By Rob Furlong
Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Aesop’s fable concerns a tortoise who was fed up with being ridiculed for his slowness by a hare and challenged him to a race!
Convinced he would win easily, the hare took time out for a nap halfway through but awoke with a start to discover the tortoise had both passed him and crossed the finish line first.
At first glance, before the race is run, it is obvious that the hare has a distinct advantage over the tortoise - it would be a brave person to bet against the hare!
As the hare’s coach what advice would you give him pre-race?
“It’s in the bag!” or “Win, but don’t overdo it. Save your energy for the bigger race.”
Perhaps you might be more circumspect and advise him, “Don’t underestimate this guy, this a long race!”
What advice would you give the tortoise?
“I admire your courage, but you have way too much baggage holding you down, hindering you from winning this race.”
But who really had the most baggage?
He was lazy and arrogant. He had poor follow through and lacked stickability.
The tortoise’s baggage was obvious but it also brought out his best. It produced endurance, tenacity, perseverance and courage.
And I don’t think losing would have bothered him. His goal was to finish the race!
The tortoise recognized and dealt with his baggage and he kept moving forward.
The same principle operates in marriage as a couple grows in their oneness.
If a couple are to grow closer to grow closer over the years then it means that they both will have developed ways of identifying their personal baggage and dealing with it.
Every one of us comes to marriage with “baggage”, but so many are unaware of it.
And we quickly discover that living under the same roof with another person creates all sorts of issues and conflicts!
However, rather than deal with our baggage we often retreat into blaming the other person and demanding that they “sort themselves out!”
Of course, there is truth to that. We all carry personal baggage and need to work it through in order to become whole people.
But unawareness of or refusal to acknowledge our own baggage, makes us extremely unsafe and heading for personal and relational disaster.
I can remember when recognizing and dealing with some of my own baggage became deeply personal for me.
I had a bad habit of reading too much into comments made by others to me, perceiving them as personal criticisms of me or my performance.
This was particularly pronounced in my relationship with Karen. She might make an observation about something I had done or said and if it did not agree completely with how I saw it then I would take it personally and feel quite wounded.
But when I began to recognize and own my behavior, I also began to identify the faulty thinking process that was at the root of it all.
I would hear the comment, interpret it incorrectly (instead of clarifying what was said), which then led to a whole range of negative thoughts and responses.
Things began to change when I deliberately grabbed the negative thought early in this negative cycle and replaced it with positive and truthful statements.
As I went through this process of dealing with some of my baggage, we grew closer as a couple; we grew in our oneness.
I wish I could say that I have perfected this but I can’t. But I can say that my marriage is richer because I am married to a woman who is committed to journeying with me because she knows that I want to be a better man.
And I am just as committed to her as she deals with her own baggage.
So what are you? A tortoise or hare?•