Marriage and Family by Roger Rollins "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." - Martin Luther King Jr. (accepting Nobel Peace Prize) "Freedom is unconditional love." - Erica Jong John and Mary had been married for many years and had what both of them would have told you is a good marriage. John had some things in his past, before marriage, however, which he wasn't proud of. Most of them were not worth sharing with his wife, but one event fell in the "must tell" category. He was afraid of his wife's reaction, however; her love might turn to disgust or even hatred. John decided to tell Mary his secret and was rewarded with her very understanding response. The revelation required some effort to work through, but they made it, and their marriage became stronger. John trusted his wife, and Mary loved (and forgave) her husband in the midst of his revelation. Trust is an extremely important component of unconditional love. We have to trust that others will love us even in our frailties and failings. Demonstrating our trust of others in the midst of their weaknesses is also vital. Either case makes us very vulnerable to further pain and suffering. In a current poll ranking "the secret to a successful relationship" being conducted by Dr. Rita DeMaria, the author of "7 Stages of Marriage," trust comes out No. 1 at 37 percent (sex is fifth out of six at 9 percent). In a recent conversation, we learned of a couple in which the wife was emotionally wounded in the past and hence has a very difficult time relating well to her husband, even though he was not the cause of the previous injuries. Trust is expensive, but lack of trust costs even more. Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch, in their book "True Faced," tell of Mark, a gifted analyst and businessman, who spent the first part of his life trying to please God, his friends and family, and anyone else he met. No matter how hard he tried, however, he kept falling short of his expectations, which left him feeling worthless and unloved by others. He felt like a failure and became "an angry, bitter man, ashamed of who I was." Then, in Mark's words, "... My wife and I met up with some people who actually valued others with issues - issues like mine. This was a place where people were safe to share their struggles, their painful pasts, and their present issues. This was a community of grace, where the truth of my identity would eventually become fog-free for me." We all wish to be in relationships where no masks are required. Where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. That doesn't mean that improvement is not necessary. In fact, it means that we are now free to change and grow without having to defend past behavior, and knowing that others will continue to love us and help us back up as we move forward with frequent stumbling and falling. Along with unconditional love and trust, one more word is needed. It is a difficult and often misunderstood word. Trusting God and others with "me" requires humility. Humility means I am able to present my naked self to others. I offer trust and unconditional love and expect the same, but if it doesn't happen, I am still OK. I can believe that God loves me no matter what; that's His grace. People may react differently - with less grace. Regardless, my identity does not derive from their acceptance or rejection. So I can love and trust others unconditionally, no matter what their response might be. That makes for strong relationships, which is what it's all about. The Family & Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) was created to provide resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director, FAMCO, 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, http://www.aikenfamco.com