Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Were either of your parents record keepers? You know, every time they argued, the record keeper started recounting in detail the sins of the past. Odds are they kept a record of your less-than-perfect behavior as well.
This was the parent who was never content to simply discipline you for a current infraction but always attached the present to the past, leaving you to feel that you could never do anything right. He or she just couldn’t stop the urge to connect all the dots as far back as either of you could remember.
If you grew up with a record keeper, you’re painfully aware of the negative relational dynamic record keeping creates. What you may not be aware of is that you are prone to follow suit. Funny how that happens. We know we’re going to look like one of our parents. It never dawns on us we’ll probably act like one of them as well. Unless we decide not to.
The challenge for record keepers is that they’re right. Their husbands or wives, their sons and daughters, actually did all those things they remember in such vivid detail. The problem isn’t their accuracy. The problem is the damage it does to a relationship. Rehearsing the past does nothing to alter or improve the future.
Do behavioral dots need to be connected? Do patterns need to be examined? Sure. By request only. By a counselor, By a friend over coffee. But not by a spouse or significant other. Forgiving and pretending to forget are your best bets for sustained romance. I say pretending because there are some things we won’t ever forget. But there’s no point in bringing them up
A person can be exactly right and end up exactly alone. Filers can always justify their truth telling, but eventually they will truth the life right out of their most valued relationships. You don’t want to be reminded of your failures. Your love interest doesn’t want to be reminded either. So stop with all that. Love chooses not to keep dousing the present with the past.
BELIEVING IS SEEING
The apostle Paul writes, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7).
Love chooses to see the best and believe the best while choosing to overlook the rest. Love does not get its kicks digging up dirt or catching someone doing wrong. Love isn’t looking for or expecting bad behavior. Love is hopeful. Love looks for and celebrates good behavior. Unlike the record keepers, love loves to catch people doing the right thing. Love goes so far as to look for excuses to credit others with right behavior. Everything that follows underscores how far love is willing to bend in order to see and believe the best: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Extreme, huh? Always trusts? Yep. Always. A more literal translation says, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” You’ve heard the phrase, “love is blind.” The apostle Paul would agree. Actually, Paul suggests true love chooses to be blind. Love chooses not to focus on failure. Love chooses to celebrate success.
In every relationship there are occasional (or not so occasional) gaps or lapses. Gaps between promises and performance. Gaps between expected behavior and actual behavior. Every gap gets filled with something. Every time your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend-friend makes a promise or sets an expectation and doesn’t come through, he or she creates a gap. Whether you realize it or not, you choose what goes in the gap. And there are only two choices: trust or suspicion. You either believe the best or suspect the worst. It’s a choice. Paul’s point is that love chooses to believe the best and hope the best. He says love “always protects.” That is, when there’s a gap, love does everything possible to protect the integrity of the relationship rather than undermine it with suspicion. He says love “perseveres.” The term persevere implies stress or tension. Love continues to love when there’s reason not to. Love continues to hope and trust when circumstances argue otherwise. Love opts for the most generous explanation for the other person’s behavior.
When two people choose to consistently fill the inevitable performance gaps with trust, it creates a reinforcing current that drives the relationship in a healthy direction. Trust builds trust. Mutual trust is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Love does not sustain itself naturally. What come naturally are passion, lust, chemistry, and that “can’t wait to get you alone” feeling. But over time, all of that is eventually squashed by our unbridled, selfish, self-preserving natures.
The brand of love Paul describes is a nonnegotiable for those desiring to sustain the chemistry and romance that make the early days of a relationship so exhilarating. Romance is sustained by patience, kindness, humility, and a short memory. While none of those things come naturally, every one of them is necessary. Otherwise our wounds, insecurities, and parental implants will become the driving forces and send the relationship in a bad direction. When that happens, good-bye, chemistry. Good-by, romance.