The other day I overheard one side of a phone conversation that clearly illustrated my own failures at being more polite and considerate with my Wonderful Wife. At first I laughed at the other person, but then I realized I still have room for improvement in my own reactions.
Here is a paraphrase of the one side of the conversation I heard:
Hey, did you get more dog food?”
I told you we need more dog food!!”
Isn’t this [my wife]?
Oh hi Cindy, I’m sorry. You sound just like Carly. How are you? Would you please remind Carly that we need more dog food? Thanks, I’ll talk to you later, have a great day!”
It was amazing to hear the change in tone as soon as the caller realized it wasn’t his wife he was talking with. He went from being harsh and irritable, to being soft and kind. Isn’t it amazing that we treat strangers and coworkers better than the love of our life? Men. We’ve got to change this.
One of the reasons I married my wife is because she doesn’t take my stuff. In fact, she stands up to me and will put me in my place. However, I’ve been learning, for decades no less, this really isn’t the role our wives want to take. They need to be nurtured, loved, and treated with tenderness and respect.
I’m a slow learner though.
I’m a slow learner though. I don’t start out to be irritable, angry, or impatient – it just rises up and takes me by surprise. Afterward, when I see the discouragement, the disempowerment, and the frustration on my Wonderful Wife’s face – I hate myself.
Today’s reading suggests two areas of our lives that cause us to be less patient, more irritable, and more susceptible to outbursts. By dealing with these two issues up front, we move beyond boundaries and start creating margins that will allow us to better absorb the setbacks of life.
The first area is stress. Too much stress weighs us down and saps our strength. It is important to eliminate and defuse stress in our lives. This may mean getting more sleep, working less, eliminating debt, and learning to say no to perceived social obligations that aren’t that important in the larger scheme.
In my life, I have three top priorities to help me decide how to best calibrate my time and keep stress low.
- God – by putting God first in my life, I have a clearer perspective of the future, my goals, and my needs. This is how I stay healthy – emotionally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually. This is how I know my purpose, my priorities (macro and micro), and this is how I stay strong for others.
- Family – my family comes next. Before work, before friendships, before any other urgent (or non-urgent) need – or want – my family is next. I see it as my primary purpose in life to take care of my family. Whatever they need, I will devote myself to provide for them. This doesn’t mean I will become a codependent sap and seek to meet all their “wants” – it merely means, through the strength and wisdom of God (see #1 above), I will put my family above all others.
- Work – like most men, I get a real sense of self-worth through my work. I love what I do and it also provides a means to provide for my family (see #2). However, it is easy for me to start putting my work above my family. Too often the joys of instant gratification come easier at work than they do at home. Subconsciously, I am drawn to devote more time and energy to my career and less to my family. Or, due to financial pressures, I think I need to work more – this can be a delicate balance and one definitely needs the wisdom of God to sort through it.
The second major reason for being irritable, is selfishness. Often, our true heart is revealed through our actions. Most of us are inherently selfish and we put our own wants and needs above others. When others get in the way of our getting what we want, we get angry at them.
Being easily angered is an indicator that a hidden area of selfishness, or insecurity, is present, where love is supposed to rule.” (page 28)
By creating margins in our lives, we are better able to eliminate the stress and selfishness. Our appetite for more, is insatiable. More food, more time, more money, more toys, more entertainment, more amusement, more sex, more more more! However, it is important to create space – space where there is less.
Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
By taking a few moments, every day, to get perspective from One who knows more than you – who knows the future, knows the past, and knows everything about you and your life – you will be better armed to face the challenges of the day.
By taking one day per week, as a sabbatical, to not work, not be stressed, and to rest – you will be better equipped to face the week ahead.
Take some time, eliminate (or at least release) the stress. Kill the selfish heart and offer yourself up for the service of others – starting with your wife.