Tales from the Skipped: Skipper Cameron on Preemptive Love v. Entitlement
Another evening has come, and another ruthless stare down between me and the dirty dishes has commenced. Picking up the sponge, my wife leans in to give me the obligatory kiss and “thanks for doing the dishes.” Doesn’t she know that I’ve washed the dishes for the last six nights in a row? The infernal desire wells up inside me to respond sarcastically, “Oh, I was just warming up the water for you, babe.” I’m really not up for a fight, but man I would really love to “veg out” on the couch and catch the pregame show for once. Haven’t I earned the right to be selfish sometimes? Let me introduce you to two terms that will help us answer this important question: entitlement and preemptive love.
Definitions for Skippers
Entitlement is, in my own words, believing something should be yours by default. Entitlement stems from the idea that “I have rights and no one can make me give them up.” Imagine the following scenario: A man and his two young children wake up to find the wife of the home has already cooked breakfast and packed all four of their lunches before she herself was able to shower and prepare for work. Instead of thanking his wife, the entitled husband hurries out the door so as not to be late to the office. “I guess I should have thanked her, but then again, that’s her job,” he might whisper to himself as he whizzes out of the garage. Giving in to a sense of entitlement is like drinking poison: it can ultimately do nothing but destroy.
On the flip side, preemptive love may be defined as active love accomplished before a specific reason to love is given. The preemptive lover lays down any supposed rights he or she has and serves their mate before their mate has lovingly served them. You do not have to be a Rhodes Scholar to understand that, in the hypothetical scenario offered above, the wife has practiced (and probably practices fairly often) preemptive love. And whereas practicing entitlement is a quick and easy way to kill marriages, practicing preemptive love is a surefire way to sustain them.
The Call to Preemptive Action
There are multiple ways to practice preemptive love (SB recommends trying a few of these). While sipping coffee with one of my mentors last week, I was shocked to hear that, after their 30+ years of marriage, he still considers himself to be “learning his wife.” And what is he still learning? He’s learning to be a preemptive lover, to do things specific to his wife’s needs and wants before she asks. Things that will make her feel adored.
From childhood, my wife has always loathed doing the dishes. True, there are days when I don’t feel thanked enough or praised enough for doing them, but I have to remind myself why I am doing them in the first place: because before the dishes got dirty, she filled them with my dinner. And even on the nights when I personally cooked, the best thing I can do for her is jump right in and get the dishes washed. It’s not about equality; it’s about service. The pursuit of fairness is the pursuit of entitlement. The pursuit of service is preemptive love.
So, haven’t I earned the right to be selfish sometimes? It depends on what I’m pursuing.