The Subtle Intrusion of Pride in Serving Your Spouse – and Being Served by Your Spouse

Here’s a great illustration from Tim Keller that I’m all too familiar with:

Kathy and I remember a pivotal incident in our marriage that occurred during a visit to New England, where we had attended seminary. The two of us along with our three sons were staying with friends, and I had hoped very much at some point to be able to get away to the nearby seminary bookstore, just to see what was new, maybe pick up a few interesting books. But I knew that it would mean precious time taken out of the other things we were doing together as a family, and it would leave Kathy with the full burden of caring for the kids. And so I was afraid to ask for it. Instead, I hoped Kathy would guess about my desire and simply offer the time to me. But she didn’t do it, and soon I found myself deeply resentful of her “failure” to read my mind. Surely she should know how much I love visiting that bookstore! I work very hard— why doesn’t she propose that I take the afternoon away simply because I deserve the break? I began to imagine that she knew I wanted to go to the bookstore but was dead set against it.

After a long, grumpy day helping Kathy with the kids and feeling sorry for myself, I finally told her how sorry I was that I had never made it to the bookstore. She was rightfully unhappy with me, and said, “Yes, that would have been inconvenient for me, but I would have loved to have given you that freedom. I never get a chance to give you gifts, and you’re always helping me with something. You denied me a chance to serve you!”

I immediately realized, however, that I didn’t want to be served. I didn’t want to be in a position where I had to ask for something and receive it as a gift. Kathy was deeply disappointed and insulted that I had robbed her of the opportunity to do so. We drove home in angry silence as I tried to figure out what had happened.

Finally I began to see. I wanted to serve, yes, because that made me feel in control. Then I would always have the high moral ground. But that kind of “service” isn’t service at all, only manipulation. But by not giving Kathy an opportunity to serve me, I had failed to serve her. And the reason underneath it all was my pride.

Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (pp. 46-47). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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