Would you rather be …

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Not my idea of the perfect woman!

A question asked by a wise husband and wife I know when they talk to couples is “Would you rather be right or happy?” What they means is insisting on proving you are right often gets in the way of being happy. If you can learn to let go of things, allow others to “be wrong”, you can be more relaxed and happy. This is especially true in marriage, where fights over who is right and the “right way to do it” can tear a couple apart.

I agree with them, mostly, as explained, but I have always had a problem with the saying because on some issues right and wrong are important. As a semi-reformed black and white thinker, the right or happy choice seems a false choice to me.

So let me try this one on you – would you rather be in control or happy? No doubt, some of you will think “what about headship?” I do not see headship as being in control because submission is a choice, and headship is about SERVANT leadership and is not the same thing as being in control. Done right, headship is about God being in control; if you never lead into things you would not choose to do, then God is not in control. Control is about power, not loving and serving. It is natural to want to be in control. We see it in our children – even before they can talk, they want control. Most problems with pre-schoolers come down to the child wanting to be in control. In fact, most problems in life – from problems on the highway to wars – come down to struggles for control.

We think being in complete control would make us happy. We think it would make us feel safe. The problem is we can only have control if others are willing to give up all control, which is not likely to happen. In marriage having complete control would require our bride to give up all control. Aside from being unlikely, would you really want to be with a woman who could do that? So, we struggle for control, we hurt each other, we feel hurt, and neither of us is happy.

I would like to suggest you and your bride would both be happier if you could each work at being less in control; or fighting less to be in control. I realise this is a scary suggestion if she is the “control freak” in your marriage. Find a few places where you can stop fighting for control, a few places where it really does not matter. Let her have her way even if “it’s not fair”. See how it makes you feel; see if it makes your relationship easier. If you are the control freak (be honest with yourself) then you have the power to make changes here. Relax, let go of some things, and see if it make things better for you and for your bride.

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4 Comments on “Would you rather be …

  1. Wow Paul! another jewel of wisdom. i think there are many marriages that don’t make it because of this issue not being addressed properly. All it takes is two control freaks to enter the downward spiral into all-out war. I agree with your counsel, since it’s a win-win solution, which will engender trust in both spouses. The growth in trust will in turn create opportunities for less and less need for control, especially if there is genuine concern for each other’s welfare. Well done!

  2. You’re absolutely right, Paul. I think we often forget (as do our brides) that leadership isn’t about control. Personally, I feel I’ve abdicated much of the leadership role in my marriage over the years. I’ve repented, Christ has forgiven me, and my wife and I are growing back into proper roles–it is a process though.

    I think one of the things we miss about leadership is that it isn’t controlling at all. Leading is the person out in front saying, “This is the direction I feel we should go, and this is the direction I’m going.” Then those who love and trust the leader follow because of their love and trust. There is freedom in this model instead of control–willful submission.

    There are “leaders” who try to “drive” others. This isn’t leadership, but rather I think this it’s the “control” you’re talking about here. As men, we are to lead our family, not drive our family.

    As a leader in business, I recognize the value in giving my employees freedom in many decisions. I recognize those aren’t the same decisions I might have made, but I accept them. In general though, I set the course and my employees follow. Our families are the same way. They don’t always do things the way we might do them ourselves, and that’s OK. We can’t protect them from every consequence though (that would require control too), but often those consequences are growth opportunities and I believe will ultimately improve their willful submission as they grow through them. Being part of that whole process is part of being a leader.

    Christ gives us full freewill and we follow Him because we love and trust Him. We mess up a lot along the way. As husbands, we need to allow our families those same privileges Christ affords us.

  3. No surprise, I disagree with much. And there are about a thousand ways to address it. So here’s a handful.

    One, I despise these “would you rather” quizzes. You present two orthogonal ideas in what amounts to a combative comparison, what a logician calls an “exclusive OR,” EITHER x OR y. I call false dichotomy. In fact, I call conceptually mismanaged.

    Two, servant leadership is still about leading and part of leading is insisting that those led get with the program. A general leads, part of which is being in a position to declare someone a deserter. Leadership includes discipline, which is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition in my experience. Cf. Prov 3:11,12 as referenced in Heb 12:6. Why do we so enjoy laying claim to the pleasant promises of God while conveniently ignoring his promise that we will be disciplined when we fail to follow?

    Three, eventually someone (note, someONE) has to make decisions. When the question arises, “Should we move across the country in order to take a career opportunity?”, there is no room for, “Oh, whaddayasay we each decide independently whether to do so.” A marriage is not a sole proprietorship; everyone goes together or the marriage is a failure. Yes, decisions should be made together when possible, but no, lack of consensus does not permit catatonia.

    Four, that does not mean that “the one in control” (however defined) always gets his or her way. It means that “the one in control” has a legitimate and real and contentful position from which to make a final decision. That might mean his position is taken as superior, or it might mean that it’s inferior and set aside. It might even mean that it’s better in some ways and worse in others (life is complicated) but that person still has to make a final choice from the options available.

    Five, yes, let’s talk about headship. The head of the body directs the rest of the body. The head is in charge of, makes choices for, how the rest of the body functions. Husband is head of wife as Christ is head of church, Eph 5:23. I’m more than a little disturbed by the complete ease with which you effectively dismiss headship by referencing servant leadership, giving such emphasis to the servant side while neglecting what is actually involved in genuine leadership. “Servant leadership” is not a trump card over headship. A good corporate CEO also practices servant leadership but I doubt you’ll find any support at all for the idea that a CEO is not in a position to make decisions even in the teeth of opposition.

    Your perspective on such matters often irks me as something that feels like a misguided, 1960s holdover, “do your own thing” concept.

  4. karl – I understand your false dichotomy issue – I started by discussing that. Still, I see plenty who have chosen to be in control no matter what it might cost them.

    I don’t see a biblical call to make sure those who are lead are forced to get with the program – especially in marriage. Jesus never forced His disciples to follow Him, or to do what He wanted, He showed the way, and let them follow if they so choose. Consider those who did NOT follow Him, giving excuses. He did nothing to make them follow. This is our example in marriage. The problem we have today is that it’s not being taught correctly, both that men are not be taught how to lead, and women are not being taught how to follow.

    I fully are with you on someone having to make a decision. See this post, http://www.surrenderedmarriage.org/2012/06/decsions-decisions-decisions.html and my comment at the bottom. I also agree that biblically that is to be the husband – but if a wife does not agree he is not permitted to bully or force her to do it his way!

    I agree with your forth point completely. Sadly that is not how some see it.

    I am in no way trying to dismiss headship, as you will see from my having addressed it many times. My concern is that many have missed the servant part of servant leadership, and without that part what is left is ugly and harmful. It’s like ignoring the “married” part of “married sex” as if the sex is so importnat we need to do it even if we do it wrong.

    To be clear, I see God as having made husbands the head and calling wives to follow their husbands. This is what God said, this is what I believe and what my wife and I do. HOWEVER her submission is a choice, not something I force upon her. If she decides not to follow, it is God, not me, who is supposed to deal with that. What’s more, I understand that I am called to serve and sacrifice for her just as Jesus did for me. If I fail in the serving and sacrificing part, I am blowing it big time no matter who well she does at following me.

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