"Thank you for your lesson, but you're 11 years too late."
These were the words of a lady whose husband had passed away 11 years ago. In a ladies' conference workshop for wives, I warned about being the kind of woman that no one would want to live with. She confessed that she was that woman.
Are you headed down the same road?
We only have this moment. We don't have forever to get things right. So ask yourself: How am I treating the ones that God has placed in my life? Would they say that they enjoy living with me? Am I a blessing?
Here are a few examples of things that can keep us from being what God wants us to be in our relationships:
1. Thinking that we're better than others.
The term "entitled" is being tossed around a lot today, but often it is being employed by those who accuse others of this flaw. When we feel that we have a "right" to be held in high esteem by others, we are suffering from a superiority complex. We are not better than anyone. This kind of thinking leads to enormous amounts of discord. People on pedestals fall harder. It's better to keep ourselves and our thinking closer to the ground level of humility. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." (Phil. 2:3)
2. One-sided thinking.
When we fail or refuse to consider the side of the other person, we will repeatedly cause strife as we pull for having things "our way." "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:4) This kind of behavior often stems from a person who just won't stop talking. How can we hear what others have to say if we won't be quiet long enough for them to finish a thought? The best way understand someone is to listen to them. Really listen, without thinking about what you're going to say next.
There are several verses in Proverbs about the "contentious woman," but there is a verse for the contentious man as well: "As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife." (Prov. 26:21) Both men and women have the ability to be contentious. All that's needed is fuel for the fire in the form of angry words. In every disagreement, there is an undertow of competition to win the point. What if we gave up our selfish desire to be the winner and instead considered how we could come to a good resolution of the conflict? Power struggles end when we stop tugging on our end of the rope.
It will be a while before I'll forget that sad look on the woman's face as she uttered the words, "You're 11 years too late." I asked her if she had any adult children, and she said, "Yes, and they're all married."
"All right," I replied. "You have a teaching opportunity. Tell your children that you now understand that you were wrong, and that they don't have to copy you. The rest is between them, their spouses, and the Lord."
She agreed, but there was still a sadness behind her eyes as she looked at me one more time before walking away. Regret makes a cloudy countenance. Don't wait until someone is gone from this side of Heaven to demonstrate your love. And if you've been locked in a running battle with anyone in your life, stop it now, while you may.
When a person passes away, it's too late to say, "I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)