I got punched in the gut a few days ago. Not by some thug on the street or by one of my four boys, but by this line: “I never realized how selfish I was until I got married. I never realized how angry I was until I had kids.” I don’t know who first said this, but a truer statement about marriage and family may not exist.
Marriage Reveals Our Selfishness
The first time I heard about the idea of marriage revealing my selfishness was when I read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I should have known about the role my selfish tendencies would play in marriage, but after you say “I do” you realize the overwhelming truth behind this statement. Instead of saying, “How can I help you?”, we find ourselves saying, “How can I get my way?”. Marriage gives us many opportunities to conflict over the battle between the selfish desires of a husband and wife.
James 4:1says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (ESV).
We fight and quarrel because we are selfish, because of the passions at war within each of us. It’s not because of something my spouse did. It’s not because of my children. It’s not money, in-laws or work. It’s because I want something and I don’t get my way, so I throw a fit like a child.
Parenting Reveals Our Anger Issues
Speaking of children, nothing exposes my anger issues more than being a parent. Again, it’s not typically someone else’s fault, but parenting provides many opportunities to realize how selfish and broken I am. The cause of my anger is often my pride, my desire to control or my unmet selfish desires or expectations. I love my four boys, but they know how to push my anger buttons!
Rather than responding in anger, God’s Word spurs the believer on to kindness (Colossians 3:8, 12-13). Paul also reminds us that love is not easily angered (1 Corinthians 13:5) and James tells us to be slow to become angry (James 1:19). For some reason, we become most easily angered by those whom we love the most (i.e. spouse and children).
So what do I do with my selfishness and anger issues?
Here’s the good news: when I realize and begin to understand my sin, I can start working on it. As long as I don’t know I’m selfish, angry, prideful (or whatever sin you want to insert here), then I can never work on my issues. When I become intimately aquainted with my sin, then I can begin the hard work of becoming more like Jesus.
- I can study God’s Word to better understand my sin and His holiness.
- I can share with community and get help and accountability.
- I can pray for the Lord to change the wickedness in my heart.
- I can build the relationship with my wife by confessing and asking for forgiveness when I’m selfish.
- I can grow in my relationship with my kids when I apologize for my moments of anger. They get to see much of my humanity in moments when I get angry and then get humbled, come back to them, apologize and ask for forgiveness.
While marriage has often revealed my selfishness and parenting often showcased my anger issues, both marriage and parenting have provided the primary means through which I have become more like Jesus.
- Ask your spouse if he/she thinks you’re selfish. Ask your children if you get angry. Ask your spouse and kids how it affects them when you are selfish or angry. When they respond, thank them for their thoughts and do not be defensive and argue back.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal evidences of selfishness and anger in your life.
- Learn and memorize scripture. Instead of being characterized by the selfishness of James 4:1, choose to apply Philippians 2:3-4 to your marriage. Memorize Colossians 3:12-14 and choose kindness and compassion rather than anger.
- Ask for accountability from friends and community. Admit that you have a problem and you need some help. If you confess to others and they choose to be honest with you, I guarantee you won’t be alone.
- Thank God for the opportunities in front of you to grow in your relationship with Jesus and with your spouse and children.
For the Family,
Scott Kedersha, at www.scottkedersha.com