During the George W. Bush administration, there was a great push to help folks succeed in marriage. This effort was based on the solid research that society benefits significantly when its citizens are in healthy marriages as healthy marriages lead to healthy families and healthy families lead to productive citizens. Around the country, numerous organizations received funding to develop programs designed to train and equip folks to be successful in marriage. The Four Corners Coalition for Marriage and Family is an outgrowth of that movement, although we chose to not participate in the funding. One such organization, the Fresno, Calif., Healthy Marriage Coalition, was founded by, and is currently led by our guest columnist, Ron McLain. Ron is also the executive director of Grow Your Marriage and the author of a brand-new book, "The Resurrection Marriage," subtitled "Breathe New Life into Your Relationship." I think you'll appreciate what Ron has to share with us today.
Developing humility in marriage
Our ability to live in humility is tested vigorously in marriage. In fact, marriage will reveal our level of maturity more clearly than any other relationship. Have you discovered that to be true? The intensity of the marriage relationship, with its intimacy and familiarity, is unlike any other, bringing out the best and worst in us. It is also the perfect place to practice habits of humility.
We can develop humility in marriage by making a commitment to the well-being of our spouses, above our own success. We do this by admitting when we are wrong, showing grace when our partner needs it, and practicing gentleness, respect and patience. Does this make sense? Here are just a few ways to do that.
Acknowledge your weaknesses and strengths
Some people have the wrong idea about humility; they think it means feeling bad about yourself or pooh-poohing your accomplishments. But low self-esteem isn't humility. Low self-esteem is feeling that you're not worth much. If you have ever complimented your spouse for a great meal or a fun date only to hear, "Ah, it's nothing, really. Anyone could do that," you probably have heard false humility or outright self-denigration. When your spouse gives you a compliment, just say, "Thank you!"
In contrast, true humility is an accurate perception of your weaknesses and strengths, keeping both in perspective.
Humility tempers our urge to puff ourselves up over our gifts or tear ourselves down for our shortcomings. For example, Joan is really good with financial matters, and I'm not. I'm good at standing in front of groups and presenting information; Joan shudders at the thought of doing that. While Joan is good at finances and I'm good at speaking, we don't dwell on these strengths; we just eagerly apply our gifts for the purpose of encouraging others. That's the spirit of humility. Marriage isn't a competition. It's a complementary relationship that involves teamwork.
Put each other first
Several years ago, I underwent shoulder surgery that required an extended time of recovery. Joan was there for every need I had and often put her own agenda aside to minister to me. I discovered what I had heard all my life — husbands aren't good patients. As well, there have been times when I have served Joan. We understand the need to put each other first and, when we do that, good things happen in our relationship.
Joan could have belittled me for my pain after my surgery, but she didn't. She could have said, "A real man would be back to work, already." But she didn't. She exhibited the love and grace of a woman who was putting her husband first.
We try to do little things for each other throughout the week as well, just as a way to say, "You matter to me." It is a good idea to regularly ask each other, "Is there anything you need from me today?" Try it; you'll like it!
Accept advice from each other
Men, when was the last time you asked for directions when you got lost? Many husbands have an especially hard time asking for help because we think it indicates personal weakness — namely, ignorance. We don't want to look stupid. Unfortunately, being unwilling to ask advice from others signals another personal weakness — namely, pride.
Honestly, Joan is a master at directions and usually has an uncanny way of knowing which way to go when we are confused. It has been a little easier now that we have Denise (our affectionately-named GPS voice), who gives us step-by-step instructions on how to arrive at our destination.
Guys, we need to accept advice and influence from our wives. And wives, believe it or not, your husbands have some wisdom and insight that could benefit you, as well. So, ask him for his input and don't ignore his advice.
Admit when you're wrong
People who are humble people know when they've hurt their spouse, and they admit it. They take responsibility for their actions, especially in conflict situations.
Humble spouses own the wrongs they have committed and the hurt they have caused, even if the hurt was unintentional. You know how it is: a husband forgets his wife's birthday or a wife forgets to show up for an event that is important to him. Both are hurtful and unintentional.
When there's hurt in a marriage, two things need to happen. The offender needs to admit it, apologize and ask for forgiveness, and the offended person needs to grant forgiveness. Sometimes, we need a little time to forgive, and that's fine. When we don't ask for forgiveness in a timely manner, the other's hurt can turn to anger, resentment, shutting down inside, or possibly even rage. And that's not a good place to be in your marriage.
Hear more from Ron McLain
Sounds like great advice to me and well worth the effort required to put into practice in your marriage. You can hear more words of wisdom and experience from Ron tomorrow at 6 p.m. when he will be my guest on TWOgether as ONE on KLJH 107.1FM.