In my last post, jumping off of a Gamble Rogers aphorism, I spoke about letting your works do your talking, about living out your repentance. After all, one of my pet topics that I will occasionally get exercised about on this blog is the need for integrity, for being a man of your word.
In today’s post, I want to do a slight modification of Rogers’ aphorism, “When your works speak for themselves, shut up!”, and take it in a different direction. As I wrote before, what we do speaks louder than our words, so we need to make sure that the way we live our lives with our spouses lines up with how we talk.
But just as I did when I developed the Golden Rule Corollary© and the I’m Okay, You’re Okay Social Contract™ **, I found myself doing some idle thinking on Rogers’ line and came up with a second version of Rogers’ aphorism that I think applies to marriage. I think I’ll call it the Shut Up and Listen Corollary.™
When someone else’s works speak for themselves, shut up and listen.
I can’t claim that this is solely my revelation; in fact, I recently found out that the poet Maya Angelou said something similar: “When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.” In marriage, however, the “first time” train left the station a long rime ago.
What made me think of this addendum to Rogers’ first aphorism? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I do some reading on a secular marriage board, and I’ve noticed a recent addition to the collective wisdom on that forum. What I am seeing recently is that spouses who are dealing with imposed celibacy often get caught up in an emotional pea-soup fog, and have trouble distinguishing reality from their own wishful thinking. As a result of this emotional fog, they have difficulties in distinguishing personal wishes from reality.
And as happens on every online message board/forum, these wobbly spouses get advice from others. I’ve noticed that the advice that has popped frequently of late is that when someone demonstrates for you what they are actually like by what they actually do, then it’s time to actually believe them.
When You Hear Good Advice, Take It!
All too often, what comes to us under the guise of advice is merely trite truisms and shabby shibboleths, and we rightly let them pass us by. However, occasionally we let a truly good piece of advice slip by, as well, and I’m thinking we open ourselves up to a world of unnecessary hurt by doing so.
“When someone else’s works speak for themselves, shut up and listen.”
Why isn’t this good advice? In the years I’ve been reading about marriage and relationships, I’ve read innumerable accounts and warnings about “red flags”: relationship red flags, dating red flags, marriage red flags, even overlooked red flags that people now regret missing. With all this red flag waving going on around us, we need to be able to receive that bracing advice that tells us to get our heads out of, erm…, out of the sand and pay attention to the reality of our situation, and not wishes and dreams.
The only possible quibble that I can imagine someone having with this is “That’s not a christian attitude.” I’m going to have to disagree with that, because we are told that we are to be wise and discerning as Christians. (I never have understood the idea that the mark of a good Christian is his gullibility.)
In fact, aren’t we told that to be a good husband or wife, we need to be a student of our spouses? What are his/her likes and dislikes? How does s/he feel loved? What are his/her emotional needs? What are his/her strengths?
Well, why doesn’t that apply to our spouses when what his/her actions tell us about who they are?
As I pointed out in my last post, words are cheap. You need to do more than to tout your integrity if you wish to be seen as a person of integrity. You can’t talk your way into a good character.
But as I am wont to say, there are two sinners in every marriage, and integrity and good character are two-way streets. Yes, guys, as I said last time, if you have been a jerk in the past, ‘fess up and repent, stop being a jerk and start living in integrity. But live in your marriage with your eyes open. Don’t accept your wishful thinking for reality. Make sure that your actions speak for yourself, but also shut up and listen to your spouse’s actions as well. While it is true that there are two sinners in every marriage, God wants both of those sinners to repent and live in integrity, together.
** The Golden Rule Corollary© says that since we all know the Golden Rule by heart, how someone treats you demonstrates how they want to be treated.
The I’m Okay, You’re Okay Social Contract™ was explained in the intro to my Marriage Splinters post.
Disclaimer: I am not a counselor, doctor, or pastor. For that matter, Wife says I don’t play well with others. My advice and comments come from my concern for hurting Christian husbands and wives. Someone once said to me, “Church shouldn’t hurt”, and I believe the same thing goes for marriage. I’m going to call ‘em as I see ‘em, but please, don’t take my word as gospel. Yes, read what I say, pray about what I say, but do your own “due diligence.”