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Entries in Selfless Living (2)

Thursday
Sep152016

3 Ways to Make Nice in Your Marriage

Elaine W. Miller wrote a book with a funny title, We all Married Idiots. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she gives a little insight into why that’s true!

“Why are we such idiots?” Elaine said. “We smile, open doors, and run to rescue strangers. In the workplace we hold our tempers, fearing a job loss if we don’t. Yet when we enter our homes, we frown, slam doors and lose our tempers with no fear of the consequences.”

Oh ugh. I (Dawn) am guilty as charged. Why do we hurt the ones we love?

Elaine continues . . .

As married men and women, we should make every effort to make nice behind closed doors as well as in public. I know we can control our tempers. We do what we need to.

In the heat of anger, we politely answered the phone, “Good morning!” Yes, it is under our control. But for some reason I don’t understand (except that we are all sinners), we find it easier to make mean than to make nice to the ones we love. How foolish!

Making nice is something we need to do; it may not necessarily just happen. I like the synonym “do.” Just do it.

Do nice. Cause nice. Build nice. Create nice. Accomplish nice.

Making nice is a choice.

“Nice,” it turns out, comes from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” The computer dictionary defines “ignorant” as “unaware.” When our loved ones do something idiotic, be unaware of it. Ignore it. Overlook the mistake. Make nice.

One day I watched a husband make nice when he certainly could have made mean. He and his wife and my husband and I climbed an Adirondack mountain together. Inexperienced at climbing, the other wife wore sandals. What a mistake! This trip required sneakers at the very least – hiking boots at best.

As we trekked up the mountain, her discomfort became evident. Reaching the summit, her feet Rob with blisters, she agonized about her ability to descend the mountain.

What was your husband to do? He had a choice. He could yell from the top of the mountain, “I married an idiot! Why didn’t she wear better shoes?” He could have humiliated her with words like, “You are such a wimp! Stop your complaining.”

This husband didn’t choose those options. He chose to make nice. Without a word, he lovingly scooped up his love and carried her down the mountain.

This man realize the truth that on his wedding day he and his wife became one. When her feet hurt, it hurt him. Instead of making the pain grow deeper with thoughtless words, he decided to alleviate the pain.

I once wrote,

“Every day we decide the words and actions that will serve or suffocate our marriages.”

Every new day begins with choices. We choose what clothes to wear and what to eat for breakfast. We choose to sin. We choose to act like idiots. We choose to make nice or not.

Making nice is an investment that pays big dividends. Kind words and considerate deeds deposit love into our marriage love bank. Mean remarks and thoughtless actions count as love withdrawals. Take out too much, and there is no love left.

Making nice manifests itself in every aspect of your life, but especially in the bedroom. When you are unkind or unfaithful, it affects sexual intimacy. You can’t treat your spouse shabbily and then expect your beloved to jump into the sacred marriage bed.

Making nice makes a nice marriage. When meanness becomes the norm, marriages fail to thrive.

Here are three ways to make nice in your marriage:

1. Watch your words

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

If in our desire to build ourselves up we put our spouse’s down, every derogatory remark registers in the brain creating a chill in the marriage vault. Negative words are like icicles stabbed into your loved one's heart that only kindness and forgiveness and making nice can melt.

When unkind words come from our condemning mouth, who benefits? No one. Certainly not the little ears that listen. Most are aghast when their children repeat words to the world that their parents say in private.

2. Don’t Demand Your Own Way

Love strives to live in peace (Hebrews 12:14), and God says love does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we become angry and impatient and rude, most likely it is because we have not gotten our way. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

When we choose not to be self-seeking, we then become more patient and kind and not so easily angered. Then, as much as it depends on us, our homes will be peaceful.

3. Root out bitter roots

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that… no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Our bad behavior does not come without consequences. It destroys our marriages.

The hurt of bitterness hurts not only the one the arrow is aimed at, but also others we love. That arrow penetrates our children’s hearts. Sometimes the wounds never heal, and the scars remain for a lifetime.

Marriage is not a competitive sport. The one who gives the most verbal punches does not win. You both lose because condemning your spouse is condemning yourself. God has declared you to be one flesh.

Verbal punches leave you both knocked out and too tired to fight for your marriage. Don’t let it happen. Make nice!

What did you say today that built up your spouse? What did you say that put down your partner? How can you make every effort to live at peace?

Elaine W. Miller is an international author and speaker known for sharing biblical insights with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. She is the author of three books including her latest We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change AboutYour Marriage and Ten Things You Can (available in English, Spanish, and Bosnian). Residing in upstate  New York with her husband of 45 years, she enjoys having three married children and 11 grandchildren close by. Visit Elaine's website/blog to learn more about her unique ministry.

This blog post was adapted from Chapter 9 in We All Married Idiots.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of christinevitved for Pixabay.

Tuesday
Dec022014

Help Children Think Outside Themselves

Have you ever fallen for the slogan, “Because you’re worth it”? In today’s Parenting UPGRADE, Moms Inc. ministry founder, Holly Hanson, shares her insights on raising kids who see the value in considering others more important than themselves.

“It’s easy to live in this world and believe the lies that everything should be all about you!” Holly says.     

I (Dawn) see this message ("You're worth it ... You deserve this!") everywhere, and Holly explains it’s pretty hard to fight, especially for the younger generation. Although selfless living is important all year long, the holidays are a good time to help children focus on others. Holly recently shared with me the tools she is using to help her young daughter develop eyes that see beyond herself.

Holly continues …

We began developing this character trait of looking for opportunities to share when Angela was quite small.

I can remember lots of times when we would go to an event, intentionally bringing an extra parking pass, meal voucher, or entry ticket, just for the enjoyment letting her find a family who was in need and blessing them with it. 

The big payoff came on Halloween this year. We headed to the pumpkin patch with two of her fifth grade friends and a few train ride tickets they planned to use. We had two spare tickets, and I asked Angela and her buddies if they would like to scope out a family with children and make their night a little brighter. I waited in line while they went off to do the job.

Angela quickly ran back and said, “Mom, I’m going to give my ticket away. The family we picked has three kids, and we need one more so they can all go together. I just won’t ride this time.”

It was at that moment I thanked God for a glittering glimpse of selflessness in the heart of my 10-year-old daughter. (Angela is in the center of the photo, above.)

Looking beyond yourself is a lifestyle practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

In several Bible passages, we are encouraged to selflessly think of others.

Matthew 25:40 says, “The king will reply, ‘Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”

In Romans 12:10, Paul says, “Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another.”

Eagerness. I think that’s the true key.

When we actively look for opportunities to see beyond ourselves, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some ways to encourage selflessness: 

  1. Encourage your child to invite a shy student to his or her birthday party.
  2. Find a homeless person who spends time near your home or work or school. Work with your children to think of safe ways to bless that person and regularly encourage them.
  3. Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child or buy a gift for an Angel Tree family this Christmas. Help your kids (or grandkids) imagine what those children would love to receive.
  4. Encourage your child to find a new friend each year when school starts or on the first day of camp - and show them “the ropes”. I recently was told that this made all the difference for a little girl Angela met this summer.
  5. Model the practice of giving up your seat, letting others in line ahead of you, and helping an elderly person (or a mom wrangling kids) with the door, if you see a need.
  6. Find a friend’s monetary or material need and simply meet it. Host a fundraiser, get a donation, or do a garage sale.
  7. Establish a regular prayer list for people in your circle of influence who are hurting or need intercession. Encourage your children to make their own list. This is critical in teaching them that they have the power to ask God for big things on behalf of others.

Also, create ways to incorporate a “purpose” into events you host at your house.

One year we created a “water science” birthday party and used experiments to teach the kids about clean water. Instead of bringing birthday gifts, we asked our guests to bring between $5 and $10 to be contributed toward a well-drilling project through World Help.

My friends told me their kids came home talking all about it, with empathy for others they didn’t have before.

It’s these small foundational steps that help us reap the rewards of putting others ahead of ourselves.

Nobody ever became a worse person because they cared about others.

Which of the seven steps above can you do right away to encourage selfless living in your own family?

Holly Hanson is a veteran Emmy Award-winning journalist who finds her calling in her family motto: “Love God, Serve Others.” Holly has written and produced internationally for Women of Faith, Turning Point Ministries, and locally with KFMB-TV, KFMB-AM and KPBS Radio. She is married and is a mom, step-mom and grandma. Holly is active at Shadow Mountain Community Church, serving on the Women's Ministries Council, singing in the choir, and running Moms Inc., a ministry she founded and directs.