(See Part I in last week’s blog)
”You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it is said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:38 – 46.
It Starts With YOU
Within seven years of marriage, our “match made in heaven” was far from heavenly. In fact Glen and I struggled to even be civil with each other. As a teacher, Glen often supplemented our income with coaching and other additional jobs. That certainly was the case back in that challenging season of our lives when I stayed at home with our three small children while he worked long hours all week long and even on weekends. We could not afford to eat out or actually go out much at all, so I spent most of my time alone with a four year old, a two year old and an infant.
While committed to our marriage on the outside, I had grown discontent and hurt on the inside. I was angry at Glen for not having time for his family. Feeling like a single mom, I started to function like a single mom, keeping Glen out of the loop more and more. When he was home, he was often critical. The more he criticized the more distant I became and the more distant I became, the less he tried. I built thick walls around my heart but would surface from time to time to attack him with fiery words.
How had it all gone so wrong?
Back then I blamed Glen. I easily justified hurt feelings and rationalized my right to being angry. He likewise blamed me and grew even more critical. Down the road, we would come to realize that our need to determine fault on both sides, was a foundational reason our marriage was falling apart. Finding fault served to grow entitlement within our marriage, as we began to fiercely hold on to what we considered to be personal rights. We had twisted the ideals of equality and fairness to a self centered focus, by demanding fairness for ourselves, yet withholding good things from each other when our expectations were not met.
- I was responsive to Glen if he helped me with the kids while he offered to help if I met his expectations.
- I forgave him if he recognized his shortcomings. He forgave me if I was genuinely sorry.
- He loved me when I was lovable and with three kids under foot, I was often more exhausted than lovable. I showed him respect, when his actions met my standard of respect but from my prideful perspective, they rarely did.
- He was keenly aware of how hard he worked yet disconnected from what my days at home were really like. I failed to see that he worked hard in order to provide for his family and to allow me to stay home.
We were in an entitlement cycle. We regularly brought out the “scales” weighing and measuring ourselves against each other. I was an entitled wife. Glen was an entitled husband. When we finally learned to give up our rights and lay down our entitled ideas, our marriage began to repair and grow strong.
Thirty years later, much of the repair work is done and we are grateful that God has showed us a different way – HIS way. One significant change we made years ago was to start doing daily acts of service for each other that have nothing to do with ourselves. For example, each morning, Glen prepares my morning coffee, which he himself does not care to drink. Each day, I make the lunch he takes to work. Little acts like these alone do volumes for our marriage. When I fall short, he rarely criticizes me and when he falls short, I choose to not be offended. Rather than focusing on shortcomings, we strive to focus on the good in each other and on how we can serve each other.
If we are to raise un-entitled kids, we must model un-entitled marriages and promote un-entitled relationships first and foremost in our homes where our true character is revealed. All too easily, family members wind up being the “enemy” as we choose instead “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” mentality- or we choose to give only if we have received- or to love only when we consider it deserved. The message of the cross is a message of un-entitled living. In Matthew 5, the words of Jesus illustrate this clearly where he says “NO” to any ideas of entitlement. Nowhere else is this more important that within your own family.
- If you measure anything, measure how you can outdo each other in kindness. Get into the habit of doing acts of service for family members that do not benefit you directly.
- When your kids fight with each other, refrain from acting as the referee and determining who is at fault and who the victim is. Even when someone is wrong, the other is not justified in retaliating. They created the problem as a team, so expect them to solve the problem as a team. Deciding who is right and who is wrong is far less important than learning to put on Christ in all circumstances.
- Do everything you can to discourage the role of a victim.
- When your child has a complaint against a peer, a teacher, or a coach, spend less time focusing on the offender and more time on how your child can and should respond. Kids may not receive this response well, and you may even get accused of not caring, but down the road they will come to appreciate it! Show your child that you consider them strong enough to handle offenses, and wise enough to not let the actions of others deter them from doing what is right!
- Choose to forgive quickly even when forgiveness in your estimation is not deserved. No matter who! No matter what! No matter how often! Freedom in Christ includes the freedom to choose well regardless of circumstances and regardless of what others do and don’t do.
More tips next week on this very important topic……..
Colossians 3:12 -14
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all else, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.