Category: Communication

Desire to Serve

A healthy family has an attitude of service to each other and to the world outside the family. Read the biographies of men and women who have lived lives of sacrificial service and you will find that most of them grew up in families that nurtured the idea of service as virtuous. In every vocation, those who truly excel are those who have a genuine desire to serve others.

The most notable physicians view their vocation as a calling to serve the sick and diseased. Truly great politicians see themselves as ‘public servants’. The greatest educators gain their rewards from seeing students reach their potential. Let’s pray today that God will give us the attitude of Christ who said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.”

Virtues of Work

In Bill Bennett’s book, The Book of Virtues, he lists work as one of the top ten virtues. Most historians agree that Western culture was built on the work ethic. In the family, much work needs to be done. The question is who will do the work and with what attitude? In a healthy family work is seen as an act of love, as something noble and godly.

How do you build this attitude into the hearts of your children? First, by your model. When you say to a child, “I just love making breakfast for you,” you are demonstrating an attitude of service. Second, by celebrating the service that is already being done. Around the table, Johnny says, “one way in which Dad served me today is…” And every one says, “Yeah, Dad.”

What Can I Do To Help?

It is hard to reject sincere acts of service. A young husband once told me that for the first month after the wedding, his wife served him breakfast in bed. He said, “It took me a month to get up the courage to tell her that I don’t eat breakfast.” I did a little research some time ago and found out that not a single wife has ever murdered her husband while he was washing dishes.

What is your attitude toward your spouse?  In the early years of my marriage, I made demands of my wife and gave her harsh words when she did not respond. Later I learned that Jesus had a better plan. He said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” When I learned to ask: What can I do to help you? The whole atmosphere of my marriage changed.

Attitude of Service

Slavery is at the heart of dysfunctional families. Service is at the heart of healthy families. Slavery creates anger, bitterness, and resentment. Service stimulates love, and encouragement. Service is freely given, not out of fear, but out of choice. It comes out of the personal discovery that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

In my book, The Family You’ve Always Wanted, I list “an attitude of service” as one of the five fundamentals of a healthy family. The husband serves the wife. She serves him. Together they serve the children. Later, the children learn to serve the parents and each other. Then, the entire family serves people outside the family. Imagine what would happen if service became a way of life in our families.

Serving Children

Parents serve children in a thousand ways. These ‘acts of service’ may be done out of a sense of duty and even resentment. On the other hand, they may be genuine acts of love. Loving service is an internally motivated desire to give one’s energy to serve others. Loving service is a gift, not a necessity, and is done freely, not under coercion.

When parents serve their children with a spirit of resentment and bitterness, a child’s physical needs may be met, but his emotional development will be greatly hampered. Because service is so daily, even the best parents need to stop for an attitude check now and then, to be sure that their acts of service are communicating love.

The Two Greatest Commands

Jesus said that the two greatest commands are to love God and love your neighbor. During this week when our society is thinking about Valentine’s Day, what a wonderful time to focus on loving God and your family (who are your closest neighbors). Each day  ask yourself: What can I do today that will express my love to God?

Then, ask the same question about your family. For your wife, you might volunteer to wash the dishes. For your daughter you might purchase a valentines card. For your son you might invest an hour in playing with him. Do something each day this week to express your love to God and your family. This is the Christian lifestyle: Love as a Way of Life.

Try Writing

If you find it difficult to share your feelings with your spouse, try writing your thoughts and feelings in a letter to your spouse. Many times it is easier to write than it is to speak. When you become comfortable writing the letters and your spouse responds with comfort and encouragement, you will eventually learn to verbalize your feelings.

Writing can be a big step in the process of learning how to communicate openly about your ‘inner self’. After writing a few letters, you might try reading the letter to your spouse. Step by step you can learn to share your thoughts and feelings. A listening ear on the part of your spouse often provides the encouragement to continue to communicate.

Are Negative Emotions Sinful?

The non-communicating spouse is not always the husband. I remember the husband who said to me, “My wife keeps everything inside.  She simply shuts down, especially when she is hurt or angry.” Later in the counseling office, his wife said, “I wish I didn’t get angry, and depressed. I hate myself when I feel that way.”

I discovered that this wife had been taught as a child that Christians don’t get angry or depressed. When I told her that Jesus experienced both anger and depression she was shocked. Negative emotions are not sinful. The fastest way to process these feelings is to talk about them. When we talk about them, they tend to go away. When we hold them inside, they tend to stay.

Don't Repeat Childhood Mistakes

Patterns learned in childhood are often hard to break when we become adults. One wife shared with me that her husband had gone silent after she told him that she wanted to go to the beach with some of the ladies who worked with her. We later learned that this was a pattern he had developed as a child. When he went silent, his parents would become concerned and usually give in to his desires.

Now, he was using the same technique to control his wife’s behavior. In my book, Desperate Marriages, I talk about the necessity of discovering these childhood patterns and changing them. It’s not easy. It requires loving confrontation, but the results are well worth the effort. Repeating the mistakes of childhood is not the road to a growing marriage.

Don’t Repeat Childhood Mistakes

Patterns learned in childhood are often hard to break when we become adults. One wife shared with me that her husband had gone silent after she told him that she wanted to go to the beach with some of the ladies who worked with her. We later learned that this was a pattern he had developed as a child. When he went silent, his parents would become concerned and usually give in to his desires.

Now, he was using the same technique to control his wife’s behavior. In my book, Desperate Marriages, I talk about the necessity of discovering these childhood patterns and changing them. It’s not easy. It requires loving confrontation, but the results are well worth the effort. Repeating the mistakes of childhood is not the road to a growing marriage.

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