We all know the golden rule, “treat others as you want to be treated.” Other variations put it this way, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We are taught from toddlerhood to be sympathetic and take the needs of others into account before we act.
But then, as I watch tv and read conversations on blogs and facebook, I am shocked at how much the saying “take care of #1” is pulling more weight in the moral tug-of-war than “love thy neighbor” is.
How do you take care of your own needs while also loving others better than yourself?
I am reminded continuously of a scene on Oprah. One of the many reasons I don’t watch that show anymore. She had various couples in different stages of their marraige to share their struggles and their accomplishments. One couple was in their 60s, married for around 40 some years. She asked them what the secret is and he answered with his eyes sparkling, “I love her better than I love myself. I wake up every morning and die to my own selfish desires and put her first.”
That had me in tears! I was so moved by his pure love for his wife.
It had Oprah making snide remarks the rest of the show. “Well of course your marraige survived. You die every day!”
What is so wrong with putting your spouse’s needs above your own? In a non-abusive relationship this will most of the time reap amazing rewards. Every marraige will have cliffs to climb, but being selfish and demanding your way will only create even more obstacles.
Me and my family are not perfect. We have seen the mess it makes when we put ourselves first. I have had super difficult days with the children and begged for him to leave work early. He has the world on his shoulders and can’t possibly do this. When I guilt him and get angry with him I put even more stress on his already overloaded heart and create more tension than was there in the first place. If he snaps at me and calls me insensitive for even asking him to leave early he constructs an emotional wall between us that will take double the effort to knock down.
But if even one of us reacts with a selfless attitude – let’s say me. If I call him and say, “I am exhausted, they won’t stop screaming. The house is disgusting. I know you have work to do just let me talk and I will let you go.” Then he listens and says that he wishes he could come home and but he can’t but he will try hard as he can to be home as early as possible. While not fixing anything it sure as heck is easier to overcome exhaustion and stress than exhaustion/stress/anger/resentment rolled into one!
That is a fun challenge now that I think of it. Consider it a sociological experiment of sorts. Put your needs 2nd to the needs of others and see what happens. I’d love to hear stories of selflessness triumphing. I know it doesn’t always win or bring wonderful results but when it does, those times are so amazing, your life blesses others who bless others. Let’s try to make the road smoother for others before we create more potholes.