Part Two: Proverbs on Communication: Views of a Fool on Forgiveness, Anger and Lying

Part Two: Proverbs on Communication: Views of a Fool on Forgiveness, Anger and Lying

I must have been in a crotchety mood. The idea of “fool” in Proverbs is someone who does their own thing regardless of God’s guidance to us. He blunders along thinking that whatever he thinks and feels is right and everyone else is wrong. He’s self-deluded and proud of it. My point in the previous blog is that it does you no good to have communication techniques if you don’t have any moral fiber. You can have all the communication finesse in the world, but if you are lying, it won’t matter much. I also, interestingly, found that the word “communication” doesn’t occur in the Bible in modern translations (it occurs 8 times in the KJV), but the concept is there aplenty, so I thought it might be instructive for us to look at this ancient wisdom on the topic.

We left off in the middle of chapter 14, so here goes:

Proverbs 14:8 “The folly of fools is deception.” Here’s a rule of thumb: If you find yourself hiding anything from your spouse, you are on dangerous ground. The only thing you should hide is anniversary presents. If you are hiding anything else (porn, your computer use, text messages to co-workers, emails from your “friend,” money spending, your use of time, your alcohol or drug use, what you are eating), you aren’t being forthright and are headed down a path that could hurt you AND your spouse. If you are out to deceive, the person you hurt the most is yourself. One of the major benefits of marriage is that we are all one decision, one step, one click away from destruction, from succumbing to temptation. The power of temptation is the secret. Talking about your weaknesses with your spouse will give you fortitude and resolve. Hiding them is like hooking up an amplifier and loudspeaker to them in your brain and they will get louder and louder and more persistent. Stop it with the lying already. It’s time to be forthright about your weaknesses and supportive of each other in whatever struggles (We all have them!) you have. Lying about them will only send the message to your spouse that you don’t want her to have anything to do with you, that you don’t need her and that you can’t be trusted. Then, lying creates a whole other set of problems.

Proverbs 14:9 “Fools mock at making amends for sin.” Being self-righteous is an obnoxious thing. If you are right, of course, you don’t ever have to apologize. Nor listen to anyone else’s opinion. You can sit and play with your navel all day because no one else will be necessary. No one is always right. How is it that you are always right? How’d that ever happen? Oh, your problems are everyone else’s fault? How lucky for you. Come on. Man up. No one can go through marriage without hurting his spouse. How is your spouse ever supposed to feel close to you if you never admit you are wrong? Do you know how obnoxious it is to be married to someone who is right all the time? And you say you are just stubborn? Stubborn? Like this is a good thing? You want that for a personal characteristic? How about repenting of it and scouring your life of it? Or these people that tell me they just don’t forgive people. That’s great. Hold grudges your whole life? Let every shortcoming that’s ever been done to you by everyone be in your face everyday and remind yourself how everyone has abused you and mistreated you and take offense at everything everyday and in everyway and while you are at it let everyone know how they’ve harmed your poor little feelings. Do this as a lifestyle and see how many friends you have. Spouses for that matter. If you never make up, if you never admit you are wrong, if you never forgive, if you never let anything go, won’t you be fun to talk to? People will be waiting in line…to leave.

Proverbs 14:16 “A fool is hot-headed and reckless.” Somewhere else the Bible says that our anger doesn’t fulfill the righteousness of God. And God told Cain that anger wanted to “have” Cain and that Cain needed to master anger. Cain didn’t master anger and became our first murderer, but the message is clear: You’ve got two choices: Master anger or let it master you. If it masters you, you will be a curse to yourself and your family. Woe to the family that has to endure the wrath of a fool. In still another place the Bible says to be angry and sin not. There’s a good and bad side of anger. The good side is, anger tells us there is something wrong. The bad side it tells us to get even. Woe to the couple where both partners are operating on THAT principal: You hurt me; I’ll hurt you. Then, of course, you will feel compelled to hurt me back, because you ain’t gonna take no crap, right? Note the tie-in above in our verse: A fool is BOTH hot-headed AND reckless. Anger leads you to say and do things that you wouldn’t do if you were calm and rationally thinking things through. These are things you can’t take back. You’ve already done them. Humpty-Dumpty has already fallen and no one can put him back together again. Anger tells you there are no consequences. Anger silences your conscience and replaces it with stupidity. As Frederick Buechner writes anger is a feast, but the feast you are eating is yourself.

Proverbs 14:17 “A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated.” The next verse after verse 16 in the previous paragraph, picks up this problem of anger and kicks it up a notch: Anger not only causes you to be reckless and do foolish things, it causes the people you do them to (Like your wife or husband or your kids, mostly, right? How is it you can shut off anger at work? What’s that about?) to hate you. Really. Hate? Isn’t that too strong a word? Well, look: Family interaction theory was supposed to have been articulated in the 1950’s (how you treat someone will affect how he treats you), but here we have Solomon saying 3000 years ago that anger comes across to the recipient as hate, so the recipient is going to hate in return. Did you know that? Your anger comes across as hate. It doesn’t cause your loved ones to get all cushy and warm in the cockles of their heart when they think of you, or that, yes, you are indeed right, and thank you very much for being so definitive in bringing this point across to me so forcefully, if, whenever you are ticked, you let your mouth and actions fly, because that’s just who you are. To be on the receiving end of your anger is no fun and you are planting seeds of animosity in your family members, so don’t be surprised when there’s a crop of animosity in return when you end up on the receiving end. Anger breeds animosity. Anger doesn’t bring comfort, understanding, mutual regard or caring or any positive trait that might actually help you and your family. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” not “Blessed are those that articulately let everyone know in no uncertain terms that they are right and everyone else is stupid.” NO. You aren’t blessed if you let anger wrangle your soul like that and neither are your poor, unfortunate, loved ones. Hey, God gave you your loud voice to yell in case of an emergency. If you yell all the time your family will tune you out (and hate you, also) and when there is an emergency, they may very well not listen to you then, either, to their own destruction, and then you can get all self-righteous about that, too.

…To be continued…

Part One On Sexual Desire: The Second Saddest Thing Said About Marriage

Part One On Sexual Desire: The Second Saddest Thing Said About Marriage

This is a first in a series of blogs on Sexual Desire.

I could go the rest of my life and not be sexual. I just don’t need sex.

Clients Bound And Determined To Doom Their Marriages

The saddest thing I hear about marriage is when the couple comes to therapy and one partner says he or she is done, done, done with the marriage and they won’t be dissuaded. This person might have even agreed to go to marital therapy. I hope he doesn’t say to his future girlfriend that he “tried” marital therapy. I’m imagining these people telling their loved ones and friends that marital therapy was a waste of time. No doubt. It’s really not fair for them to say they’ve been to marital therapy. If they were honest the most they could say is they were in a marital therapist’s office once. They could say I had a comfy couch and that my wife did a nice job decorating. That’s it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so sarcastic about this.It’s a pretty hot topic. I certainly needs to be talked about. After they divorce they won’t talk about it, that’s for sure.Other than a child dying, divorce is like the next most difficult thing to deal with emotionally in anyone’s life.It’s hard enough if the couple has had the divorce talk and the divorcing spouse says the whys and the wherefores. I had a client once who came home from work and everything was gone from the house except for his personal belongings and his golf clubs.He never saw his wife again.That’s just cruel.There’s no need to be so mean about it.Divorce by itself is mean enough. So if they can’t talk at all about it at home and they can in my office, I guess that’s a good thing.It’s just not marital therapy.I’m acting as a mediator.That’s fine.I don’t resent it.It’s just a sad thing to have to hear.The saddest thing I do in this field.I’m sure you’ve got your sad things you’ve got to do with your job: Fire somebody, lay somebody off, cut somebody’s salary, discipline a colleague, all just crappy things.

The second most saddest thing (I’m sure there’s something really bad from an English grammar standpoint in writing “the second most saddest thing” but I have no idea how to say it differently. For all you English types I apologize.You’ll just have to grin and bear it.) I’ve heard in my office is the quote at the top of the page. I know if that person can’t figure out a way to enjoy sexuality together with their spouse it’s just a matter of time before the foundation of this marriage is washed away.Sexuality is the life-blood of the marriage. If I can’t figure out a way to help them move into meaningful, mutual, marital sexuality, then I feel I have failed.

I have this sex research lab.It’s called my couch.No, I’m not researching sexual technique.Americans are unwisely and mistakenly obsessed with technique and variety and shaking it up.Everything else is just boring.Sexuality is NOT about technique.If you Googled the word “sex” and you got this article by me about sex you aren’t going to get turned on reading it. Sorry. You might get mad at me or chuckle once in a while, but you won’t start fantasizing. That’s just fine. Yeah, I’m sure there’s some people out there that could use a few hints here and there about sex, but for heaven’s sake, the biggest problem about sexuality is NOT technique.

One marital therapist has written that if you take a Polaroid picture of your sex life (I’m sure he was being metaphorical) you’ll get an idea of how the marriage is doing.I’m discovering this more and more in my research lab.Over and over again couples talk to me about their frustrating sexual lives and over and over again if I can help them figure that out they do awesome and over and over again if I can’t help them figure this out their relationship suffers. Dr. Gottman says he can predict with over 90% accuracy if a couple will divorce by how they treat each other in conflictual situations.He’s the marriage lab guy.He video tapes couple when they argue and talk and has broken marriage down into fine, small little particles.It’s a clever idea and very helpful and I use his material all the time in my office.

My sex research lab is not quite so fancy.No one way mirrors.No video cameras.No research assistants coding every turning up of the mouth and rolling of the eyes.No, just me and my pen and my Sam’s Club yellow notepad and me jotting down things for me to remember so I don’t forget who you are.You live with yourself for years and here’s this guy you’ve talked to for an hour and he’d better remember what you said and if he doesn’t you probably won’t respect him nor come back to him, so since I’m a rather dense guy I gotta write this stuff down:At least the first time or two to get the story right.

If Dr. Gottman thinks he can predict within 90% accuracy (actually I think he says 94%), I can predict within 100% accuracy.My prediction is that if you are NOT sexual with your spouse that you have a 100% chance of either getting a divorce or you will stay married but you will be two actors in a play pretending to be husband and wife and that after awhile the play will get tiring and the fake smile will calcify and your tender heart will curdle and then thicken into a putrid jell until it finally fossilizes.And then won’t you be fun?

There.I heard it again, variations on a theme.It’s not a beautiful symphony though.It’s a funeral dirge:

I could care less if I ever have sex again in my lifetime. I’m just not sexual.

I had to look up dirge on Google because I had no idea how to spell it.I spelled it “durge” at first.The Urban Dictionary said that’s when someone comes up behind you and pops your knees.I thought that was pretty funny and pretty right on, but that’s not what I was looking for.I typed in “durge definition” and finally hit pay dirt when “dirge” came up.And guess what the history of dirge is?It’s from the first word of the Office of the Dead in Latin for the Catholic Church and in time it became used to describe the chanting said or sung at a funeral.Check it out here: That’s perfect. Because if you have this idea that you can be married and NOT be sexual and that is OKAY by you then you are predicting the demise of your own marriage. Goodbye, my dear. Sayonara, baby. Auf Wiedersehen, Honey. 再见, Sweetie.

When I tell you this, you won’t believe that, of course. And if I told you that after you quoted the above marriage funeral dirge you would, of course, be mad and say, no, no, I love my spouse! I’m just not interested in sex. Well, look. I didn’t say you have to think about it. I certainly hope you don’t think about it all the time. There are many other things with which to occupy your time. So, no. You don’t have to think about sex all the time. But you do have to DO it once in awhile. And by “once in awhile” I don’t mean six times a year. That won’t cut it. You’d be wiser to shoot for 3-6 times a month as foundational. More if you are on vacation or the kids are off to grandma’s for a couple of weeks. If the latter, you’d better be locking the front door and turning the thermostat up. KnowwhadImean?

You say, well, we don’t get along well enough.We fight likes cats and dogs.We never talk.  Or spend any time together.  How can I be sexual with my spouse when we bicker?Are you fighting because you aren’t sexual or are you not sexual because you are fighting?Couples that aren’t sexual do two things: Withdraw from each other or fight like mad.Either way the violins are tuning up.  Chicken and the egg.  Oh, you’ve decided on the egg?  Standoff at the O.K. Corral.  Stubbornness.  You will not be dissuaded.  You have made up your mind.  You are right and that’s it.  I guess if you make up all the decisions, there’s no need for a spouse?

What are these people saying (yes, both male and female) that they could be content to never be sexual again? They are saying that they will NOT be influenced by their spouses. I refuse to let you have an impact in my life. I have a wall around my life and it doesn’t include you. I will not give to you. I will not sacrifice for you. I will not reach out to you. I will not open up to you. I will hold grudges. I will not forgive you for any wrong done. I will go through the motions of being married to the public at large, including our children, but you and I both know that this marriage is a façade, a ruse, a make-believe fantasy world where I am under the illusion that I can make the world in my own image and the world I create is me at the center and you have to whirl around my whims and if you get upset about it and complain about it or show any discomfort in any way that we are NOT sexual then I will accuse you of being a control freak!!!! And that will give me, yet again, another reason to turn you down!  See I have this figured out that I will win!!!!

You can bet your spouse will eventually figure this out, too. And you can have your wish: Never be sexual with anyone the rest of your life!!! Whoohoo!! Living by yourself! You and your cute little snow-white Maltese dog that looks so pure and angelic.

The tympani are tuning up. You can hear their subtle pounding in the background.

Part Two: Proverbs on Communication: Views of a Fool on Forgiveness, Anger and Lying

Part Four On Communication: Anger Will Get My Point Across! NOT!

It’s better left for emergencies.  For the first in the series click here, the second click here and the third, click here.  For the entire series click here.

Be angry and sin not.

Ephesians 4:26

Anger’s gotten a bad rap.It’s destroyed so many families and individuals and marriages and careers that it’s easy to think we oughta just chuck the whole thing.But be careful.Anger is a great motivator.

On an international level it’s why Hitler’s cronies aren’t running the world right now and on national level it’s why we don’t have slavery in slave states anymore. We still have slavery. It’s just not legal. Sex slave traffic is a worldwide problem. If we ever got rid of that, it would be because enough people got mad about sex being used outside of marriage as an object for one’s personal desire. The porn industry is running billions and billions of dollars in profit with no end in sight, so it’s going to take more than a few bloggers, ministers and counselor types to squash all that. We’d pretty much all have to get mad enough to say freedom does not mean license to do whatever. Unfortunately, we’ll probably self-destruct before anything is done about that.

On a personal level anger can motivate you to study for a test instead of flunk, stop drinking, lose weigh or get out of debt.

It’s also very handy if your child is in danger and you yell to get his attention so that he doesn’t hurt or kill himself. Very handy.

So, hey, anger’s not all bad. But use it wisely. If you yell at your kids everyday, they will learn to tune you out and when a dangerous event is about to occur and you yell to warn your child, he may very well ignore you and plunder on and get himself killed. Wouldn’t that be ironic that your lack of self-control on anger caused your child’s death? Don’t worry, anger lies and will tell you your kid just never listened to you. You probably will never figure out that your misplaced anger taught your child to ignore you.

Anger as an everyday, normal, communication tool is a complete waste of time and just sucks whatever love you have left out of your marriage and fills your soul and your brain with a slurry of resentment and hurt and confusion and self-righteousness and a bunch of words on the other side of slang to boot.Pretty soon you are spouting threats of divorce and leaving or cheating or looming over her all threatening and imposing like.It ain’t no marriage enhancer.

And when you use anger as a tool to defend yourself from your spouse’s suggestions or to attack your spouse for not heeding your suggestions, anger changes the subject to whatever it is that the two of you were talking about to you causing your spouse think to herself that “I’m married to an ass.” If you had a sane point you were trying to convey, it got totally lost in the meanness and hurtfulness and despicableness of all the cruel things you said and the threatening and imposinglike nonverbal cues you were sending with your puffed up chest and your curled up lip and throwing your hands in the air in superiority and smashing your fist against whatever is handy and hopefully what you are smashing is not your spouse or your kids, but you better watch out, because anger will tell you to cross boundaries and once boundaries are crossed it’s hard to differentiate between smashing a teacup and smashing a loved one’s face. But anger is also very subtle and you hear about people who only smash their loved ones’ faces once because it leaves marks that the public can see, so then after that mistake they only smash their loved ones in places that are covered by clothes so that no one else will know. This is the kind of self-control that will land your loved ones in the psych ward at the hospital or worse. You communicated all right. Anger did help you communicate. The message that you communicated is that you are mean, and hurtful and despicable and your loved ones are thinking you are an ass.

And then, later, of course, you are sorry you said and did all those things and you didn’t mean them and you were just so angry and you were pushing my buttons.When anger gets this insane it is really good at passing the buck and making your own stupidity and selfishness and cruelty someone else’s fault.Your spouse is going to have a hard time believing you didn’t mean those things, because she just heard everything you said and you sounded pretty believable and sincere to her.Your face was red while you said it, for heaven’s sake.That’s pretty passionate.And how is she supposed to believe you now when you take it all back?And now you are crying on bended knee that you didn’t mean those things.Is she just supposed to have a switch that goes on when you say you are telling the truth and turn off when you start saying (yelling!) those things?How is she supposed to sort that all out?The good and the bad came out of the same mouth.Are you purposely trying to make her crazy?It’s a good plan.I’m sure our mental hospitals are full of people who were on the receiving end of misplaced anger.Then when you divorce her after she’s a ward of the state rocking back and forth saying to herself “he didn’t mean it, he didn’t mean it” and “it’s all my fault, it’s all my fault” you can tell everyone you divorced your first wife because she was crazy!What a plan!

So whose life are you going to destroy next?Here’s one way to do it:Divorce your spouse because you are just so mad at her making you so mad.No one else makes you mad like her and you don’t like yourself when you are mad.If you divorce her, you think, you won’t be mad any more!Another great plan!Right.

Do you know what happens to you when you divorce somebody because you are trying to escape resentment or anger or an inability to forgive or a cold heart because you’ve shut your spouse out of your heart and refuse to reach out and love your current spouse anymore and you say to yourself you love him, you just aren’t in love with him?Do you know?Do you know?

You’d think you’d have figured this out by now:Whatever negative spirit you have when you willingly dump your spouse, that negative spirit gets set in cement in your heart.You will carry that into all your future relationships.You’ll turn into Jesse James and leave a wake of Sandra Bullocks wherever you go.

Keep in mind I’m referring to the dump-er not the dump-ee.If your spouse dumps you, in my view, you have a much better chance of overcoming negative hurt in your previous marriage than if you are the one that casts your spouse to the curb and cinches up his pants and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”A lot better.

Marriage, by the way, is a great place to learn self-control, but if you didn’t learn self-control on anger or choosing to love and giving and forgiving and sacrificing and bucking up and going the second mile in your first marriage, you won’t have a clue where to start in your second marriage and marriage will not survive unless you learn to develop these things. When you divorce you shut off your ability to learn these things in the crucible of marriage, short of some miracle. Now I believe in miracles, but I also don’t believe in borrowing trouble. Divorce borrows trouble. It tests God to see just how big of a jerk you can make yourself before He intervenes. I suggest you don’t test God to see how far He will go before He steps in and saves you from your insanity.

Anger is fine if it tells you you need some help and you can’t figure this out and we seem to be doing the same things over and over again and it just doesn’t seem to get anywhere or it tells you maybe you should get a book about this or bone up on that or maybe read your Bible for a change and seek the Lord and grow spiritually and become a bit more patient or the two of you sit down and brainstorm solutions and come up with some pretty creative things to try to solve whatever and over time you figure things out. Anger is really good about motivating people to change. It’s really good for that.

But if you don’t listen to the constructive side of anger, pretty soon the destructive side of anger will rear its ugly head and it’ll tell you to get even, to hurt back. That’s when you shut down anger. Enough already. Ain’t goin’ there. No way. When anger tells you to hurt your loved ones that’s a boldfaced lie and it’s time to say no, to stop it already. Don’t use anger as a communication tool unless your plan is to leave a trail of tears wherever you go.

Just stop it.

For a humorous look at this check out the link my son Brandon sent me with a comment that my education was all in vain. I just needed Bob Newhart’s therapy technique. The clip is six minutes long. Hang in there. The punch line doesn’t come until the end: