The Story of a Man, Woman, Dog, and a Goldfish

ImageI am currently reading a book entitled, Boundaries in Marriage, by two of the BEST Christian psychologists ever. Their names are Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt from my reading today:

(Dr. Cloud) “I was talking to a young man one day about  his girlfriend. He was thinking about getting married, and he had questions about their relationship. Several times during the conversation, he said that something she did or something about the relationship did not ‘make him happy.’ It was clear that this was a theme for him. She was not ‘making him happy.’ When I asked, I found that she wanted him to deal with some things in the relationship. He needed to do some work that took effort. It was not a ‘happy’ time. When he had to work on the relationship, he no longer liked it. At first, I was trying to understand what the difficulties were, but the more I listened, the most i saw that he was the difficulty. His attitude was, ‘If I’m not happy, something bad must be happening.’ And his immediate conclusion was always that the ‘bad’ was in someone else, not him. From his perspective, he was not part of the problem, much less part of the solution. Finally I had heard about as much as I could take from his self-centered ramblings.

‘I think I know what you should do,’ I said.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘I think you should get a goldfish.’

Looking at me as if I were a little crazy, he asked, ‘What are you talking about? Why do you say that?’

‘It sounds to me like that is about the highest level of relationship you are ready for. Forget the marriage thing.’

‘What do you mean by the highest level of relationship?’

‘Well, even a dog makes a demand of you. A dog has to be let out to go to the bathroom. You have to clean up after it. Other times, it requires time from you when you don’t want to give it. A dog might interfere with your happiness. Better get a goldfish. A goldfish doesn’t ask for much. But a woman is completely out of the question.'”

Now for a few final thoughts.

  • The pursuit of happiness can be ultimately selfish (doesn’t have to be though) if you are not careful.
  • If you are single, what attitude will you take into marriage one day?
  • Single or married, will you and I TODAY must take responsibility for the selfish pieces of our heart/life? Be honest with yourself. We are invited to bring our selfishness to the cross of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to begin cultivating in us the heart of Jesus which is SO other-centered. Jesus didn’t tell us to love others and ignore our own heart. On the other hand, he didn’t tell us to love ourselves and ignore others. In a brilliant tightrope maneuver, he instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). It is both/and, not either/or.
  • Don’t make any more excuses for bad and/or selfish behavior. Do not blame shift. Do not write things off as, “Well, that is just my personality.” Do you have not the Holy Spirit in you, or, is your personality something He has not interest in redeeming? The moral choices you make toward others, including the people closest to you, are not a personality issue. Your moral choices are not hard-wired. You really can hold your tongue if you love the person across from you. You really can keep your tone of voice down. You really can watch your language. You really can let someone besides yourself get the last word in. You really can admit you are wrong. You really can start growing today. What you excuse is still hidden in darkness. Only that which is brought into the light can be dealt with. If you are married, stay in prayer until you see your spouse with God’s eyes. It will change everything.
  • Change what you can, lay the rest at God’s feet.
  • Don’t focus on what needs to change in that person you are thinking of right now.

If the love of Christ will burn up our hearts for other people, I will live for other people’s success. I want this in my life as a person, as a husband, as a professor, and as a pastor. Everywhere I turn, I want my heart to beat for other people’s success. I have a ways to go, but I’m going. You can too. Don’t stop short of radical heart of love that Jesus didn’t just model, but promised he would LITERALLY deposit inside of us. Come Jesus, here is my heart.

“Happiness is a result. It is sometimes the result of having good things happen. But usually it is the result of our being in a good place inside ourselves and our having done the character work we need to do so that we are content and joyful in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)





Published by B.J. Condrey, PhD

Dr. Condrey holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Missouri-KC, a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Ph.D. in Ethics & Practical Theology from the University of Edinburgh. He is ACSI certified. Dr. Condrey writes courses and teaches Psychology, Bible, and C.S. Lewis at Enlightium Academy, where he began working in 2016. He has served as a youth, young adult, and small group pastor in the local church, and currently teaches Ethics at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has a book published by Wipf & Stock (Breaking Ground) along with other publications. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and writing, spending time with his family, traveling, trout fishing, family hikes, and drinking coffee! He is passionate about helping young people construct a biblical worldview so that their faith involves both the mind and heart. He has been married since 2009 and has two children.

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