This morning at breakfast, reading the newspaper and trying to put the depressing tax calculations out of my mind, I found an article about a soon-to-be released movie, Think Like a Man. The movie is based on the book (which I haven’t read) Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment. Wow, that’s a mouthful. In the newspaper article, some of the movie’s actors share some of their love advice and insights. As almost always, I found some that resonated with me.
One actor admits that he has made mistakes in his life (haven’t we all?) but has learned from them. He sums up with: “When you mature, you understand what’s important – it’s about life and making the best of it.” I agree you understand more as you mature, but I often don’t understand as much as I should, or as much as I want. But I have to pick what is important to understand and let the other go. As my wife advised while trying to understand some things related to work – some of that doesn’t really matter, and you’ll never be able to understand the why of that, you’ll only make your head hurt trying. And I do try to learn from others’ mistakes, from what they share and what I read, rather than repeating the same mistakes in my life.
But humor entered my pondering. I think of myself as “mature” in age, partially because of the use of the word by some friends last year in Spain. You see, Miguel addressed the rest of us by saying that we were not elderly (the others are a little more mature than me, in several ways), we are mature. And my wife has opined that surely I will get old(er) as the years pass, but I probably will never grow up. But in Spanish, the word used for elderly or old is “anciano,” which for me conjures up the translation of “ancient.” So indeed, mature is a better word. But the Spanish for mature is “maduro,” which is also used for “ripe,” as with fruit that is ready to be picked. So do I follow the actor’s advise and work to make the most of life, or do I wake up one day, mature and ready to be plucked from the vine?
Another actor says “communication is key: let people know how you’re feeling about a situation.” And a third actor offers: “be honest: Treat her the way you want to be treated, and that seems to bring a certain amount of mutual respect and understanding.” I shared in The Two Will Become One Flesh – And More Cats and Dogs that I believe it is important to be one flesh not only in good or great sex, but to be one flesh in communication, in finances, in parenting (even when the children are grown), and in mutual honesty. So I agree with those actors that communication and honesty are two of the five things in one of my lists of what’s important to a good marriage.
But the most crucial advice comes from a fourth actor: “Love yourself the way you want to be loved.” He also observes that “It’s a lot of responsibility to get with someone who’s looking to you to fill a void they can’t fulfill themselves.” I have found that I cannot accept, forgive, and love others until I can accept, forgive, and love myself. And it is somewhat easy to say so, and to write it, but a struggle to do it. It’s similar to the fact that a one-time “I do” doesn’t mean you live happily ever after, but have to work daily to build a good relationship, any relationship – even those you most take for granted, like parent / children. I shared some of this in Even When the Pain is Bad, Suicide is Never the Right Answer. I have three commands I take to heart.
(1) Accept the fact that God loves me, accepts me as I am, and provides a free gift of His grace.
(2) Make a relationship with God a priority, and love Him in return.
(3) Love others, as He has loved me, and as He provides the way for me to love myself.
Jesus said that the first most important commandment for us in the age of grace is to love God with all, and the second most important commandment is to love others. For me, the first command above, to accept God’s love, is the prerequisite to the other two. What’s more it is what fills the void I can’t fulfill myself.