One of the great blessings of living in South Bend, Indiana is the terrific group of women I’ve met at the St. Joseph Parish, through their once-a-month “Prayer on the Porch.” Most of these women have young children at home AND a full-time job, and so I look forward to these Thursday evening meetings every month. Bonding over a glass of wine and some form of chocolate, I feel like I’ve found my “tribe.” We don’t always get together between meetings, but it feels good to connect.
At our meeting last night, our leader was telling us about Seven Principles for Marking Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman, who talks about the “love maps” that each of us needs to create and continually update as we explore the intimately connected relationship of marriage. No matter where you are in your relationship, or how you experience conflict (as bashing heads or stoic stonewalling or something in between), the key to conflict resolution really does boil down to cultivating one of the key virtues of Christian living: humility, the perfect antidote to pride, the “prince” of all vices.
Although he was writing to his brothers, rather than married couples, St. Benedict’s teaching on the “twelve degrees of humility,” of the steps that lead to the conversion of the human heart, is applicable whether that turning is toward God . . . or toward another human being. They include:
- Possessing the fear of God, as a means to living intentionally, with priorities straight.
- Seeking God’s will above all. How many conflicts would dissolve instantly with five simple words: “Let’s try it your way”?
- Embracing the liberating gift of obedience, rooting out small compromises and practicing restraint.
- Accepting hardships, seeing each sacrifice as an opportunity to die a little more to vanity each day.
- Actively seek reconciliation, to forgive and be forgiven.
- Practice contentment. Exercise patient endurance, suspend judgment and wait for clarity.
- Model openness. Use some of the energy reserved to protect ourselves to reach out.
- Refrain from insisting on one’s own way. Stubbornness is pride’s ugly sister.
- Refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Take up instead the quest for self-knowledge, stripping away our personal illusions in pursuit of the real.
- Do not be driven by passions. Feelings are fleeting. Truth is not.
- Practice gentle living. The refusal to compete in a way that makes our self-worth depend on someone else’s failure.
- Be genuine in your dealings with God and others. Seek God through the pursuit of stillness, stripping away the constant and meaningless noise around us. In this way we gain a useful perspective of who we are, and how we fit in God’s plan.
Which of these presents the greatest challenge to you?