First off: this quote is a bit unfair. There are certainly men who simply aren’t chatty, no matter who they are talking to. And there are wives who are good at expressing their opinions in ways that are engaging and helpful and insightful and their husbands are totally fine. What this quote is talking about are those situations that get a little off kilter. One of the biggest complaints of wives I hear is their husband’s won’t talk to them. One of the biggest complaints of husbands is their wives are never happy. The more he feels she’s complaining, the more criticized he feels, the more criticized he feels, the more he quits talking, the more disconnected she feels and around and around they go. This is why marital counseling can help: with a third person there he or she can help you get outside yourselves and look down on this pattern. You can look at it objectively and instead of blaming each other you can start to figure things out. Or, you can divorce each other, marry somebody else, and do the same thing.
The average wife speaks two to ten times more words a day than her husband. Certainly, there are exceptions to this “average” where some guys are more talkative than their wives. But let’s look at the more common pattern:
When they are dating these two differences are appealing. He likes it that she gabs about these simple things and helps him see things he’s never seen. He thinks it’s cute. She likes how she feels secure in his strong demeanor, that there’s something about his quietness that feels reassuring, even safe. But human nature is such that every good personality trait has a bad, opposite personality trait to go along with it: He’s pleasantly shy, but he’s rude; she’s engaging, but she’s obnoxious. When you marry each other you have to take the good with the bad.
A lady once told me she was divorcing her husband because he wouldn’t talk to her. I knew her husband and pointed out to her that her husband was a pretty shy guy. She said, “I don’t care. I’ll find a guy who will talk to me.” I feel sorry for that guy, if she ever found him.
Whether we talk or don’t talk, a little mutual respect would be good. We could all probably use a little of that. It’s good men might not have to talk about everything, but work hard even when it’d be easy to give up. It’s good women like to explain what they are feeling and work out what’s rattling around in their heads. Some wisdom and solutions can float to the top. We can connect around silence or talking. We can disconnect around silence or talking. Neither is good or bad. The attitude you bring to the table, whether you are him or her, might be the more determining factor.
There are two chains in the link of life: learning from the previous generation and giving to the next. This is one of the great joys of family: learning from your parents and guiding your children. Count yourself blessed if you had a mother or father, uncle or aunt or an older brother or sister or pastor or priest or teacher or coach or boss or colleague, who took an interest in you and invested in you. Count yourself a blessing if can give that same guidance and insight and prodding and correction or nuance to anyone under your authority or within the reach of your life. If you can’t name those who influenced you or those whom you’ve influenced for good and rightness and wisdom, you are among those most to be pitied.
These posts you’ll see here have their origins in others who have influenced me. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus said, and as I’ve been given by a host of others, I want to give to others, too and keep the chain growing. I certainly have my parents to thank. Both my mother and father were generous and giving people, engaging and interested in others. They conveyed by word and example, this is what you do: God helped you, you give to others. “Hide it under a bushel, NO!” goes the Sunday School chorus my mother taught us. Giving is like breathing. You shrivel up if you don’t give back. You don’t want to end up like the Dead Sea: water going in and no water going out or you end up with no life. It’s called Dead for a reason.
Growing up in my high school years, the pastor of our church was Rev. Jim Froehlig (He passed away very quickly in his 50’s from cancer). For some reason, he took an interest in me in those formative years. He believed in me when I was young and fragile and had difficulty noticing God’s hand on my shoulders. He’d remind me it was there. He was informally my first counselor. I didn’t really know it at the time, how blessed I was. He also encouraged. He helped me think through my future and my gifts and listened and wasn’t afraid to give me a pointer or two along the way. Much of my style as a therapist is modeled after how he ministered to me in my formative years and I largely see the counseling I do as mentoring. Deep relationships seem rarer in our digital age. Talking with someone about their puzzles and quandaries, uncertainties and doubts, offers opportunities for iron to sharpen iron.
But the reason these posts are dedicated to Jim Froehlig is because he introduced me to his own mentors, who had prodded and stretched him. He’d quote them in our times together. He’d quote them in his sermons. He’d go to them time and again, mining them for gems to encourage himself and to use to encourage others. He’d share some of those gems with me. He planted seeds in me. They were his friends. They became my friends, too. They had a huge impact upon him. They’ve had a huge impact upon me. And now, in this little humble, digital space, I can share these tidbits of wisdom with you. Maybe you can find a morsel to share with others and keep the chain growing.
Who were these mentors that influenced him? There were others, of course, but the main ones were George MacDonald (1824-1905), G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) and Frederich Buechner (b. 1926). All were Christian writers who were exceptionally gifted in turning a phrase and applying Christian truth to the modern era. MacDonald was briefly a Congregational minister, but is most known for his fantasy writing and children’s fairy tales. Chesterton was an English writer, a later convert to Christianity, largely through the writings of MacDonald. Lewis was an atheist English professor at Oxford and Cambridge and converted to Christianity in his 30’s being highly influenced by his reading of MacDonald and Chesterton. He was a Christian apologist and writer. Buechner is an American writer and Presbyterian minister, who has written novels, essays and sermons. All of these men chose to use writing as a way convey the presence of God and the truth of Christ to their generation.
Off and on I’ve delved into their wisdom in my adult life. They continue to poke my thinking and writing, and like my mentor, Jim Froehlig, I quote them often in appropriate times in my counseling, Through modern social media I will share some of their gems and the gems of others that have had an impact upon me. Maybe, if a crusty soul like mine can be touched by a simple quote, maybe yours can, too.
There is a common belief that the proof of God’s non-existence is the presence of evil in the world. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard people say, “I can’t possibly believe in a God that would allow such and such an evil (insert their particular struggle).” For me it’s just the opposite. I can’t possibly not believe in God, because He’s been so gracious in delivering me from evil and helping others rise above the evil in their lives. How you embrace or fight evil defines you. When I don’t let Him deliver me from evil, that’s all on me. The evil grows like a cancer and the darkness looms. When I let Him deliver me from evil, the sun starts to rise. God gives us the choice: embrace the evil and let it consume you or fight it with God’s help and see the sun peek through the clouds.
The last time I saw my oldest son, Marty (he lives in San Francisco and owns a sign company – Martin Sign Company), he signed me up for Instagram, because he and my youngest son, Jeffrey, a chef and restaurateur in Santa Cruz, California (Alderwood) have Instagram accounts and use it to promote their businesses. It’s been fun to follow their posts and to see their talents on display. I marvel at their creativity.
Then I started thinking about how I could use Instagram in my own company, but that’s more difficult because therapy is not very visual. Over the years I would have had some pretty amazing before and after pictures if I could have taken a picture of my clients when they first walked in the door versus when they were done with therapy. That would have been pretty convincing advertising, but you’ll have to take my word on that!
So I’m wondering, how do I reduce our business to a little visual you can see on an smartphone screen?
And then we ended up re-inventing our counseling company, Heart to Heart Communication. It was a great name for over twenty years, but was conceived prior to the monolithic presence of the Internet and Internet advertising. At the first of the year (2019) Andy Bradley joined our staff in Ames and he has experience working with teenagers. We are excited to have Andy as part of our staff with his rich background and engaging spirit. Andy expands the services we offer, so a name change was in order. As a result we changed our company name in Ames and Des Moines, to Ames Counseling Center and Des Moines Counseling Center to help our online presence and to match our Cedar Rapids Counseling Center office (our other son, Brandon, runs that office). Hopefully, this helps our Google searches, unifies our brand and conveys we do more than only see adult individuals and couples.
That part’s great, but in the process of switching our online presence from thrivingcouples.com to amescounselingcenter.com and desmoinescounselingcenter.com we had a few month lull there as we were waiting (and are still waiting!) for our Internet websites to rise among the ranks. Ultimately, we hope this will make our company grow, but meanwhile my client load was down and I’m sort of (kind of, definitely was) freaking about out how we are going to keep paying the bills!
Another element came into play: The backstory on this also starts with my oldest, Marty. He gave me a Kindle about ten years ago and showed me how to download books from Amazon and I’ve barely bought a paper book since. My wife is probably thrilled about that! We used to have books all over the place. One of the features of a Kindle is being able to highlight great quotes and I’ve highlighted countless wonderful quotes. Here I am, sitting on a gold mine.
Then I purchased an iPad for a portable calendar backup for my office in case my MacBook Air died at just the wrong time, and low and behold, the iPad has a Kindle app and there’s all my books just waiting to be read. I dive into my Kindle G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936. He’s another story and my favorite author) library and come across a quote of his I just love. And then another and another. And I start to think how can I convey his wisdom beyond my little world, because he’s too good to just lie still. He’s stood the test of time and a generation is rising that knows not Chesterton.
All these elements were coming together. What is visual about counseling is an idea, a phrase, a little gem a person hears and it changes his or her life. The essence of therapy is ideas. Time and again many of my clients will tell me it was one thought I shared with them that took their life into a new trajectory. The curious thing for me is I never know what that one thought will be. I plant seeds for a living. I can’t make them grow. That some seeds find fertile soil keeps me going.
This certainly happened in my life when I went to counseling! At the time I was a pastor and going through a rough patch of depression, mostly because the pastorate hadn’t worked out for me as I’d hoped. I was struggling with what to do with my life, because, while I was a good pastor in some ways, it wasn’t a fit in others and it was becoming apparent I needed to shift gears. How do you do that at forty years old with a wife and four kids and live in a parsonage and don’t own a home and and and … But then I really liked my counselor and one of my recurrent thoughts while I went to counseling was pondering the career of a counselor and thinking “I could do this.” And indeed, I could.
The therapist was more helpful than I can really say. It’s been long enough I can’t even remember his name. Isn’t that horrible? He happened to be a former minister! Well, duh! He asks me, “So if you didn’t have to worry about bills or your kids or supporting your wife, what would you do?” “That’s easy,” I replied. “I’d go get my Ph.D. But I could never do that.” He said, “So you think it would be better for you to show your kids that when they reach a difficulty in their lives, that they need to just lay around and be depressed like dad or do you want to teach them to rise to the challenge?” I’m not sure I’m getting the quote right, but the word picture of my children following my lead and my lead at the time wasn’t a pretty picture, was enough to help me stand up again.
Which brings me back to the quote from G. K. Chesterton above. Out of the darkness in my life at that time, the sun peeked through. I could never be a good counselor or a good pastor for that matter, without having gone through a difficult period and found a path through the wilderness. At the time it would have been hard for me to see any good out of what I was going through. Now I see it as a gift.
There’s a popular belief that we all go through five major heart-aches in life, like it’s a universal law. I don’t know how the number was settled on five. I was recently reading about the Scottish pastor and writer, George MacDonald’s life (1824-1905) and he had eleven children, 6 of whom died in their first year, 5 of their first 6! I can’t even imagine that kind of heartache, on top of which he struggled with breathing problems, likely asthma and tuberculosis, his entire life. We will have some quotes from MacDonald. He was the writer that greatly influenced both C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. Thankfully, MacDonald didn’t crawl in a hole and give up because he had to face problems. And here he is, blessing us over a century later. Amazing, really.
Even now, I think of the Proverb I often remember when I get discouraged that helps me rise to a challenge, including this one I’m going through now where we have a great new office and new staff and new furniture and not enough clients to pay for it:
“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”
Twelve words that can get you off your duff. Twelve words that can change a career. Change a life trajectory. Change a tendency. Change a weakness. LIttle words to remake the batter. Back to my Kindle: I’m reading my Kindle on my iPad and savouring little nuggets of delight from G. K. Chesterton and a quote of his tantalizes my soul and I think this little piece of gold needs to see the light of day, needs a larger audience. And I check my other quotes I’ve highlighted from Chesterton and other authors and I have quote after quotable quote that could certainly be a blessing to others as they have been to me. So I’m sharing a few of them with you.
So what Chesterton quote did I see that inspired this little journey?
“He who has never seen darkness has never seen the sun.”
This little quote summarizes my career, my faith journey, my life. Out of the darkness, the sun can shine. Out the mire, jewels are found. Out of the dust of the earth, man is formed. Out of the darkness heaven and earth are created. And now I share darkness and light with people who wonder if the sun will ever come up again. Eleven words from Chesterton that put everything in perspective.
I doubt every quote we will share here will be so full of meaning. Some will be funny. Some will be arresting. Some thoughtful. Some provoking. Some that may get your thoughts to meander. That would be good. Meandering thoughts. Just so the thoughts come home again.