When Your Judgments Reflect Your Own Flaws
Friday, October 12, 2012Tweet
Does God have to hit you over the head sometimes with your flaws?
Yeah, me too.
I'm currently reading a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, who essentially argues that the purpose of marriage is not to make us happier, but to make us into better people, specifically better Christians. Alternate this with reading the epistles in The Message at night, and I'm getting a lot of "When you're tempted to judge someone else (especially your spouse), look first at your own flaws."
One of the downsides to Mike's position as a hall director is that his work is inextricably entwined with his life, so he always has multiple things competing for his attention. Lately I've been getting really frustrated with him for not listening. I'll be telling him something as we're walking to dinner and he'll keep stopping to say hi to students, or his mind will just be elsewhere so he'll agree to something and not remember five minutes later we even had the conversation. It's turning me into not the kind of wife I want to be, because I keep second-guessing and trying to "catch" him whenever I think he's not listening.
So realizing that this was a real problem, and in light of what I've been reading, I brought this to God, and God was basically like, "Hey, how are your listening skills? "
And I'm like, "Oh, you know, they're pretty good."
And God's like, "Yeah, OK. For the rest of the month, I want you to focus on doing one thing: listening."
Holy crap, you guys, I suck at listening.
I am worst about this when somebody stops by to talk to Mike and me. Mike is just such a natural conversationalist, and I can never think of questions to ask people, so we'll all start talking and then halfway through the conversation I'll just zone out and start checking my e-mail.
I discovered this is especially bad when we're in the car with someone, as we were yesterday getting dropped off at the airport by a friend and then picked up this evening by Mike's mom. I start out listening to the conversation between Mike and the other person, and then I end up just staring out the window at things and missing large parts of the conversation.
Also, sometimes students come by looking for Mike when he's off somewhere, and they end up just wanting to tell me all about everything that's going on with them. I thought I was doing a good job at listening to them because I would nod and react to what they were saying, but then I realized that people were saying things like, "So how did your job interview go?" or "So are you excited to go to Ohio?" and I could remember nothing about what was going on with their classes or where they were going for fall break. Listening fail.
As I've made a more concerted effort at listening the past week, I've realized how hard it is for me to stop everything I'm doing to listen. If people interrupt me, I want them to know they're interrupting me -- sure, come in and chat, but I'm going to keep walking around and picking things up. But God has made it clear that the top priority on my to-do list needs to be to listen to people. That means stopping what I'm doing, inviting people in, and making whatever they have to say the complete focus of my attention.
It's been a painfully humbling experience, and an important reminder that the flaws I find in others (particularly my husband) are often a reflection of my own weak spots. Is it still frustrating to me when Mike doesn't listen carefully? Yes. But my energy is much better spent improving this skill in myself than trying to catch every time Mike makes a mistake.
What's something that frustrates you about other people that you're still working on yourself?