A month ago we found out that my husband’s father has cancer…. It is already stage four…. My relationship with my father-in-law has always been distant. I have never received any support or advice from him. When we visit at his house, very seldom do we interact. We hardly ever get past saying hello. I feel sad about the situation he is going through right now, but I don’t feel like calling him or visiting him. My husband is upset with me about this, and contends that I only care about my own family. I’ve always thought that whatever I do, I should do it from my heart. My relationship with my husband has become a little tense, and we have gotten upset with one another. I feel badly for what he must be feeling, but it seems hypocritical for me to do something that I don’t feel like doing.
You have been misinformed. You say that you think you should do only what you can do from your heart, which is another way of saying that you think you should do only what you feel like doing. Usually, do you feel like going to work? Do you feel like cleaning your house? Do you feel like washing your clothes or ironing them?
Most of us have to do a lot of things that we don’t feel like doing. We go to work, clean our houses, and pay our bills, even when we don’t feel like it. Why? Because those things are part of being a responsible adult. Does that make us hypocrites? Of course not! A person who does only what he feels like doing is either a small child or is lazy and irresponsible.
When you love someone enough to marry them, you commit to loving and supporting them through all the circumstances of life. Your husband is obviously suffering, and he needs your love and support. But instead of supporting him, you are making his life more difficult by your selfishness. Your excuse of not wanting to be a hypocrite is just a way to justify your selfishness.
It would be hypocritical to say words to your father-in-law that you don’t mean. And it would be hypocritical to suddenly lavish affection on him. But it would not be hypocritical to accompany your husband and sit quietly beside him. Nor would it be hypocritical to prepare food and serve it, or to help in some other way. In this case, it doesn’t really matter how you feel about your father-in-law; what matters is whether you love your husband.
The Apostle Paul taught: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”1 If you will place value on your husband’s needs instead of on your own feelings, then it will be easier to look after his interests. Ask God to forgive you for your selfishness and to help you think of others instead of just yourself.
We wish you the best,
1 Php 2:3-4