the pain of pessimistic love

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Shelly pulled up in her wet driveway after a beach getaway with girlfriends. She smiled, thinking, it’s a shame the rain chased us away early, but at least I know the house is still standing. She opened the door and tripped over a pile of schoolbooks. What on earth? Speechless, she stared at clutter everywhere. Cans of food and spaghetti sauce were stacked high on the island in the kitchen. Empty packets of Ramen noodles decorated the counter. The tool drawer had been emptied onto the kitchen table.
An angry cry escaped her lips and a muffled exclamation came from the laundry room. Her husband stuck his head out the door, looking chagrined. “You’re home early!” “Yes I’m home early!” Shelly waved around at the chaos. “I can’t believe this! Why did you let it get this bad? And why were you feeding the kids instant noodles instead of something healthier?”
Without a word, Marcus pushed the door to the laundry room wide open and stepped aside so she could enter.Furious, she stalked past him-and rocked to a stop. The back corner of the laundry room had been turned into a pantry. Fresh-cut wood shelves stacked up to the ceiling. Deep drawers were waiting to be slotted into a rolling rack. Dust sheets covered the washer and dryer, which were piled with food cans and packets, ready to be placed on the shelves of the pantry.The pantry she had longed for. Shelly closed her eyes. Mortified, all she could say was “I’m so sorry.” Shelly told me this story a week after it happened. I was speaking at her church’s women’s conference, sharing my research on the inner thoughts, needs and fears of men. I shared that men want above all to please those who matter most to them-especially a wife or girlfriend-but privately doubt themselves and are deeply sensitive as to whether they are doing a good job. So when women start a sentence with “Why did you. . .?,” men hear, “Why did you do that, you dodo?” Shelly’s story is a perfect example of how easy it is to think, “You dodo.” Not think, “There must be a good reason for this-even if I don’t see it at this moment.” Instead, like many of us, she was quick to assume there wasn’t a good reason, that hedidn’t do a good job. And she verbalized those damaging thoughts.Ephesians 4:29 tells us to be careful to only say things that are useful for building others up. While this applies to everyone in our lives, if we are married, it’s especially vital to practice with our husbands.Most situations with the men in our lives aren’t as extreme as Shelly’s experience. But versions of this scenario happen often. “Why did you give the kids juice instead of milk?” “Why did you take that road instead of this one?” “Why did you choose that strategy for the business deal?” We may protest that it is a harmless question, but all too often, it is code for “What were you thinking!?” Which itself is code for “You obviously weren’t thinking.”The reality is, the reverse is usually true. Eighty-two percent of men surveyed say they alwaysthink things through … and purposefully consider the reaction of their wife or girlfriend before making a decision.The next time you are confounded by your husband, instead of a rash reaction, slow down and remind yourself: his heart is probably in the right place and his choices are likely made with that in mind. And if you need help … just remember the pantry.

– Shaunti Feldhahn

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