Leaders from different countries, such as the United States and France, have disagreements at times and do things that feel uncaring and dishonoring to each other. Each feels offended. However, allies always keep the larger alliance and friendship in mind. Though they may be miffed and enraged by comments and actions of the other, each absorbs the offense and forgives, for the sake of the bigger picture.
Bitterness and a punitive approach accomplishes little in the grander scheme. Because the two countries need each other, their leaders never lose sight of their basic goodwill toward each other. Furthermore, though both know the other acts in self-interest, they also know that their self-interest is best advanced when the other’s interest is furthered.
The same holds true in marriage. When a husband feels disrespected and a wife feels unloved, how will they react toward each other? As allies, it is vital that they keep the larger picture in mind. But as she needs love just as she needs air to breathe, and he needs respect just as he too needs air to breathe, when the other is “stepping on their air hose,” will they flail about violently taking out all in their path as they gasp for love and respect? Or will they keep in mind the bigger picture, the long-term relationship over the short-term moment?
Unlike a scuba diver who will actually die if he doesn’t get his oxygen flowing again, no husband or wife has ever died because of a moment of disrespect or unloving actions. But plenty of marriages have indeed been terminated in large part because of continuous runs on the Crazy Cycle that were expedited when one or both spouses did not keep the bigger picture in mind and refused to give the other the benefit of the doubt.
As a goodwilled person who is married to another goodwilled person, would you consider making the following pledge to your spouse? I do not just mean to read it once and agree with it, but to print it out or type it out yourself, read it aloud to your spouse, and place it somewhere that you will be reminded of it daily?
As it says in the below pledge, your spouse is a sinner who sins, and so are you! You have both stepped on each other’s air hoses, and no matter how careful you are from here on out, you both will again. That is certain. The variable is in how you will respond the next time it happens to you. Instead of flailing about gasping for air, would you make the following pledge to your goodwilled spouse.
Though you stepped on my air hose . . .
- I know you are a goodwilled person. I may not like what you did, but I won’t resent who you are. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
- I see that most often the deeper issue revolves around your need to feel loved or respected, not that you intended to be disrespectful or unloving.
- You are feeling defensive and not intending to be offensive. You are trying to send me a message about your need, not that you intend to stomp on my need for love and respect.
- I recognize that in many cases I have stepped on your air hose as well. Though you are in the wrong for what you did, I too have been wrong! We break even. The pot has no right to call the kettle black.
- Because of your excessive self-interest (and because you are a sinner who sins!), I can confront your wrongdoing without escalating the tension. Accusing you of selfishness and impure motives proves nothing and only provokes. Such accusations render me ineffective in helping to correct your overreach. Instead I will seek to understand your interests but also convey mine so we can work on a win-win solution.
- I need the good from your friendship more than I begrudge the bad in the relationship. Because long term there is more pleasure than pain in the friendship, I refuse to lose perspective and appreciation. That does not serve my best interests.
Unless there is a pattern of intentional, evil offenses, I will not allow myself to develop an unforgiving spirit. Such an unforgiving spirit exceeds the infraction. And, even where horribly wronged, I will not let my hurt build to the point of an unforgiving spirit since not only does that leave me ineffective in getting to your heart, it undermines my fellowship with God. An unforgiving spirit is incompatible with my communion with God.