I’ve found you can take any well-known saying and reverse it to find a bit of truth. One way we often try to motivate people is telling them, “You were made for so much more.”
But that only makes them feel worse because not only have they failed at meeting your expectations, they are not fulfilling their potential.
Maybe the case is the opposite: They were made for so much less. Maybe people can’t meet your expectations because you want to much out of them. Maybe you can’t ever be enough because you were never meant to be enough.
Jesus lays into the Pharisees several times about their overemphasis on meeting the laws. You know, those ridiculous Pharisees who were so focused on following the rules that they missed the relationship. So, they got stuck doing, rather than being. They got no rest in God, only busyness. Good thing we’re not like those Pharisees, God bless them.
And take technology now. There is no such thing as “Educational” programming for little kids. Why? Because studies show babies (at least up to 2) are only learning to numb out when they watch videos. They were made for less. They were made to learn from good ol’ face to face and firsthand experience, not overstimulating simulated experience.
Adults also try to do too much. Our brains work sequentially, not simulataneously. We are task-switchers, not multi-taskers. Each activity you do at the same time reduces your effeciancy and increase your errors with all of them. And many of us drive while doing them–risking our very lives to do more. We were made for so much less!
Back to relationships. We put such high hopes and expectations on other people to fulfill us. They do the same to us (and they are always so much worse about it). You may have said or thought, “I can’t do enough or be enough for you.” I think you were right.
Love is not heavy (I checked II Cor. 13). In fact doing less lets love do more. So we need to do less trying to please, less trying to be Jesus (he already completed his work), less trying to be a mood stabilizer, less reactivity, less expectation, less covering up. Love makes things light (I love the multiple meanings of that statement).
I told Monica last night that I never want to tell this story again. As soon I said that, I realized it meant only one thing—I have to blog about it.
On our way home from Oklahoma yesterday (it was OK), Monica told me she wanted a scoop of Rocky Road ice cream from Braum’s. We decided to stop in Okmulgee, OK, because we are impressed with the Braum’s there, and it just seems like the perfect name for a city in Oklahoma.
When we arrived, she said she also wanted a small hamburger for us to split. I decided I did not want small hamburger and told her I was going to take a walk outside and stretch my legs.
When we met up at the car, Monica sat down with not one, but two scoops of ice cream. Her reasoning: “You wouldn’t let us get a hamburger and I couldn’t decide between peanut butter cup and Rocky Road, so I got both.” What wonderful logic she has sometimes!
I was not happy.
I can tell you how frustrated I was. So, I punished her with my emotional distancing and cut off (No love for you!). She asked me how long I would be upset and I told her it would be when we got gas in 100 miles. I only made it 60. It was just too silly to stay upset and it is hard to stay mad at Monica, or so I thought.
Then, it was time for dinner at another favorite of ours, Taco Bueno—their Party menu is to die for! She ordered while I went to the bathroom and we sat down and waited for our food. What shows up? Our usual order, including cinnamon chips and a Dr. Pepper. No big deal, right? Tell that to the Scoop Nazi…
You see, the Scoop Nazi thought Monica would not break his rule twice. “Surely”, the Scoop Nazi thought, “she would respect me enough to forego the death drink and sugar chips since she had two scoops of ice cream 4 hours ago. No love for you.”
The Scoop Nazi, reliant on his one strategy, shunned Monica again and drove the next 30 miles with a bit more pace than usual. You see, she did not only break the rule, she did it out of disrespect—the most evil of crimes.
I am embarrassed by this behavior of mine. I hate punishing my wife by shunning her. I do not like admitting that I have rules and can be quite rigid sometimes. I don’t want you to know this about me.
The Scoop Nazi represents my difficulty to produce the types of flexibility and healthy responses I need when a rule of mine is broken. It’s like I am suddenly overtaken by fast drying emotional cement. I can’t seem to move my emotions and I harden up cognitively. I can’t bend or flex, and then I seek to justify and enforce my position.
What saves me is the fact that I can now see what is happening. I can’t stop it as quickly as I’d like, but the sooner I know what I am doing, the sooner I can start to move enough to break the cement and keep it from setting completely.
I think we all have an inner Scoop Nazi we have to battle so it doesn’t take over our lives and convince us that our way is right and the world–or at least our wife and children–should operate according to our rules…or else.
“Obviously, some part of us loves feeling 1) right and 2) wronged. But outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but, over time, devour us from the inside out. Except it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure. We prefer to think of it as a disagreeable but fundamentally healthy reaction to negative stimuli, like pain or nausea, rather than admit that it’s a shameful kick we eagerly indulge again and again…” from Tim Kreiders book We Learn Nothing
Let me admit it right now: I get a kick from being outraged.
I like to be outraged. I like to tell woe-is-me stories in order to get this pleasurable sense of victimization. I hate to listen to other people go on their rants, but I’ll indulge in it myself from time to time, like a secret addiction.
It’s like having your own inner political convention. You rally around the outrage of the victimization from the other party. It feels so good!
In working with marriages, I will sometimes see people who seem to relish their outraged status. They are not interested in getting better, they are interested in telling their “wronged” stories. I don’t blame them one bit. They are using the outrage to prove to themselves that they are 1) right in not changing, and 2) wronged victims who don’t need to change. They don’t want therapy, they want outrage time.
I’ve learned firsthand it’s hard to feel good and justified about being a emotionally-unavailable husband if you don’t set your wife up as an object of outrage (I can’t believe how controlling she is! I’ll never change with her like this…justified!). It’s a terrible pattern.
Bottom line: it feels good to feel outraged and it may even be necessary at times, but after a while it eats you alive, steals your joy, and dampens your soul. If you indulge too much, you will live in the role of victim and seek it out; however, if you resist the urge to take hits of outrage, you will live a freer, happier, and more present life.
Many self-help and how-to books and blogs you read follow this thought: “I’m successful, I must have followed a formula, and you should follow it if you want the same success.”
The truth is theories usually come after practice, not before. We (humans in general) tend to look back and try to make sense of our stories and tidy them up. However, it’s never as clean as any book or blog can make it…never.
I can tell you for sure that we fall into this trap with this blog. It is tempting to give you a step-by-step of how to do it, but it never happened that neatly. Sure, we were intentional at times, but the truth of it is, we decided we wanted our marriage and then took the journey it called us to.
If we could give you any how-to, it would be this: Decide what change you want and go for it.
We encourage you to not wait for a script or a how-to or a marriage book or a marriage blog to tell you what to do. We believe you have everything you need inside of you to love your spouse. You may have to dig a little, but it’s there, and it’s ready to be activated.
Many of us are like the spiritual seeker who goes to the ends of the earth (or now, the ends of the internet) to find peace and happiness, and returns only to find out it was inside him or her the entire time.
Your marriage will improve only when you stop looking out “there” and start looking inside…at least that is the theory we arrived at after our practice.
It can transform a marriage and a life. How often do you hear and say “thank you” throughout your day? It is hard to have a happy life without hearing or saying these words.
We’ve made it a goal in our marriage over the last year or so to say these two words. It’s been incredible. I can’t tell you the last time I didn’t hear “thank you” multiple times in my day from my wife.
She thanked me this morning for making breakfast. I thanked her for managing our bank account. She thanked me for the excess of hummus I put in her lunch.
Our goal turned into a habit. And our habit has created an lifestyle of thankfulness. In an atmosphere of thankfulness it is easy to love, forgive, and appreciate someone.
Here’s are some things we kept in mind in creating this habit/eventual lifestyle:
Nothing is to small to say thank you for, and often, the smaller the better
Anything either of us do for the other is a gift (single folks get around just fine without help)
There is no statute of limitations on being thankful–you can be thankful for anything at any time in the past when you think of it
It is especially important to be thankful for “expected” tasks in order to keep from taking them for granted