There are many ingredients that go into a healthy relationship. Respect. Patience. Honesty. Curiosity. And, while these are essential, they are often about what you can bring to the table. But did you know that it’s equally important to put your own ego aside, and let your partner bring their ideas and skills into play? Here, Bill and Pam Farrel discuss how humility in relationships is essential for healthy love.
When Humility In Relationships Is Lacking
Steven married Beth because he believed she shared his view of family life. Dinner together every night, a strict adherence to the budget and holidays with his extended family were convictions he assumed they both held. He never took into account that she grew up in a free-form, single-parent family. They often ate on the run, looked for creative ways to stretch their money and would go on spontaneous excursions during the holidays since her extended family tended to create a lot of pain.
Steven considered his family superior to Beth’s so, of course, she would follow his lead, reorient her understanding and fall in line behind his directives. He was so convinced his way was better that he deliberately chose not to listen to her ideas. Instead, he was willing to criticize her, ignore her or argue with her to get his way.
My Way Or The Highway
Steven was shocked the day Beth told him, “I can’t live under this tyranny anymore. Obviously, you want to be married to someone who grew up just like you and that is not me. I am sorry I couldn’t live up to your standards and I wish you well.”
His attempts to negotiate with her only drove the wedge between them deeper. Even though he wanted her to come back, he couldn’t see the need for humility in relationships. He couldn’t give up the notion that his way was the right way and they could have a great life together if she would simply adjust.
He painfully learned that pride is a destructive force in intimate relationships. Anyone who arrogantly asserts his or her superiority in a marriage announces that there is not enough room for two equal partners. God puts us in relationships with other people because we all have something to contribute. Each of us excels in some areas of life and is deficient in others.
The Need For Humility In Relationships
Those who constantly think of themselves as the superior one in the relationship will find that this way of thinking can’t sustain a true partnership. Romans 12:3 shows how to be humble enough to develop healthy relationships:
- Deliberately develop your giftedness. “For by the grace given me I say . . .” God’s grace has equipped each one of us with unique gifts. Steve is organized, confident and a talented leader. He also has an incredible capacity for family relationships. His desire to spend holidays with his family is easy to acknowledge because he is skilled at interacting with them. To avoid his family would be to deny this strength God placed in him.
- Give others as much credit as you give yourself. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” You ought to think as highly of yourself as you are willing to think of others. Steve could not bring himself to admit that Beth is actually superior to him in some areas of life. She is more spontaneous and more flexible with her schedule than he could probably ever be. She is also remarkably compassionate toward others because she knows what it’s like to suffer personal pain and disappointment. He regrets now that he couldn’t see her talents when they were together.
- Practice sober judgment. “. . . think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Expect God’s gifts in your life to be highly effective, but anticipate self-reliant efforts to be only marginally effective. Steve began to pray differently. “Jesus, please give me eyes to see how my talents help other people be more effective. Also, give me eyes to see how the talents of others can help me be more effective and compassionate, and rescue me from thinking my ways are better than your ways.”
We are all made in the image of God and have been given remarkable gifts. At the same time, we need be humble enough recognize that other people’s gifts are every bit as effective as our own, even when they accomplish different results. By practicing humility in relationships, we can help unite these two sides of healthy love.
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