Monday, August 6, 2012

Could Being Shrewd Help Your Marriage?

If you were like me as of a couple weeks ago, you probably would have read the title of this blog and thought, "I don't think so..." Typically, being shrewd is not looked at as a positive trait to have. Cut-throat business guys are shrewd. Used-car salesmen are shrewd. Not Christians! And especially not in the context of marriage as it would be the fastest way to divorce.

However, after reading author Rick Lawrence's new book I have done a complete 180 about what it means to be shrewd and the fact that we as Christians must learn how to live more shrewdly if we are going to carry out Christ's mission on earth. I also have come to believe that being more shrewd could dramatically help our marriages at the same time.

By taking a look at Jesus command to his disciples in Matthew 10:16 to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves," (which if Jesus commanded shrewdness, it can't be a bad thing!) as well as The Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16:1-13, the book unpacks what Christian shrewdness really looks like. Here is what Rick lays out:

"Shrewd people (and Jesus is the Exemplar) first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of the right force at the right time in the right place." Just like most things in life, being shrewd can be used for good or for bad, but when connected to innocence and the Holy Spirit the shrewdness that we should be living out has everything to do with bringing heaven to earth in the way we live everyday. 

So how could learning to be more shrewd help our marriages? I think it can do so in two ways: internally and externally.


The Internal Effect

I know that one of the biggest things that lends to a fight or disagreement the quickest in our marriage is when either of us (or both!) are selfishly looking out for ourselves. A lot of the times, tension drives us to defend ourselves and to try and escape from the argument "the winner." However, if we were more shrewd we would spend more time trying to figure out how our spouse "works" rather than looking at ourselves first.

Then, once we truly understand what is really going on in our spouse - what their love language is, what they need and want, what emotions are really going on beneath the surface, etc. - we can apply the right force to serve and give to our spouse which moves our marriages in a favorable direction. 

Applying the right force at the right time in the right place means... 
  • picking up flowers on your way home from work after you know your wife has had a rough day. 
  • taking time to listen instead of just trying to fix a problem. 
  • knowing when your spouse looks upset and simply offering a hug.
  • planing a weekend away or getting a babysitter so you can get away just the two of you.
  • and (come on let's apply this bluntly here!) it means paying attention in the bedroom to make sure your spouse is sexually satisfied.

The External Effect

Marriages don't only struggle with trying to understand the inner-workings of each spouse but they also can struggle with external pressures. Maybe it's a job or financial situation that one or both spouses are unhappy with. Maybe it's a living situation. Maybe it's kids, or in-laws, or a difficult neighbor......you get the point. A lot of the time, these situations can create a decent amount of tension as you and your spouse try and decide how to deal with the issue and sometimes you can feel like you are completely stuck and just nothing will work to bring about change. 

Cue shrewdness. 

Instead of just continually trying to attack the issues head on with no avail, Rick offers a simple process of being shrewd that could make a big difference for you and your spouse:
  • Answer the question: “What do I really want?” Jesus habitually asked an irritating question of people with obvious needs who approached Him for help: “What do you want?” (e.g., Matt. 20:32; Mark 6:22; Mark 10:36; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41). We must know what we really want before we can truly ask in faith.
  • Answer the question: “Is my ‘want’ born out of innocence? Would I feel just fine asking Jesus for this ‘want’ if I was face-to-face with Him?”
  • Answer the question: “How does this (person, organization, or process) work?” Shrewd living always starts with understanding how things work—so spend five minutes brainstorming (either alone or with someone you trust) an answer to this question.
  • Based on your understanding of how things work, spend five minutes brainstorming a point of leverage to go after with a “sideways” approach. Sideways means the leverage comes from an unexpected direction—you find “sideways” by experimenting with approaches that carry the force to move the situation.
  • Now, try one of your options and debrief the results with [your spouse]. Decide whether to continue with that option or whether to try a new approach.
  • Repeat steps #3, #4, and #5 in a continuous loop—until you’ve landed on “the right force at the right time in the right place.”
I know I am looking forward to figuring out more and more how shrewdness can be more of a factor if my life and my marriage. I hope you find it helpful within your life and marriage as well.

Jake
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.