I Peter 3:8 exhorts couples to be compassionate and sympathetic. Compassion and sympathy go hand in hand. How difficult it is for most of us to express sincere compassion or sympathy, even with our spouses. We usually focus so intently on our own needs, desires and schedules for the day that we often remain unaware of any problems our spouse may face.
At one point, when my children and I were living with my mother for a few months while Rick was off at F-15 training, I had a routine visit with our family doctor I had known all my life. I had voiced some concerns with him about my stepfather. He told me that we should not judge someone until we have walked in their shoes. At the time, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Over the years, though, that statement has stayed with me and helped me to understand the behavior of others.
It is important that we apply that attitude towards our spouse. Yes, we all need to “get over” the terrible cards our past may have dealt us, but they have deeply formed our personalities and methods of thinking. It takes time. We seem to be the least patient with our spouses and families when it comes to dealing with issues of their past, or dealing with any problems for that matter.
Our spouses and families are the ones we should be the most patient with. Yet, we quickly offer compassion to a complete stranger in one moment, while reprimanding a family member the next for a harmless word or action that sends us through the roof. I suppose our truest, intimate behavior is saved for those we love the most, even when it is negative behavior. We feel safe and comfortable enough to be our complete selves. Even so, we need to work on expressing less and less negative behavior towards our spouses and family.
Verse eight also says, we should “Love as brothers.” Most of us would never divorce our children, or parents, or brothers and sisters. Of course, there are exceptions here, but for the most part, we stick with our families through thick and thin.
Why do people not apply that attitude to their spouse? These days, many are quick to toss aside one marriage relationship for the next. Imagine if we didn’t like the behavior of our child one day and decided to divorce them, give them away to another family. We could shop around for another child, but what happens when they didn’t live up to our expectations? Imagine the irreparable damage that would cause.
Your relationship to your spouse should be viewed on the same unconditional level as that of your children. Yes, there will be many times where you don’t think you can do it, even with your own children. However, you continue and soon realize the benefits of building relationships and working through the tough times. They make your relationships better and stronger.