you do the things you don’t want to do!)

While we were digging around and asking good questions, by God’s grace I realized that I have idols buried in my heart as well. How good of the Lord to let me walk this road with my friend!

My friend committed herself to the process of putting away her idols and putting on Christ instead. God used his Word to reveal two specific idols that needed to be dealt with:

  • The idol of control. If I don’t nag then I won’t get what I want or need.
  • The idol of self. If I don’t nag then I won’t get what I am entitled to.

The Old Nag Is Dead

God’s grace to us in Christ has the power to displace these idols.

We can confess that being in charge is our favorite. We can confess that we prefer ourselves above everyone else. Rejoicing as we repent, we can live in the reality of the gospel.

The old nag has died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

We can put off the manipulation, greediness, and selfish agendas. We can put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We can bear with the people who don’t meet our every expectation—even the most reasonable ones. We can forgive people when they fail us just like God forgave us when we failed to honor him in all things. “And above all put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

Do you want to kill your nagging? Make war on your sin and starve your pride.

Listen to how Jesus gave my friend the power she needed to put a chokehold on her pride and serve her husband instead.

She had been nagging her husband about lots of things. Some of those things were chores that only he could do, but other things were chores that she could do. When she apprehended the power of the gospel to save her and energize her for holy living, she saw that she could serve her husband by God’s grace. She thought about the things on the list that she could do. She planned ahead, booked a babysitter, went to his office, “stole” their car, ran some errands, and got the car cleaned all while he was at work. Praise God!

So what happens the next time someone isn’t doing what you think they ought to be doing for you?

1. Rejoice in Jesus and his perfections. He is the eternal Word whose words give eternal life (John 6:68-69). Jesus laid aside the glory he was entitled to in order to become our Suffering Servant who died in our place. This Jesus is not just our example; he is our Savior who rose victoriously from the dead. He lives forever to empower us to serve him and others.

2. Instead of nagging, ask yourself if there is something you could do to serve someone for Jesus’ sake and serve with the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11).

3. Then open your mouth to give grace instead: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Well . . . 

I don’t want to have to nag you about this, but

What are you waiting for?

Yikes! Apparently I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me, too.

Praise God who will finish the work he has started in us—and nobody ever has to nag him!

  • http://www.gospelgrace.net/ Luma

    Good piece, Gloria, and applicable to any stronghold sin.

  • Mel

    I’m not married, the parts of this article I cringed at are because of some of my friend’s marriages. They have husbands who make big messes and refuse to clean them up. So the wife cleans them. And the husband agrees to do specific chores but doesn’t, so the wife does them. And then there are things that the wife has a hard time doing, but her husband just won’t, so she does it anyway. And when the wife talks to her husband about it he tells her that she’s ruining his weekend.

    And I can just imagine these women trying to follow your rules here as they do absolutely everything around their home and their husband perpetually unravels it and it kinda makes me want to cry.

    • Mike S.


      Correcting is different from the definition of nagging listed above as:
      “When I say nagging I mean the stereotypical, habitual, manipulative complaining that we women often try to justify as ‘reminding.'”

      Those husbands you are referring to do not need to be “nagged” but corrected. He is in the wrong and needs to help, esspecially where he said he would. And that correction is probably best done by someone outside of the marriage (i.e. another male, a pastor, counselor), someone who can show the husband that he isn’t being a husband.

      The other question, is the husband you are referring to above a believer? If so, one of his friends there should talk with him.

      • Mel

        Husbands. Plural. I see a lot of my friends handling every disagreeable grown-up activity while their husbands watch tv or play video games. Because most of the women I know will eventually just do it themselves so that the house won’t fall into disrepair, the cops won’t be called to fine them for the ruined lawn, and the cars won’t be repossessed because wonder hubby couldn’t bother himself about paying the loans.

        And it’s frustrating when I read articles that say what women really need to do is stop reminding their husbands that they’re wives, not mothers, and start acting as if he was just one large, ill-tempered child who should be coddled, not corrected.

        And why is it that a wife should say nothing unless she can find some man in her church who is willing to alienate her husband? A man he’s probably on good terms with and doesn’t wish to be on bad terms with? Who will probably not do a thing. Isn’t it *their* marriage?

        I’m not saying there’s no room in the church for that kind of correction if one brother sees another out of line. I just don’t understand why the wife’s recommended course of action is to not talk to her husband, but another man.

        • Michael

          I hardly count these men as husbands except in word only. Their wives need to discuss their husbands actions with their pastor. Being a husband is being a leader and that is hard to do while playing Call of Duty.

        • Mike S.

          I only say that it should come from another man because, in the situation you lay out here, the wife is unable to get the message across to her own husband due to his own issues or indifference. Someone from the outside should speak into *their* marriage because the communication from within *their* marriage isn’t working.

          That is why I suggested “another male, a pastor, a counselor” (last I checked there are female pastors and counselors). The correction is not happening from within, so it needs to come from without.

          If they are in the Augusta, GA area, I can recommend some folks they can go talk to. Heck, I am on Fort Gordon and they can come talk to me (I serve as a Chaplain in the US Army). But in any case, they should seek some form of counseling.

          But this article is not speaking to what you are highlighting as a problem. Ms. Furman is speaking to “nagging” as a sinful manipulation to get the outcome the wife wants. She is not saying, correcting a husband for failure to BE a husband is wrong. This article and your concren are two different things and both need to be addressed separately.

        • Rob

          Sounds like you’re looking for an excuse to justify a wife being able to “nag” her husband when he doesn’t live up to the standards she thinks he should. Being single you may not get it. I’ll give you a hint, nagging tends to add fuel to an already disgruntled husband’s disposition. What the author of this article is trying to point out is sometimes nagging has a lot more to do with the wife’s sin of self-righteousness than it does with the husbands sin of laziness and sloth. Many women can just let this subtle sin sit and feel completely justified while they continue to crush their husbands souls. Instead I suggest these women confess their frustration to God, claim their dependence on Christ’s perfection (not their own). Look past their husbands shortcomings and find a way to encourage them even when these ladies are not thrilled with the men they are married to. Many women seek to take over the active part of the Holy Spirit’s work in a marriage to correct and change their husband and He (the Spririt) is much more powerful.

          Or they can continue to seek to speak out against their husbands and cover up the selfish need for control with nagging and see what happens. Yes the husbands are failing, but encouragement goes so much further than correction in most cases. Just a thought. It’s also known as dying to yourself when you are frustrated that the man you are married to is not fulfilling the life you had hoped for. Until a spouse sees that any sin committed or omitted to them from the other spouse pales in comparison to their own sin committed or omitted before God then I fear it will be a bumpy road in marriage that in all possibility could lead to another statistic given our cultures ripe appetite to throw away the sanctity of marriage for fleeting happiness.

  • Jeremiah Vaught

    Gloria, good article.

    Do you think you could do a “part two” that helps one diagnose the difference between nagging and offering reminders of the “cheesecake” variety. As a husband I think I can nag too, but perhaps in a different way?

    In other words, how do we know the difference between “nagging”and “reminding”? I know this is not a book, so a part two would be helpful for me at last. Thanks for your work.

  • http://twitter.com/Clint_Nadeau Clint Nadeau

    I’m sorry. Was there an article to read? I couldn’t remember if there was because the woman with the outfit from 1962 totally had me distracted.
    I think the picture was taken in the middle of her husband confronting her about her outfit. He was probably like, “I’m just sayin’, honey.” And she (with finger pointed), was probably all like, “Uh-uh! My mother wore this! Are you saying you hate my mother?”

    • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot.com RN

      Haha… yeah, I thought that the wardrobe choices for the stock image was a tad distracting too.

    • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

      I was distracted in a good way–like, where can I get this awesome, mod dress!! It tolly rocks.

  • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot.com RN

    Very well stated.

  • http://www.writingforjoy.wordpress.com shaey

    Good word. I find that when a wife’s heart is right, the ‘things’ don’t bother her so much :) Nagging to me is a continual flow of negativity and criticism rather than asking a question or gentle reminder in LOVE. My mother and father are ending a 35 year marriage, in large part due to nagging and not respecting one another.
    A reminder of the word and truth is so welcome because sometimes I forget and want to flesh out…. we all do need a gentle reminder to stay on track at times.

    Thank you for your word of wisdom and speaking to the heart of a woman ( being married is not the only way women nag so we all can apply these truths!)


  • Tony

    My wife used to say all these same things. I was no slouch as a husband I did all kinds of things around the house and worked hard to provide for my family but Sin is subtle. In the last couple years of our marriage she not only made mile long lists for me and nagged me about them she also started a home buisness and began compeating against my income and when she couldn’t make more money than me well she exploded on me. And then there is her mother, equally combatave with her husband and me. I do noth think either of them are saved just good church members. I appriciate these words on nagging but some times nothing will help, I tried to get us to marriage counseling but soon as she saw her ways questioned she ran to the courts.

  • sean carlson

    Never did get to the article, no doubt very good. Couldn’t get past the accompanying picture of the couple fussing. After several minutes of reflection decided they’re probably fussing over her taste in dresses.

  • Stephanie

    This is an interesting article. Not sure if I agree with her analysis. After reading the article and the readers’ comments, it is my opinion that the conflict at hand has nothing to do with nagging and everything to do with a woman’s ineffective communication with ther husband. The wife has something to say, something that’s imperative to the relationship, but she’s having trouble communicating it effectively. From the numerous comments which where made by men concerning the woman’s dress, I think it’s safe to say, “Women, if you have something you want your man to do, make sure you’re looking good, because it seems that men have a hard time giving their full attention otherwise.” Case and point, the last post by Sean Carlson: He admitted his inability to read what was communicated in this article because he couldn’t get past how the woman LOOKS in the stock photo haha! Men and women, boy, we are such funny folks!

  • Mary

    why can’t the Christian husband lay down his life for his bride and “do it the first time she asks” Really. Isn’t HE supposed to be cherishing and honoring her? and he won’t do what his wife needs him to do because it is not on HIS timing or value of importance??? really?

    When the Proverbs spoke about nagging, it did not give a remedy, but Deuteronomy 24:15 sure did and so did Ephesians 5:25-33a and Colossians 3:19

    just a thought… oh, and yes, the husband is to be AGAPE-loving his bride…(what IS AGAPE-love anyway? 1 Cor 13 is one area to look at that, while putting away “childish things”)=
    the wife is encouraged (by other Christian women, not men) to phileo-love (Titus 2:4)

    and Eph 5:21 is mutual “submission” (is not a harsh word, but one of adapting and honoring)

    just as there is the sin of “commission” — there is also the sin of “omission”

    just a few thoughts

    • Rob

      Why don’t you read the article again or maybe like 100 times over. Seriously. You don’t get it.

  • Pingback: Take a Look: 7 Reasons, How to Parent, Nagging - Power of the Home - Power of the Home()

  • Richard

    there is a lot of nagging in these comments…

  • Pete Gross

    It’s a little disappointing to read so many comments that miss the point following such a good article. (That’s not a reference to the jokes about the dress). We need to realize that the author is speaking as a wife to a wife’s heart issues. From her article, it would appear that she is well qualified to address those issues since she has addressed her own.

    That being the case, she is not judging her husband’s heart. The issues with her husband’s heart are not primarily hers to address. They are his first and foremost. She is free to address his heart in a respectful/humble manner after dealing with her own. That however is not the point of this article, and will have to await a future post.

    As regards a wife who has learned to not nag, her comments on areas where she desires a different outcome in her husband’s life take on a weight that they would not have if she had continued to nag him about lessor things.

    • Melissa

      Totally agree with you. This is not an issue of not communicating concern over things but rather how the communication is taking place and also showing grace over the times he’s just forgotten to do the “to do” list, or hasn’t had time, etc. I get that people are frustrated over husbands not getting things done or not being leaders but that and nagging are two different issues. Those people are not taking into account the power of prayer or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Those two things in marriage are awesome. There have been plenty of times that I’ve brought up an issue and times when I haven’t, have given it to the Lord and God laid it on my husband’s heart to do that thing….. I.e. giving up video games in our first years of marriage, being spiritual leader, etc. As a matter of fact, God has taken it to the next level and brought conviction and change to my husband when some particular sin has gone unnoticed by me and my husband has told me that he has changed a certain thing because of the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Now THAT is awesome and WAY more powerful than nagging. Good article. Encourages me to not nag and trust God. The results are better that way.

  • Pingback: FRC Blog » The Social Conservative Review: April 12, 2012()

  • Pingback: This Friday is for the Ladies | Julian Freeman()

  • Pingback: Put off nagging, put on love – article on TGC Blog()

  • http://facebook.com/agazemagun can Lopez

    Les hommes ne se soucient pas qui vous n’approuvez pas

  • Pingback: Put Off Nagging! « As We Walk Together()

  • Pingback: THE OLD NAG IS DEAD | Pastor Kyle Huber()