The Person Sitting Right Next to You
Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said: “People feel that they need to go across the ocean to a 3rd world country in order to care for the impoverished. The poor in Calcutta have very little, but they at least share what little they have. They are poor in things but rich in love.” She stated “we don’t need to go that far to serve the impoverished. They are all around us. Their impoverishment is in the lack of being loved. If you want to know how to find them, look around you …they are the people sitting right next to you.”
Today we have an epidemic of starvation in our world. However, I’m not talking about physical hunger, but rather emotional hunger. Day after day, we are seeing many marriages fail in this country because couples have lost a sense of how to feed each other; emotionally feed each other. Whether it is due to poor communication skills, or lack of time, or too many distraction, or other things, we are finding more people struggling to exist in their current marital relationship and complain of not feeling loved or known by their spouse.
Augustine of Hippo (b. 354) once said: “The deepest desire of every human heart is to be seen and to see another in this same way.” I believe his statement to be absolutely true. We all long to be seen for who we are down deep inside; our good, our bad, and even our ugly, and seen without ridicule and rejection. We long for someone to not only see these parts of who we are, but to see them and choose to walk along side of us on this journey that we are on and choose to help us become better than we can be on our own. And we long to see that same thing in them. This is what marriage is meant to be. But for many, it is not.
Too often, we stop knowing what is going on with our spouse and family, because we have many distractions and responsibilities. We have many games to attend and functions to run and people to entertain. We have work that pulls from us 60 to 70 hours of our week. We have mistakes that we have made that complicate our lives and we have desires that, if fed, take us down roads of destruction. Many times we complain to our spouse because of the things that they are not doing to help us or the ways they are not giving, to us, the things we need. We get mad because we feel that they are giving others more of their time and energy than they are to us. In a sense, we are asking, if not begging, them to see our emotional needs and to be willing to help us in getting them met.
When we are children, our lives are usually focused on ourselves. “It’s my toy, my room, and I want the last piece of pizza.” However, hopefully through our parents, we learn that we need to share and give to others. This comes to fruition as we go through the dating process and we learn what our loved one needs and we feed them, in order to win over their hearts. However, somewhere down the road of marriage, we often go back to being self-focused. “You never give me time. You never help me around the house. I want time to myself. I want to keep playing my sports; and so on and so forth. Often we stop or reduce the time we take each day to check in with our spouse to see what it is that they need, and what they are struggling with in order to help them find resolution. We find ourselves feeling like, “I’ve got enough on my own plate and feel overwhelmed by all that my spouse needs too!” We go into self-preservation mode and focus only on ourselves and can slip into self-pity and frustration. And we starve………….and they starve…………..and too often, we also have less to give to our kids.
Now before you think that I’m just trying to be Danny Downer here, there is more to this that is important. People feel they need to do grand things in order to change the world and feed the hungry and stop war. Yet, Mother Theresa said it all too well when she stated: “we don’t need to go that far to serve the impoverished. They are all around us. Their impoverishment is in the lack of being loved. If you want to know how to find them, look around you …they are the people sitting right next to you.” They are your spouse. They are your children. And they just need to be loved. And love calls for sacrifice. And sacrifice calls us to action. Action of listening to and understanding our spouse’s need and THEN FEEDING IT! If both spouses did this, we could end the marital starvation and increase the connection between us; along with getting our needs met. Or if nothing else, we can have a compassionate companion walking with us through the “rain” of life.
Take time today, to rethink the distractions in your life and to make time to just sit and listen to your spouse and their needs. Without judging, minimizing or belittling their needs. Just seek to understand what it is they need to get from you. Look into their heart, and eventually let them see into yours. It may not change world hunger or global wars, but it may bring peace and fulfillment in your own home, which is the most important “world” for your children.
Written by: Greg Schutte