Sometimes it is the smallest words or phrases that end up having the most amazing impact. For instance, Dr. Kevin Leman (an excellent source of information and guidance about marriage and family issues) discusses a principle in a number of his books (this one specifically drawn from “How To Survive In A Step Family Without Getting Stepped On”) that I would like to share with you. Here it is:
The “whole” is always more important that the “parts.”
The point Dr. Leman wants to get across to families, especially ones who are trying the most challenging of tasks, the blending of existing families, is that everyone in the family is equally important and significant, that no one individual in the “whole” should be able or allowed to control the whole. Decisions need to be made in the context of, “How does this affect the whole?” If everyone in the new family (or at least the parents) can agree that this is a driving principle to live by, then when issues and choices are viewed and addressed from this perspective there is the possibility of balance, maybe even unity. But if each of the stepchildren and stepparents continue on the course of, “What’s good for me and my birth children?” then conflict is almost guaranteed. And this is not unique to step families – every family needs to consider adopting this concept.
While working with couples in marriage in the midst of trials, including a number of “empty nest” families where the children are not as much of an issue anymore, I wondered if Dr. Leman’s principle could be boiled down to an even more straightforward phrase. Here’s what I use now:
“We” is more important than “me.”
Apparently God likes oneness; He says it is a principle of marriage (leave and cleave) and He models it Himself (for example, Jesus said, “I and the Father are One”). “We” (or “us”) is the welding of two into one. When two pieces of metal are welded together they still retain much of their individual shape and characteristics; but at the point of the weld there is a union that is actually physically stronger than the individual pieces. And if, after joining these two pieces of metal together, you decide to move one of the pieces, guess what? You get them both now – and you may need a little extra room to swing things into place. Failure to think about this “we” piece of metal may result in some broken windows or injured people.
My suggestion to folks has been to run most every decision they make through the mental “we” filter. For example, “How will my this unplanned purchase affect ‘us’?” Or, “How will making this last minute choice to stay late after work and ‘relax’ with the guys impact ‘we’?” Okay, already I hear the protests, mostly from the guys: “I’m not henpecked. I am an independent man. I am not some weak guy who needs to get his wife’s permission to do as I please.” Well, maybe not – but with that attitude you are not building a strong “we.” If you are a Jesus follower, this is a failure to love your wife (please read 1 Corinthians 13) and that is disobedience (which you will find typically shuts the valve of blessing in your life); but in all cases, you will find yourself wondering why your marriage just doesn’t have what it used to have – and may find yourself, surprisingly and regrettably, saying to me in session someday, “I don’t really want to get divorced, but…..”
Please take a little time this week to ask the Lord if one or both of these phrases might have a powerful effect on your life.