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What Evil Looks Like

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A husband writes,  “I am sure, like most authors and conference promoters, you are going to present your success stories and downplay (if you present them at all) the failures. However, I would like to hear from some who have tried and failed at your approach.  

Maybe we can learn as much from them as the successes. What I feel concerns me the most so far is reading the repeated (and oft repeated) assumption that "your spouse is a person of basic good will".

I personally feel this is at best a drastic assumption, with drastic consequences if it is wrong. I may be paranoid, but just because I'm paranoid does not mean she is NOT out to get me.


My response to him is below.

Dear RB,

Thanks for your question and for expressing your concerns.  First of all, yes, of course we receive emails from people who have failed at this approach.  This “approach” however, is based on the word of God in Ephesians 5:33.  If we are Christ followers (you don’t say if you are, so I say “IF”), we have a decision to make about whether we will do marriage God’s way or not. Love & Respect Ministries is about helping those who want to do marriage God’s way, in obedience to His Word.

I don’t know if you have read the entire book or attended a conference, but in both I address your question about what if this doesn’t work. This is called The Rewarded Cycle:  what to do if our spouse does not respond to our efforts to unconditionally love and respect.

As for the issue of goodwill, below I have included a short article I wrote in response to the question, “What if my spouse does not have Good Will?” I also devote a chapter on this topic in my book, The Language of Love & Respect.

Thanks again for writing, Richard.  I hope this helps.  Please see the article below.

What Evil Will Looks Like

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

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).

Scripture also points to how evil will destroys 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 He 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 good will.

You may be one of the victims of what appears to be “evil will” by your spouse.  I do not know your situation, so I have no way of knowing if you are totally accurate in your assessment and 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.

Let me ask two sobering questions:

  1. If a wife, looking for “love” in all the wrong places, commits adultery, is she evil-willed? I go on record to say she has committed an evil act but is not necessarily evil willed.
  2. If a husband, feeling verbally assaulted and abused by his wife, shoves her up against the wall, is he evil willed? Again, I say that he has committed an evil act, but is not necessarily 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.

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.

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider