Intentional Transformation

Couples Focused: Contempt

September 10, 2019


In 2018, we took a trip to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky with a group from Old Hickory Church of Christ. One of the exhibits inside of the ark was a short film skit about Noah and his family building the ark to God’s specifications. There was creative dialogue between the characters that developed the storyline while utilizing some humor. A person in this short film entered the scene and made fun of Noah and his family for building the ark because he thought the idea of a flood of that magnitude was absurd. A person in Noah’s family shrugged off that negativity with a short phrase, “Scoffers gonna scoff.”

Proverbs 18:21 says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat his fruits.” Our words hold weight. The old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true. Words may not hold physical weight, but they can crush one’s feelings, or damage their emotions. Scoffers are people who mock. Being the recipient of mocking hurts emotionally. It is damaging to our image of self. Scoffing, mocking, and contempt describe similar modes of communication. Contemptuous talk within a marriage is a dangerous path. “Contempt quickly destroys relationships” (Gottman & Gottman, 2015, p. 19). Contempt sounds something like this: “Aw, did my poor baby hurt his foot? Now I guess you’ll just have to sit and relax while I do all of your chores.”

This type of contemptuous mocking is for the purpose of degrading, demeaning, and exercising superiority of the other person, which is commonly supplement with nonverbal emphases like rolling one’s eyes or facial exclamations of disgust. So what is the cure for contempt? Instead of describing your spouse, describe your own feelings and needs. Instead of “you” statements, use “I” statements. This invites your spouse into a deeper understanding of you. Remember the wisdom offered to you from God in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”


Gottman, J. S. & Gottman, J. (2015). 10 Principles for doing effective couples therapy. New York, NY: Norton


Mason Hale
Youth, Family Life, and Counseling Minister