Thursday, January 21, 2010

Problem Solving

You know how women supposedly complain that all men want to do is solve their problems. That their men don't listen to them. That they just want to be heard and validated. That if men just listened to us all would be right in the world. Funny thing is that we women do that too. We problem solve. And often we problem solve using our own experiences that may have nothing to do with the other person's actual problem. And we are adamant and often emotional in our "helpful" advice.

I had been processing the idea of trying to control my situation instead of letting God control my situation a few weeks ago after something stuck out to me in a Bible Study I was doing. Immediately I realized that I keep trying to control my husband's behavior, attitude and priorities. We have been having the same fight for the last thirteen years. I think he works too much and he thinks I don't understand that he really does need to work the long hours. Most likely we are both right at different times. It is not a huge fight. Our marriage is not in trouble. But it is something I want to control. I want my husband to agree with me and get home earlier. I could go on and on about how I think my husband is not stepping up to the plate or prioritizing his family, except I really can't. Because truthfully I only know how God is working in my life. I know how I act out my priorities but my husband may share the exact same priorities and act them out differently, and probably in a way that to me looks like he does not even care about our priorities. But I know that my husband does seek to do God's will in his life. I know that my husband is a man of strong convictions.

I say all this because recently I was with a group of women a question came up about areas of our lives where we need God. I said my marriage. I did not go in to a lot of detail at all because the question was not how does your marriage suck. Which mine doesn't. But apparently to some of these women my simply saying I need God in my marriage because I am learning that I cannot control my husband which makes me realize I have to rely on God, means that my marriage must be on the rocks. Because the next few comments were directed at me with some really basic marriage advice along the lines of making sure you are listening, repeat what the person is saying, really basic communication techniques. And I got really frustrated. Because they were giving me advice that had absolutely nothing to do with what I was saying. They were trying to solve a problem. A problem that does not exist. Because they took what I said, put it through their filter, came to a conclusion and offered advice that worked for them. They were well intentioned. Their advice would be good advice for the right situation. But I walked away annoyed. Because I was not heard.

And the really painful part of this whole lesson is that I am sure I am the biggest offender. As my pastor always says, "I am the problem". I love to dispense advice. I often think that I can solve my friends' problems and it is not until they have gone on their way that I realize that I did not even really listen to them. I often want to call my friends up about five minutes after they leave and apologize for giving them solutions instead of listening to their hearts. I don't of course. Because I am not the bigger person.

So while I sat there all annoyed at women who were probably earnestly trying to help I really should have been listening. Not necessarily to what they said but to what I needed to hear from my friend. So that next time I can do that for another friend when they share their heartfelt need for God.

On a totally God note, I ended up reading Matthew 23 tonight with my boys because that is where we our in our journey to read the New Testament this year. I actually paused from writing this to read it to the boys since my husband is on a trip this week. Funny enough it was all about the evils of hypocrisy. "Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees. You hypocrites!"

1 comment:

  1. We TOTALLY do this all the time... and I am a huge offender of the "giving advice before hearing a heart" issue. I hate it when it happens to me... and yet, I turn around and do it myself. Jen, thank you for your frank honesty. And, on a side (or not-so-side) note, I too try to control my husband (JUST convicted of that this morning, in fact) and my marriage is far from on the rocks. I have a great marriage! AND, I am a great sinner in the midst of it. Oh, Lord continue to teach me!