Significant other? Watch this. The wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster define it as a person who is important to one's well-being, especially a spouse or one in a similar relationship. At dictionary.com a significant other is a person, as a parent or peer, who has significant impact in shaping one's behavior and self-esteem. Or, a spouse or cohabiting lover. The Wikipedia people modernize the idea. In their definition significant other is colloquially used as a gender-neutral term for a person's partner in an intimate relationship without disclosing or presuming anything about marital status, relationship status, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Over in the psychology department it is very different from the colloquial use, more scientific. In this regard a significant other is a person with great influence over our self-concept. There are more. These three, however, are the most commonly understood.
The Bible addresses the idea of significant others from several directions. Certainly all of us should grow and mature so that we can be that up-close person people around us may need. The qualities of trust, honesty, confidentiality, reliability, and others are Christian graces that prepare us to be authentic and genuine. Who doesn't need some wise counsel at times, or a moral boost in a time of crisis, or simply a strong shoulder upon which we can lean? Being a significant other, especially to those in our inner circle, is a mark of seeking the character of Christ and expressing his mind to those trusting us. The assignment of being a significant other, not in the colloquial sense, is certainly compatible with our Christian faith and worldview.
There's another angle, however, that convicts and challenges me. Scripture teaches that self-denial is a monumental first step in following Christ. Jesus said it clearly---
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and
Luke 9:23, ESV
The ideals of humility and submission are consistently emphasized in Bible teaching as identifying character traits of Christ followers. Hundreds of New Testament passages affirm the many personal qualities that make sinful humans compatible. One passage has been more challenging for me this week. The Apostle Paul wrote---
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in
the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish
ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2: 1-4, ESV
This is the other, most challenging direction of these thoughts about significant others. According to these verses, I'm supposed to "...count others are more significant..." than myself. Everyone should be my significant others. Ouch! That's a hard one.
That's a test for me everyday, and especially this week. Two incidents stand out. One was on a drive down I-26 for a meeting in Charleston. A crazy driver in front of me ignited my passions with abnormally slow driving, changing lanes, swerving, stop and go braking, and more. She tested my patience, long-suffering, and temper. Because of heavy traffic I drove behind her for miles. I'm sure she could see me yelling at my steering wheel, waving my arms, and acting childish. After a couple of miles I remembered my blog topic this week---How Others Fit in Your Personal Priorities---and regretted my tantrum. When I finally got the opportunity to pass her, I motioned to her with raised hands and mouthed "Sorry!" She smiled and gave me the finger. In that moment I knew I had not counted her as more significant than myself.
The second incident was Wednesday morning. I had watched POTUS deliver the SOTU address and was incensed by the response of many people in the House chamber. The next morning I posted derogatory remarks on Facebook. Those comments were favored by many followers. Still, I had not counted those people as more significant than myself. They were not my significant others. So, Wednesday afternoon I spent some significant time with the ultimate significant Other, confessing such self-centered ways. Shoot, I still disagreed with a large number of those elected officials. Perhaps I could have been a little nicer about it!
It all reminded me that we are living in perilous days. Bible teaching about how others fit into our personal priorities should guide every relational interaction. Stressful moments like the two mentioned are not uncommon these days. They happen in grocery store lines, parking lots, with the neighbors, at church, with Harriet, the children and grands, in social media, and every human venue. It's especially true in these politically charged election year days, more fireworks than the Fourth of July.
You see, that's the thing about significant others. Everyone should be counted as more significant than self.
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