By Ashley McIlwain
We’ve all witnessed it … the meltdown of a random child. You’re trying to enjoy a quiet dinner for two, but instead you’re being served a big plateful of wailing child with a side of yelling, desperate parent. Perhaps you’re pushing your cart along in the grocery store when you meet the dreaded roadblock comprised of a defiant child refusing to cooperate and nearly being dragged along.
Struggling parents try to reason with their children, but they’re developing minds can’t understand what you’re trying to teach them. Their little defiant personalities strike out in insubordination demanding their way. “I want what I want, and I want it now!”
No doubt all of us can relate to one of these scenarios as either an observer or unfortunate offender. What the child doesn’t understand is that the parent is trying to teach them how to conduct themselves in this big old world. The kid must be equipped for surviving life as an adult, but it’s not an easy or fun task, as most parents will attest to.
Think about it. All of us have to be taught and learn how to share, care, and think of others. We have to learn what it means to control our emotions. Just because we are tired, sick, or frustrated doesn’t mean we get to explode in anger. Among all of the things we learn, most of them relate to being in relationship with others. Parents are left with the job of raising their child with enough self-awareness, self-control, and selflessness that he/she can live in community with others throughout his/her lifetime.
But have we grown-ups really grown up? Or are we all a bunch of big kids? Because I look around me, and I see everyone wanting their own way. They don’t want there to be right and wrong. They don’t want to be told no. They don’t want to have to share, care, or think of others. It’s all about me! What makes me happy? What do I want? What do I get? Sound familiar?
I can tell you this childish mentality is killing marriages. There is no room for tantrums, selfishness, and self-centeredness in marriage if you want it to last a lifetime. Granted, we are all selfish by nature, but each day has to be another step away from those tendencies and toward selflessness. Or else, you’re going to have two large kids, the bratty kind, pulling each other’s hair out, screaming, and stomping off angry. You’ll get nowhere fast.
1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” We can’t become adults if we are still acting like children. Either you’re a child or an adult. One or the either – but not both.
Seriously, how do you hope to have a healthy, thriving marriage (or any relationship for that matter) when you are unwilling to share, compromise, or listen? Last time I checked, we’re telling our kids these are non-negotiables, so why aren’t we practicing what we preach?
The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You
One of the hardest things for kids to understand is that the world doesn’t revolve around them. In their miniature minds, everything and everyone is somehow there to serve, help, or play with them. It becomes a battle to get them to grasp hold of serving, helping, and playing with and for others.
I hear adults telling their children to consider others, but they themselves don’t implement those very same lessons. Instead you hear a plethora of selfish excuses about why ultimately the world revolves around him/her as an adult. “My husband doesn’t do anything to help me out.” “I’m just not happy anymore.” “Well, if she would just stop nagging me.”
STOP! The world didn’t revolve around you as a child, and guess what? It still doesn’t revolve around you. Why don’t you stop obsessing over how your spouse (and everyone else) can meet your needs and make you happy, and start working toward meeting your spouse’s needs and making them happy? If you’re acting like the world revolves around you in your marriage, you’re world is going to spin out of control.
Say You’re Sorry
Oh goodness, I can’t even begin to count how many times my parents had me say sorry to my two older sisters. I can assure you though … it was a lot. At one point I remember writing pages of sentences starting with, “I’m sorry because …” My mom always made us apologize when we did something wrong, and it always had to come with a good attitude and a reason why we were sorry.
It frustrated me as a child to be forced into “sincere” apology, but I am so thankful my parents instilled that in us. The truth is, we are all human, and we are going to screw up at times. We’re going to lose our temper, lose our cool, and say things we don’t mean. We’re going to accidently hurt our spouse from time to time. The goal isn’t to be perfect because that’s impossible. The goal is to say you’re sorry when you do mess up.
Apologies can go a long way! Yet, many of us are too prideful and defiant to say those two simple words. “I’m sorry.” Throw away the “buts” too. An apology that goes, “I’m sorry, but you pushed me to that point,” is worthless. Try, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. There’s no excuse, and I’m sorry for hurting you.” We force children to say sorry. Why? Because it’s important and the only way to mend brokenness. If your marriage is broken, a good starting point would be, “I’m sorry.”
“Hey, be nice!” The mom yells to her child from across the room.
How many times have we heard that line? That’s because if you want to have any friends around, you have to be nice. Despite being told that our entire childhood though, most married people throw those two simple words out the window after they say those other two words, “I do.”
You can’t expect to have a great marriage if you aren’t nice to one another. You’re spouse isn’t going to enjoy your company if you aren’t kind to him/her. You’re not going to solve any problems if you can’t respectfully state your perspective. You’re not going to elicit love if you’re dishing out a bad attitude. That’s not the way it works, and we all know it.
If you want your spouse to want to spend time with you, then be enjoyable to be around. If you want to work through some sticky spots in your relationship, then respectfully discuss and resolve it. If you want your spouse to show more love, then show love to him/her. It’s pretty simple – be nice!
Look, all of us have a tendency to be the screaming, rebellious, audacious child who only cares about ourselves. But, if we want to have incredible marriages, we have to put off those childish ways. Ephesians 4:22-23 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I believe this passage of Scripture applies to both our life as a Christian and as a married person. We need to put off our selfishness, anger, and insolence, and we need to put on love, kindness, and patience. We can’t be childish and an adult; we need to put off the child and put on the adult. We need to put off selfishness and put on selflessness.