“Let Everybody Win!” Ensign, Mar. 1980, 9
Happiness is not just pleasure—happiness is mostly victory. Everyone likes to be a winner. I surely do. I believe that we came here to win and that if we stick with the Lord, we will win. It’s a cinch that he is not a loser.
When we are confronted with temptations or conflicts that would affect our standing with the Lord, we can’t afford to lose. We can’t even afford to compromise.
But some matters are so insignificant that it really doesn’t make any difference one way or the other. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said that he would gladly give his opponent nine points out of ten if the tenth was the only point that really mattered. There is great wisdom in that.
In the normal course of human interactions, there is constantly a need for compromise. Living with other people is always a give-and-take situation. No one can win every time.
Since winning is so important, the smart person will see to it that his husband or wife and children win often.
Some time ago, a young mother of four came to see me upon recommendation from her bishop. She had left her husband about two months prior to our visit.
As we talked about her reasons for leaving her husband, it was obvious to me that she loved him very much and that he was true to her. But he expected her to be perfect in every aspect of their relationship. He would not tolerate her weaknesses, and he never let her win an argument. If it appeared she might win, he would make sure she didn’t—by physical force, if necessary.
I then visited with the husband, who spent two hours telling me how much he loved his wife. He confessed that he had struck her. He knew it was wrong, and was very sorry he had done it. But now he felt he had repented; he was sure he wouldn’t ever abuse her again, and he wanted a chance to make things right.
He sounded sincere, but that wasn’t enough. I felt he still needed to be carried a bit further in his commitment to a very important principle in building eternal relationships. So we talked about letting others win some of the time.
He admitted that he always had to have his own way and that he got impatient with his wife whenever she did anything differently than he wanted. I tried to help him see that he didn’t always have to be the winner in every little matter. Rather than always trying to prove that he was right, he needed to invite his wife to share her ideas with him so that they could both arrive at mutually satisfactory conclusions. In that way, they would both be winners. I told him she needed the freedom to make some of her own decisions without fear of constant ridicule or criticism. He agreed to try.
It wasn’t easy for him, I’m sure. The habit of years couldn’t be changed overnight. But the two of them gradually worked it out.
This principle is also extremely vital for good relations between teenagers and their parents.
There are some rules that just must not be broken, some laws that can’t be compromised. But there are also some things that really don’t matter all that much. I have come to believe in letting children win when their choices won’t have eternal consequences. That is extremely important in creating a climate of love, unity, and mutual understanding which allows the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ to flourish in our homes.
For example, my older sons, who grew up in the “Beatle era,” wanted to follow the current fashion fads. Now, I don’t like fads, have never liked them, and probably will never like them. But I decided to let them win—with moderation. Why?
Because I felt that I was winning in all of the areas that really mattered. My sons could be classified as “good boys.” They went to early morning seminary (6:25 A.M.), attended Church meetings regularly, paid their tithing, were average in Scouting, made above-average grades, served as my home teaching companions, were faithful in their priesthood assignments, and met their chore responsibilities around the home.
The only negative thing they wanted to indulge in, in my estimation, was some of the fashion trends. But compared to everything they were doing that was right, or at least satisfactory, style, in my opinion, was not really significant.
Did it corrupt them? No. Because at the same time, they were doing all the important things. Both of the older boys have completed full-time missions now and would still pass as missionaries today, several years after they returned.
Now, some parents might question my giving in to a current fad—some certainly did at the time. So maybe to them, that’s one of the issues they feel can’t be compromised. I felt and feel differently. My point is that parents should decide which things they consider important and which things don’t really matter that much and then let their children win some of the time.
Here is a list of some other things my wife and I came up with that our youngsters enjoy and that, in our opinion, don’t really matter: choosing one’s own friends, feeling free to invite them to our home and to Church functions, staying up late on nonschool nights, decorating their bedrooms, following fashion fads (as long as they’re modest), playing loud music, and goofing off sometimes. Of course, life would be easier for us parents if they didn’t want to do all these things, and we require them to respect responsible limitations in these areas so that we don’t have to constantly remind and plead and restrain. But we’ve decided not to make a big deal about these things because they really aren’t worth it.
Everyone needs to resist the temptation to constantly be so picky about the small irritations that could be better overlooked. If your husband or wife doesn’t do things exactly how and when you think they should be done, so what? Relax! Say something good, positive, or commending. Too many people feel stultified or inferior and become resentful because of their spouse’s holier-than-thou attitude and constant prodding, correcting, and complaining. Growth is stimulated in an environment of acceptance and love.
Winning is important to everybody. So let your spouse and your children win, too, some of the time. The love, unity, and harmony that result will in the long run make all of you winners.