Living it is harder than spelling it

The word was “yield.” It was down to two of us in the spelling bee. The well-known spelling rule went through my head: “i” before “e” except after “c”– but then I knew there were exceptions to the rule. My time was up and I incorrectly spelled the word, “Y-E-I-L-D.” Ugh! I took my seat, sorry I had second-guessed myself. That was many years ago. Now as an adult, I’ve graduated from having trouble spelling the word to having trouble living the word.

Yield: to give up, give way, give precedence, surrender, relinquish or submit.

Ephesians 5:21 says, “Honor Christ and put others first.” The Message translation reads, “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.”

When we willingly put our spouse’s needs before our wants or our spouse’s feelings before our pride, we demonstrate the kind of love that God has for us. Self-giving and sacrifice are foundational to our faith and play a starring role in a good marriage. Few other relationships in life afford us the countless opportunities to put others first.

So, to spell yield, remember “i” before “e” – to live it in your marriage, remember “you” before “me” (no exceptions). Here are seven principles we’ve learned through the years (not always easily):

  1. Admit we all have blind spots. If your spouse has an opinion, take time to listen – a second look or a different perspective often reveals wisdom and experience worthy of consideration.
  2. Make decisions together. Have a deep regard for what your spouse has to say regarding an important decision. We practice the policy of mutual agreement on the “big” things – until we both agree, we wait.
  3. Give up “the last word.” Let go of the need to have the last say or the final comment in a discussion or disagreement. For those of us with strong personalities, it’s harder than it sounds.
  4. Take the back seat. If your spouse is better at something than you are, let them be the one in charge. Let your spouse choose, set the pace, take the lead, or make the call. Be willing to follow.
  5. Don’t blow your own horn. Don’t spend emotional energy trying to impress your spouse. They already know (and love) the real “you.” Instead, take time to notice and commend your spouse’s finer qualities.
  6. Don’t “set the table” to get your way. We sometimes don’t even recognize it when we whine, pout or exert some other kind of emotional leverage so that things work out in our favor.
  7. Be open to “course corrections.” Accept kind-hearted suggestions from your spouse. Allow them to help, correct, teach, or guide you based on what they perceive is happening.

Recently at a dinner party one of the guests started to tell a story to get a laugh. Subtly at first, and then more directly, his wife hinted for him not to go on, but he didn’t heed her advice. Later he realized it was a mistake and offered an apology to everyone. I’m sure he wishes he would have yielded. Let’s face it, sometimes there’s a “still small voice” you hear cautioning you to yield, and wisdom stops to listen.

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