I had a wonderful trip with my wife, Yasmin. She’s so child-like and fun-loving that it’s almost impossible to NOT have fun with her. There were the occasional arguments and irritations but, like in anything else, it’s not the absence of bumps that’s important, it’s our response to the bumps that matters.
One phrase I found myself saying quite often when Yasmin would show me something to eat, visit, or buy, or I would see something I would like to spend on, was “That’s nice. Can’t afford it now. Maybe someday.” It’s something I think more breadwinners should use with their family, especially if they’re already financially tight, such as startup couples like Yasmin and me. I don’t necessarily mean saying those exact words but communicating the three things the statement says:
When presented with something nice, even if it’s something we can’t afford, it’s good to be appreciative and acknowledge your partner’s preference. The temptation for me when I can’t afford something is to quickly say, “You don’t really need that.” or “That’s a waste of money.” or “You’re hungry again???” but instead I can start with appreciation and acknowledgement. Both these things don’t cost any money, don’t crush hope, and don’t require actually obtaining what ever it is they’re presenting. In fact, I learned on my last trip, it’s a great way to get to know someone, by just casually learning how to appreciate what they appreciate.
Can’t Afford It Now…
As a husband there is a deep desire to please your wife and give her the best. Few things feel as satisfying as seeing the gratefulness in Yasmin’s face when she receives something. So when she points out something she find nice or asks if we can buy something, my instinct is to want to buy it for her. There is also a deep desire to show that I’m capable of meeting her needs and wants, and during times where I’m not able to do so, I’ve felt a feeling of inadequacy, that I am not an excellent provider. But then I remember that while society places so much emphasis on a man being a spiritual, physical, financial, and emotional provider, a husband is first and foremost a head, a leader, not a chief lifestyle provider like I’ve described in old posts. This means he is first a spiritual leader, a physical leader, a financial leader, and an emotional leader, than just a provider. There’s a difference, and that is, being a leader means you’re responsible for directing where your family goes spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. In the post I mentioned, I shared that I believe that marriages are meant to achieve a purpose not a lifestyle, that a husband should be leading towards that purpose not trying to be Prince Charming, and that the wife should be a great partner in achieving that purpose not a princess. That purpose I believe is to honor God as a family by being so good at fundamentally improving the lives of others through excellence and service. The single biggest hurdle I see preventing families from doing this is not lack but materialism and a self-centered spirituality that believes the blessed life is a life where we get all the things we desire “from God”.
Given that the family has a clear purpose, our budgeting and spending needs to reflect that purpose. Our spending cannot be defined by impulse and we are not better providers nor better husbands if we are able to accommodate impulsive spending better. We are better providers and better husbands if we are able to first provide the leadership required to achieve the family purpose in a way where family needs and family joy is not neglected. So it’s part of our role as leaders to know our boundaries, in this case financial boundaries, and to operate within these boundaries.
It’s a mark of maturity for a man to be able to withstand the demands of anyone (even his own and his family’s) to do the right thing. It’s the mark of a mature woman to do the same. The right thing is to live according to principle not impulse. The right thing is to live according to conviction not convention, especially if that convention is a born from a materialistic society. The world needs mature people who actually understand that a man is a stronger leader when he is able to make unpopular wise choices, such as looking at the disappointed faces of his family and saying, “Not now. I want to give it to you. But more important than you getting everything you want or having everything you’ve desired, is learning stewardship, faithfulness, patience, and faith. So let’s pray about it. Let’s bring this request to God. Maybe someday.” That man is not driven by how people view him. And a truly principled wife would not only respect a man like that, she will cherish him, because she knows that he is truly leading, not simply providing.
While it’s mature to understand the cost of things, it doesn’t mean we can’t hope and believe for bigger and better. This is why I like to end this statement with hope: maybe someday. I say “maybe” because I really don’t know what the future will look like. For one, I don’t know what the political situation will be. I also don’t know whether I’ll have other priorities (such as if someone is sick, or paying off mortgage, etc). Most of all, I don’t know what God will be asking of me in the future. But another reason why I say maybe is because the reality is a lot of the things we think we want right now, we don’t really need nor even really want. It’s impulse. How many clothes do we have that we haven’t worn in the last year? How many more shoes do we need? How many more shoes does our family need? How many more calories do our already overweight bodies need? How many more video games? How many more toys? How many more TVs?
The reality is we don’t need much more. Our materialistic environment makes us want more. I know this because I always fall for this.
Maybe someday means, in the future, if God wills, and if we actually still want it, let’s do it. Because if God wills, then He will provide. And if we actually still want it, then we will truly enjoy, not merely experience.
Mature people are able to appreciate nice things, be good stewards of their resources, and have the faith to trust in God’s timing, His will, and His goodness.
Again, a Leader Not a Prince, Partner Not a Princess
I’m very grateful to God that I have a wife like Yasmin. God knows we drive each other nuts in frustrating and private ways, but we’re also learning how to support each other and enjoy supporting each other. It’s important to be dutiful and know your role, not buying into the crap about “only doing what you love” but being the type of person who “does what the world needs of him/her”, in other words, the servant of all that the Bible describes. Many wives I’ve observed aren’t partners. They’re princesses. They don’t really share in carrying the load. They’re part of the load. Being a partner means knowing what’s required, sharing in the responsibility, which includes sharing the blame when things fail, and sharing in the work of achievement. A princess begins with “Here’s what I want for our family”. A partner begins with “Here’s our family purpose.” A princess asks, “Why is our marriage like this?” A partner says, “How can I be of better service?” A princess says, “My partner needs to be like this for me.” A partner says, “I need to be excellent for my partner”. A princess says, “I will love you the way I feel.” A partner says, “I will love you the way God commands”.
Our selfish spirituality has led us to overemphasize the meeting of needs, the filling of love banks, and not enough on the achieving of purpose. In business, in my experience, the most drama and complaints come from the least impactful. I think it’s the same at home. When people are busying themselves with being amazing for others, they don’t have the time nor the luxury of burdening others with their attitudes of entitlement. When people are conditioned to think about their own needs being met and not achieving a purpose greater than their needs, we will become petty, so easily shaken when our relationships don’t validate our feelings.
One of the best pieces of advice I get regularly whenever I feel frustrated or want to self-pity is this simple phrase: “Man up!” I’ve heard it from my dad, from my brother Joseph, from my godparents, from friends. It’s basically them saying, “I’ve heard everything you’ve got to say about why you feel that way. But that won’t solve anything. So man up. Do the right thing even if you don’t like it, even if no one likes it.” And I don’t think giving into the impulses of your family is manning up no matter what anyone says. Charting a purposeful course, even if its unpopular, is manning up.
What kind of an example is the leader of the home setting if he is driven by what the family wants NOT by what the family stands for? And is this man following God’s example, who owns the world, yet wisely provides and withholds according to the wisdom of His love?
And I also think, women need their own version of “Man up”. A phrase that reminds them to think maturely not childishly. A phrase that cuts through the feelings and emotions to reveal the principle needed to make the moment great. I don’t know what it is.
I do know this: most of my impulsive decisions I’ve come to regret. If a family is run on impulsive decisions there will be regret, even if they go to church, give their tithes, and pray everyday.