Corrie gave me this captivating little book called Rules for a Knight for Christmas. I highly recommend it. It’s one of those I think I’ll return to often and will certainly share with my kids. It provides a list of “rules,” gleaned from the wisdom of an old knight.
One of the rules on the list is friendship. In this section of the book, the author writes,
Always a source of calm, a knight or a lady is a reliable companion in times of turmoil. Perhaps more significantly, though, a good friend is also one to whom others rush to tell their good news. It’s difficult to explain, but in some ways it can be easy to be supportive when your friend is hurt or sad. You may find it is more challenging to be wholeheartedly supportive when extreme good fortune befalls a friend and not you.
He then goes on to explain how his friend was the first to hoist him on his shoulders and celebrate after he was given a medal of honor from the king.
In another section of the book about cooperation, the author writes,
There are only two possible outcomes whenever you compare yourself to another, vanity or bitterness, and both are without value.
A Great Privilege
Marriage is a great privilege. It provides us an inbuilt friendship, the closest friendship we can have in our lifetime. But friendship requires cooperation. It requires that I not only support my wife when she is hurting, but rejoice with her when she experiences victories.
I love that latter quote above. So succinct and so true. Why would we aim for living a life without value? Of course we wouldn’t say we’d aim for that, but I’d encourage us all to consider how we might be wrongly comparing ourselves with others, especially with the one closest to us.
A Lack of Joy Multiplies in the Mind
I remember a season of our marriage early on when I was working a lot and trying to bring in enough for us to live while Corrie was finishing college and very involved in a lot of awesome initiatives in a leadership team at the school.
Having the gift of leadership myself, I sometimes had a difficult time rejoicing with Corrie during that time. I was wrongly comparing my status with hers. And rather than seeing her joy as our joy, I was pitying myself. This, of course, bred resentment and a mindset that spiraled downwards to nowhere good — completely without value.
If I could go back, I wish I would have rejoiced more with Corrie and celebrated that season with her. Thankfully, I’ve learned from my mistakes and now realize that marriage is more joyful when we are really in it together — not just through the tough stuff but through the fun stuff too.
I think the reasons we have a hard time not comparing ourselves or not being able to rejoice with our spouses are many.
One very common reason is not necessarily wrong. You might simply feel: But what about me? You might be wondering how you fit into the picture if the other is moving into a new role or if you as a couple are moving physically because of a new opportunity your spouse has. It’s natural to feel a little confused in these types of situations as you move through life together. The important thing is to notice what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way and then communicate that with your spouse.
Here are a few to other reasons to consider:
- Insecurity: This can look a lot of ways. It could mean you feel intimidated by others. But more commonly, insecurity is present when you feel like you have to prove yourself or make sure you win all the time. You might also be dealing with insecurity if you feel a general sense of confusion about who you are or where you stand in life. This is an important one to notice because when you don’t feel a sense of confidence within yourself concerning your own worth and standing, you’ll find it difficult to show love in the midst of your brokenness.
- Jealousy: When we are in a valley of life or only experiencing the mundane, we have a tendency to want to bring the other down; we want to level the playing field. We say, if not out loud at least in our minds, “Whoa there, don’t get too excited.” We say this because we’re jealous of what the other person has and don’t want him or her to be experiencing something better than we are. Of course, if we’d take a step back, we’d wonder what good that kind of thinking does at all.
- Desire for Drama: This is one that frustrates me personally, and I see it in our culture like no other culture in which I’ve lived. Rather than have a mindset of: Life has enough friction, so I’ll choose to settle my mind to have joy and peace whenever possible, many people choose to have the mindset that says, If there’s not drama, something must be wrong, so I better create some more. This mindset can play into a lot of life, but it certainly doesn’t help if we’re already prone to negative comparison with our spouses and naturally lack an ability to rejoice with him or her. Time for some more drama.
- Ignorance or Indifference: Seemingly the least intentional, these two sting just like all the rest. Ignorance is typically brought about by a long period of indifference.
The call to action here is simple: Rejoice rather than choose any of the above. Pick one of the four with which you personally struggle and use your knight’s sword to start fighting against the areas of your own thinking and feeling that are not helpful or healthy for your marriage.
Stop comparing yourself to your spouse in unhealthy ways that produce vanity or bitterness within you. Instead, choose to live this life together in all things. If one of you is enjoying a season of life or has experienced a victory, let it be a joy for you both. Provide a safe haven for your spouse, to which he or she can rush to tell you their good news.