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80/20 Rule

This is a repost of a previous entry I did on the Every Mans Battle blog. So true, and so applicable today.

There are several consistent themes among men struggling with sexual integrity issues. One of those is the 80/20 rule. It’s probably not the 80/20 rule you’re familiar with though.

In order to save face, self preserve and hold on to some semblance of integrity or merit we’ll acknowledge 80% of our wrong and die on the hill of the other 20%. As if 80% depravity isn’t enough.

Let me explain how this shows up. A husband will acknowledge his sexual sin and how this issue has devastated his life. He’ll confirm that it’s killed intimacy in his marriage and concede that it has hurt his relationships. Then when we start to talk about how this issue permeates every area of life, he’ll begin to push back. “Well, my sin has affected a lot of my life, but I’ve NEVER let it impact my work/business/kids/finances/ministry/etc.” In other words, it has impacted 80% of my life, but not this little 20% over here.

Here’s another one: A wife, after her husband’s disclosure, will talk about how hurt she is and how it feels like the entire marriage is a sham. In her pain, it feels as if there has never been a good day, never anything worth recounting, and that everything is a lie. A husband, trying to reserve some sense of righteousness or morality will agree with his wife, and follow his agreement with a “but”. It usually sounds like this: “I agree with what she’s saying, but, we just don’t see things from the same perspective. It wasn’t all bad. I didn’t do everything she’s saying I did. Most of it, but not all of it”.

Seriously? It’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! You hit an iceberg by acting out sexually and violating your marriage vows, the marital ship is sinking, but you can sure be proud of that deck!

I want to say 3 things about this and wrap up.

1 – Most men do this out of shame. They already feel like an unlovable monster on the inside, so surrendering to the notion that it’s all bad, that everything is tainted, that there truly is no good left in them is scary. It feels like a loss of identity (even though the identity is dysfunctional) and losing ourselves is incredibly painful. It’s also required for change. We cannot continue to be who we’ve been, but instead must become who God is calling us to be. That requires that we surrender who we think we are.

2 – This 80/20 rule is very, very hurtful to wives. It minimizes their pain, belittles their emotions and negates their sharing. If you hold on to the 20%, it feels to a wife as if you’ve rejected the other 80. Wives begin to feel like anything they say will be met with your stubborn resistance and they start to wall off. This is the worst thing that can happen for healing. A wife needs to be able to express her pain without fear of rejection and without feeling like her husband is going to find some loophole in what she’s saying where he can interject his pride. Which leads to number three.

3 – It’s just plain selfish, arrogant, pride. It reeks of entitlement.

If you aren’t willing to surrender yourself and own 100% rather than 80, it’s going to be a long, cold swim while you watch the stern go under. But, hey, at least you’ll always have the image of that pretty deck to hold on to.

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