Saw something today that got my bride and I talking a lot about how we deal with folks – and how that plays out in marriages. As we walked from the rear parking lot to the front of a restaurant we went past two cars that had apparently been in a very minor fender bender (no damage could be seen). I overheard the woman on the phone saying “he tried to cut me off, and he called me an uppity b****.”
Inside the restaurant everyone was talking about the event, as it was out a plate glass window from where we sat. A waitress who saw it said it was barely a bump. Patrons said the woman jumped from the car cussing so loud that every word was clearly heard through the glass. We watched as the woman waved and gestured and screamed. We watched first one, then a second police car showed up. We watched two police men lean down inches from the bumper to try and see the damage. We watched the woman rant. We heard everyone around us who had been there longer say she was rude – both men and women saw her as out of control. It was half an hour after we arrived that the fellow in the second car finally left, and the police were with the woman for almost ten more minutes.
My bottom line observation is that what the woman did had nothing to do with the man who hit her, or what he did or said. What she did was all about her, about her injuries, her feeling she is not valued or appreciated as she should be, or whatever else she was failing to deal with. I doubt the guy who bumped her could have said or done anything to avoid her over reacting, but calling her names (even if a dozen people agreed with his assessment) did not help, it made things worse.
I’ve been there, I’ve done the same. It feels good to strike back when you are attacked, especially if you did nothing wrong or the attack is grossly disproportionate to what you actually did. It is human nature to defend one’s self, to strike back, to return word for word and blow for blow. It’s natural, it’s human, but Jesus said it was not what we should do. Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, and to walk the extra mile. Initially these things don’t feel good – they don’t even feel right. But think about what they do. I can imagine that the woman I saw today is still upset, and is making life unfun for those around her. Had the fellow who bumped her been willing to swallow his need to defend himself (he hit her from behind, he was wrong on some level) he could have left the woman less upset – and in the process made the rest of the day better for her and for all those she touched; not a bad pay off in my mind.
It’s easy to do these things with a stranger – there is no follow up and no chance that our kindness will come back to bite us; but what about marriage? Do these things apply in marriage? Yes – with a caveat. Certainly we need to turn the cheek and go the extra mile for our bride – but we also have to live a real and honest life with her. If we “swallow it” all the time, we could be enabling her becoming selfish and demanding. How do we control our desire to defend or strike back without becoming a door mat? To me the secret is timing – knowing when to turn the cheek, and when to point out a wrong attitude or action on her part. Often it’s a two part process – turning or going the extra mile when she is upset, and then dealing with deeper issues later when she is calm. For some there is also a wisdom to knowing what “day of the month” it is – reasoning with a woman in the midst of PMS is unwise and virtually always ends badly for all involved.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1 NKJV*)
*The New King James Version
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