You & Your Family

Selfless and self-love

Apr 2012    

I HAVE JOURNEYED with this woman for almost 15 years now. I say “journeyed” as this is the word that can best describe my work with her over these years. It has a fuller meaning to it than the word “counsel”. How do you describe the process of walking with a person through many dark periods in her life where there are no answers, not even words that can comfort?

When I first met her, her husband had just committed adultery and she was devastated. At that time, she had been married for 10 years and was very devoted to her husband who was her childhood sweetheart. She came from a family with traditional values and also had two young children, which meant that leaving the marriage was not an option. They weathered this stormy period and things went back to normal after a year or two. Then, 12 years later, he slipped again.

This time, she was determined to ask him to leave. They separated, though not legally and still kept in touch. After the feelings of hurt and anger subsided, as they do eventually for some, he started to appear more and more often in her life. Although he paid attention to the children, it was clear that he was courting her affection again.

Now she became conflicted. A large part of her was still wounded by the two betrayals and she did not want to be hurt again. Yet another part of her saw him as the father of their children, a fact that could not be erased no matter what happened to their marriage. When I observed them relating, I could also see that they shared much in common and that some affection was still present.

Lastly, she had embraced Christianity in the last few years. Her new-found faith and Christian friends seemed to be pointing to the need to forgive and give him yet another chance. We talked again when she was in this dilemma. I asked her what she wanted. She could tell me what her children and her husband desired and what her friends and her pastor said, but she could not tell me what she wanted. For more than 20 years she had lived her marriage playing the role of a dutiful wife and mother. I should add that she also doubled up as the main and often sole provider for the family over these years.

As this was a crucial question, I asked that she take some time to ponder over this during a vacation she had planned to take. Two weeks later I received an anxiously-worded e-mail. She asked if there was a danger of her becoming selfish by focusing on what she wanted for her life. Would asking the question “Do I need this man to be my husband?” mean that she is being unchristian?

I assured her that just as it is important to love others, it is also important to love oneself. Loving oneself would mean that we treat ourselves and expect others to also treat us with respect and not take advantage of us.

With her, as in many others, they have become so selfless that they neglect their needs and let others walk all over them. We need to remember the two Great Commandments taught by Jesus Himself in Matthew 22:36-37, to first and foremost love God with our whole being and then to love others as ourselves. Whilst self-sacrifice is a good discipline and virtue, these acts of self-denial should be done with the full knowledge that I am prepared to lay my needs aside. It should not be that my needs are unimportant.

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.

SCHOOLS

15th Anniversary dinner of MSM

THE METHODIST SCHOOL OF MUSIC (MSM) will celebrate its 15th year of God’s blessings with a Celebration Dinner on April 28 at 7.30 pm at Raffles Town Club.

The theme is “Pass It On”, and the evening’s programme will include music and dance items by the MSM faculty, students and friends, as well as some hymn singing.

Donation tickets for the dinner are available at $2,000 per table or $200 per seat. Proceeds will go to the MSM’s Scholarship/Bursary fund for needy students, and the Visiting Professors’ Fund.

All are invited to attend the celebration. Please contact Ms Alpia Carolasan at 6767-5258.

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