In today's reading of Luke 9:46-48, a power struggle broke out among the disciples:
Who is greater?
And when I examine this passage from the perspective of a family mediator, it revealed the source of all power struggles – pride.
I was exhausted this past weekend. There were lots of changes to my priorities. The same was true for my husband. He just started a new job with a rigorous commute. Day in and day out. I yielded for him to vent all of his challenges.
In times past. I would also add my own challenges into the mix to balance things out and to give voice to my own pain. When I examine my motivation for how I’ve done this in the past, I realized something I was not very proud of. My motive was to demonstrate an equal or greater burden. I did not want my contributions to be overlooked, taken for granted or minimized in light of my husband’s own experiences.
But last week was different. I listened attentively. I stopped in the middle of my own (very important) work I was doing it when he came home from work. I took a spot on the couch in my office to hear all about his day. It was also exhausting. He wasn’t the only one navigating a new season with new challenges. I was worn out when the weekend arrived. When he finally had a moment to look past himself, he noticed I was not my usual bright-eyed and playful self. I was exhausted.
I explained without going into detail, how the past week was tough for me. Suddenly, all of the attention and support I lended him was given back to me. In that moment, he had to make an adjustment for me the same way I had for him the entire weekl. I simply did not have the bandwidth to hang out late as we often do on the weekends. All I wanted was my bed, darkness and quiet. I was simply no fun.
Eventually, with peace, quiet, and vitamins, my battery was recharged. I re-engaged with my family. The space and empathy my husband provided me expedited my recovery. We engaged in power struggles often without realizing it was a battle of “who’s the greatest,” or rather, “who is giving the most.”
Our human default–pride–is seeking to be constantly fed morsels of self-importance. As I navigated this test of my will, it took everything in me to simply shut up and listen. Sure, my work is definitely important. But what I was tested on was whether I am able to esteem my husband’s work more than my own.
When Yahusha (Jesus) addressed the question, “who is greatest,” he picked up a child. He used the child as a demonstration. He was a little person, or as I often say a “short body.” And the King effectively explained to his men the “short body” is the greatest. We enter power struggles perceiving importance in certain ways. When addressing men who valued their importance as community leaders, he flipped their paradigm. Your service is what makes you great.
This is the same In my family practice. Nearly 99% of women complain that their husbands do not listen to them. Oddly enough, men are not as vocal about their own desire to be heard by their wives.
One wife recently shared with me how all she’s been doing is listening to her husband. In her mind, she was no longer being true to herself. She still had her own beliefs, thoughts and opinions. Yet, when she recounted the most recent blowup between her and her husband, I helped her identify the power struggle. She did not see how, at first glance, her approach to the conversation threatened her husband's authority. However, in the moment, she believed she was simply exercising her right to disagree. However, with some additional insight she finally understood how she was actually resorting to an instinctive dominance rather than simply stating disagreement.
Most men will quickly admit they don’t want a woman who agrees with everything they say. They enjoy the mental stimulation of a conversation based on facts and a civil exchange of a difference of opinions. What they don’t enjoy, however, is aggression, hyper emotionalism or dismissal. And to be completely fair . . . women don’t like that mess either.
So now that we understand that pride is the root of our power struggles, how do we reverse the damage it has done in our relationship?
Some advice to the ladies
Truly hear him, hear what he’s afraid to tell you bluntly for fear it's going to explode or backfire on him. Hear what he says bluntly but listen without interpreting what he is saying as an attack, rejection, or threat of abandonment.
What I have found in reversing my own cycles of aggression and dominance is that the more I listen to my husband, the more he entreats me to share my thoughts with him. It's so simple. Yet the hardest part is my attitude that I should be heard first, sometimes that is true but the general rule that Yahusha gives us in Luke 9:46 - 49 is this:
The thing you desire the most in your relationship
is the thing you must be willing to give first.