Restoring Harmony in Marriage
I was talking about the basis for building an effective relationship that involves two or more people, and that basis is stated in the scriptures in I Corinthians 1:10. “I beseech you brethren by the name of the Lord Jesus, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.”
That’s two people whose hearts beat together. Their minds work together, their plans are the same, their objectives are the same, that’s cooperation. That’s the magic of athletic events. That’s the joy and the thrill, and the pleasure that we experience when we watch people cooperate. And marriage, basically, is a matter of two people cooperating. And your creativity is involved in cooperating, not competing.
Now there are some hindrances that come between us when we decide that we’re going to work together. We’re going to team up, and there are some hindrances.
One time a gentleman invited me to take a trip with him around the world, a mission executive. He was my friend; he was the fellow that I had worked with for a long time. We admired each other. There was respect and admiration, and good will and friendship between us. Now that’s a lot going for you, isn’t it? And we planned that trip for a year, and finally the day came where we were ready to start.
Have any of you ever planned a trip and you’ve been looking forward to going for a long time, and now the day comes? And we were ready to go. We met in Switzerland, beautiful place. The stage was set: good will, good friendship, and this fascinating itinerary that would take us around the world. Scenery was beautiful. And they called our flight. We had to go through a door about that wide, just wide enough for one person to go through. And we came up to that door, now mind you, he’s the mission executive, I was his consultant, and I just wanted to be nice and agreeable, that was my objective.
And I said to him, “You go first.”
He said, “No, you go first.”
And I said, “No, you go first.”
And do you know, we got hung up at that door? He has a Th.D degree. I have a Ph.D. degree, and we got hung up at the door. Well, finally I gave in. I didn’t like it, but I gave in, and I went through the door first. And we got to the foot of the airplane, and here was this little, narrow ladder leading up to the airplane. And I said to myself on the way to that ladder, “So help me, I’m not going up that ladder first.”
We got there and I said to him, “You go first.”
He said, “No, you go first.”
We discussed it a while. Finally he gave in, and he went up the ladder first. And you know, I felt better.
Well, we got inside the airplane, and there’s two seats. Now the question is, who gets to sit by the window? And I wanted that seat. And I figured that if I get the question in first, see, then he would say no, and I could get in and take the seat. And sure enough, if that isn’t the way it happened. I said to him, “Why don’t you take the window seat?”
He said, “No, you take the window seat.”
And so I gave in and took it. Now my point is, that this gentleman and I were friends, we liked each other, and we had had three problems already, before we got sat down. Isn't that something?
I looked at him, and he looked at me, kind of sheepishly, and we agreed that, boy, we’re sure going to have a hard time getting around the world. Now what was the matter with us? You see, I had my ideas of how it ought to be, and he had his ideas of how it ought to be. Now this condition is described very nicely in the scriptures in Isaiah 53:6, and it goes like this, “All of us like sheep have gone astray.”
Have you ever made an agreement and then you didn’t keep it? Isn't it true that all of us, we wander away from our own agreements? That's normal. That's why you need a Savior. You won’t even keep your own agreements. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, and we have gone everyone unto his own way.” That’s the sweetest music to anybody’s ears, isn’t it? Let’s do it my way. I think so clearly.
Well, that was our difficulty, that he had his ideas, I had mine. Now you see, that’s one of the hindrances of cooperation. What is that hindrance? One word: selfishness. All I wanted was for him to do it my way. I had his best interest at heart. And isn’t it true, you’ve had that experience, haven’t you? Where you thought something should happen the way you thought it should happen, and you had the other person’s best interest at heart, and they didn’t like it. And if there is anything that is going to hinder a relationship, it is that one word, selfishness.
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, and we have gone every one of us” … where? … unto our own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
That’s why you need a Savior. Because when there is a decision to be made, and you are standing there and I am standing there, and I have my idea of how it should go and you have your idea of how it should go, when those two ideas don’t match, there’s conflict.
Selfishness. And nobody is going to build an effective relationship until you come to grips with that tendency. And that tendency wells up within you. You don’t try to crank it up even, do you? It just happens when a decision needs to be made, automatically. The normal kind of relationship between two or more people is competitive, not cooperative.
I remember one time my wife and I decided that we were going to buy a stereophonic record player. This is when they first came out, and we listened to them and the music just thrilled us. And we just looked forward to the task of going to buy this stereophonic record player. And my, what a wonderful addition that was going to be to our house.
We did it together. We agreed we wanted one. We went out together. We found one in a drug store for seventy dollars. We found another one in a Magnavox store for seven hundred dollars. One of us wanted that one in the drug store for seventy dollars, the other one of us wanted the one out of the Magnavox store for seven hundred dollars. We both wanted a stereo, that wasn’t the problem; the only problem was which one. See we’re pretty far apart.
Now how do you resolve that?
Well, they say one thing that you can do is talk it over. And so we decided that we would. And we decided that tomorrow night we’re going to have a little committee meeting, and we’re going to talk this problem over. My wife's turn first. Her presentation was badly organized, it was vague, illogical. And then it was my turn. My presentation was crisp, clean-cut, obvious, anybody that would follow my reasoning would come out with my conclusions. And do you know what? She didn’t get it. After everything that could be said had been said, she wanted the one, I wanted the other.
Now I understood her, and the more I understood her, the less I thought of her reasoning. Now sometimes we very glibly say that what we need in this world is more understanding, and I submit to you that that’s a fallacy. Understanding does not necessarily lead to agreement. It can solidify your position in opposition to the other viewpoint, because the more you understand the other viewpoint, the less you appreciate it. And that’s the way it was with us.
So then what do you do?
Well, they say you can get other people’s advice. And that’s what we did. We talked it over with some of our friends. And the result of that was now we understood what they thought.
You know there comes a time when an issue comes up between two people and it is inevitable, too, inevitable, that this is going to happen, that after everything that could be said has been said, and there is nothing more to be added. Nothing more. All the facts are in, and you and this person with whom you have to do disagree, isn’t that right?
Now what’s the trouble? My wife’s a real nice lady, generally cooperative, and I believe that if anybody in our family is dedicated to the well-being of our family, it would be my wife. There have been many times when I have had to travel somewhere when our children were growing up, and I insisted that my wife neglect the children. Imagine that? She resisted it. I wanted her to go with me and she was voting for the children. I say, if anybody in the family is dedicated to the well-being of the family it was my wife, but this was one time when we had come to an impossible stalemate.
Now anybody, any two or more people, will sooner or later have that experience.
You see that was the problem that we had up there in that airplane. That was a nice man, dedicated. Why he was laying down his life to reaching people in foreign countries for Christ, and we were on a world tour, and the purpose of the world tour was for that man and me to be a source for stimulation and encouragement and blessing to people, around the world. Now you can’t come up with a loftier theory than that, or a loftier goal than that.
We agreed that that’s what we wanted to do, yet there we were up there and we had three problems already. So he looked at me, and I looked at him. What are we going to do? You know, we decided we needed a leader, the two of us. So we called ourselves together to have a committee meeting. Did you ever have a committee meting with two people when you both have a vote?
Now that’s the dilemma, that’s the problem that married couples have. You see, you’ve got a committee meeting involving two people, and each of you have a vote. You know, after all this is a democracy, we vote on everything. But you can’t break the tie that way. And so we decided that we would elect a leader. Now who would you pick for the leader?
Now let me give you some facts. He was the director of the mission, his people were expecting him. I was his consultant, most of the people that were expecting us had never heard of me. Now let me ask you folks out there, how many of you would vote for me as the leader? Let’s see your hands. Let me run through that again. Do you realize that there isn’t a soul out there that would vote or me? You know, just between you and me, I wouldn’t vote for me either. The obvious leader was him.
You know, when it comes to you and your partner sitting down to discuss an issue, and you come to a stalemate, and maybe that’s the first time that you’ve had to face the fact that somebody has to have the last word. That’s a tough sentence, isn’t it? That’s a tough sentence. When really, whenever you put two or more people together, you have to face the fact that leadership is involved. When those football players come together in a huddle, they gather around the fellow that’s calling the signals, they don’t have an election every time they come into the huddle to decide who is going to call that signal.
I have been an athlete, and do you know one of the toughest jobs that we had was to pick the captain, because we all liked each other so well. We wanted everybody to be the captain. And you know, when we were electing the captain, we were choosing somebody that was our buddy. Now you’ve got to start there in marriage, you’ve got to assume a nice lady, and if you're not a nice lady, you see, you’ve got to deal with that yourself. That’s not a marriage problem, that’s a personal problem. Anybody out there can be a nice lady, if you’ll confess your sins. Your sins, not your partner’s.
The pathway to God is to acknowledge your sins and to confess them, and to invite Christ into your life, if you haven’t, and He’ll forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness, so you can be a nice lady. That’s got nothing to do with your husband. Isn’t that good news? You can be a nice lady, and your husband can't stop you. Now you don’t need to be a nice lady, you can be just as crabby as you want. How crabby do you want to be?
You can be a nice man, sir, and that doesn’t have anything to do with your wife. She can’t stop you from being a nice man. Why you can bathe your wife in all the love that God will give you, if you want to, and your wife can’t stop you. The only way that that can stop is if you don’t want to.
What is it that comes between us? It’s selfishness. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, and we have gone everyone unto his own way.” That’s the hindrance to cooperation. It’s my way verses yours. It’s competition.
This gentleman walked into my office one time with his wife, and did he have a beautiful wife. She was a gorgeous creature. You know, just one of those ladies that just, WOW, strike you. When I looked at the lovely lady and I looked at her again, and if she didn’t have a black eye, and he did it. It started Thursday morning; he woke up in an ugly mood. Now mind you, this fellow was a college graduate, he had a good job, and they lived in a real nice house, and he went to church every Sunday, and he woke up in an ugly mood. How could that be? His response was, “Well, I’m like that.” And I guess if you're like that, that’s that! Or, is there a possibility of him doing something about it? Would you think? Well anyway, that was his reaction, “I’m like that.”
And in that ugly mood, he came to the table for breakfast. Now these people had been married long enough so that they had four children that wore shoes, and he knew that she was going downtown to buy shoes, and so he made a little speech. Something like this, “Now listen here; I want to get something straight. I know you're going downtown today to buy shoes. I don’t mind you buying black shoes or white shoes or brown shoes but I don’t want you coming home with any two toned shoes, do you understand that?”
And do you know that lady made up her mind what she would do before he got half way through that speech? So help her, she was going downtown, and she was going to come back with four pairs of two toned shoes. Now she hadn’t intended to do that, but since she got talked to that way, you see, her logic was, any woman that gets talked to like that is not responsible for her decisions. Well she went and bought the shoes, and came home and caught the kids, and when he came home that night, they were used shoes. She won that round.
Now it was Sunday morning, and believe it or not, on Sunday morning, if that fellow, college graduate, nice big house, good job, getting ready for church is in an ugly mood on Sunday morning. Could you believe it? And he’s down there glaring at those shoes. You see, it’s his job to shine the shoes. He got some black on the white of the first shoe, and he caught the child and put them on, and the child runs up the stairs. And down the stairs comes his wife’s voice. “Is that the best your father can do?” Can you picture him down there? He grits his teeth, and he gets the second and the third pair finished, and the third kid goes running up the stairs. Down the stairs comes his wife’s voice. “Isn’t your father finished yet?”
Wow, he finished that fourth pair, and he starts up the stairs, and at the head of the stairs, there’s his wife standing there looking down her nose at him. Can you see her? And she says, “It’s about time you're finished,” and that’s when he let her have it. Right in the eye.
Have you ever done that? Well let me ask you another question. Have you ever considered doing that? I’ll bet you some of you ladies don’t know how close you’ve come. And he hadn’t done this before either, and you know how it is the first time through, you aren’t sure what to do. But anyway, he helped her up, and finally they agreed on something. She had a bad eye. Can you believe it?
People that are married that long, what was the trouble? They weren’t on the same team. They were competitors, they weren’t on the same team, they weren’t cooperating. She was using all the ingenuity that she had, and she was really smart to out maneuver him. And you see, when she won, he lost. That’s not the idea in cooperation. When I was an athlete playing on a team, we won. In marriage it’s us. It’s not my way verses my wife’s way, it’s the Brandt way. She lives up to the Brandt way, I live up to the Brandt way. It can’t be competitive; it’s got to be cooperative.
What is it that introduces competition, hostile competition that will lead you to slug your wife in the eye? Selfishness. They had been fighting for nine years over the same issues. Now next time we’re going to talk about the antidote for this. What is the hindrance then to cooperation? It’s selfishness.