This is something I have been thinking of for ages! Like years and years and years – since before I wrote *that* open letter to my non-existent husband! And yet it has never really materialised…until now!
Actually what I am going to talk about is a combination of two ideas, and they both occurred to me years ago!
1. Write about ideas/ that I personally need to work on: Not only identify areas to work on, but also write about how I plan to deal with these issues in my life!
2. Applying the fruit of the Spirit!
So I was sitting there thinking to myself, and thinking that many relationships must fall apart because of a lack of kindness. To really bring it home, I thought that this is one area that I will personally be very susceptible to. When people’s behaviour is less than absolutely brilliant, I find it easy to lose patience very quickly. I also find it very easy to express frustration at the way people are behaving. Now if you have never had to live with me, I hope that you will find that hard to believe! Although I have certainly lost patience with many people outside my home. Actually, even if you have ever had to live with me, I still hope that you will find that hard to believe! Most of the time I try to control myself from expressing my frustration outwardly, but every so often I will just lose it, and express my frustration very vocally!
I’ve recently spoken about the new addition to my life of a deeper understanding of discipline. One of the great things about discipline is that it helps me to understand and play to my own natural rhythms and strengths. For instance, woe betide anyone who crosses my path on the day when there has not been sufficient hot water for a hot shower! Or on the day when I have not had enough sleep for a week! Goodbye “totally intosincating”, hello super-cranky! But now I understand that I get like that, I can pre-empt my own cranky behaviour by deliberately avoiding people, especially people who I know love to press my buttons.
So anyway, I was thinking about the need to fill your lives with kindness towards one another in your marriage. I was thinking that consistent kindness from you is possibly the single most important thing that will make your spouse want to open up to you emotionally, or be vulnerable towards you. I was also thinking that sometimes in a marriage it will probably be hard to be kind. When your spouse just does not get it. Especially when the “it” is something extremely simple and straightforward to you. When for crying out loud you have every right to be angry or frustrated. Like for instance when you are tired – you have missed good sleep for not only a week but actually a full month, and instead of making your life easier your wonderful spouse is simply making it more difficult. When you are tired, and they are petulant, or arguing for no good reason. These are the times when I would be most likely to lose patience with my spouse. Or how about when you know that you are absolutely right about something – but they refuse to agree, and because they refuse to agree and take the right action, something bad predictably happens. All of these things would annoy me so much. And yet all the same, in these times, when it is most difficult to do so, I would still need to be kind. I find it easy enough to be kind when people are acting well, or when something is not someone’s fault.
This is a huge revelation to me, but perhaps it is not so much a revelation to anyone actually reading this. Perhaps most people have known and understood that kindness is absolutely necessary at all times, even these difficult times. Moreover, perhaps most people have been practising kindness to other people in the most difficult times. However, I have to be candid, I have not been practising kindness in difficult times. And yet I realise that I do have to practise this. Because invariably, my husband or anyone else I’m close to will annoy me sometimes, as I will surely annoy them too. I guess this is what I have to bear in mind: that on the whole, I deeply love and respect this person. The love and respect I have for him is for the entirety of who he is, not just the positive parts. When I married him, I knew that he was not going to be perfect, and I knew that there would be times when he would irritate me. So when he is behaving in an unlovely way, I’ll be patient knowing that his imperfections make him human and together with his strengths, make up the man I love. I trust that he will be patient with me too. It is like taking the rough with the smooth. I will go beyond being patient to actually being kind in those times, although I know that this is easier said than done. Another way to look at it is this: If I know that this man is outstanding or excellent most of the time, then I can be patient and sit out that smaller percentage of the time when he is acting like a sulky child, knowing that he will hopefully snap back to his normal self shortly.
This is not just about marriage of course, this is about everyone you interact with. This is something I can start practising immediately! Like other aspects of character, if you practise it sufficiently and enthusiastically before marriage, by the time it comes to applying it to your marriage, it will be fluent and spontaneous. So now I just need to find someone to annoy me!
“Kindess” is just one of the fruit of the Spirit. But something else that occurred to me was this: to specifically take each of the fruits of the Spirit, and practise applying them to your marriage, or to your life if you are yet to get married!
I thought that it might get a little “airy-fairy” to talk about these things, or write about them, in that talk is cheap. But perhaps an idea would be to allocate different weeks, one week each to each fruit of the Spirit, to practise demonstrating them at every opportunity in your marriage.
As a reminder, the 9 identified fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5v22-23 in the Bible are:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. How ironic that “Patience”, also known as “Long-Suffering” was the one I missed out when initially typing them out from memory (considering that Patience is probably the one I struggle most with)!
But there is more – and once again this is an idea that occurred to me ages ago! The idea is to keep a diary for each of these fruits, for the week when I am deliberately focusing on that specific fruit, to be very, very honest with myself and all you readers about my struggles and triumphs with each of these things!
Or maybe give myself a month to immerse myself into each fruit, rather than just a week; and use the first three weeks to warm up before sharing with you the final week!
I hope that this will make for interesting reading. However, it will be most useful to me, in that it will enable me to see what my own character looks like in real time, and see what it is that I need to work on!