“I need you to know that I am feeling angry towards you. I am working hard and you are watching TV.” My newlywed groom walked into our TV room, said his piece, and then walked out again just as quickly. For the first four years of our marriage, we were in the same graduate counseling program and our work ethics were very different. For a few moments, I sat there and contemplated how to respond. Should I get up and do something productive because I know he is aggravated with my perceived laziness? Or, should I sit right here and show him that I cannot be manipulated into working?
Though I cannot remember exactly how I responded, knowing me, I turned off the TV and went on to do something productive with a grumpy attitude. You see, when Eric and I got married, my dream was to have a partner with whom I could laugh, relax, and enjoy life. Eric also looked forward to having a spouse with whom he could enjoy life; however, enjoying life to Eric meant learning, conquering, and achieving great success – not in fame or fortune, but in bettering people’s lives.
Yes, our marriage went through some rough seasons as Eric continued to climb and I continued to fall behind. Eric struggled by having too many ambitions (How do I choose my path when there are so many great ones?!), and I struggled by having so few ambitions (Do we have to go down any path? Can’t we just stay home and cuddle instead?). In fact, to this day the question, “What is your greatest ambition?” is a terrifying one. I know I would like to be a mom. I know I would like to serve God with my whole heart. I know I want to be someone my friends can count on, but I do not have a fiery passion to conquer great feats – or any feat.
For years, I beat myself up for not having a laundry list (or even a post-it’s worth) of dreams and goals. To love and be loved was (and is) 95% of my life’s desire. It took time for me to come to appreciate the personality God gave me. I realize now that not everyone pops out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world – and, that is okay. What is not okay is saying, “Well, God made me low key, so I will just stay in bed all day.” I have been guilty of this time and time again (read: years); and, if not careful, I still want to squander my days. I do not believe God expects me to be a high-energy go-getter, but I do believe He expects me to work as unto Him (Colossians 3:23).
Can you identify with my core sin of laziness? Or, maybe you are like Eric and have so many ambitions you do not know how to relax.
Are Your Creed Notebooks Nearby?
Pull out your notebooks, which are probably getting a bit bulky by now (awesome!) and add the following questions and answers:
- How would I describe my current work ethic?
- Am I satisfied with it?
- If not, what do I need to change to be happy with it?
- What was it like growing up in my house?
- Were my parents always working?
- Was one parent working hard while the other parent was relaxing?
- Did the work/rest ratio seem balanced?
- How do I want my future home to differ (if at all) from my childhood home regarding work?
- Do I struggle with guilt if I do not work a certain amount?
- If so, is this guilt truly warranted?
- What is the root of this guilt?
- Do I have good work/play/rest boundaries?
- Am I comfortable unplugging from work after I get home?
- Does my work frequently interrupt my play or does my play frequently interrupt my work?
- What, if any, boundaries do I need to place in my life to make sure I am leading a balanced life?
- Have I done enough projects with my partner to understand his or her attitudes towards work?
- What do friends and family say about my work ethic?
- What does my boyfriend or girlfriend’s family say about his or her work ethic?
- Have I seen any red flags?
- What type of work/play ethic do I desire in a future spouse and, from what I have observed, does my significant other have such a work/play ethic?
What Does the Bible Say?
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV)
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4, ESV)
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23, ESV)
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, ESV)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14-16, ESV)
The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor. (Proverbs 12:24, ESV)
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:6, ESV)
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. (Psalm 128:2, ESV)
Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29, ESV)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, ESV)
Does Hard Work Fit into Your Couple’s Creed?
Perhaps my biggest struggle in life, from the time I was in kindergarten, is laziness. If you struggle to acquire motivation to do what you know you need to do, you can always think of me and know that somewhere in the world, someone else is struggling too!
Though it is so difficult to make myself get up and get my day going, I know from God’s Word (and those hard workers in my life whom I respect), that God is not pleased with my half-hearted effort and my idleness. It is in those times of laziness that my mind drifts to lies:
- You are not worth much.
- You used to have gifts and talents, but you have wasted them.
- If something happened to Eric, no one would want you.
- If Eric treated you differently, you would be happier.
- If you had a different personality, you would be a better person.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, ESV)
When I am working towards something meaningful, it is easier to live by this verse. Have you found the same to be true? When I am actively focused on something good – something which brings God glory – my mind has less free time to dwell on lies or dishonorable ideas.
As you begin preparations for writing your couple’s creed, take a hard look at your attitudes towards work and play – see where they align and differ. It is not important that your views are identical, but it will be helpful if they are at least similar. In most marriages, one spouse is more energetic than the other and more work-driven than the other. If one spouse is an energizer bunny and the other is a slow-moving elephant, that does not mean the relationship is doomed (the less intense spouse can help bring balance). However, if you are dating someone who takes every opportunity to sit down and do nothing, ignores important tasks, or seems content to let others handle the hard stuff, think long and hard about whether you want to live with that dynamic for a lifetime. Doting on someone may seem sweet and even romantic in the beginning, but after a while, taking care of someone who is perfectly capable of working leads to frustration and bitterness. And bitterness kills relationships.
When couples marry, they desire (most of the time) a peer-to-peer relationship – not a parent/child relationship. As you evaluate your relationship and consider your future, ask yourself, “Is this someone with whom I can build a partnership, or is this someone I feel compelled to parent?” “Is this someone who is likely to parent me? Is our current dynamic what I want in my marriage?”
If you have concerns, or if you do not have enough information, start a conversation about ambition styles. But, more than a conversation, start noticing his or her attitudes and behaviors towards work. Create work opportunities and pay attention to how you react to hard labor (mental and physical), how he or she reacts, and how well you work together.
Lord willing, your future marriage will be filled with some laughs, sex, and vacations; but, more often, your marriage will be filled with a lot of work. Be sure you are teaming up with someone who is not afraid to get a little dirt under his or her fingernails and wants to live life at a similar pace as you do.
Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams. – Ben Carson
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. – Vince Lombardi
Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come. – Dwayne Johnson
Do you and your partner share a similar work ethic?