Brides and grooms promise to love each other when they marry. They want love but struggle defining it in day-to-day, usable terms.
Both theologians and secular scholars generally agree that the Apostle Paul's description of love is the best ever penned. Whether couples find the Bible inspiring or irrelevant, by applying the elements of love that Paul identifies they will add joy and vibrancy to their marriage.
Paul wrote: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New International Version)
“Love is patient, love is kind” describes love's fundamental nature. Patience and kindness are similar, but opposite. Patience holds back anger even when anger is deserved. Kindness gives even when it's not deserved, when you don't feel like giving. Kindness shows up in small ways: giving your spouse a hug, a compliment, a helping hand or a word of encouragement.
Both patience and kindness make our marriage and our spouse our priority.
Paul lists examples of what patience “is not”:
•Patience is not envious, boastful or proud, because these attitudes focus on only me. I envy what I don't have. I boast about what I do have. I'm proud about what I can do. There's no room for my marriage or my spouse in any of the three.
•Patience is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. Your spouse is moving, but, oh, so slowly. He's doing something, but not the way he's “supposed” to. She has an irritating habit that she just won't stop. Do you respond with a scowl of disapproval, sarcastically pointing out how you're “trying to be patient?” Do you simply blow up in anger? These are not patience and are not love.
•Since patience “is not self-seeking” it also means you cannot insist that your spouse be patient. Demanding patience from someone shows impatience on your part.
•Love “keeps no record of wrongs.” Do you have a mental list of all the times you've been patient with your spouse? It's your stored ammunition in case you ever have to remind them of how patient you've been. Keeping the record is not love.
This does not imply that you should encourage destructive behavior by being “tolerant.” Paul explains: “Love does not delight in evil.” We shouldn't condone inherently harmful conduct, including physical violence or substance abuse.
Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. Loving your spouse means looking out for them, putting the best spin on what they do and say, hoping for the best for them and sticking with them.
So love your spouse, show patience and kindness. Your marriage, your spouse and you will all be better off.
©2014, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan's website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.