As I was sitting in front of another young squabbling couple the other day I thought to myself, “Life is so short. Do you really want to spend this precious time arguing over relatively minor issues, when you could be enjoying the one and only life you have?”
Then I thought, “I wonder how many people have thought that about me, when I complained about something inconsequential.”
These days Nan and I get through most conflicts in less than five minutes – tops. But, sometimes I forget how long it has taken to get to this point. I can assure you that we started out passionate fighters, full of self-righteousness and indignant with offenses.
I don’t know exactly when this started to slow down, but I don’t think it had to do with running out of energy for conflict. I think it had more to do with becoming more emotionally and spiritually mature (as a result of lots of hours of counseling). It became harder and harder to reconcile our emotional immaturity with the Word of God.
Maturity is not a result of growing older. It’s a state of the mind and heart. I know people in their 50’s, 60’s and older who are still operating emotionally the way they did in their teen years. It is sad to watch. But I also know young adults who have understanding way beyond their years.
What is the key to achieving this?
I think three things are required, minimum. One is desire, the second is education and the third is humility.
Truly, I must want to grow, see the value in growth, and accept nothing less than growth. We are not going to follow through with anything that we do not believe in. Our actions will always follow our beliefs. My desire to have right beliefs must be intense.
There is usually a point in counseling where the focus shifts from establishing what changes are needed to the question of how to make those changes. I have found that this is often the missing piece, and this is where information and education is necessary. And this is where active learners often have an advantage. They are hungry for insight and will pursue many avenues to gain it.
Lastly is humility. Change is hard. Bad habits do not die easily. They must be aggressively squashed. To do that requires a kind of surrender that is not part of my nature. It probably isn’t your nature either. It often means admitting that I am wrong, that I have failed in some areas, and that I am part of the problem (most couples come in for counseling with the goal of changing their partner). It means staying quiet when everything inside of me is screaming to be heard.
So what is the goal?
Maybe, like us, it is getting your conflicts resolved in less than five minutes and returning to joy, because life is short.