I (Nathaniel) recently heard the line “religion tends to be me-centered.” In other words, I have a check list to show how good I am and show you the things that I do in order to please God. The word religion had been used in my past in order to supply you with a positive view of me. An attempt at positivity that turned, unfortunately, vain and negative.
I used religion to ensure you (my friends) see how good I am, feeling this will undoubtedly please God. No matter how I acted behind closed doors at my own home I attempted to ensure to myself that you (outside my home) knew I was good. How or why was that the case for me?
Thinking on this, for myself, made me think how positive it sounded. To appear good to everyone around me, but how negative it actually feels or sounds in reality. Mostly because of my personal behaviors when no one was looking. I related the good appearance of religion to the good appearances of my marriage and parenting. I was not a great husband or parent, I was selfish.
In the past I expected that our children would listen on the first try or that Christina would know me well enough I wouldn’t have to ask for anything more than once. Perhaps she would even know how I was feeling simply by my actions, tone or facial expressions and she would help me, or she would give me the emotional connections necessary to make me feel better. In other words, if she would do this thing or that thing for me I’d be able to be happy. If the boys would not act like children so much I’d be able to be happy. I expected my children to act more like adults than children.
My thought process became, “If only those around me would change for the better, to serve me, I’d be much more content and even humble.” I bet you may have thought that too.
I am thankful to say I have learned to see the error in my old ways.
I had to reassess the selfishness, in me, that was creating a divide between Christina and me as well as my children and me. My past behaviors, of negative self-focus helped to stoke the flames of resentment between myself and those closest to me. Mostly by focusing on how everyone around me was negatively affecting me. I often held a negative expectation of my lovely wife because I was focused on what I was not getting, instead of what I was getting. I needed to train myself to focus in positive ways. “How?” seemed to be the question to ask myself.
I came to focus on how I can positively affect those around me instead of how they were negatively affecting me.
I could use this to change the tide of this emotional battle. By assessing ways I could positively meet Christina’s needs first instead of my own. I had to retrain my brain to be more Christina-centered than me-centered. More my-children-centered than me-centered.
I had to learn to talk and listen (Nate Note; still not perfect at this, I still struggle with listening at times) to my wife, trying to meet her needs emotionally before she had to resort to asking. Laundry, children, dogs, cat barf, dishes, dinner (not just takeout either!) I had to learn to help her before she was overwhelmed. Taking the focus off of me and putting it on her in healthy ways.
Ironic that Christina’s name means ‘follower of Christ’ and by putting her needs ahead of my own I was not only fulfilling my obligations and promises as her husband, but I was being more like Christ in elevating other’s needs above my own.
How many of you can relate to the old me? Come home and treat the neighbor with love and respect on my way to the front door after a hard day at work, only to take out the hard day on those who loved me the most? In the past I’d make mistake after mistake inside my own home only to go out and appear perfect to those I’d contact outside my home.
I like the new commercial I’ve viewed recently that says something about what I do in the dark is what will put me in the light. I am not making my changes on television or in front of family, friends or co-workers to brag with a look at me attitude. I am retraining myself to better serve those I care about the most and prioritize the emotional development of them. Am I sharing my information on a blog? Yes, but this isn’t to brag about me, it’s to brag about what Christ has done in me and through me. It is also an attempt to share, with that one person who may need it, what I’ve experienced. My successes and failures in order to encourage and build others up, might they be able to relate.
In marriage and religion I used to compare myself to others. I would compare to someone else and think “At least I’m not that bad, so I’m good enough.” I would settle into a comfort zone instead of training or trying harder. Another comparison I would use was looking at someone else and thinking “They are so good and amaze me, but I know how much work they put in and I do not want to work that hard.” Again, I would settle for less because I was unwilling to try harder for me, my wife and children.
I hope many of you will not be scared away. We know religion, sex, and intimacy are often topics people shy away from. I feel our blog is not just about sex. Sex is merely a conduit to a deeper conversation about difficult things in marriage.
Difficult conversations about:
-Learning to avoid resentments toward each other.
-Learning to elevate my spouse above myself.
-Learning to stay connected to my spouse by pursuing her, in her best ways possible.