What a Large Blemish You Have
On a recent date with my wife, I asked her, “Knowing what you know after being married for 14 years, what’s one lesson you’ve learned that would be good advice for singles who hope to marry?”

On a recent date with my wife, I asked her, “Knowing what you know after being married for 14 years, what’s one lesson you’ve learned that would be good advice for singles who hope to marry?”

After a moment’s reflection, she uttered three profound words that I must share with you. The more I thought about it, the more they resonated with me.

Her advice: Don’t be offended.

She explained how, over the years, she has learned what an important key this is to a successful relationship: not to allow little things to get her hackles up.

When her spouse (whoever he is, the jerk) does things that would tend to get under her skin, she reminds herself that he is in all probability not actually doing that specifically, intentionally, to make her life miserable. Deep down he wants to be kind and considerate. (I think this is probably true—I’ve met the guy.) So, she sets her mind on that. She looks on his heart and lets the offense waft away and pop like an insignificant little soap bubble.

Let me say, emphatically: This is first-class advice for all of us. But I do think it is especially relevant and helpful for you singles.

Does it come as a revelation to you that wives—and husbands too, I hasten to add—have to put up with nonsense of some variety from their mate from time to time? I’m sure you would say no, that doesn’t surprise you at all.

But I’m not so convinced you actually believe it.

Being overly sensitive and taking offense is all too easy. We feel entitled to certain treatment. We uphold certain expectations about the way others should look, act and speak. We can be judgmental. We can fixate on others’ mistakes and flaws.

It’s human, isn’t it? Someone might have a lovely face, but all we can see is the big wart on the end of the nose.

It is human. But remember: God is trying to shape us into something more than merely human.

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a glorious, under-the-microscope view of God’s magnificent love. These are the qualities that make God’s Family so harmonious and functional and joyous and wonderful. The attributes of God that we need to develop if we want to be part of that eternal Family.

Related stories:

What’s the Point of Dating?Singles: Here’s One Area to Examine Yourself

Among these traits is the fact that God’s love is very patient, very kind, never irritated, never resentful, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful and always patient.

That is what God is. That’s the way He is toward you—and thank God that He is! That is what God’s love is.

What about you? Are you that way with other people? Patient and kind? Never irritated or resentful? Always positive, hopeful, eager to believe the best?

I didn’t think so.

Me neither. But I’m working on it. (And I will say this, as an aside: Being married and having children helps me work on it.)

In many of the conversations I’ve had with singles in God’s Church, I have noticed a tendency to take offense and/or to lose interest in somebody over some pretty piddly issues. Oh, let’s just name a few. His laugh is obnoxious. She makes noise with her jaw when she chews. He asked me on a date by texting me. She was interested in someone else a while back. He’s too serious; I need someone with a sense of humor. She’s a little feministic for my tastes. He’s not assertive enough. I’m looking for a woman who’s more into sports. He doesn’t make enough money. She’s too quiet. He’s too opinionated. She’s too tall. He’s just not attractive to me. Sorry, but I just can’t see past that wart.

I’m not saying that none of these things are problems, or should never pose an issue. I’m saying that if that is what you focus on, and decide in your mind, Well, this relationship is never going to go anywhere, so—what’s the point?—then you’re making a mistake.

If you are like most singles, you have a list. You probably haven’t written it down—it’s just up in your mind, maybe tucked way in the shadowy part in the back. It has the names of other singles in the Church—singles that you have mentally “crossed off.” For one reason or another, you’ve decided that things couldn’t possibly work out between you and these people.

So, to be honest, you treat them differently. You don’t give them the same level of attention or respect.

Let me make a suggestion:

Throw away that list.

Many of you are surveying the singles scene and thinking, Wow—there are some really quirky singles in this Church. And you’re right.

But guess what? There are also a lot of pretty quirky married people as well—happily married quirky people. Someone, at some point, decided that there were enough lovable qualities in them that it was worth overlooking the peculiarities.

The fact is, we all have quirks. Yes, even you. There are things about you that other people could easily find irritating or obnoxious if they chose to.

No single would ever admit—even to himself—that he was looking for perfection in a mate, but the fact is that many singles are disappointed or discontented with anybody who doesn’t come pretty cotton-pickin’ close.

As a result, many are overlooking people who could actually make good, close friends—or even a wonderful spouse!

It reminds me of an old joke. How do two porcupines mate? Very carefully.

Some of our singles are quite good friends with someone of the opposite sex: They enjoy each other’s company, they have quite a lot in common, they have good communication. But because of an idealized view of what a spouse will look like, they simply never view that person as anything more than a buddy.

I really believe that some of you have someone in your life—someone whom God would be delighted to see you marry—that you have disregarded because of what, in the big picture, is really a minor offense or surface-level issue.

Regardless of whether you fit that description, you would do well to take this advice to heart: Throw away that list. And then, consciously make an effort to stop looking at people in terms of whether they fulfill the idea in your mind of what you deserve in a spouse.

Instead, start actively trying to see them as God does. That is, as people He is inviting to marry His Son.

God sees something special in every single person in His Church. He selected each one out of around 1.5 million people! When you look at someone, if you only see irritants and quirks and awkwardness, then you simply don’t see what God sees. Or—let me state that in more positive terms: You don’t see it yet.

Obviously God sees their warts. He knows their problems and flaws far better than anybody. And He still sees enough potential—enough substance to work with, enough capacity to get excited about, enough beauty in their attitude and in their heart—that He has chosen that person as an eternal helpmeet for Jesus Christ!

That should tell you something. There is real spiritual treasure within every single individual God has handpicked to be in His Church (1 Corinthians 12:18). It takes the mind of God to see beyond the physical—not just the blemishes, the unusual mannerisms, eccentricities or habits, but even the beauty, which also can be a distraction—and to look on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

We can all agree that Jesus Christ is going to make a perfect Husband, right? Well, guess what: The Pharisees were offended by Him! God actually calls Him “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence” (1 Peter 2:8).

Learning to see people as God does takes effort. It takes friendliness, kindness, patience, some sacrifice, big-heartedness. Sometimes, it takes not getting worked up over some kind of fault. Not getting irritated or resentful. Letting things go. Being quick to forgive. Being positive and hopeful. Being always eager to believe the best.

Everything I’ve said really applies to your relationships with everyone in God’s Church, but it can be especially true with other singles.

Evaluate yourself for that tendency to size people up primarily for their marriageability. This type of thinking tends to seep out of the self-oriented approach I wrote about in the last column (“What’s the Point of Dating?”). And just ask yourself: If God the Father considers someone “marriage material” and you don’t, is it possible you’re using flawed criteria?

Overcoming this tendency can open you up to unanticipated riches of friendship. And beyond that, I suspect that in some cases, it could open you up to even more.