Priorities in Relationships

It’s sad to admit but several times in our marriage my wife, Alida, has had to remind me that my priorities are a bit skewed.  She always seems to find the right time and space to let me know this too.

First, she doesn’t wait until she’s so angry that she’s going to explode.  Instead, if she sees me veering of course for long enough, then she’ll speak up.  Things get a bit more complicated when my lopsided priorities impact her directly; but even in those situations she has always done a great job of loving me and showing me grace.

Second, when she has determined that it’s time to have the “come to Jesus” talk with me, she boldly says what’s on her mind.  She doesn’t beat around the bush and qualify her feelings with ten thousand sickly sweet statements.  She simply tells me how she’s feeling, what’s she’s seeing, and the impact she’s observing.  I am so grateful for this!  The last thing that I need to be left hanging in the wind!

Third, in virtually every single instance that Alida helps me get my priorities straight, she’s been sure to check back in with me in the future.  Usually the next day she’ll initiate a conversation with me in which she wants to make sure that I’m not hurt or confused.  Then, later on when old habits start being reestablished, she’ll lovingly remind me that I said I wanted my priorities to be different.  In fact, one of Alida’s mantras is “Don’t complain about something unless you have a plan for it to succeed.”  So, when she points out something in me that needs molding, she understands that as a call for her continued participation in my development.

And because of the example that Alida has set for me, I have learned how to do the same for her.  Full disclosure: I’m not nearly as good at this as she is!  I often wait too long, which means that I tend to be too angry, hurt, or annoyed to infuse a priorities conversation with grace and love.  Like Alida, I tend to get straight to the point but since I am naturally so confrontational this often comes across as being argumentative.  And I’m not nearly as good on follow through as Alida, though I am learning and growing in this area!  Needless to say, Alida has set the bar high for me!

But as I think about the times that she has brought my messed up priorities out into the light it’s always been for one reason: I’m selfish.  Now I know for a fact that I’m not the only selfish person out there!  My wife is selfish, my parents and sister are selfish, my pastor is selfish, Billy Graham is selfish, the pope is selfish, Mother Teresa was selfish, the Apostles were selfish, etc., etc.  Looking out for number one, unfortunately, is just part of the human predicament.

How does the problem of selfishness rear its ugly head in me?  Pretty straightforwardly: I get uber-focused on me and my stuff.  I talk about me and my stuff.  I invest my time and energy in me and my stuff.  I try to convince people of the value of me and my stuff.  I seek out input on me and my stuff.  I want validation for me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.

Notice the problem?

When my selfishness is in full bloom, where is my concern for the interests of others (Philippians 2.3-4)?  Where is my self-sacrificial love (1 John 3.16)?  Where is my care for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, etc. (Isaiah 58.9-10)?  Where is my commitment to transformative community (Hebrews 10.24-25)?  Where is my love for God that requires all of who I am (Matthew 22.37)?  And where is my drive and desire to make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20)?

I must surround myself with people who can help me see when I slip further and further into selfishness!  I’m blessed that I live with one such person but I’ve had and now have many others in my life too.

Here’s a twofold challenge: 1) Find someone to help you see when your priorities get a bit out of whack; and 2) Be the same for someone else!