Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4
We want our actions to make a difference in our families and with our spouses.
In sales, there is a concept called the “1:1 close ratio.” It is a salesperson’s ability to turn every prospective buyer into a consumer of the product they’re selling. They “close” the deal by shutting down all of the buyer’s resistance to making the purchase. However, the idea of the 1:1 closing ratio is an ideal; it’s the exception and not the rule. In our relationships, we want each of our actions, in every encounter, to have the maximum effectiveness and impact on our spouse. For every nugget of wisdom, for every kind gesture, we want one-to-one gratitude. We want immediate gratification – every kindness paid in kind. However, if a salesperson equates success only with a 1:1 close ratio, and they engage the sales process with the attitude that the customer’s needs are less important than their own, then that salesperson will become easily frustrated, and more willing to employ a “win at any cost” mindset and use aggressive sales tactics.
I propose we meditate on and apply Philippians 2 to the glory of God in our relationships. The Apostle Paul opens with an exhortation in the form of a question. The New King James Version reads like this, “…if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy…” In other words, if there be any comfort it is found in/as a result of God’s love. He then gives as one of his commands to the church at Philippi, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus...”
Paul’s admonition is that we not be motivated by compensation for our time, neither by rewards, or esteem others only when our needs are met. We are tasked to be motivated simply by the desire to honor God and bring joy to our spouse. (Adopting this attitude is easier when you don’t keep track of AAAALLLL your “good deeds!”) We must hold our spouses in higher regard than we hold ourselves, think of them as better than ourselves, exalt them, adore them, and promote them. To do this, you must lower yourself; diminish your accolades, accomplishments, and your need to hear continuous praise. Our egos often get in the way of being selfless, as the need to be appreciated masks the need to feed a massive ego. By definition, ego involves a person’s sense of self (self-worth) and those senses can be deceptive because our senses can become dull to the foul-looking or foul-smelling aspects of our own character.
Reasoning from our sense of self (flesh) tells us that our needs are reasonable to promote and protect a healthy self-esteem. In actuality, we could be making insatiable demands that are spiritually, emotionally, and physically draining our spouses. Humility at personal cost is the attitude that Christ had, being God; He humbled himself as a man and obeyed the Father to the point of death. When we deny ourselves, we don’t expect gratification (though it often comes), but rather we expect to be a blessing. That is the soul-satisfying shift that will leave you fed, full, and satisfied because the promise for us as believers is that if we hunger and thirst for what is right, then we will be filled.
On the other hand, feeding an ego is a soul-sapping activity that we drag others into and still the job never gets done because our egos are a bottomless chasm of need founded on perceptions borne of flawed senses which are subject to fluctuations. Esteem based on God’s love is the fuel for selflessness. If there be any consolation of love is indeed a question, but the answer is still, “Yes!” If we understand who God says we are and truly accept – not comprehend, but accept – how much He loves us, then we are continually nourished by His love as we pour out our love on our spouses. Because God’s love and His essence are inexhaustible, we are assured of being refilled after pouring out. God help us to esteem others more highly than ourselves and to strip our egos down in favor of God-fueled esteem, and may our spouses be the recipients of greatest honor and regard in our relationships. Amen.