What Words Cannot Say

Almost every guy I work with hits a point where it all feels like its going south. Every word spoken is the wrong one, doing empathy is possible but not very probable, and stringing together enough coherent thoughts to communicate something meaningful to a hurt, angry wife is nearly impossible.  Hitting this point usually results in him clamming up, shutting down or responding with anger. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t mean to, but the powerlessness of the moment is often overwhelming. It would go so much better if he could just cry and groan.

Seriously. We all have those moments where words are entirely inept and nothing in our vocabulary could accurately capture what is happening in our hearts. Paul speaks to the inadequacy of words in Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Sometimes wordless groans say enough. Perhaps they say even more than articulate, verbose language. Strangely, we humans know the profundity of groaning amidst pain. We have an innate comprehension of what someone is expressing when, at a funeral, a loved one groans through tears. We understand what is being communicated when groaning accompanies the news of terminal illness.

I wanted so desperately to tell my wife that I understood how bad I had hurt her, but I couldn’t. I would freeze up.  My shame and the reality of the pain that I had caused would paralyze me. As much as I wanted to say the right thing, the words were elusive. Then one evening, as Shelley expressed how badly she was hurting and how infuriated she was at what I had done, I broke.  I started to cry, then sob. As I opened my mouth to say something, I had nothing. I tried to force myself to speak but no sound would come out. Then I started feel the pain well up inside me and I couldn’t catch my breath. The tears kept gushing. I tried to fight it back, fearing she would think it was a pity party or that I was trying to manipulate her. I also feared she would think I was weak. But I couldn’t hold it back. A well was tapped that evening which I can’t even begin to explain. I ended up lying in the floor, in the fetal position, heaving, crying. Between groans of pain I was able to mutter the words, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I have no clue how long it lasted. It felt like forever. I don’t know what Shelley was doing while I was in the floor weeping. I can’t remember her saying anything. She was probably freaked out because I was inconsolable.

Unbeknownst to either of us, we were healing. I needed to purge that well of regret and shame. She needed to see deep brokenness and hear groans that expressed pain beyond anything words could suffice. I had to revisit that well multiple times too. There were more moments like this one to follow, albeit never to that depth again. I learned that sometimes I just needed to feel her pain and let myself express it. At times she needed a response audibly and at times she needed it visibly. When I ran out of words and realized the ineptitude of my vocabulary, I knew it was time to simply feel and express.

Perhaps you’re a wife reading this and you wonder if this is the wall you’ve seen your husband hit? Share this with him and talk about it. Or maybe you’re a guy who hits that wall, like I did. Share this with your wife and talk to her about it.


8 thoughts on “What Words Cannot Say

  1. Such a timely post. This hits right at home for my wife and I this week. I have been praying for God to show me how I can minister to my wife through all the pain I have caused, and recently I had a similar breakdown. I wasn’t sure why, but perhaps God was using that as a path towards healing for us. Thank you again for your posts, they are always an encouragement!

    • Don’t stop trying, Gregg. After so much manipulation and lies, any woman would shut down. Try to imagine her in your place as the one who promised to love, honor, and cherish. Then as someone or two or more shows up…you forget those vows. Let her see the insides, even if it’s awful. Have you read, “Worthy of her Trust?”
      I am praying for the both of you.

  2. Thank you for this Jason. My husband attended EMB in August 2012. I have seen him hit this wall hard and a few times more during our first six months. I would just sit and look at him; wondering if it was real, manipulation or a pity party, just as you described. I know now it was none of those things. It was his pain, and him feeling my pain through this. That’s a lot to let out! We have come a lo-o-o-ong way since Aug 2012; lots of anger, lots of struggles, lots of arguments…then after about 4-5 months, we noticed our anger settling down during our discussions/arguments. We would mutually decide to go to different rooms when we felt discussions starting to heat up to arguments.
    It’s still early and we still feel that pain every now and then; however, we have learned how to diffuse prior to that old anger building up. We are still practicing at putting each other ‘first” instead of ourselves and we are doing much better week to week. In the beginning, it seems like NOTHING is going to work; but with lots and lots of prayer, determination, and keeping it real, it CAN work. It’s a long process, but worth it. Thank you again for these blogs. They are real lifesavers!

  3. This is indeed a timely post. I haven’t seen my husband hit this wall of pain and shame and that really bothers me. It makes me concerned for him – what is he doing with those feelings, or maybe he doesn’t have those feelings – and it makes me think that he isn’t making progress. Our story is fairly long and complicated, but we were just discussing shame and guilt 5 minutes ago. In our discussion, my husband got angry with me and is now outside mowing the lawn. Not only has he hurt me with marital infidelity, but he has broken the trust of my entire family by molesting my niece. He has said that he is sorry to me and he has shown in different ways that he is trying to make up to me, but he has said little about his guilt and shame about how he has hurt the rest of the family. He saw my niece and her family in the grocery store yesterday and had to run around the corner and hide out on a bench while I finished purchasing his lunch, so I was asking him about how he was dealing with those feelings. I feel like he hasn’t said I am sorry enough to the rest of my family. He has had very little to no contact with my siblings because they do not want him to be around any of the children until he shows progress, so he says he hasn’t had an opportunity to show his sorrow and ask for forgiveness because no one wants to have contact with him. He says, “So, I am supposed to feel guilty all the time and always open the conversation with ‘I did this, and I am sorry'”? I say he needs to claim both the guilt and the forgiveness to be free of the guilt. Maybe this blog will help him? I would like to see him weep some time.

    • Let him know it’s ok .He may think crying is a sign of weakness . Went I cried from pain of my past and of the damage I had done to she thought I have a mental illness

  4. I am just going to say, bless you. Bless all of you for your honesty, patience, and genuine repentance. Even if it doesn’t seem to work, it is. You don’t get a guarantee on restoration or sadly forgiveness. But, if you are doing this as unto the Lord. He knows. Sometimes, wives or that special woman in your life will walk away. That’s the price of sin. Even if you truly mean it. It’s her choice and she has to protect herself. But, God will bring someone new or even renew her and bring her back to you, and by then you won’t be that double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. You will be transparent and the man she can truly lean in to. Keep your chin up, guys. It works if you work it!

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