May 3, 2017
Musings on Relationships (Series)
(Here is an archive of posts that I promised to make, regarding some musings on relationships, and the principles that guide them.)
[Today is April 19; important day in the life of Uncle Brent. 🙂 I reflect on concepts regarding relationships, and will share some of these with you today.]
Choosing to live a life of integrity is challenging, yet very rewarding… but don’t imperil yourself by uniting with someone who has no regard for integrity. Treasure it, and don’t trade on it.
Choosing to start a family is a serious decision; the nurturing of family will test everything that you’re made of. It is a blessing to bring children into the world… but great responsibilities are assigned to you. Be sure that you know what will be required of you before you make this step.
Some time in the future, the question will be asked, “Who is the father/mother of these children?”
Determine to answer this question with your head held high.
If you’re content when you’re single,
you’ll be content when you’re married.
(“Vows” – an analogy using mangoes)
I’m fairly convinced that if persons understood what a “vow” really means, they would be less hasty to make vows (without proper preparation). Here’s an example of how a vow works:
Let’s say it’s mango season right now (my favourite!), and I make a vow to give you a bag of 10 mangoes every day, for one year. I start earnestly, because mangoes are abundant.
But… mango seasons only last about 3-4 months. What happens when mangoes become scarce, and then go out of season? Well, because of my vow, I have to get mangoes by some other means – importing them, if needs be.
Vows are dependent on you keeping your word… not on external circumstances. You don’t get to say: “Well, I didn’t see that coming…” No – you don’t make vows then retract them (Ecclesiastes 5:1-6): this is a display of poor character, among other things. If you’re going to make a vow (marital or otherwise), be sure that you have what it takes to see it through (i.e. sound character).
In most broken relationships, there are multiple incidences of persons not keeping their word: blaming circumstances, others… everything but oneself.
If you really want a successful marital relationship, find someone who will keep his/her vows – without external prompting… and be a partner who does the same.
Character (really does) Matter.
I see a very interesting trend nowadays: rich weddings and poor marriages.
Let’s see what the inverse of that will look like…
If you think loneliness in singleness is bad,
wait till you experience loneliness in a relationship/marriage.
Godliness + contentment = Great Gain (1 Timothy 6:6).
(Hint: Stop complaining.)
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Take the time to be prepared for married life, understand yourself and sort through your issues, become more mature and less dependent on others for happiness, get better skills in identifying worthwhile qualities of a good spouse. You have a shorter time in married life, but a richer one.
Follow the crowd (or your feelings): get married as soon as you can, have children – then realise that you’re ill-equipped to deal with the immense challenges. Also realise that learning to treat with these challenges is tougher in marriage, than out of it. Learn two hard truths about life: Money can’t fix the problems, and ‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. The honeymoon is the best part.
Most people give to receive;
few people receive to give.
Which type do you think will make the better marriage partner?
When the word “marriage” is mentioned, some think dreamily of a state where all problems are solved, everything falls into place, and their dreams all come true.
(“Get wisdom… get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7)
What you put into a marriage
is what you’ll get out of it.
”Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
— Matthew 7:16
You can’t make a mango smoothie without mangoes;
likewise, you can’t make a marriage without maturity.
As with any other recipe, what makes or breaks it is the ingredients.
Character issues that are avoided when single
will be found again in marriage – with interest.
Your integrity, reliability, patience and self-control can never compensate for another’s instability, broken promises, impudence and lack of self-control.
If you put a charged battery in a dead device, why would you expect it to work?
“Make no friendship with an angry man,
And with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
And set a snare for your soul.”
— Proverbs 22:24, 25
Quite straightforward… but some believe that making him a pastor or leader is better. I’ll let you see for yourself…
You cannot love someone that you cannot trust.
You cannot trust someone who you do not know.
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.”
— Proverbs 31:11, 12
Trust. No relationship can survive without it.
Relationships that are rushed are often headed off a precipice.
Enforce boundaries that ‘even Stevie Wonder could see’.
Building a relationship with a narcissist is like throwing buckets of ripe Julie mangoes into the sea. Why would you do that?
(You really ought to know what a narcissist is.)
(Excellent resource: https://www.drgeorgesimon.com)
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
— 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 11
Don’t miss it: Marriage is not for children.
Cosmetics never really solve problems;
only the perspective of them changes (temporarily).
(Fix problems at their root.)
A person who hides his/her past
is not someone with whom you can have a future.
“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.””
— 1 Corinthians 15:33
Some think that the more marriages you enter, the better you get at it.
No; you get better at something you devote your time and energies to.
[Integrity and Loyalty] Matters.
“He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace;
When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”
— Proverbs 17:27, 28
Relationships can be mended with less talk, and more reflective thinking.
“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”
“What is desired in a man is kindness,
And a poor man is better than a liar.”
— Proverbs 19:1, 22
[Integrity and Kindness] Matters.
Better to walk away from a problem
than to get married to it.
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:
but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
— Proverbs 22:3
If you want wisdom (in relationships, or in general),
spend time in the book of Proverbs.
“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!
and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!”
— Proverbs 16:16
“He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul:
he that keepeth understanding shall find good.”
— Proverbs 19:8
– drain your energy
– draw your life force
– drive you to insanity…
…never start that way. We are drawn into these relationships by (insincere) smiles, (seemingly) kind words, and (baseless) promises.
How to discern?
“Get wisdom… get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7
If you attract lust, you won’t get love.
If you are attracted by lust, you won’t get love either.
As you can see even from the letters of the words ‘love’ and ‘lust’, the only similarity is in the beginning.
(Hope this helps.)
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.”
— Proverbs 25:28
A city without walls can’t protect anyone.
Marriage partners, like Julie mangoes, are best selected when they are mature.
Trust me. 🙂
“Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity,
than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”
— Proverbs 19:1
“My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.”
— Job 33:3
“Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.”
— Proverbs 25:21
“Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness,
than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.”
— Proverbs 28:6
If two ships meet on the sea, the only way they will continue together (without shipwreck) is if they travel side-by-side.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
— Amos 3:3
When selecting a camping partner, you’d go for someone who
– is proactive in preparation
– is alert on the trail
– has self-control, especially in times of danger
– shares his/her supplies, experience and wisdom
– is courageous
– has experience
– thinks/plans ahead
Why would the selection of a marriage partner (for a lifelong journey) require less consideration?
Long-distance runners don’t look like, train or perform like short-distance runners.
Long-distance marriage partners…
Many are quick to offer advice regarding marital partners, but few are willing to return afterwards and say: “I was wrong”.
Don’t endanger your life by taking foolish advice. Guard your ears.
Don’t volunteer your future
with someone who won’t volunteer his/her past.
Have we learned nothing from the Garden of Eden?
Being abused, belittled, cheated on, defrauded, evaded, forgotten, guilt-tripped, harassed, injured, jostled, kicked-when-down, lied to, manipulated (etc)… none of these behaviours are normal in relationships, nor are they acceptable.
Never blame yourself for someone else’s manifestations of these behaviours. Draw your boundaries, and enforce them; do not accept these behaviours. Rather, get a better understanding of what’s happening: narcissism, a sense of entitlement, aggression, or character disturbance/deficiency (see https://www.drgeorgesimon.com).
The offending party must do the work necessary to address their flaws. Being a pushover does not help such a person in the least.
Here are some often-used covers for deceit:
– Smiles 🙂
– Agreeing with you all the time
– Flattery (“You’re so good at what you do!”)
– False Charm
– Gifts (with hidden strings attached)
It’s not that good people don’t smile, agree with you and give gifts (without strings!); but one must understand that deceit is covered quite well by these.
How to tell the difference?
[Continue to] “Get wisdom… get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
(i.e. Spend time in the book of Proverbs.)
“The home that is beautified by love, sympathy, and tenderness is a place that angels love to visit, and where God is glorified. The influence of a carefully guarded Christian home in the years of childhood and youth is the surest safeguard against the corruptions of the world. In the atmosphere of such a home the children will learn to love both their earthly parents and their heavenly Father.”
— Ellen White, “The Adventist Home”, page 19.
“Fashion is led by the vain, and followed by the silly; but is little regarded by the wise.”
— George Dillwyn, “Reflections, offered principally for the use of schools” (1815), page 35.
* * *
“Get wisdom… get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
Many persons commit themselves in marriage based on ‘promises’ (of another) to do certain things.
(May I suggest:) Find clear, irrefutable demonstrations of a person’s ability to keep his/her promises, first.
[Keeping promises] Matters.
“Character building is the most important work ever entrusted to human beings, and never before was its diligent study so important as now. Never was any previous generation called to meet issues so momentous; never before were young men and young women confronted by perils so great as confront them today.”
— Ellen White, “Child Guidance”, page 169, paragraph 2.
“Here is your work, parents, to develop the characters of your children in harmony with the precepts of the Word of God. This work should come first, for eternal interests are here involved. The character building of your children is of more importance than the cultivation of your farms, more essential than the building of houses to live in, or of prosecuting any manner of business or trade.”
— Ellen White, “Child Guidance”, page 169, paragraph 3.
“Parents, for Christ’s sake do not blunder in your most important work, that of molding the characters of your children for time and for eternity. An error on your part in neglect of faithful instruction, or in the indulgence of that unwise affection which blinds your eyes to their defects and prevents you from giving them proper restraint, will prove their ruin. Your course may give a wrong direction to all their future career. You determine for them what they will be and what they will do for Christ, for men, and for their own souls.”
— Ellen White, “Child Guidance”, page 170, paragraph 3.
You can lose many benefits of a mango by picking it before it is ripe/mature. If you wait, it will always be worth it.
People are similar…
Older trees have more experience; better for crafting furniture.
Older persons have more experience; better for relationship advice.
“Wisdom is with aged men,
And with length of days, understanding.”
— Job 12:12
“A good character must be built up brick by brick, every day growing in proportion to the effort put forth. Those characteristics which they will take to heaven with them must be obtained by the diligent exercise of their own faculties, by improving every advantage Providence gives them, and by connecting with the Source of all wisdom. Aim for no low standard. Let not your minds be cast in an inferior mold. The characters of Joseph and Daniel are good models for you to follow, but Christ is the perfect pattern.”
— Ellen White, “Testimonies” Volume 5, page 129, paragraph 1.
“It requires nice stepping for those who walk close together, to avoid jostling each other.”
— George Dillwyn, “Reflections, offered principally for the use of schools” (1815), page 34.
* * *
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
“Company which does not help to improve us, will certainly have a contrary effect.”
— George Dillwyn, “Reflections, offered principally for the use of schools” (1815), page 29.
* * *
Choosing your friends (wisely) is an important business…
[Once there is no compromise of principle, this counsel is appropriate:]
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
— Philippians 2:3
“True education does not ignore the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above information it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements, character. The world does not so much need men of great intellect as of noble character. It needs men in whom ability is controlled by steadfast principle.”
— Ellen White, “Education”, page 225, paragraph 1.
If young persons knew how the joy of many modern-day marriages ended at (or soon after) the honeymoon phase, they would rethink their entire strategy.
At the very least, it might result in less expensive weddings; at best, it would result in wiser choices regarding life-long companions.
“Get wisdom… get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7
“It is not uncommon for people to censure others for faults to which they are themselves addicted.”
— George Dillwyn, “Reflections, offered principally for the use of schools” (1815), page 36.
“If we reprove or chastise before we feel a painful regret on account of the necessity for it, the proper season for doing it has not yet arrived.”
— George Dillwyn, “Reflections, offered principally for the use of schools” (1815), page 37.
“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;
and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
— Psalm 34:18
Children should come from marriage,
rather than being in them.
Fast talkers are oftentimes slow learners.
“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin:
but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”
— Proverbs 10:19 (KJV)
“When words are many, sin is not lacking;
so he who controls his speech is wise.”
— Proverbs 10:19 (CJB)
Many desire a great spouse;
start by looking for a good one.
Gentleness is a crucial ingredient of a long-lasting relationship.
Achieving it will require less use of the mouth, and more of the ears.
A relationship without gentleness is like a swimming pool without water.
You can get in, but after a while, you’ll feel as if something is missing.
One chooses the best raw materials and labour for constucting a house;
constructing a home takes even better discernment.
(Hint: Character Matters.)
Singleness is the time to be you.
Marriage is about joining with another to become one (Ephesians 5:31).
Trying to be single when you’re married (or vice versa) is like
one trying to be wise when he is foolish.
Mind games, played on yourself, are dangerous indeed;
but are exponentially worse when you invite others to play.
Don’t chastise, condemn or waste your singleness;
some married persons yearn to have theirs again, that they may use it more wisely.
Experiences with school group projects teach us vital lessons about human nature,
but many cast these aside as unimportant… to their detriment.
As a Julie mango flower is a sign of things to come,
so too habitual lying is a sign of things to come.
(Give me the Julie mango though… 🙂 )
If persons knew how to control themselves,
there would be less desire to control others.
I would ask my young friends (as they consider a marriage partner) to consider a few questions.
- Is this person passionate about his/her individual growth (without prompting from someone else)?
- Can you live with the eccentricities that you now see in your intended, 20 years from now?
- Will any inattentions to detail, careless words/actions, breaking of promises and disregard of truth bode well for your marriage in the future?
- Will this person be a responsible parent to your children?
- What will be left when outward appearances lose their effect (as they surely will)?
- Can this person help you to overcome your faults, and multiply your skills/talents?
- Will this person be a true friend/confidant?
(Answer the tough questions before you make important decisions.)
Confusion of the heart
is often a consequence of
the sidelining of the brain.
Not everyone you meet (of the opposite gender) is a potential mate (or even a potential friend).
Some persons are here to impart wisdom and knowledge, some will give encouragement and a kind word. Some are examples of integrity and sound character; others will exemplify contrary traits; yet others will present case studies for learning the difference between wisdom and foolishness.
All will present an opportunity to learn something… but in choosing a spouse or friend, you must consider much more than the value of temporary acquaintances.
There is little worse than marrying someone for a lifetime who really was only there for an instant.
The true value of a phone shouldn’t be determined by its cost, nor its physical style, nor the amount of included features. It’s true worth should be gauged by the amount of wisdom and knowledge you can get from the person at the other end.
(I came across this kindergarten poem today.)
“A Little Manners Poem”
Wait your turn – don’t interrupt.
If you use it, pick it up.
When you need some help, say “Please.”
Be kind and loving – never tease.
Say “Hi” when meeting someone new,
and be a friend whose words are true.
If you win a game, don’t gloat.
To thank someone, write a note.
Don’t be piggy when you eat.
And clean your space so it looks neat.
These manners are the perfect start
to showing friends you have a heart!
(Character Matters. A lot.)
“The nicest words I know are these:
“Excuse me”, “Thank you”, “If you please”.”
— James W. Foley
“The Teacher” (Poem)
Lord, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day,
So prone myself to go astray?
I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know
How faint they flicker and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.
I teach them POWER to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.
I teach them LOVE for all mankind
And all God’s creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind.
Lord, if their guide I still must be,
Oh let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee.
— Leslie Pinckney Hill
Some gain excitement by considering the future,
but character is gained by considering the past.
Wherever (true) manhood is unwanted,
chaos will ensue.
Acquaintances will tell you what you want to hear;
Friends will tell you what you need to know.
One of most important ingredients you need in an individual with whom you’d like to unite with in marriage: the ability for him/her to keep his/her word.
A person who keeps his/her marital vows and promises (without prompting or coercion) is someone you can safely trust.
Skin colour, eye colour, height, physical strength, intellect, outward beauty… none of these are indexes of a person’s motivation to keep his/her promises. This motivation has little to do with external influences; it is (rather) a personal commitment to live a life of integrity.
(Because it is) Character (that) Matters.
Marriage has a higher calling than a casual friendship, a business relationship or familial relationships.
A person’s preparation for marriage is directly proportional to his/her understanding of this.
Fake ‘unity’ is actually worse
than no unity.
Love, based on feelings,
will be just as temporary.
(But) Character Matters.
True marriage begins
with true friendship…
which begins with being true to yourself.
A maturity of the mouth often indicates a maturity of the mind.
“A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.”
— Proverbs 29:11 (NKJV)
Sometimes the persons who have integrity, who will be committed in marriage, who will be a life-long blessing to his/her spouse… aren’t considered attractive from a worldly point-of-view.
I think that’s a blessing, in disguise.
Character (is what) Matters.
An honest smile
from a pure heart
is one of the most beautiful things in this world.
Persons considering marriage
can be taken more seriously
when the discussion shifts
from what they can get from marriage,
to what they can give to it.
Love your wife, as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25)
Don’t compare with other wives – they’re not your concern.
Don’t blame circumstances (that’s a habit to unlearn);
Integrity, steadfastness, and keeping your word,
Are just some of the keys that will take you forward.
Would you like to know a practical treatment for many mental problems – e.g. anxiety, depression, pride, narcissism? Something that you can see results with from the very start?
Be thankful/grateful for the things you have been given in life, and show your appreciation tangibly by returning the favour, or giving to someone in need.
Cultivate a habit of gratitude, and many mental disorders will begin to recede. Replace complaining and self-seeking with deeds of kindness to others. Do this for seven days, and let me know how it goes.
Character Matters (more than you’d believe).
Consistently being on time is the product of proper planning, personal discipline, and a respect for other people’s time.
Making a habit of being late demonstrates none of these things and is often a sign of patchy priorities and selfishness. Habitual lateness says, “My time is more valuable than yours.”
Learn to be reliable and a person of integrity by adopting the discipline necessary to be on time.
The “10 Commandments” of good character development
- You are not the center of the universe. Be mindful of how you, your urges and desires, and most especially your behavior impact everyone and everything else that exists.
- You are neither an insignificant speck nor are you so precious or essential to the universe that it simply cannot do without you. Keep a balanced perspective on your sense of worth.
- Strive to earn respect and show gratitude. Always remember, you are not really entitled to anything.
- Have the utmost reverence for the truth. Be ever mindful of humankind’s incredible capacity to deceive, including oneself. Honestly and humbly acknowledge and reckon with your mistakes.
- Master your appetites and aversions.
- Think before you act. Be the master of your impulses.
- Strive to develop solidity, strength, and rightness of purpose, with regard to your will.
- Anger and aggressive behavior are not inherently evil. But fight only when necessary and fight fairly. Above all, fight constructively and with as much care as possible to make things better while respecting the rights, needs, and boundaries of self and others.
- Treat those you encounter with civility and generosity.
- To the best of your ability, be of sincere heart and purpose.
— Dr. George Simon
When a person presents the “Because I’m [bigger/taller/stronger/more powerful] than you” card in an argument, not only has he lost the argument, but he has also presented an important index of his character.
The tactic of intimidation is preceded by a loss of self-control.
(Character Matters. Know and counter the tactics of manipulation.)
“Strong feelings do not necessarily make a strong character. The strength of a man is measured by the power of the feelings he subdues, not by the power of those which subdue him.”
— William Carleton
(Don’t mistake strong feelings for strong character.)
“James Froude proclaimed: “You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself into one.” Developing sound character takes work — a lot of work. And as difficult as it is, instilling controls upon one’s baser instincts is the easier part of it, for with determined practice, one can develop virtues.”
— Dr. George Simon, PhD
(Let’s get to work. Character Matters.)
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
— Helen Keller
(It’s worth it. Character Matters.)
When a person stops complaining about others,
He/she is ready to take on the journey of building character.
Energy spent complaining can be better used in assertively establishing and enforcing the boundaries for your relationships.
Character is formed, not by changing others, but by changing yourself.
“Character – from A to Z”
A – Authentic, Accountable, Assertive, Attentive
B – Balanced, Brave
C – Compassionate, Courageous, Conscientiousness, Caring, Content
D – Decency, Determination, Dependable, Diligent, Disciplined
E – Empathetic, Efficient, Encouraging, Energetic
F – Faithful, Fair, Forgiving; Fortitude
G – Generous, Gracious, Grateful, Good
H – Honest, Humble, Helpful
I – Integrity, Incorruptibility
J – Just, Joyful, Judicious
K – Kind, Knowledgeable
L – Loyal, Loving
M – Modest, Mature, Mindful
N – Noble, Nurturing
O – Obedient, Organized, Orderly, Observant
P – Polite, Persevering, Patient, Punctual; Purity
Q – Questioning, Quick
R – Respectful, Responsible, Resilient, Righteous, Reliable, Resourceful
S – Sincere, Strong, Self-controlled, Self-disciplined
T – Trustworthy, Thorough
U – Upright, Understanding, Unselfish
V – Virtuous, Versatile
W – Wise, Willing, Wary
X – Xenodochial*
Y – Youthful, Yearning
Z – Zealous
(* ‘Xenodochial’ means ‘friendly to strangers’.)