These words have been included in wedding ceremonies, both Christian and Civil services for the last 200 years and while the first two are fairly self-explanatory, it is the third, Cherish, that has, over the years, lost its true meaning.
So what does it mean to cherish someone?
The word Cherish is defined in most dictionaries with the following five definitions:
1). To care for, be fond of or attached to.
2). To love and care for somebody.
3). To value something highly
4). To retain a memory or wish in the mind as a source of pleasure
5). To cling fondly to a person or memory
I don’t know about you, but all five of those definitions come up a bit short – and none of them explain why the word should be included in the words of a service as binding as that of marriage.
To care for or be fond of could apply to anyone you are close to, not necessarily a marriage partner.
To love and care for seems to me to be covered under “love.”
To value something highly – sorry, but that makes the other person sound like something that is owned and prized like a trophy.
To retain a memory or wish in the mind as a source of pleasure – well, a bit shallow for all that, and hardly worth including in the marriage vows.
To cling fondly to a person or memory – again, the concept of “fondly” is hardly strong enough to see it included.
So what DOES the word Cherish mean? Not what has it come to mean, but what does the word truly mean? What does it mean to Cherish another person and why is the word included in one of the most binding ceremonies known to man?
Perhaps a clue can be found in a synonym of the word Cherish. The roots of the word Cherish can be traced back to the 14th century, and at the time the word was synonymous with the word “foster.”
To foster is to promote the growth and development of the object whether the object is a child or a situation… or one’s spouse.
In order to promote another’s growth and development it is necessary to provide that other with everything that they need in order to continue to grow and develop.
With children this is a fairly straightforward thing. You brought them into the world, it is your responsibility and duty to foster their growth (promote their growth and development) until they reach the point where they can go out into the world on their own.
But with one’s spouse or significant other, it takes on another dimension altogether. When it comes to Cherishing one’s mate, you are dealing with equals; two individuals who have come together voluntarily to share themselves.
To Cherish one’s mate, one must be willing to give them everything that they need in order to achieve their growth and development. As you can imagine, this goes far beyond simply giving them the physical things they need (food, shelter, safety etc.).
In fact, this goes beyond physical security and “things” altogether.
To truly Cherish one’s partner one must also be willing to give the other everything that they need in order to grow and develop in a mental and spiritual sense as well; the moral and spiritual support to continue to grow and develop as individuals throughout the marriage.
And here is the key – unless both partners are giving equally – cherishing equally, you are going to have unbalanced relationship and someone is not going to have what they need in order to grow and develop. Even in the best of relationships this can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration.
And that is very likely why the word Cherish was originally included in the words of the binding ceremony.
Love. Honor. Cherish.
Love should be a given if one is even considering getting married, nine times out of ten both parties at least believe that they are in love with the other.
Honor can also be seen as respect for the other; respect for who and what they are, for what they bring to the relationship, for who they are as individuals.
But to Cherish; to Cherish is, perhaps, the most important element of all, for without it neither party in the marriage can continue to grow or develop within that relationship. Without being able to Cherish your other, and without them Cherishing you, the relationship becomes about the physical provisions; the security; the money; the children; and ceases to be that of a partnership where both are striving to help the other towards becoming the best and most that they can be.