Contributed by Eva Fleming | 2013
We just came out of government shutdown. Lawmakers from both political parties persisted on talking past each other without actually talking to each other, creating a crisis for many Americans. The folks in government finally came to a temporary compromise and have ended the shutdown. What would happen if, in our marriages and families, we acted like politicians and decided that no matter what, we aren’t going to compromise? Our relationships would be pretty miserable, don’t you think?
In a marriage, we should try harder to make compromises that work for the whole family, as the ramifications of shutting down go past a temporary period of inactivity. A marriage shutdown will hurt your children and your well-being for many days to come.
Much like politicians, marriage partners can use selfish tactics to get their way without compromising by pushing and shoving and even bullying their way through. But all this pushing and shoving can be toxic for the marriage and consequently the family. A family cannot survive if there’s no tolerance and compromise in the marriage. A marriage is guaranteed to break down if the minute we can’t agree, we stop talking to each other. Our kids can’t thrive in a parental, antagonistic environment. In order for a marriage to survive its differences and for children to thrive, there must be an open dialogue where two people express themselves calmly in the midst of the storm.
We should be less like politicians and more like sailors. In a violent storm sailors learn to manage the force of the wind in order to move their vessel. They don’t shut down because they know if they do, they will drown! Life brings a variety of wind and sea conditions that, together with our partners, we need to learn to master if we want to get to shore.
In order to stay calm in the midst of this storm, we must exhibit selfless humility. Selfless humility ushers in grace and opens the door for intimacy. Intimacy is the opposite end result of a shutdown and it is essential for a healthy marriage. Antagonism, on the other hand, is what happens when we don’t work together. Antagonism’s end result is not intimacy, but regret and resentment. When we are acting antagonistic towards each other, the voices of difference cause our disagreements to escalate until we reach the point of becoming hurtful. When the winds have died down we are then left with the consequences of the unmanaged argument. At this point we have a choice to make: We either shut down or give grace. If you have ever been the recipient of grace, you are more likely to freely give it because you have come to understand that grace is the ultimate expression of love. The more we walk in the garden of grace the more we smell like the scent of the flowers. In the same way, the more grace we give, the more likely we are to receive it.
So let’s exhibit an abnormal amount of empathy, deliberate humility and lavish grace in our disagreements. May our discourses from here on out be less antagonistic and much more tolerant; and may our marriages thrive on compromises that suit the whole family so we don’t have to resort to a shutdown.