FamilyLife Today® Podcast

My Biggest Problem Is Me

with Paul David Tripp | March 7, 2017
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You don't first fix marriages horizontally, you fix them first vertically, says author and counselor Paul David Tripp. It's disastrous if we forget the Gospel in our marriges. Everyone needs to run and confess that selfishness in ourselves. Jesus came not to rescue you from your spouse, but to rescue you from yourself.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You don't first fix marriages horizontally, you fix them first vertically, says author and counselor Paul David Tripp. It's disastrous if we forget the Gospel in our marriges. Everyone needs to run and confess that selfishness in ourselves. Jesus came not to rescue you from your spouse, but to rescue you from yourself.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

You don’t first fix marriages horizontally, you fix them first vertically, says author and counselor Paul David Tripp. It’s disastrous if we forget the Gospel in our marriges.

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My Biggest Problem Is Me

With Paul David Tripp
March 07, 2017
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Bob: You’ve heard for years about the silly things that married couples can fight about—like which way the toilet paper should be hung on a toilet paper roll: “Does it come over the top?” or “Does it go over the back side?” Paul David Tripp heard that as well.

Paul: A couple came to me and said, “We had such a rip-roaring battle—over the flap of the toilet paper—that we called Charmin [Laughter] and asked for a customer representative.” [Laughter] If you are right now wanting to know what he said, you’re missing the point of this illustration! [Laughter]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you’d like to know what the point of the illustration is—you’re going to hear about it today from Paul David Tripp. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.


We just got back a few weeks ago from the—what was it?—was that number seven?

Dennis: It was.

Bob: —our seventh annual Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. For the seventh year in a row—a sold-out cruise with everyone onboard coming onboard to celebrate marriage, to really enjoy the week together, and to hear from some great speakers / some great artists.

In fact, we’re going to hear today Part Two of a message from Paul David Tripp, who was onboard with us and who spoke to the audience on Thursday night. Paul’s an author and a conference speaker. Many of our listeners know him—he was just on recently talking about parenting. He gave a great presentation on Thursday night. That’s—at the heart of the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, Dennis, there’s great teaching, great workshops, mixed in with all of the fun that we have.

Dennis: If you join us for this cruise, you’re going to end up getting off the ship, some seven days later, better equipped to do life, marriage, and family because of joining us on the Love Like You Mean It cruise.


Bob: You mentioned “If you join us…—one of the reasons we wanted to come to our listeners this week and let them know about the cruise is because we’re actually 60 percent sold for next year. We have an early-bird rate that’s available through the 20th of March. It’s possible that this could be a sold-out cruise before the end of this month—

Dennis: No doubt about it.

Bob: —just given the interest. We’re going to the Dominican Republic next year—we’re going to Grand Turk / we’re going to Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas—have great ports, great lineup of speakers and artists, and—

Dennis: —in honor of my birthday, we’re going to start it on February 11th and cruise all the way to the 17th. [Laughter]

Bob: You can find out more when you go to You can get signed up for next year’s cruise. You will hear great speakers like Paul David Tripp, who joined us this year.


He talked to the audience about the fact that the biggest problem we face in our marriage is not communication difficulties / it’s not the fact that intimacy gets complicated, from time to time—it’s not the fact that we have conflict that occurs. The biggest problem is deep inside of us and deep inside of our spouse—it’s our sin.

Dennis: Or stated another way—it’s our selfishness. We want to be at the center of the universe, and that doesn’t really work in a marriage relationship.

[Recorded Message]

Paul: Secondly, sin, in its fundamental form, is anti-social; because I was meant to live an upward and an outward life—upward in loving worship of God / outward in self-sacrificing love of my neighbor. Sin turns me in on myself—sin makes it all about me.

Now, that’s important to recognize; because husbands and wives, your big problem in marriage is not that you’re married to another sinner.


God’s not surprised that you’re married to a sinner. He’s not saying: “Ahh! I didn’t know that was going to happen! [Laughter] He married a sinner!” He knew!

Your big problem / my big problem I had before I was married. I’ve had the selfishness sin since birth. I dragged something into my marriage that’s destructive to relationships. I brought it in! It’s not just that you’re less than perfect. It’s not just that you have a bad day. It’s not just that you lose your way. But I have an ability to trouble my trouble—I have an ability to make the natural struggle even worse because of my self-orientation—because I demand my own way / I demand my own comfort.


I demand my definition of peace—I demand; I demand; I demand; I demand—it is anti-social. I’ve brought that into my marriage.

Here’s where this goes—oh, I pray that God’s Spirit would open your heart right now. I’m going to ask you, right now, to fire your inner lawyer. [Laughter] I can say this because I have an inner law firm. [Laughter] Listen to what I’m saying—this is holy stuff. If Paul is right, and he is—because this is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—I have to say this: “I am my biggest marriage problem—it’s me. I am my biggest marriage problem—it’s me.”

Oh yes—I understand that, in marriage, you’ll be sinned against. I understand that marriage can go dark, even to the point of being abusive—


—I understand all of that / I would not minimize any of that—but my deepest, greatest, long-term problem is me. It’s me! It’s that fundamental me-ism of sin. Listen—hear the gospel: “Yes; the power of sin has been broken; but the presence of sin still remains and it is being progressively eradicated.” So: “This stuff that Paul is talking about is still inside of us.” [Second] thing: “The DNA of sin is selfishness—means that sin is anti-social in its fundamental form. Third point: “It will cause me to dehumanize that other person in my life.”

You say, “Paul, what does that mean?” It means, at some point, that person quits being an object of affection / my affection. They get reduced to being a vehicle or an obstacle. If you’re a vehicle, helping me to get what I want: “I love you.


“I thank God that you’re in my life—cards and flowers, maybe even occasional chocolate.” But if you stand in the way of what I want, I’m spontaneously irritated and “I will strike back at you in some way. You’re no longer the object of my affection.” You’ve been reduced to being a vehicle or an obstacle—how sad!

You know the—have you ever had someone give you the silent treatment? The person who’s normally talkative in your marriage is quiet—you say, “My, you’re quiet.” The person says, “Is it a sin to be quiet?!”—that’s a clue. [Laughter] You say, “I think we should talk.” The person says, “You don’t want to talk to me right now.” You say, “I think you’re angry.” The person says: “I’m not angry. It makes me so mad when you accuse me of being angry. [Laughter] I’m just being quiet, and I would suggest that you be quiet too.” [Laughter]


Now, we think of the silent treatment as a little thing. Let me just change your definition of that: “You have broken my law / my selfish demands. I’m not going to stab you in the chest, but I will ascend to the throne of God and I will act as if you’re dead for as long as it takes to satisfy my vengeance,”—pretty ugly.

Now, if you pay attention, you can see this stuff operating quite young. I want to give you a couple illustrations. I was a kindergarten teacher for four years. The very first day of kindergarten, the most exciting thing—it was an all-day kindergarten—was lunch; because for the first time, children had brought their portable cuisine with them. After we got done praying, the kids tore into the lunch boxes. Little Billy, sitting next to Susie, looks at Susie’s lunch and says, “My lunch is better than your lunch.”

Now, why would he say such a thing?—


—selfishness of sin. He holds up a big, bright chicken leg in a sandwich bag, and looks at Susie’s lunch, and says: “Peanut butter! Ohh!” Susie bursts into tears, because she now knows she has parents who don’t truly love her. [Laughter] All of a sudden, everybody in class—comparing lunches with everybody else—half the class is crying. Billy’s still holding up his chicken leg as the trump lunch. I don’t think he’s ever going to quit carrying it—he’ll carry it for weeks.

About six weeks in the class, mom comes to me and she says, “My daughter has lost her watch.” Well, I ask around; and six children had lost their watches. I knew I had a little larsen in the class. So I asked around. I finally came to Jimmy. Jimmy’s the tallest kid in class—you have to look at my posture—I said, “Jimmy, do you know where those watches are?” He said, “No.” Well, he looked guilty. I didn’t even debate with him—I said, “Would you take me to those watches?” He had just denied all knowledge of their existence. He did this—[posture demonstration] [Laughter]—walking down the hallway, up the steps, into the boys’ bathroom. Across from one of the urinals was a door for the water meter.


Opened the door; and over the water meter were six watches. That’s how sinner little boy couldn’t abide that somebody would have something he doesn’t have. Hear what I’m about to say: “Envy is always shockingly selfish.”

About six months in the class, mom says, “My daughter’s going to have her birthday, and I’d like to use the classroom for her birthday.” I said: “Sure! You can have a party in the classroom—just invite all the children.” So she did. It came time for the party. That same table we all sat around—at the end of the table was the seat for birthday girl. She had an inordinate pile of gifts. In front of everybody else’s chair was a bag of party favors—two Tootsie rolls, two pieces of gum, a lollipop, and a plastic whistle. The purpose of party favors is to remind you it’s not your birthday. [Laughter]


Little Johnny is sitting directly across from party girl. He’s looking at her big pile of gifts and his little measly bag, not worth 59 cents. He’s feeling totally ripped off, and he begins to harrumph: “Hmph! Hmmmph!” [Laughter] Finally, one of the mothers had enough—she walked down the length of the table. She turned little Johnny’s chair to her, and she got down on her knees, and she waxed theological. She looked Johnny in the face—she said: “Johnny, I want you to hear what I’m about to say. It’s—not—your—party.”

Wives—look at me! Ladies, it’ll never be about you; because you’ve been born into a world that, by its very nature, is a celebration of another. If you make it about you—“My wants, my needs, my feelings, or else!”—you’ll never travel a pathway of happiness, and joy, and unity, and peace; but of anger, and hurt, and recrimination, and desperation, and hopelessness, and ultimately you’ll say: “This is too hurtful.



“I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Husbands, it will never be about you; because you’ve been born into a world that’s a celebration of one greater than you. If you make it about you, you’ll never move toward love—you’ll never move toward joy; you’ll never move toward peace; you’ll never move toward that sweet happiness of dwelling with somebody that you love—but acrimony, and judgment, and condemnation, and arguments, and finally, you say: “It’s too painful! I don’t want to do this anymore.”

It doesn’t take much; does it? You walk into the bathroom. There’s a wet towel on the bathroom floor—probably, shouldn’t be there—but you say: “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that he would drop a wet towel on the floor! If he loved me, he just would never drop a wet towel on the floor. My dad was a dropper! [Laughter]


 “I told myself I’d never marry a dropper, but I have!” [Laughter] Listen—if you make that big of a deal out of a wet towel on the floor, your problem is not just that you have a sloppy husband—your problem is you’re full of yourself.

Or you say: “Why do you drive so jerky? [Laughter] Everywhere we go, it’s so jerky. [Laughter] Look at everybody else—they’re going Mmmmm. We never go Mmmmm. We just Mm. [Laughter] I have to take Dramamine® just to drive with you.” [Laughter]

Or you have to be the grammar police: [Laughter] “That’s not the way that word is used.” [Laughter]


Or you have to be the history police—a person can never tell a complete story without you jumping in!

I had a wife say to me: “I can barely go out to eat with my husband, because he chews like this—ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.” [Laughter] She says, “He has a short upper lip and his teeth show.” I have been thinking, “He didn’t go to the lip store and say, ‘Give me the short ones’?!” [Laughter]

“I can’t deal with the way he holds his fork,”—seriously? [Laughter]

Or you’ve heard of the illustration of the toilet paper—I gave that particular illustration on a Friday night. At the end of the time together, a couple came to me and said, “We had such a rip-roaring battle—over the flap of the toilet paper—that we called Charmin [Laughter]


“and asked for a customer representative.” [Laughter] If you are right now wanting to know what he said—you’re missing the point of this illustration! [Laughter]

Listen—I’ve told this in a funny way; but what I described to you is the sad, dark, mournful music of marriage gone bad—the joy’s gone, the unity’s gone, the love is dented and broken. You’ll never, ever get beyond that unless you humbly say, “We do that to us,” because there’s something inside of us that says, “I have to have my way.”


Maybe tonight you’re thinking, “Well, Paul, this has been encouraging.” [Laughter] I do want to encourage you. I love this passage—this passage gets me up in the morning / this passage is a dear friend to me—it says this: “That Jesus came”—oh, I love this—“precisely to deal with what we’re talking about right now.” Listen—husbands and wives, listen to this: “Your Father harnessed the forces of nature and controlled the events of human history so that at a certain point His Son would come and live the life you could not live, and die the death you should have died, and rise again, conquering sin and death, so that you would have help for this.

Now here’s what this means—wives, I’ll start with you: “Jesus came—not so much to rescue you from your husband—


—Jesus came to rescue you from you. That is good news.” [Applause] And husbands: “Jesus didn’t so much come first to rescue you from a wife, but to rescue you from you.” Why is that so important? Because hear this: “I can run from a situation; I can run from a location; I can run from a relationship; but I can’t run from me. I find, whenever I try to run from me, I show up with me at the end of the run.” [Laughter]

So God is able, in His Son, to do for you what you could not do for yourself—to break your bondage to you. But get what that means! It doesn’t mean—now, first, you live for husband—no! That’s not what it says. It says Jesus came so that “those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who loved them and gave Himself for them.”


Listen—my problem has never been first that I don’t love Luella enough. My problem is I don’t love God enough; and when I don’t, I insert myself in God’s position; and I make it all about me. Here’s what this means—we’re the only ones who would ever say this—but it’s the only place where a solution is found. You don’t first fix marriage, horizontally; you fix them first, vertically.

Husbands, you are unkind and impatient with your wife because you put yourself in God’s place. Wives, you’re bitter, and demanding, and critical of your husband because you’ve inserted yourselves in God’s position.


That bondage to your way—you can’t break on your own / it’s only broken by grace. You see, I’m on this cruise, not first because I like boats, but because I think it’s disastrous if we forget the gospel in our marriages. Listen—there is no one in this room that is a grace graduate. Everyone in this room needs to run—run again and confess that selfishness that’s inside of you.

Here’s the good news—I don’t know if you’ve thought about this—but the most horrible moment of suffering in the life of Jesus was not physical / it was relational. It was that moment when the Father turned His back on the Son, and He cries out in torment, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” / “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”


Jesus took every piece of your rejection so—in your weakness, and failure, and sin—you would never again see the back of God’s head. That means we can run to Him for His mercy and His grace in our time of need.

I’m going to end with this—I just have a couple seconds here. I want to give you an assignment. Before you go to bed tonight, how about taking a moment and confessing the selfishness that has made your marriage an uncomfortable place? Instead of pointing the finger, how about acknowledging that selfishness? When your husband or wife does that—how about granting forgiveness? How about celebrating the transforming grace of the Redeemer? And then, how about praying that God would work in your heart to make service of Him more valuable and more beautiful to you than getting your own way?


Do you have a husband who does that? / Do you have a wife who does that? They’re on the road to glorious changes in their marriage.

God help us. Let’s pray:

Lord, we would confess that me-ism that’s inside of us. We would cry out this evening: “Oh, won’t You, once again, deliver us from us? Help us to find greater joy in surrender to You than we would ever have in finding our own way—that only is ever the result of Your rescuing, delivering, transforming grace. Oh, pour that grace down on us once again.” I pray that couples would have marriage-transforming conversations this evening before they go to bed. In Jesus’ name, amen.

God bless! [Applause]



Bob: Well, we’ve been listening again to Part Two of a message from Paul David Tripp—a message that he presented recently onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. I talked to a lot of couples the day after this message was presented. They just said: “That nailed me. That reminded me of the fact that the core of our marriage problem, whatever it is, is deep inside of me.”

Dennis: Yes; it’s my own selfishness, as I mentioned earlier.

Hey, listen—if you’re looking for a great way / I mean, a terrific way to celebrate an anniversary—maybe it’s ten years, fifteen, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five—I ran into a couple from Iowa who didn’t know anything about FamilyLife, FamilyLife Today, the Weekend to Remember. They just Googled “Christian marriage cruise” and the Love Like You Mean It cruise came up. They were there, onboard, celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, having an absolute blast.


Bob: And you met the couple from Colorado?—62 years of marriage—living over in Grand Junction, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

Dennis: That’s right.

Bob: I mean, there were folks there who were early in their marriage / folks celebrating milestone anniversaries. Wherever you are in your marriage—whether you guys are doing great or whether you need a little help—the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise is a great way to relax, to unwind, to have some fun together, and to hear some solid biblical teaching about how to have a stronger marriage.

Now, the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise is already more than 60 percent full for next year. We would love to have you join us. We expect that this cruise could be sold out before the end of March. The early-bird rates expire March 20. So if you’d like to take advantage of the lowest rates possible, and make sure you get a cabin booked, go online to or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—we can get you taken care of for next year’s cruise.


Once again—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; or get more information about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, online, at

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Dave and Ann Wilson, who were also with us on the cruise this year. They talked about how we can express love to one another in marriage without ever touching each other. We’ll hear about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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