Turning A Sow’s Ear Into A Silk Purse

Building Self-Esteem

That diamond on your finger sure sparkles. Its perfect cuts and facets catch the light and draw the eye. Usually, a girl is quite proud of her diamond. She doesn’t mind if you notice (and praise) the precious stone on her ring finger. Most guys are quite proud of themselves for picking out that perfect stone and dropping the cash necessary to obtain both the stone and the lady.image

Your spouse has facets too. Lots of sides. Lots of strengths. And, probably, lots of weaknesses. God has given you the distinct privilege of being your spouse’s sunbeam. You get to choose what you’ll highlight. You can cast the light on your spouse’s best qualities or on their worst. It’s completely up to you where you decide to focus. And that decision will be one that will shape the rest of your lives together.

Self-esteem has been a key issue of development for Ron and I. In the beginning of our marriage, I was never wrong. Never. I didn’t have the self-esteem to be wrong and, quite honestly, none of the Cusatos have an easy time of admitting when they’re wrong. This was catastrophic in our early years.

Ron is one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. He is smart and talented and handsome and kind and wise and funny, but he doesn’t need you to know any of that about him. He doesn’t need anyone to like him. It’s ridiculously healthy of him. Even with a “people pleaser” personality, he knows how to prioritize when it’s important to “people please.” The result of his healthy self-esteem? He’s nice to fight with. He has no problem saying, “I’m wrong and I’m sorry.” (Usually quoting Dirty Dancing, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”)

Most of us aren’t so healthy. I know I’m not. I genuinely need people to like me. I fight my ego on a daily basis. I want people to think I’m talented. I want people to think I’m wise. It’s my worst, absolute worst, quality. My most un-Christlike feature. It has led to most of my screw ups and downfalls. I am daily working out the verse,

“Humble thyself in the sight of The Lord and He will lift you up.”

As I laud Ron to you, let me tell you that he does a bunch of things that can drive me freakin crazy. He doesn’t always do what I think a “godly” man should do. He’s his own man; and, sometimes he’s a stinker. When he does something that particularly irritates me, I have the same two options you have. I can get quiet, distant and pouty OR I can practice God’s truth and:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Do you want the God of peace to be with your marriage? This verse in Philippians chapter 4 tells you exactly how to procure that Presence. By super gluing your thoughts to only true, pure, lovely, honorable things.

Here’s what it looks like. Your spouse sleeps in on Sunday morning, leaving you to go to church by yourself which drives you nuts because he isn’t sick and it isn’t a great example to the kids and you feel a little embarrassed walking in by yourself.. again… and doesn’t he want to prioritize Jesus like you do??? (Pick your own irritating scenario – as obviously I have a particular one of my own in mind)
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Now, instead of withholding your affection and smiles from him when you get home, you get off your high horse and remember that you’re no prize pig yourself. You screw things up all the time, too. Your Christianity still leaves A LOT to be desired. You hug that dude (or lady) and you tell him (or her) that he’s the only one in the world for you. You remind him that he’s an amazing dad. That you couldn’t do life without him. That no one else gets you like he does. You build his self-esteem rather than tear it down. When your humanity wants to wring your spouses neck, you think about the things your spouse is awesome at and then you smile at him/her. A genuine, gracious smile of appreciation.

This discipline, like all disciplines, takes a little time to produce results. You can’t start out with one perfect diet day and expect to weigh 20 pounds less by the end of the evening. Diets take long successions of perfect days. (Ok, mostly perfect days.) You will slip up occasionally, but if most of what you say to your spouse for a month, two months, three months is encouraging, kind, and appreciative then something radical is going to happen.

I wanted to clam up and be cold today. I wanted to let Ron know how hard it is for me to respect him when he chooses sleep over Church. Oh how I wanted to! But after long years of learning how to succeed on this “diet”, I told him I loved him. He laid his head down on my lap and apologized. He said, “I need to fix this. I want church to be a priority.” I said, “You’re a great man of God and good at a bazillion things.” Even though I wanted to be disrespectful, I said, “Even if you never do any better at this, I will always be madly in love with you.”

I’m being real with you folks. This really happened to us today. I know you have different problems and different annoyances. I know you might think that sleeping in when your wife begs you to come to church with her sounds like a tiny problem. And I know it isn’t a big one. But, wouldn’t you agree, most of the things about your spouse that drive you crazy could probably be swept under the rug by your love?

1 Peter 4:8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

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Isn’t this what we loved about dating? What we feel cheated out of when marriage gets real? When you were dating, you said the nicest things to each other. You stared googly-eyed through rose colored goggles, seeing each other’s finest qualities and kindly overlooking any faults. I say, put the dang goggles back on! I’m not asking you to be out of touch with reality. I’m just saying, you knew he had faults when you were dating, but you chose not to focus on them. Make that choice again because it is absolutely necessary for mutual adoration.

Check out what Paul teaches in Philippians Chapter 2:

Have the Attitude of Christ

2 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Shine Brightly for Christ
12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

The God of Peace is offering Himself to His children. If we will obey Him, (humbling ourselves when it’s hard, thinking the best of our spouse when it’s hard, loving lavishly without complaining or arguing) He will show up and show out.

Ron and I are almost at 15 years of being conjoined. In the beginning, any and every irritation found us picking and nagging and “instructing” each other. As a result, we didn’t feel very lovely in each other’s eyes. We had very little self-esteem with each other. Therefore, we defended ourselves instead of apologizing. We built walls to protect ourselves from each other’s constant reminders of how we were failing. It was dog eat dog.

Since hitting rock bottom and revising our relationship, we’ve spent many years telling each other how AMAZING the other is. There is no one in the world who loves me as much as Ron does. There is no one who admires me more. He has built in me a phenomenal sense of safety and downright fantastic-ness.

Now, when I do something wrong, I feel safe enough to admit to it.

I feel safe enough to humble myself. (if Jesus can do it even though he was perfect, shouldn’t I?) And that humility has torn down the walls of solitude that we built in the early years. I trust Ron with my failures, because no one in the world thinks more highly of me. I’m safe to be human with him and he’s safe to be human with me.

This is why building your spouse’s self-esteem is the most important thing you can do for him or her and for you. If they feel admired and adored by you, fights will become a thing of the past. Who can fight with someone who never picks on them and constantly builds them up? If that person—who is constantly building you up and making you feel like the most incredible human being alive—has a little problem with you, you are quick to want to fix it. After all, you’d never want to lose their devotion when it’s the best part of your whole day.

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