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Couple highlights vices and virtues in relationships

Relationship week brought Jeff and Debby McElroy to the John Brown University campus for three days last week.

The couple said they are always glad to be on college campuses, and especially JBU. They spoke on relationships ranging from the everyday intrapersonal to the relationship between married couples.

The couple started out like most college graduates, moving from university life into steady, job-oriented career choices. Mrs. McElroy worked as a music teacher, and Mr. McElroy worked at IBM with intent to pursue a career in law.

“I’d always thought the way to happiness and a great lifestyle was by pursuing a career in corporate law,” Mr. McElroy said on the couple’s website, foreverfamilies.com.

According to their website, the McElroys decided to leave their jobs in 1989 and “by 1991, their conferences were in such demand, they were on the road more than they were home. So they gave it up.”

“With a six-month-old of their own, they sold their home, paid off their debt and began searching for a travel trailer so they could take home with them,” the couple said.

A sudden move from secure, corporate jobs to touring less-guaranteed conferences across the U.S. may seem abrupt, but Mr. McElroy said, “We just couldn’t stand by and watch what was happening to kids as their families were falling apart.”

Since 1989, the McElroys have put on conferences for families, married couples and anyone interested in improving their relationships.

“We love being on college campuses. I ask the R.A.s, ‘When you hear being in a relationship, what does that mean?” said Mrs. McElroy.

“Immediately, people said, ‘Boyfriend-girlfriend,’” she continued, “But relationship is a lot more than that.”

Mr. McElroy added, “It’s not just about marriage. That’s not our only message here, especially with the CRE being the launching pad on campus.”

“We love their view that we all have one thing in common: we’re all in relationships and the success of everything we will ever do in our life rests on our ability to manage relationships well.”

Mr. McElroy talked about the key to navigating relationships and the essential aspect to having good relationships.

“I know in chapel, they’ve been teaching a lot about the vices and virtues. The reason those virtues are virtuous is because they enrich every relationship. The vices are vices because they are all relationship destroyers,” Mr. McElroy said.

When asked ‘how does one exhibit virtues over the vices?’ and ‘What is the bridge between God and the virtues in our lives?’ the McElroy’s answered, “Surrender.”

The couple pointed out that most conflicts in relationships stem from a conflict of wills, and that it is not necessarily a conflict of person-to-person wills, but a conflict of person-to-God.

“God’s call for us to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ is one of the hardest things in relationships, period, not just between a boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband and wife,” Mrs. McElroy said.

“It is being able to say, ‘You know, I should ask’ someone else about that, not just thinking ‘I’ve got the answer for everything,’ Mrs. McElroy said, “ It’s hard because we’re taught to be strong and independent, but we’re taught to submit to God. It’s hard because it goes against our flesh.”

This idea, they said, can even help heal the atmosphere in high conflict relationships. Mrs. McElroy said, “Even if only one of you submits to God [in a conflict situation], it’s still going to change the relationship in a positive way.”

“Personally, for me, that was hard,” Mrs. McElroy admitted.

“Whether it was with my siblings or parents, I needed to prove myself. This caused conflict in my relationships until God finally said, ‘You have no right to be right all of the time. You are not paying attention to what I’m asking you to pay attention to you. Be right with me, and I’ll take care of letting those people know whether you were right or not, whether it even matters.’”

The McElroys are adamant that God can help heal relationships, and next week, will be taking their message to China.