A friend who could not be at my wedding sent a truly insightful and simple marriage greeting to my wife and I… he said, quite simply, in his card to us “Be kind to each other”.
Trusting his wisdom and accustomed to his economy with words, I have never forgotten perhaps the simplest marriage advice I have ever received. And, yet, I would also have to say, the most profound.
I love my wife, deeply. She loves me too. But we have our moments, when things are, shall we say, not quite as simple. It would seem that we occasionally become focused on what we each need for ourselves, and how we each see the world according to our own needs. Those times very quickly become, shall we say, challenging.
And then what we value most comes out.
If we value being right, then what comes out is a sincere and focused effort to win. To be the victor. To be heard, and to be understood. To get things decided in our favour, and to do things our way.
We are, of course, right. And so our way is definitely the most reasonable option. Its just that they are so concerned with saying their stuff, and not actually taking the time to listen, that they don’t realize they are wrong! And sometimes they even keep on speaking when we interrupt them with a better perspective on the situation!
If we value the relationship, and the other person, then what comes out is a little bit different. Maybe they tone down their responses and try to de-escalate the rising frustration they can see in us. Maybe they stop speaking and listen? They might even listen positively, and say to us, when they are finished speaking, ”So what I hear you saying is …..? Is that a good summary?” They might even apologise for their part in the misunderstanding and agree that we had a good point.
They might be 100% right, and we may be raging internally about something that temporarily affects our ability to acknowledge that. How we approach these times is dependent on whether we are committed to kindness, or to correctness… Imagine if we both got it right?
Correctness is important, sometimes. It can be important in building a house, or driving a car. It can be invaluable in mixing medicines or performing surgery. It is also pretty useful in flying planes and say, shooting guns. But in a marriage? Not so much.
Kindness is not condescension. It is not compromise. It is not pandering, and it is not fear.
I saw a vet once holding a small dog with a broken leg. A sudden movement hurt the dog immensely and it lashed out, biting the vet. She did not budge. Kindness is the gentle hand holding the wounded animal – the one that bites out of fear or frustration, out of a response to pain, but the bitten hand is steady, at whatever cost to itself… bringing peace to an agonised heart.
It is a strong, gentle response that lay aside the need to be right, in favour of the choice to remain one with the person we chose to be one with. Kindness creates a safe place, where a person can be shown a love they do not always deserve. Love when it is most needed. Shown to a person who may not want it, by a person who also desperately needs it to be shown to them. It’s not a tit-for-tat. It’s not a wait-and-see. It’s a gift, a preemptive strike by a bold and hopeful heart. A prayer for peace and unity.
It is, in fact, love in action.