FIRST-PERSON: Virtues make the best Valentines
AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP) -- Valentine's Day is near and the scramble is on for flowers, gifts, cards and of course, chocolates. Charles Shultz once said, "All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then never hurts." Can I get an Amen?
When it comes to love, courtship and romance, everyone searches for the right assortment of ways to express value and affection. Yet I would propose that the best assortment is not found in a box of chocolates (Forest Gump: "You never know what you're gonna get"), but in an array of "fruit" that adds value and beauty to all who share.
The fruit to which I am referring is a fresh and familiar assortment of virtues produced by the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These virtues offer enduring beauty in a world where vices have marred trust and have fueled injury and fear in relationships.
In recent days, social networks and mainstream news have featured scandalous accusations and sensational revelations concerning a growing list of popular, powerful and prosperous men who are now identified by their vices and abuses toward women. Many of these men have suddenly and catastrophically lost their livelihoods, their families, and will forever bear a brand they had not previously displayed or owned.
With this in mind, I have been reflecting on my own attitudes and praying for ways to challenge the men in my church to raise a new standard of virtue in their hearts and homes with regard to all women, but especially their wives. The word I put before them and want to share with you is a word, a virtue, now lost in a culture consumed with rights and void of responsibility. It is the word, respect. I believe most of our mates would affirm and agree respect is better than roses.
Respect is choosing to take responsibility for the attitudes and actions toward others. Respect is foundational in our relationship with God -- "The fear of the LORD" (Proverbs 1:7) -- and our relationships with others. Respect is at the core of what makes society, community and family work.
How do we choose respect and express respect in our homes? May I offer an assortment of applications for you to read and share?
Live with her according to knowledge. In 1 Peter, husbands are instructed to show great honor and care for their wives based on what they know about them, not what they know about themselves. I am amazed how many men know more about cars, guns, games and teams than they do about their wives. When you value something (respect someone), you know what to do to promote and protect them.
Look at her. Eye contact is a means of showing honor and respect. You know this with your kids, but what about showing this to your wife? She needs to be reminded you only have eyes for her.
Listen to her. If you are like me, I am prone to jump to conclusions in finishing her sentences, to offer an opinion before I have heard her line of thought or offer a solution. What your wife really needs is an open heart and a listening ear.
Lift her up in prayer and before others. Thank God for your wife and pray for her needs. Thank your wife in front of others and let them hear you echo her value to you and your home. Public cynicism and criticism are detrimental to any relationship. What you appreciate, appreciates.
Learn to love what she loves. Guys, we fake it when we are dating and prove it when we are married, don't we? Don't bait and switch. Find ways to do what she likes and learn to love what she loves. This will radiate respect.
Limit your schedule to include her. Nothing says, "I value and respect you," more than making appointments to spend time together. Time is love and love takes time.
Lean on her counsel. This is often difficult for men, yet it is the primary way to express respect through trust. If you are a pastor like me, you feel respected when people heed your counsel, and feel disrespected when they ignore you. The same is true at home.
Lend a hand to help her. When you help your wife with tasks, chores and responsibilities, you are saying, "Who you are and what you do matters to me!"
Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) and we need a new generation of men to hear it, honor it and heed it.
Respect is better than roses, but don't forget the roses.