Ok, so I know I'm not that old, and I haven't been married all that long. As a matter of fact, it has only been about 4.55 years since David and I tied the knot. I am still relatively new in this field of life compared to many others. Ok, most others. But I have learned a few small things, and I have it on my heart today to share some of those things with you.
The Best Lessons I've Learned So Far
1. Never say anything critical to or about another person.
This is one of the hardest things I have ever undertaken, and I still fail in this pursuit daily, sometimes even hourly, or even "minute-ly". I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as constructive criticism. And also, let me just say that there is a difference between confronting sin, and being critical. There is also a difference between parental guidance and criticism. When I say criticism, what I am talking about is the (oftentimes mean-spirited) nit-picking, as in "Well this painting would have been great if they had used pink instead of purple on this little 1-inch-squared section right here." Criticism, from what I have observed, often comes from a spirit of "it's only done right if it's done my way", otherwise known as pride. Criticism is deadly in any relationship, but especially in the marital relationship. According to my understanding, relationships flourish with encouragement and peace. If you hear yourself starting to critique another, and you want to stop, just ask yourself, "What's something I like about them?" Also, if there is something that another person is doing that is hurtful to you, there is nothing wrong, critical, condemning, or devisive about saying, "Would you be please _______?" My example: Would you please put your drink on a coaster? (Heh, I'm usually the one who this request would addressed to....) Here's a couple relevant verses:
Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil. (NCV)
REMIND PEOPLE to be submissive to [their] magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be prepared and willing to do any upright and honorable work, to slander or abuse or speak evil of no one, to avoid being contentious, to be forbearing (yielding, gentle, and conciliatory), and to show unqualified courtesy toward everybody. (AMP)
Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (The Message)
2. Accept others where they are, and continually look for what is admirable and praiseworthy about them.
It's easy to get caught in the cycle of "if they would only.....". Do your best to stay away from that train of thought. It leads to an abyss of misery. A person is never going to change based on your opinions or suggestions. This path will only lead to your own frustration. "Never try to keep a pig clean- it wastes your time and annoys the pig" (source unknown). More can be accomplished in the attempt to help another by inspiring them with honest praise and exhortations than can be guilted or brow-beaten out of them. Plus, you and everyone else will feel much better afterwards for the experience if it is a positive one.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7
7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
(Both quoted from The Message)
3. I cannot control another person into changing what they believe or who they are.
Change comes from a place of brokenness, and only God can bring them there. Criticizing and arguing with a person will not bring them to that place. In the case of salvation of another person, the only thing that we as believers can do is to plant the seed by telling them about Jesus and directing them toward the Bible, praying for it to take root in their hearts, and then loving them through the process. Loving them means giving them a soft place to fall and leading by example. There is nothing I can do to "get someone to help me help them." The seed of truth will take root if the ground is fertile, and the only one who can do the work to fertilize it is the Holy Spirit.
This is one of those things that I have had a supreme struggle with. A lot of times I can look at another person's life, and it's easy to see what it is that they are doing to hurt themselves. It is so easy to know where another person is making mistakes, and so tempting to think, "If I can just explain it right, or shout it loud enough, then they will see what they are doing, and change it." Oh, if only it was that easy. However, that approach never works. Almost always, that way of dealing with someone just ends up damaging the relationship- they feel judged, and I feel frustrated. Plus, pointing out to others their mistakes causes them to go on the defensive. When people start defending themselves, it just makes the problem worse because then they feel they must prove they are right, and the problematic behavior becomes more deeply entrenched.
It all comes back to the same basic principle of letting peace rule in our relationships. We do this by encouraging and nurturing the good things we see in ourselves and others, and leaving the rest to God to sort out.
For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
By mercy and love, truth and fidelity [to God and man--not by sacrificial offerings], iniquity is purged out of the heart, and by the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord men depart from and avoid evil.
Drop me a note and tell me your thoughts! :)