When is it OK to quit?

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There’s something about the Northern Irish mindset that views quitting as failure.

And no doubt it sometimes is, but surely there are times when quitting is no more that an acknowledgement that you’ve made a mistake, and as my old mum used to say, the man who never made any mistakes never made anything.

Or to quote Henry Ford, ‘Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.’

It’s said that Thomas Edison tried 10,000 ways to invent the electric light bulb. His assistant suggested that it might be time to admit defeat.

‘What? When we’ve discovered 10,000 ways it doesn’t work we’re obviously getting close!’

Marriage though is a tricky one. Two people have stood at the altar and in the presence of God promised, ‘...for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.’ It’s a solemn covenant, a sober commitment to a lifelong union; to use a biblical expression, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:31-33.)

My wife frequently accuses me of seeing things in black and white, fixed, rigid thinking, and in some ways I know she’s right; women usually are. But is this one a black and white issue?

A man lifts his fist or his foot and batters a devoted wife into submission, does she have to stay with him because she made an oath, ‘...until death do us part’?

This is something we need to think about and have an answer to, for on average two women a week die at the hand of a husband or partner – and domestic abuse is not the preserve of brutish males. It works both ways.

John Stott in his book, ‘Issues Facing Christians Today’ has an interesting take on a range of relevant topics such as global warming, human rights, ethnic diversity, abortion and same sex relationships.

But on marriage in general and on violence in the home in particular he argues that when a man hits his wife, or when a woman buries a stiletto heel in her husband’s head, a contract has been broken and the injured party is morally and legally free to leave.

This is not a view that I would have taken in the days of my black and white thinking, but I can no longer see a reasonable alternative.

And thankfully the law in the UK has caught up with John Stott’s radical and sensible answer to the problem of domestic abuse. It is now criminal behaviour, the police can take action even if the victim does not want to press charges.

Sadly there remain some sections of the church that stubbornly hold the view that marriage vows are written in stone, that the wife must be faithful to her promise no matter what, she must be submissive in the belief that, ‘...even if (he) is disobedient to the Word, your godly lives will speak to him and he will be won over by observing your pure and reverent life.’

Such beliefs have cost many precious lives. Don’t let it happen to you – or your daughter.

Find me online at: adamharbinson@gmail.com