Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13. It’s often recited at weddings and plastered on knick-knacks. But what can it teach us about our relationships? How can it help us be better at connecting, understanding, and deepening our levels of intimacy now? As you read, it may seem unnatural and even scary, but the reward far exceeds the risk. Let’s break down each of these commonly used adjectives and use them to transform our relationships.
Love is patient,
Love chooses to move at the other person’s pace. It chooses to acknowledge that we aren’t at the same place in the same journey all the time. It respects and understands that force breaks bonds and patience builds solidarity. It acknowledges the decision to pause rather than push. It defers. It accommodates. It is undemanding.
Love is kind.
Kindness is loaning someone your strength rather than reminding them of their weakness. Simply put, unkindness is weakness. Kindness is strength. Choose to side with them, not against them. Kindness is also not sarcasm. There’s no room for sarcasm in your relationships because your words weigh too much for people who love you. Set the tone of honor and respect in your relationships. Kindness is not critical. It shows no contempt. It doesn’t blame or point the finger.
It does not envy,
With today’s constant barrage of social media pictures and videos, it’s easy to play the comparison game. We have to set our minds daily on choosing to remember that comparison is the thief of joy and a trap. Practice focusing on your own relationships and how to make them the best they can be, rather than looking at others and making dangerous, false assumptions.
It does not boast,
Love doesn’t need to brag because it is secure and stands on its own. It’s humble and puts others above yourself. Boasting is the opposite of humility. Lean in together and practice being humble together. Ask yourself, “what’s the humble thing to do and what does that look like here in this situation?” True humility, rather than boastfulness, will lead to contentment in your relationships.
It does not dishonor others,
Look for ways to build honor rather than break it down. Trying to win a conversation or argument causes a loss in the relationship in the end. Choose to serve. Choose to let others shine. Choose to praise and give compliments freely. Honor never creates regret.
It is not self-seeking,
Self-seeking behaviors are simply behaviors we take to get our own way. We tend to put our own needs above others and act in selfish ways. Practice putting others first. Listen to others for understanding, rather than listening to react or debate. Be aware of what you’re wanting and communicate that clearly and respectfully, rather than being manipulative or passive-aggressive.
It is not easily angered,
When we don’t get what we want, it can really stir up some angry feelings. It’s not that the other person or the situation caused us to be angry, the anger was already within us. When love isn’t self-seeking, it simply won’t be as easily angered. They go hand in hand. Pause and ask yourself what you’re wanting and not getting when you become angry.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
When we take the one-up position in our relationships, feel the need to prove we’re right, or keep a filing cabinet of all the wrongs that have been done to us, it sets us up for unequal power dynamics. This can wreak havoc on our relationships. Everyone’s behavior makes sense to them. Ask for clarification for better understanding so that the work of forgiveness can be done. Remember, record keepers usually don’t keep records of themselves. Don’t be a hypocrite.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Focusing on positive aspects of our loved ones rather than on their imperfections and mistakes is an act of love. Find the most generous explanation for the other person’s behavior and decide to believe it. Love doesn’t try to find something wrong. At times, because of past history, insecurity, or fear, it can seem easier to assume the worst. Push past these, and choose to focus on the positive. What is always true is that we are all human and we all make mistakes.
It always protects,
Love stands guard and defends. It’s protective of the relationship as a whole. It doesn’t stand by and watch loved ones be hurt or taken advantage of. It says, “I have your back and I’m here for you.” It’s mature and never says, “well they deserved it.” Close, protective relationships will keep you afloat in hard times.
Trust is the oxygen of human relationships; without it, true connection cannot occur. Choosing to believe that other people have good intentions and are trying the best they can is challenging. But what it says to them is that you trust them. Trust is a feeling, but it’s also a choice and a skill. If someone has broken your trust and you are struggling, reach out to a trained professional for help. It takes time and changed behavior for trust to return to your relationship.
All relationships go through difficult seasons. Since we all make mistakes, there are times when we will have to ask for forgiveness and also choose to forgive. Remaining hopeful that this too shall pass and that together we can weather this storm will give you the strength to endure during life’s trials.
Persevere simply means to continue on despite difficulty or the chances of failure. Fight for the relationship. Go to battle for love. Don’t give up when it seems hard and no end is in sight. Love is unconditional. Love strengthens. Love is your reward.
*Adapted from multiple North Point Community Church’s series: Parenting in the 21st Century; Love, Dates and Heartbreaks; and What Happy Couples Know. Listen or watch them here.
**This post is intended for non-abusive relationships; never remain in a relationship where there is abuse, danger, or threat.
Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.
We offer in-person and virtual services – contact us today to learn more!