This post is a follow-up from “Marriage, part 1: Why difference matters.” Three more related posts will follow.
In the previous post, I argued that differences were actually essential for a spirit of charity to thrive in marriage. In seeking out and embracing these differences, we learn to love that which is other than us – and by love, I mean in part to appreciate and embrace the unique contribution made by those differences.
Charity, as Paul says, “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). The truth is, we (husbands and wives) are different, and to have charity, we must rejoice in those differences. Doing so has the benefit of uniting us, as I discussed before. In this post, I’d like to discuss another benefit through a semi-narrative.
Imagine two people perpetually in conflict with one another. Let us say their conflicts are sometimes not particularly contentious, but do (as they must) get heated every once in a while. Now, in spite of how those conflicts play out (i.e., whether they are resolved or not), imagine that these two people also love each other with complete fidelity – that they are desperately faithful to one another. We might even see their love for one another manifested during conflicts.
Now imagine this couple has kids. Their children understand, at least to some degree, their parents’ conflict and, as a consequence, see quite clearly the differences between their parents. But these children also see the love that seems to pervade these differences. If these kids are very introspective, they might start asking themselves about the nature of marriage and parenthood, and if difference and conflict always occur in these important relationships. They might also reflect on the nature of love, and what role difference plays in love. They might find themselves asking how it is that love can exist where so much conflict occurs, and if so, if love and conflict must occur together in relationships.
Chances are, however, the kids aren’t really that introspective. Instead, they simply grow up in this atmosphere assuming – quite naturally – that two very different people can be different and love each. Indeed, they may just assume – quite naturally – that differences help to make true (truth) love possible. In other words, they may never be introspective about the nature of their parents’ relationship, but simply grow up thinking that difference and love go hand in hand.
How will these children react in the face of difference? It’s quite possible that they’ll love in the face of difference, simply because it’s the natural thing to do, because it has become part of their nature, because it was part of how they were raised.
Teaching children to have charity requires that we have charity, and loving the different is part of having charity. Whether couples are in conflict with each other regularly or not, they will be different, giving all married parents the chance to demonstrate/practice charity with their spouse by rejoicing in the truth of their spouse. Thus difference is not just essential for unity, as I argued before, but loving difference is useful in teaching our children how to be charitable.
In the next post, I hope to explore a ritual of difference that should engage married couples in the practice of differing on a regular basis, giving couples the opportunity to develop and, subsequently, teach charity to their children.