I Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (NIV)
Every one of us has a choice. In each circumstance, every interaction – we all can choose whether we are going to consider others’ feelings or win at all costs.
My husband puts this principle into practice on a regular basis. He is always considering other people’s feelings. Winning does not factor into his thoughts, especially at the cost of others. As a result, when people are done interacting with him, they leave feeling better about themselves.
One example I remember vividly occurred when we were dating (and this is one reason why I realized he was someone worth getting to know better). We had been dating for a few months by this time, so the awkwardness was over and we had settled into a comfortable friendship. Being the talented man that he is regarding home improvement projects, and having gutted and redone his entire house (most of which before he ever met me), it was time to tackle the upstairs bathroom. This was a project he had been planning carefully for months and had even asked my opinion about color schemes, decorations, etc. I think he was just being nice, but I was glad to be asked my opinion on something that would be around for some time.
It was decided that he was going to focus most of one weekend on really getting serious about finishing the bathroom, and he invited me to come up and help. Saturday morning I drove up to his house, in my work clothes, fully ready to step in and show him how well I can weld a hammer and put screws in things. I was ready to have fun and was happy that he had included me. I could envision, that if this was the man I was going to marry, after completing this exciting project, we would have many more opportunities to show off our talents, a two-man team of sorts.
By the time I drove home that night, Bill got a glimpse into what his life would be like if he chose to spend it with me. I was not a handyman, and instead of helping him throughout the day as was my intent, he spent the majority of his time fixing my mistakes. I took a half hour pounding in one nail (I decided that I shouldn’t use the power nailer because I could inflict real bodily harm with that thing) and the screws I attempted to put in were all sideways, which he then had to redo. So, having realized I wasn’t helping much, I decided to sit down and watch, keeping him company instead, and managed to put a hole right on top of one of the pillars he had previously bought and painstakingly spray painted a beautiful black and white texture. You can only imagine the horror I felt and the anger that I’m sure welled up in Bill when we both heard that crack. I was mortified by what I had done, but he made the choice to preserve my feelings, keeping any negative comments I’m sure he was feeling to himself. If you visit our house, I will be happy to show you the very pillar that I ruined, the hole hidden by a decorative candle that I keep as a reminder of my husband’s love to me.
Since that time, I have had a few opportunities to return the favor to Bill. Nobody is perfect, so when he makes mistakes, either I can choose to get into a fight by pointing out where he is wrong, or I can choose to preserve our relationship, which is ultimately more important to me than any material possession anyway. In addition, by practicing at home, we can both extend that grace to our children, our extended family, friends, coworkers…you get the idea. That doesn’t mean we never fight, but as a rule, we try to preserve each other’s feelings first and foremost.