It’s the Little Things

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I want to find huge shark teeth when I go shark tooth hunting.  I’m not out there searching for teeth so small I could fit ten of them on top of a Quarter.  I want to find a Mako or a Great White that fills up the palm of my hand and has weight to it.  People who say finding tiny little shark teeth is just as satisfying as finding big ones may not be lying, but I don’t think they’re saying the whole truth.  If they walked up on a Megalodon you’d hear them singing a different song.  But they (we) do get satisfaction from finding tiny shark teeth.  It is a different feeling.  When I comb the beach walking at my normal pace and letting my eyes search almost on autopilot, finding shark teeth that are teeny tiny makes me feel like I am the master of this beach.  It makes me feel like if there is any shark tooth on this beach it can’t elude me.  I will find it.  How can I doubt this when I walked along at full stride and picked a shark tooth barely bigger than 20 grains of sand out of moving water?  It is magical.  I’m not even sure how I do it.  It must be Spidey-sense.  Spidey shark tooth sense.  Whatever it is, picking that tooth out of the surf is satisfying because I’m sure I haven’t missed anything big.  If my methods work to find this tooth then I’m not missing other things.

Usually the tiny teeth end up at the bottom of a jar, not in a display case, but there’s no doubt in my mind there are plenty of days I would have quit hunting before finding a display case tooth if I hadn’t found one of these little things and renewed my belief that I could find another tooth.  It’s the little things that matter.  It’s the little things we do that accumulate in our hearts that add up to confidence to go on when nothing significant seems to be happening.  The tiny hints of the presence of the Holy are just as full in their ways as the monumental Red Sea splitting displays of power.  I want to walk my life pathway with the expectation of finding Jesus in the moving water.

Gospel and the Art of Shark Tooth Hunting

There was a book someone told me to read.  It was cool they said.  Enlightening.  Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I read it.  I don’t remember it.  I guess it didn’t enlighten me.  That is probably more a statement about me than the book.  Lots of people read it and found it helpful.  I couldn’t relate.  The journey of the book interested me, but the Zen and the motorcycles didn’t.  I use technology that I don’t understand.  And I don’t want to understand it.  I want it to work.  I don’t want to think about how this computer is capturing these key strokes and saving my thoughts in bits and bytes.  And the Zen feels the same to me.  Too much thinking in little bits and bytes that run down rabbit trails and at the end seem so breathtakingly insignificant or worse, unintelligible.  The Zen felt inaccessible to me, like the carburetor on the motorcycle laid out in tiny pieces that only the initiated can see and put together.

I am a Christian and a pastor.  I like thinking but I’ve found Saint Paul’s warning that “knowledge puffs up” to be an occupational hazard and a cultural epidemic.  Pirsig was writing in a time when technology seemed to be overtaking us, endangering us with becoming functions, pieces of machinery in a godless mechanical universe grinding along with an unseeing merciless drumbeat.  My time is overtaken with information.  We are in danger of becoming receptacles of pieces of information.  Our drumbeat is godless and merciless too.  We are googled and googling. We are becoming what we eat, and we eat information.  We are can’t be disconnected from the the pipeline of knowledge or we might cease to exist.  We are social media.  Incoming and outgoing.  The puffing up chokes out life.  Saint Paul contrasted knowledge with love.  “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”  Living is love.  Love is living.

I noticed how much the puffing up was killing me.  Reducing me to posts and likes and comments and followers.  I noticed how loveless it felt.  I deleted my Facebook account FullSizeRender (3)without telling anyone.  No fanfare.  No goodbye sweet world.  Just deleted it.  My real world loving living friends asked me where I went.  None of the thousand friends outside of them has tried to find me.  I’m gone and they don’t notice it.  Why should they?  We don’t love each other.  We don’t live together.  We don’t miss each other.  I feel good.  I feel better.  Not smug or superior, just better.

I am loving the people in my real world more now.  I am practicing the gospel which is not knowledge but flesh and spirit.  I am practicing sabbath which is the art of giving up being God and affirming I can disconnect and not shrivel up and die.  And I’m hunting shark teeth which is pursuing something of value because I love it and not because I gain anything from it.  By these acts I am becoming myself and this is what God promises to make me.

A Confusion of Identities

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am.
– SuperTramp, Logical

The story broke this week that activist Shaun King, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, is white.  That’s a story.  That’s a breaking story.  Why?  Because King identified himself as biracial and the evidence is mounting that he is not.  He’s just white.  Plain old white.  Did he know he was white all along? Or did he really think he was (and is) black?  King said by the time he went to high school he identified himself simply as black, not biracial. His mom is white; there is no doubt of that but even though King’s family members say he is white, born to his mom and the white man named in his birth certificate, King claims his real father was an unknown black man with whom his mother had an affair. Confused yet?

Sounds familiar to another story from A few months ago. Remember Rachel Dolezal the president of a chapter of the NAACP who identified herself as black even though both her parents are white?  She said there was no proof her parents were her parents because there was no medical witness to her birth (which was in a teepee) and her birth certificate wasn’t filed for 7 weeks. She claimed she grew up seeing herself as black and drew pictures of herself with dark skin and curly black hair.  But in 2002 she sued the black college she was attending for discriminating against her because she was white.  Confusing.

Besides the Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal stories there is Elizabeth Warren who called herself a Native American, and proud of her Native American heritage but has no Native mirror-image1Americans in her family lineage.  And then the great big story of the year of Bruce-Caitlyn Jenner who changed his-her physical identity to match his-her internal identity of a woman.  Very confusing.

Identity is not optional.  We cannot live without one.  Not knowing who you are is the worst kind of psychosis.  It is so bad that truly crazy people will take on any identity rather than be identity-less; they’ll call themselves a rabbit, or take to calling themselves Jesus Christ.  I found this quote from Rachel Dolezal to be very appropriate:

“Overall, my life has been one of survival, and the decisions that I have made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive.”

True.  Very true.  But not necessarily in the way Rachel thinks.  She puts identity in that category of things that get things for us.  Identity is actually the thing that we must get or we have nothing at all.  The trouble with the identity stories we’ve read about lately is just this: the people seeking to use identity to accomplish something – social justice, career advancement, emotional integrity – have all missed a crucial and eventually devastating fact.  If you create your own identity then you must maintain it.  This is real identity confusion.  This is a real problem.  This isn’t to belittle the problem of having identities we don’t like.  That’s a problem too.  If you feel like being white is better than being black or that being a woman is better than being a man or that being an Indian is better than being white – if you really believe that – it presents a huge problem.  It’s whey people take on not just racial identities but also social and emotional identities.  People become the hero, the success story, the doctor, the lover.  All of them have the same fatal flaw; self maintenance.  It gets exhausting maintaining a self generated identity.  And when someone questions our self generated identity, we have no choice but to defend it.  We have to; it’s a matter of survival.

Surely though, all of us must recognize that it isn’t a breaking news story that will ultimately expose our lesser identities.  We will have to pass out of this life at some point.  Then who will we be?  All our carefully produced images will melt away and we will be in the presence of Eternity; in the presence of The Identity.  That experience will either be terrifyingly confusing or comforting depending on how we have oriented our lesser identities in the here and now.  The gospel is the only system of thought that tells people they can have a given identity now that will last forever.  It says God wants to give that to anyone willing to accept it.  The Christian term “repentance” is really nothing more than giving up lesser identities for the true identity of the God who created us.  The world could use more people who are not using systems, money, or other people to create temporary identities; who are humbled by an identity they did not earn, but emboldened by the riches of an identity that cannot be taken away.  SuperTramp said please tell me who I am – that is why Jesus came; to tell you who you are, and it isn’t a slave to God’s law but as a son for God’s glory and for your identification – and there will never be a breaking news story when that identity is exposed as a lie.  We can rest in it.

A Reason and a Place to Write Right

I realized this week how much time I’m giving to thinking about the current political reporting and debates and tweets and punditry, including making time to write my own analysis of the Trump and Hilary part of the show.  Politics interests me and I have strong opinions (a family characteristic passed down from my Granddad Kiser on my mom’s side) so I feel the need to join in and add something valuable to the discussion.  My medium of choice for adding commentary was Facebook, but a few weeks ago I deleted my account.  The back and forth of post – comment – reply – counter-comment, etc doesn’t work for me.  Facebook posts are too short and not formal enough to be conducive to presenting well thought out ideas, and comments, replies and counter-comments for the most part are reactive and lacking thought, and well, not nice.  I am decidedly impatient with anything I consider to be ignorant and I write things with an edge intended to inflame and/or cut rather than instruct or persuade.  Switching to Twitter as a medium of adding to the commentary hasn’t been much help.  Although the limited format forces me to think hard about what I want to say it’s pretty hard to stay away from snarky, cutting words in my Tweets and replies to Tweets.  Since my native language from birth is Sarcasm (everyone in my family is fluent) I feel right at home jumping into a thread of “burned you” and “I burned you back.”  The trouble with this is that my heart doesn’t end up feeling great after I fire off ten or so pithy, snarky Tweets.  I find myself delighting in the amount of favorites and retweets with a well shaped shot in someones twitter feed.  And that delight decays into a selfish dark slushy bitter taste in my heart until I jump into the next snarky 1375738928_free-speech-words-are-weaponsstream.  So I’ve decided to move the Twitter feed into better places.  To add light to the feed with godly comments and commentary and proverbs.  I think this is my part.  But I also feel I should contribute to the political discourse of my time.  This seems to me to be in the tradition of the gospel and clergymen.  Worldviews have consequences and Christians, especially Christian leaders must not disengage from the line where the gospel intersects politics, public policy, and the culture.  I feel like Eric Liddell in Chariots of fire:

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

I believe God made me thoughtful.  When I think and analyze and write, I feel His pleasure.  I also remember the words of C.S. Lewis at the beginning of Mere Christianity where he explained why he choose to write on the subject of basic Christian apologetics rather than wade into doctrinal debates:

That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.

As I look upon the state of punditry it seems to me the left and the right the liberal and the conservative positions are thoroughly covered.  It also seems many Christians are creating content and publishing opinions from their perspectives; some more overtly Christian than others; some like Bono and some like Casting Crowns; Christians who make commentary and Christians who make Christian commentary.  But the line seems thin where I most naturally feel at home and that is the news story of the day and how it relates to the news story of our race in light of the most significant event in human history; the gospel, the Good News.  I am a Gospel commentator on my times and culture.  Trump is popular.  How does that relate to the gospel?  Hillary is accused of lying about email.  What would we do with/for her if we believed the gospel?  This is where I am at home and my heart is at rest.  This seeks to bring light to the eyes of my race and glory to a name that deserves it.  I sat down to write the book I am working on right now but ended up writing this.  It is something I need to publish so I’ve put it in the light and open to examination by others.  I need this kind of accountability and transparency.  This is also why I am choosing to write here on my site under my own name where I must take responsibility for my words and I have as much room as I need to think and to express.  I am a man of God and I work for Jesus.  I seek to write in a way that pleases him and helps others to know and to love him.  I believe in Jesus.  This is why I write.

Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  When he got on a jag about the Russell Crowe movie Noah Maher said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

Who Won the Sexual Revolution? (hint: it wasn’t women)

“When we examine simple connections between recent and lifetime sexual partnering, frequency of sex, and a variety of emotional-health indicators—including depression scales, self-reported episodic crying, life satisfaction, depression diagnoses, and current use of prescription antidepressants—it quickly becomes apparent that having more numerous sexual partners is associated with poorer emotional states in women,
but not men.”
Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker)

A good thirty years into the sexual revolution, the throwing off of “traditional” views of sex along with how we view gender roles, is working out great; if you are a man.  Men who used to pay a much higher price in terms of commitment and stability in order to gain access to sex, can now have sex for little or no commitment.  Women, who were encouraged to view their sexual decisions in a “liberated” way (ie to have sex when they wanted with whoever they wanted) are not faring so well by putting that into practice.  In the traditional view of sex, women were the gatekeepers who could demand relational security in exchange for sex, and men were the pursuers exploring the market for the price they had to pay for sex, and trying to have as much of it as they could get for the lowest cost.  As more women adopted these liberal attitudes toward sex, the market slowly started to flood with lower cost sex in terms of commitment to the point where a woman who withholds sex from a man is no longer an obstacle for him – he has plenty of options readily available.  Now men can have sex for next to nothing with many partners – literally a school boy’s dream, and they are doing it with abandon, and, evidently without causing themselves much long term damage.  Women on the other hand, are not faring so well.

Even getting married—deciding to settle down with only one sex partner for good—doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who’ve had numerous sex partners in their lifetime. While no association with depressive symptoms is apparent among now-married young women who’ve had up to four sex partners in their lifetime, problems appear among those who’ve had 5–10, and even more among those who’ve had more than 10 partners.  [Such] women display more intense emotional difficulties. Among those who’ve had more than 10 partners, 41 percent report being depressed at least some time in the past seven days. Just over 14 percent are actively taking antidepressants, and only 79 percent say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their life. So while the security of a marital relationship can diminish sex-related emotional-health problems, it doesn’t often take them away.

It makes you wonder who’s idea the sexual revolution was in the first place, and what were they hoping to accomplish.  One name above all others attaches itself to this: Hugh Hefner.  Hefner is the living image of the beginning and shriveling up of the sexual revolution; a man of small physical and moral stature who lacks the generally valued masculine qualities which would attract and hold the attentions of a real woman.  A man who has everything to gain by tearing down the traditional sexual structures in order to gain access to what he wants.  It was all couched in such inclusive terms from the start – why shouldn’t we all stop feeling guilty about sex and relax?  Why shouldn’t women be able to have as much sex as men are having?  The truth was (and still is) that men were not having more sex than women; that single men always had (and still have) less and less satisfying sex than their married friends, and that women enjoyed sex much more when they had a greater power over the sexual market place by rejecting casual sex and waiting for sex in an emotionally stable relationship. What will happen in the next 30 years?  Given what I know about women’s character and ability, I predict they will tell their daughters and sons what a disaster the “sexual revolution” has been, and begin to teach them to reject it.  The generation raised by the victims of the sexual wars will raise a generation who will reassert sane and workable sexual practices that work for both genders.  When they do, many will be surprised at how “traditional” it looks.  I won’t, because to me it isn’t tradition, it is truth written into the fabric of the universe by our Creator, and rejecting it always wreaks havoc.  Maybe we can help get things started by putting posters of the original Playboy in every dorm room of America…  Read more from Ron here: The Elephant in the Bar

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Marriage: You’re Closer Than It Appears

objects-in-mirrorObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  Why?  Because the mirror bulges in the middle.  Imagine the mirror as plastic wrap spread across a frame.  If you took a ball and pressed it into the wrap it would bulge outward taking the shape of the ball.  This is a convex mirror.  Light reflects differently in this kind of mirror, bouncing off at an various angles.  In a flat or planar mirror light reflects at ninety degree angles virtually recreating a picture of the object being reflected.  In the  convex mirror on the passenger side of cars the different angles of light compress the image in the middle and expand the image at the outer edges increasing the field of vision by about 30% but making  reflected objects appear to shrink.  Both mirrors are useful in their place.  If you want to see around a corner you’re going to need the convex type, but if you are trying to put in your contact lenses a flat mirror is going to be your best bet.

Have you notice how some people have a wider perspective than others?  They can see things other people don’t see.  On the other hand there are people who are very good at reflecting exact pictures of what they see.  Same light, different reflection.  Mirrors have warnings.  People don’t.  In relationships it is often a good thing to suspend judgment about who saw something in a certain way until you have a better feel for their perspective.  Flat mirror types often feel like the picture they see is getting distorted by convex mirror types.  Convex mirror types often feel like the flat mirror types aren’t looking at the big picture.  Both perspectives have value and can be combined to  help you safely navigate your relationship.  Either way you see things, you are closer to each other than it appears.

Why Do I Think My Husband Hates Me?

My husband comes through the door and goes directly to his seat on the couch.  He turns on the TV and barely glances up when I kiss him and ask him how his day was.  I serve him the meal I’ve been planning for a week.  It is his favorite.  He swallows it and goes out to mow the lawn and work in the yard, not coming in until after dark.  Why doe the man hate me?  What did I do?!  What is this all about?

I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by my husband to me must have something to do with what I said to him last night or what I forgot to do before he went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into him about why he isn’t responding to me right now.

How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in his place and treated him cooly, it would be because he offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why he is acting the way he is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view his actions through are my own actions in the same situation.  He sees the world through a completely different set of lenses, and on top of that experiences a whole different set of things I don’t know about.  Does he hate me?  What if he was so preoccupied with getting the yard done before it rains because he knows my family is visiting this weekend that he didn’t notice I kissed him, cooked for him or even looked at him?  That is hard for me to see on my own.  What can I do to change lenses and see things more clearly?  I have to judge my own judgments.

full_1324062160Screenshot2011-12-16at2.04.24PMNone of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does too, it takes a different path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment. Recognize first that you only think you know why they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.

Why Do I Think My Wife Hates Me?

I come through the door from work, walk up to my wife and kiss her.  She doesn’t look up and barely acknowledges me.  I take the trash out and wash the dinner dishes.  She doesn’t have anything to say.  Why doe the woman hate me?  What did I do?!  What is this all about?

I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by Tina to me must have something to do with what I said to her last night or what I forgot to do before I went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into her about why she isn’t responding to me right now.  How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in her place and treated her cooly, it would be because she offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why she is acting the way she is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view Tina’s actions through are my own actions in the same situation.  Tina see the world through a completely different set of lenses, and on top of that experiences a whole different set of things I don’t know about.  Does she hate me?  What if she was engrossed in finding me the perfect pair of shoes because last night I complained about how much my feet hurt after work?  She was so engaged in loving me the way she shows love that she didn’t even realize I kissed her and washed dishes and took out the trash!  That is hard for me to see on my own.  What can I do to change lenses and see things more clearly?  I have to judge my own judgments.

None of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does too, it takes a different Jan2011-March2011-autocritica_799671110path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment. Recognize first that you only think you know why they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.