An old song says, “You always hurt the one you love.” It illuminates what in many cases is a sad truth: In public, around strangers, people tend to exert more effort to be polite and gracious; but at home, where we can let our hair down, it is much easier to be petty, crabby, critical.
Is your home an uplifting place?
Think about it. Step back and analyze the way you talk to your mate, to your children; the way your children talk to you and to each other. Are your interactions laced with negativity, sarcasm, guilt trips, nettles and mean-spirited humor? Or are they generally positive, respectful, demonstrating an outgoing concern for the other?
Take some time to look through the checklist in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This tells us what God’s love looks like in action. We can evaluate our family life against it—measuring where we can grow in practicing that agape love among those closest to us.
Let’s look at a few specifics. “Love is patient and kind …” (verse 4; Revised Standard Version). That means being patient with each other’s faults and weaknesses—which we are more aware of in our family members than anyone else. Imagine if God were only as patient with your weaknesses as you are with your family’s. “Kind” means performing kind acts—acting on your love, even in little ways.
The phrase “does not behave itself unseemly” in verse 5 is translated “is never rude” by Moffatt. This is talking about our manners, our etiquette, our standard of conduct—how we present ourselves around others. Make sure we extend those courtesies not just to strangers or acquaintances, but also to our own family. God’s love is never rude.
In The Missing Dimension in Sex, Mr. Armstrong elaborated on this point. “During the dating and romance stage, both groom and bride-to-be put a ‘best foot forward.’ They are careful about manners, grooming, the courtesies. Then after marriage comes the ‘let down.’
“If you want a happy marriage, be far more particular about all such things after marriage than before. Be careful about your sleeping garments—be sure they are neat, clean, attractive to the other. Be careful about your hair especially on rising in the morning. The very first thing I try to do on rising is to get a comb and brush, before my wife sees tousled and messed-up hair! …
“Ever notice how people answer the telephone? A wife calls her husband at his place of business or work. He answers: ‘Oh, it’s you. Well, I wish you wouldn’t bother me now. I’m busy.’ But if some other woman might call on a matter of business, his voice is cheerful, courteous, warm and friendly. And of course it’s the same when hubby calls the wife during the day. She’s warmly cheerful and polite to all but him. She feels, ‘Oh, he’s only my husband.’ …
“If you must be cross, discourteous, or appear tired before someone, let it be anyone else—but never your husband or your wife! Don’t ever utter the alibi, ‘Oh, but we’re married, now.’ Be lovers, as long as you live!”
Moffatt translates the phrase “seeks not her own” in verse 5 of 1 Corinthians as “never selfish.” The Revised Standard Version says, “Love does not insist on its own way.” How well do we measure up here? This world needs more of this kind of love—a love that is never selfish. Not around your worst enemy, and not around your mate. Within your family, strive to always see to it that others’ needs are met.
This is perhaps the most fundamental key to making family relationships work. If everyone is looking out for the other rather than himself, there is plenty of overlap to ensure everyone’s needs are amply met. That’s God’s love! It’s not, “I’ll give you this if you give me that.” It’s never selfish. It’s unconditional.
“Is not easily provoked” reads “never irritated” in the Moffatt, and “not irritable” in the Revised Standard. How often do we violate this principle? We’re tired, stressed—something hits us in just the wrong way at just the wrong time—and BAM! we lash out at someone—usually a loved one. They are usually the ones who see us in our most trying moments. But God’s love is never irritated. It finds a way to control itself, even under difficulty. God’s love is not easily provoked—it is not too touchy or sensitive. Even if someone does wrong us in some way, God’s love will let it go.
“Always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient” (verse 7; Moffatt). We live in a negative world. But if we are thinking like God, we’ll have a positive, hopeful outlook. We’ll see people for their strengths—their potential—as God does. Even those in our family. We’ll concentrate on what we admire in them. We’ll recognize their growth, their personal victories, their achievements.
The author Goethe said, “If you treat a man as he is, he will stay as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become that bigger and better man.” How true that is among our families! How much can you help your family to grow by cultivating a positive attitude toward each member?
Everyone needs praise, and needs to feel admired and appreciated. Especially our impressionable children. Sometimes we can get into a bad cycle of correcting them, and always seeing their mistakes. This can be a trap. When you see something praiseworthy, tell them so! You’ll see them blossom like a flower receiving water.
Let’s make our homes training grounds in putting God’s love—the most positive force in the universe—into action, every day.