There is always going to be stuff that comes up in marriage that feels very challenging because you like what you like and the person you are married to is different.
Those are opportunities to pause before you make an issue out of it and ask yourself, is this a preference or a principle?
And if it is a preference, why is it a problem?
I know there are times as a leader that you have to have opinions and express opinions, but there are guys who have opinions about everything. And you do have to kind of stop and think every once in a while, why does this matter, if one day, I am going to die?
Maybe to come at this a different way, at our church, maybe especially, because it is a multi-cultural church, we have had to deal with the whole issue, quite a bit of people being offended.
One funny one.
Sometimes ladies from a Western culture will go to these fellowship meals, and feel all unselfish because they are going, even though they were sick. So they would be sick, but go to the fellowship meal, because they wanted to be unselfish and yet other people there end up being offended by them, because they didn’t eat the food, when they were there, even though they were sick. And that seems small. But it was a big deal. They thought, why don’t you just take a little? You know, it was so offensive.
Now the thing about being offended, is that being offended is often being selfish, actually. And so, obviously the Western people could learn, but at the same time, we’ve had to ask others to ask themselves, why am I offended? Often it’s because I’ve got this preference, I have made into a principle, and yet, it feels so right, and it’s sometimes hard to see that I am the one being selfish, because usually you are offended when you are the one doing something that looks good, serving or something.
Anyway, becoming more unselfish is not just reacting.
It requires, pausing and thinking and evaluating.
Back in the early days of our marriage, I had a habit of throwing my clothes on the floor. And, I remember, years later, Marda saying when we first got married that bothered her, and then she stopped and she thought, why am I bothered, this obviously doesn’t bother Josh, otherwise he wouldn’t throw them on the floor, and so, if it bothers me, she made a decision, she would just pick them up and put them in the basket. Now, of course, when I heard that, I was like, no, what, and I had to change.
But I love that attitude, where, if it’s a preference for me, instead of me, forcing you to do what I want, why don’t I either do it myself, or just develop the habit of enjoying other people’s preferences.
Because, you can learn to like things you don’t like, because you love someone else, obviously.
It’s like, it’s not much of a big sacrifice, I know, but I can’t tell you how many Hallmark movies and Fixer Upper shows, I have watched over the years. And part of that, is because I am trying to prefer what my wife prefers. And it kind of grows on you. Not always the Hallmark movies, but the preferring other’s preferences. That’s kind of what I want to be my fundamental preference, your preference. And I’ve found, there’s a lot of stuff, that we think initially is going to be so hard, because of what we like or our wiring. We’re like I can’t do that, but it’s not really that hard, in the big scheme of things. There’s hard and then there’s hard, you know. What’s hard, is going to hell, holding a wiggling kid on your lap for a little while, or standing for half hour in the mall while your wife is looking at clothes is not hard, and so often when you start doing it, it gets easier.
And even if it is so hard for you at first, because your preference is so strong, that you just can’t seem to give it up, at the very least, be careful to make it clear to everyone that it is a preference. It’s good to try to give up your preferences, but there are some preferences you just have, and you are living together, and it can be done differently, but at least, admit that it’s a preference, because sometimes we want our way so much, that we overstate our case, and talk like preferences are principles and it makes things way more confusing. When you can just say, I guess I just like it this way, and it’s weird, but I love you and you love me, and I wonder, if we can just do it this way, because I am having a hard time giving put his preference right now.
It’s funny how often when you are counseling someone, and there’s this huge conflict, and you boil it all down to the circumstance that started it, and it’s like, such a preference issue, and yet no one’s willing to admit that, or no one’s willing to prefer what the other person prefers. And you are like oh man just acknowledge, this is not really right or wrong.
If you are going to become more unselfish, assume you need to grow, do something, adjust your expectations, pause and evaluate is this preference or principle, and try to give up your preferences.
And maybe, I should just quickly make a caveat.
I am not talking about preferring yourself, by just always giving in, because there’s a selfishness that looks unselfish, and some people do that, they are living with someone who is difficult, and so they always give in, not because they really want the other person’s best, but because that’s the only way to survive, and while it looks unselfish, it’s not actually!
This is about loving someone else enough to give up what you want for their good, not just your own.