The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Kids
by Mark Merrill
The porcupine is a very vocal animal. It has a wide variety of calls, including moans, grunts, coughs, shrieks, wails, and whines. (That sounds a lot like some of us men!) But the most recognizable feature of this rodent is its quills, which can number as many as thirty thousand. The quills are hairs with barbed tips on the ends. The porcupine has quills on all parts of its body, with the exception of its stomach. The longest quills are on its rear end.
When irritated or threatened, the porcupine stamps its feet, growls, hisses, and places his snout between his forelegs and spins around, presenting its rear to the other animal. If the porcupine hits the animal with its quills, the quills become embedded and can cause enormous pain.
But one of the most interesting facts about porcupines is that when you calm them, you can actually pet them if you use the right method. You have to do it front to back in a very thoughtful fashion. Any kind of carelessness can lead to piercing pain.
So when I come home and walk through the door really cranky, stomping my feet and hissing, with my prickly quills sticking up, my wife instantly sees it and whispers, “Uh-oh, the porcupine is home.” At that point, she has three choices, and only one of them will draw me closer to her. She can prod with her words by saying something like “What’s your problem?” But that just makes me growl more. She can also run from me, the porcupine. But the problem with that is that the porcupine is still in the house. Or, she can hug me by gently putting her arms around me and drawing me close. So she hugs me, even though I’m unlovable, and even risks hurting herself, because a hug is what this porcupine needs. So love the porcupine, hug and pet the porcupine, even though you risk getting hurt. In the end, it will draw you and your spouse closer.
You may be thinking, “That all sounds good, but what do porcupines and my relationship with my wife have to do with fatherhood?” Everything. If you are married, other than sharing God’s love and truth with your kids, the most important thing you can do for your children is to have a healthy marriage. The best way to love and lead your kids is to first love and lead your spouse, even when he or she is a porcupine. I’d like to share with you several truths for your marriage that will help you do just that.
Let’s face it. All of us are porcupines from time to time, and the key is to have the right method in our marriage to deal with each other’s irritability. Our society thinks compatibility is the key to a successful marriage. That’s wrong. Flourishing marriages are built on conflict resolution—how to work through issues and come out on the other side loving each other more. Here are four important truths to remember as you strive to love and lead your spouse through those prickly and precarious times in your relationship.
Truth #1: Your Spouse Is Not the Enemy
First, remember that your spouse is not the enemy. You and your wife are on the same team. You were designed to complete each other, not compete with each other. Marriage is the ultimate team sport, and marriages only work well when husbands and wives remember that they’re on the same team. So, as you go through your day, ask yourself, “Is this a good decision not only for me but also for my mate?” And, “Is this something that’s going to help our team or hurt it?” Teamwork in marriage requires a selfless, sacrificial, and giving spirit.
Truth #2: Your Tongue Has Remarkable Power
The second truth I want you to remember is that you have remarkable power right under your nose. The power of the tongue is so great that it’s capable of discouraging or encouraging, hurting or healing, tearing down or building up.
The tongue is a wild animal. You need to chain it, tame it, and train it. Train it to breathe life into those you love.
Truth #3: You Must Love Your Unlovable Spouse
The third truth to remember is that one of the hardest things for you to do is to love unlovable people, especially your spouse. It’s easy to love them when they are kind, sweet, and lovable, but we must love them when they are unlovable; love them no matter what. Remember, when we got married each of us made a choice to love our spouse for life, for better or worse. We made a choice to love them even when they’re unlovable.
So love the porcupine, no matter what. Even when it hurts. As you do so, you’ll not only be growing a healthy marriage, but also showing your children what true love—selfless, sacrificial love—is all about.
The foregoing was excerpted from All Pro Dad: Seven Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids by Mark Merrill, Thomas Nelson publishers, 2012