I stumbled across a lesson a few years ago that apparently had a much bigger impact on my wife than I ever thought it would. Julia loves books. She always loved going to the library to get books on a variety of things, biographies and classic novels being her favorites. I’m so thankful that she’s been able to pass that love along to Eli who reads all the time now too! At one point, there were a few books that were overdue that started to add up in library fines. The total got to around $25. At the time, things were somewhat tight financially. Don’t get me wrong, we were paying our bills fine and $25 wasn’t going to put us under, but still it was something we didn’t need. The fine was a huge worry for her. She was afraid I would be upset with her. She was afraid I would blame her for being careless with money. So rather than face the fine and have to pay it, she just stopped going to the library.
A little while later, I was in the library getting a book for myself. When I went to checkout, they let me know that my wife had a fine on her account, so I asked if I could just pay it then…which I did. I had one main motivation for doing so. She LOVES the library and I hated that she had stopped going there because of the stupid fines. So, I wanted to pay them off so she could be free from them and go back whenever she wanted to. I’ll be honest though…I wasn’t happy about it. That $25 could have been spent on plenty of other things. I knew it wasn’t a huge amount, but when financial issues happen that I feel are wasteful and outside of my control, it bothers me. I realize that’s an issue I have…especially considering that something like this is so small.
When I got home, part of me wanted to rub it in her face. Something like, “hey you wanna go out to eat tonight…oh wait…we just spent that money on library fines, nevermind.” Or, “so…how are you going to earn back that $25 I just spent to cover your fines?” But, I thought about it and I realized there were two things I cared about in all this. One was that she would be able to go back to the library…which she loves. That part had already been solved. The other was that I wanted her to know that library fines are a waste of money and that I hoped it wouldn’t happen any more. But, when I thought about that second desire, I realized that had already been solved too. She had been beating herself up for weeks about those fines. She knew it was a waste and she knew I wouldn’t like it. So I realized something…there was no point in me belittling her more or getting onto her about it. So I simply said, “I paid your library fines, so you can feel free to go back again if you like.”…and that was it.
What I didn’t anticipate was the impact this had on Julia. It showed her that I wasn’t going to rub her nose into mistakes. It showed her that $25 was nothing in comparison to her pursuing what she loves. And from her perspective, it showed her (in a way) what the love of Christ was like for us. He came to earth to take our sin debt away and pay the price for us. He didn’t rub our noses in it. He did it because he loves us, and now, we are free because of it. Now, I didn’t have the most Christlike attitude when I was paying the fine, but I’m glad it worked out. And I’m glad that she felt loved through my actions.
So here’s what I learned through this. Library fines are nothing…and $25 is nothing in comparison to taking care of Julia. Yes, I was upset at the time, but when I thought about it, I know that Julia is NOT careless with money. Financially, she is one of the most responsible women I know. If a tiny $25 charge is the only money issue I have to worry about, then I consider myself a VERY lucky man! Just the year before that, I made a bad financial decision that cost us over $1,000 and she didn’t get on to me for a second.
I also learned that it does no good to rub someone’s face into something they did. Julia didn’t need to be chastised by me. She needed to be LOVED. She needed to know that no matter how many times she may mess up, no matter how much money she may blow, no matter how much inconvenience or frustration she may cause me…that I will ALWAYS love her NO MATTER WHAT! I think she felt this to a very small degree, but I could have done so much more to assure her.
Here is my challenge to you:
- Keep things in perspective. Before you get upset about something, look at the big picture and ask yourself…is this really worth getting upset over?
- Don’t rub someone’s nose into an issue, especially if they’ve already learned their lesson. If a kid sneaks out of the house to go to a party you said he couldn’t go to… you may need to ground him. But, imagine he snuck out to go to the party, but then felt bad about it and voluntarily grounded himself. Are you going to ground him AGAIN just to prove your point?
- Forgive not once, or seven times, but 70 times 7. No matter what the issue is. It could be something small like a library fine, or something big (you fill in the blank here). Forgiveness is one of the most important steps to having a healthy relationship. And if you can forgive your wife…no matter what…she will feel loved.