Tuesday, January 25, 2011

P4E.200 People Pleaser 2

"you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.)" Ephesians 5:8-9

What was left unsaid in the last post is this:

When the wheels did start to come off my marriage; when my wife started to share the problems we were having in our marriage with others, some people were fooled by my act. Although I don't think I was acting intentionally (my wife may think differently), the fact is that some of our friends were loathe to believe that I could act as awful as my wife was portraying. This made it difficult for my wife to convince others that I was the cause of our marital problems.

I have seen other men, who I believe are acting intentionally, pull off the same con-game. I've seen men even pit their children against their mother by pouring on the nice-guy charm. A husband may continue to go to church after his wife has refused to accompany him so that he can look like the good guy and make the case to anyone who will listen that his wife "is crazy, has issues, is unreasonable, has unreal expectations, is not behaving like a good Christian wife should, is the real cause of all the problems," etc.

What the wives say is that this is "crazy-making" for them. It sets up a situation where one person is truly good, but the other has all the appearance of it. If we husbands know that we are doing this and doing it purposefully, it is not only hypocritical, it is shamefully sinful.

I've come to the realization that I must BE good, on the inside, and NOT TRY to have the appearance of good. Sometimes I want to think that it's what others think of me that matters. In the end, it's NOT AT ALL what matters. What truly matters is what God thinks of me. And He knows and notices all. He's given me good help in my wife. We are ONE. So, what she thinks of me truly matters to me. Finally, to be true to myself, to live with my own conscience and maintain my own self-esteem, what I think of me truly matters to me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

P4E.199 People Pleaser

It's been my nature to want to look good in front of other people. To keep up a facade. To mask my real nature with a superficial veneer of goodness. I especially employ this tactic at church gatherings. Sunday mornings. Wednesday night men's Bible study. Couples group. Do you know what I mean?

In some ways the local church atmosphere and expectation fosters this hypocrisy in us men. I do not really want to acknowledge that Christ's ways are not being followed at home and therefore, things are not going well there. So, underneath the surface of calm and peace that one would expect to see in a Christlike man, turmoil churns and wreckage is hidden. What churches promote is that, no matter what the circumstances, if I place all of my trust in God I will experience order, consistency, calm and peace in my life. But, if I'm the poor sod who doesn't experience that peace, then by default I must not be trusting God enough. So what happens is that I end up putting the cart before the horse. I say to myself, "If I portray a calm and peaceful exterior, one that suggests that I am a man of God, then other people will think I am and therefore, I WILL BE!"

Unhappily, my wife and children know the real me. The one they've lived with day in and day out. The one who is "semi-Christlike." At home I am selfish, impatient, temperamental, inconsistent, harsh, opinionated, angry, and unfaithful in my heart. But, when I am in public I cannot let out that this is going on. So, I put on a mask that let's others think that all is well with me and my family. This is hypocrisy of the first order. The Whitewashed Tomb Syndrome.

People used to come up to my wife and say, "Kim is such a nice guy, so calm, I can't imagine him every losing his temper." My gracious wife would reply, "You know, I thought the same thing when I first met him."

It's easy enough to judge Big Government or Mega Corporations or Televangelists for their hypocrisy. But, the challenge is that whatever and however I am judging, it may be that I'm calling others out for the very things I myself am guilty of.

The thing is that God is light and in Him there is no darkness. Scripture says, "But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light...Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise." God's light penetrates right through the veil I have over my life. It blasts off the mask. It exposes the dark tomb that I've whitewashed.

Yes, I place partial responsibility on the churches out there for fostering an atmosphere that does not encourage its people to be real. But, ultimately, I know that I cannot pin my hopes for a good relationship with God on my church status. Scripture also encourages, "And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." I believe that I'm to start with myself by being real, by "confessing our sins one to another." I have to start by acknowledging that I'm not where I should be in relation to God or my family or my other relationships. If I'm hiding, covering up, smoothing over, then I know I'm in trouble. The question is, "Who do I think I'm fooling when I behave in this way?" Certainly NOT HIM! Not the all-knowing, all-seeing GOD!

I know that God's ways work, if I will just use them. I CAN ACTUALLY BE the Godly man I want to portray to others. I CAN be consistent in my private personal and my public life. God help me to be!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

P4E.198 Straight-Line Thinker

"Women are not always looking for answers to the questions they ask. They are looking for conversation as a means to gaining an entrance into their husband's heart." Ken Nair

I've previously written a bunch on the predator/prey relationship between men and women. One of the characteristics of predators is that they are "straight-line" thinkers. What that means for me, as a man (and an architect/engineer to boot), is that when my wife, Gwen, comes and tells me of a problem, my brain goes into problem-solving mode.

Ken Nair tells the story of a wife who comes to her husband and says, "I have a headache." The husband's immediate response is "Well, did you take some aspirin?" (If you don't know what's wrong with that, we have to talk!)

Straight-line thinking may be useful in certain areas of life, but I'm finding it's rarely so in relationships. Analysis and straight-line solutions are rarely what Gwen is looking for from me when she wants to talk. In fact, I would definitely get into trouble if I acted on most of my analysis and solutions.

A straight-line approach does not allow for an exchange of ideas, asking questions, or interaction. It's disconnected and doesn't take into account the nuance of words and body language and voice inflection. I find that I might be well into a conversation with Gwen until my dull-wits realize that something really important is going on. Before I realize that what we're talking about isn't REALLY what we're talking about. That there's an emotional/spiritual aspect to the topic being discussed.

There was a time when we would be in conversation and I would blurt out "how I REALLY felt" about a topic. I would really get into trouble if the first words out of my mouth were, "Well, to be BRUTALLY honest..." Somehow, Gwen never really was ministered to by those conversations. The danger I found in what Ken Nair says in the quote above is that when Gwen gained entrance into my heart, she didn't like what she found there. And neither did I!

In Scripture, Jesus says, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." If my heart is in a predatory place, I can be very predatory with my words and dangerous to Gwen's spirit. But, if my heart is full of the fruit of the Spirit then my mouth will speak words that are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled.

God help me to avoid straight-line thinking and predatory behavior! (And you too!)

"Don't just look at the words she is saying. What is going on in her heart that is making her say what she is saying? She needs understanding." Ken Nair

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

P4E.197 God is Light. In Him There is No Darkness at All

An annoying thing is happening out in front of my house every night. We live on a corner and there's a street light there. Lately, every few minutes, the light will suddenly go out, plunging the corner into darkness. After a few seconds it will flicker back to life, dimly. Then, slooowly, it will, by degrees, regain its former luminosity. Only to repeat the process in another few minutes. It's not only annoying; it's dangerous!

Scripture says,
"God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another..." I John 1:5-7

And my friend and mentor, Ken Nair, says,
"We don't want God's reputation sullied because we men don't follow His ways. We want our lives to be a witness of the value of Christianity."

I periodically remind whoever is reading this blog that I am not writing from "on high" having arrived anywhere but where I happen to be at the moment. I trudge along. I trip and fall. I get up. I trudge some more. And yes, sometimes (hopefully, more often than not) I can walk upright and even skip and dance. But, I try to be leery about getting too comfortable and taking my walk for granted.

My journey's quest, that is to say, what I'm searching for is CONSISTENCY.

I don't want to be like that unreliable street light in front of my house, periodically plunging into dangerous darkness. Scripture doesn't say that God is "a flickering light." He and His Word are a bright and steady "lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" which guide me"in the paths of righteousness." I'm constantly rediscovering how important the Holy Scriptures are to the consistency of my Belief, my ability to follow His ways and consequently, my marriage. God, be my help!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

P4E.196 Help Wanted

I experienced an unusual physical circumstance that was amazingly contrary to my last post. Another opportunity for learning!

The company I work for does a lot of work for the military. I was required to get a "RapidGate" pass to gain entrance to the military bases we are working on. I did all of the necessaries to identify myself and waited about two weeks until the physical pass was ready for me to pick up. Since the location that I had to go to was about an hour and a half away, I called to verify that the pass was indeed, ready to pick up. A young woman answered the call, checked and informed me that my pass was there and ready to issue.

When I got to the office, I waited only a little while before my name was called. I told the young man (a civilian, not military) why I was there. He took me over to where the passes were kept in a drawer. I noticed as we walked over that he was moving pretty slowly. He sat down on a stool and rubbed his face with his hands. "I'm really tired," he said matter-of-factly. He reached over to open the drawer with a big yawn. He took out a stack of cards about 2" thick held together with a rubber band. He took the rubber band off and began to slowly, one by one, go through the deck. About a third of the way through the deck, he asked, "What's your name?" I told him and he continued to thumb through the deck. "What's your name, again? Let me see your driver's license." I showed him. Periodically he would rub his face and say "I'm tired," and yawn. Finally, he got through the entire deck. He looked up at me blankly and said, "It's not here." His voice and demeanor clearly said, "You're screwed and I'm not going to do a damn thing to help you."

I explained that I had called to verify that the pass was ready before I drove an hour and a half to get there and that a young woman had checked for me. He leaned back, folded his arms, surveyed the area behind the counter (where there was NO young woman) and asked, "Who did you talk to?"

"I didn't get a name, but it was a young woman." He gestured behind the counter and said "There ain't no young woman here." I remained calm and told him again that whoever I talked to had checked and told me my pass was ready. He shook his head and began to thumb through the stack again. While he was doing that I happened to look down into the drawer that he had pulled the stack out of. There was a white envelope there and just underneath it I thought I saw another, smaller, stack of the same type of cards. "Is that another stack of cards there?" I asked. He ignored me. He finished going through the stack and gave me the same dull look. "It's not here." Pointing to the drawer, I asked again "Is that another stack of cards there?" He did not look into the drawer, but looked me in the eyes and said "You just don't believe me, do you?" "It's not that I don't believe you, it's just that I was told my pass was ready and I think there's another stack of cards in the drawer." "There's no other cards." "Look," I pointed, "Are you sure that isn't another stack of cards just under that white envelope?" He reluctantly lifted the envelope and lo-and-behold there was another rubber-banded stack of cards. He did not say a word, but took the rubber band off and started looking through the new deck with the same vigor. Of course, mine was the very last card that he looked at in that deck. He took it out and placed it inside a protective plastic cover and handed it to me. "Thanks," I said and left the building.

When I looked more closely, he had put the card in the protective cover upside down. He never did ask me to produce the "two forms of identification" that were absolutely required to issue the card.

That type of thing doesn't happen every day and I'm wondering what you would make of it? (I have my thoughts...)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

P4E.195 No Help Wanted

I've learned that unusual circumstances provide opportunities to test my own ability to respond, to learn something about myself and that they prompt me to ask important questions. Here's a recent unusual circumstance:

I went to Lowes and used the self-checkout there. There's always an employee ready to assist if you need help. I had purchased some bottled waters and selected the "Skip Bagging" option because it was a heavy item. This time the machine prompted "Assistance Needed to Approve Skipped Bagging." The checker came over and did the approval.

I intended to pay part with cash and part with my debit card. I inserted the cash and was prompted to pay the balance. At this point, the checker noticed that I was doing some extra steps and approached again. Without speaking, he took my debit card from me and slid it through the machine. I didn't exactly know what he was doing, or why he was doing it, so I didn't object. He directed me, "Enter your PIN number," which I did. When the machine prompted, "Cash Back?" he reached in front of me and pressed "No." When the machine prompted, "Is This the Correct Amount?" he pressed "Yes." When the machine prompted, "Take Your Receipt," he took the receipt out and handed it to me with my debit card. Without a word, he went back to his post. This all took a matter of seconds and since I was unsure why he was doing what he was doing, I never objected.

As I walked out of the store, I tried to figure out what had just happened. And then it hit me. "I think he thought I was so old that I needed help." (I'm in my mid-50's, but I don't think I look THAT old!) And then, "He made decisions for me. They WERE the decisions I would have made anyway, but he presumed that I did not want cash back." "He thought I was helpless and dull and slow. He did not ask me any questions, he just assumed that I needed help and took over." "Why didn't I stop him and tell him his help wasn't necessary?" "I guess I just didn't want to be rude. I just let him go ahead and help me even though I didn't really need his help. Whatever."

How did it make me feel? Well, frankly, a little embarrassed at first. Do I really look that old and helpless? Then some indignation set in. "He did not ask me if I needed help or if I wanted cash back or any questions at all." The way he took over the decision-making made me feel bullied." I felt robbed of my opportunities to make decisions. Ultimately, I felt ignored and left-out.

I'm also learning that these unusual physical circumstances are allowed by God to teach me spiritual lessons. These emotions affect my spirit and have spiritual consequences. Most importantly, I've learned to ask myself if I've made others (especially my wife) feel these same emotions. Almost every time now, when I ask my wife if I have made her feel an emotion, she smiles and says "Of course you have. Do you remember when...?" and she will describe situations where I've made her feel embarrassed, indignant, bullied, robbed, ignored and left-out.

"Ah! It makes me feel awful to know that I've made you feel those things. I KNOW now how that feels. I'm soooo sorry! Please forgive me! I'll try my best to not make you feel those things ever again."

Unless the hurt is too deep and takes more than a little time to heal, she is usually so gracious to accept my apology and forgive me. This is how it works. This is what I'm talking about.

Happy New Year!