Did you catch our post, Quotes: Mouthfuls of Wisdom? If not, here is a brief excerpt:
I’ve put up many fights in my time as a wife. I have even thrown a few tantrums. Eric wants us to grow and help other couples, but sometimes growth hurts and helping others requires being seen. Many of his ideas and desired paths have scared me, and I have pressed my heels into the ground as hard as I could – sometimes saying “no,” sometimes crying, sometimes arguing, and sometimes ignoring him and hoping he would forget. The revelation I have come to after many years of pushing against him is this: If it is important to him, more than likely, I will eventually consent. All my inner-tantrums do is wear me out emotionally. If I truly do not like an idea, or think it unwise, I need to calmly express those concerns. Otherwise, I would do better to prayerfully consider his plans, and say “yes” cheerfully rather than “no” ignorantly and forcefully.
Stubbornness and my dearly held desire to do everything my own way has gotten me into trouble over the years. I am agreeable and kind on the outside, but sitting with my arms crossed on the inside. When I do not want to do something, it takes a long time for me to move from “I really do not want to do this” to “Okay, I will give it a try.” Sometimes, it even takes years!
When I was a toddler, my catchphrase was, “I wanna do it myself!” When I was about eight, I informed my mother that I was sick and tired of her telling me what to do. Guess how that ended? ~smile~ In school, if the math problem had “too many” steps, I continually tried to find the answer in other ways – adding more time to my homework than if I had simply learned how to complete the problem the prescribed way. When I began working as a teenager, I did not enjoy changes to the status quo. This could include something as simple as changing desks. ~smile~ As a wife, my initial reaction to most of Eric’s ideas – the ones which would require me to step outside my comfort zone and conquer some fears – have been largely negative.
I am a Professional Heel-Digger
If I am uncomfortable with something, I push against it as hard as I possibly can. Sometimes this involves ignoring, complaining, bargaining, or plain and simple obstinacy. For as long as I can remember, I have battled my initial knee jerk reaction that says, “This is bad! This is scary! Say “no!” Say “no!” And, almost every time the “battle” ends the same way. I finally look at the situation, consider it, find that it is really not so bad, and then take on the new task. Sometimes, I even enjoy it. ~smile~
This happens so often that it leaves me wondering why, after all these years, I still struggle with following someone else’s lead. Especially considering – get this – I am a natural follower! It is not like I am a natural born leader who effortlessly rises to leadership positions and feels comfortable making decisions. I prefer to follow. If there is no one to follow, I feel uncomfortable. I run my decisions by four people before I make them. I do not want to be in charge. I want to follow – unless I am not happy with the direction the train happens to be moving.
“Hey, Eric, I really do not want to be in charge. I am going to sit back and follow your lead. That is, unless you ask me to do something hard, or uncomfortable, or talk to someone I do not know, or speak in front of anyone, or basically do anything I have not done before. As long as you lead me where I want to go, our marriage will be easy peasy.”
Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds. It sounds even worse written down than it did in my head!
God, in His wisdom (and humor) paired stubborn ol’ me with more-stubborn, leadership-oriented Eric. There are days I cannot understand why God brought us together, but when I write about our dynamic, it makes sense once again. My heel-digging is not a stressor to him. He does find it annoying, but it does not detract him from the final goal. In fact, he has even learned to tell me about upcoming projects weeks (sometimes months) before he wants us to start on them. He does this so I will have time to work through my natural progression of freaking out, protesting, (sometimes) crying, and finally, acceptance. He knows I need to marinate in new ideas before I am ready to embrace them. ~smile~
I wanted a man who would not let me walk all over him, and by golly, I got one!
Just to clarify, Eric has never asked me to do anything immoral, illegal, or that would put me in harm’s way. The projects he asks me to take on are typically for PreEngaged and usually require a bit of learning and stretching on my part. Should the day come when he asks me to do something I know I cannot do, I can stand up calmly and say, “I do not feel comfortable doing that. Let us explore other options.” The other 95% of the time, why not consider the request, pray about it, think on it a few days, and emerge ready to conquer it? I can see how my life is far richer from the risks I have taken. Why not choose to see Eric’s requests as nurturing growth opportunities?
Why Do I Keep Fighting?
I have found the opening quote to be true throughout each stage of my life. “Digging your heels in does not mean you will not have to do it. It just means you will be that much more tired when you finally do.”
No matter what stage of life I was in, when given an uncomfortable task by a parent, teacher, employer, or husband, I would throw my feet into the mud, sink them down as far as they would go, cross my arms and say, “Make me!” Seldom did this approach actually keep me from completing the project. It just wore me out. In the end, I still accomplished what was initially asked of me, but with less energy, more regret, and an unnecessary bad attitude. Why? Why would I continue fighting against change?
Pride and fear.
Pride, because I do not want anyone telling me what to do – unless, you know, I want you to tell me what to do.
Fear, because when I fight against change, I am fighting against the unknown which always appears scary to me at first.
Try This Approach
So, to all of you professional heel-diggers out there like me, please take a chapter from my book. Before you go to blows against a new direction, idea, or project, consider (and implement) the following steps:
- Remain calm.
- Hear the idea and repeat it to yourself.
- Without commenting, request a few minutes (hours or days) to consider the idea.
- If the idea causes you angst, cry, scream into a pillow, write – do whatever you need to do to get the emotion outside of yourself. Do this in private.
- Consider the pros of the new direction. Could it be good? How could it be good?
- Consider the legal, relational, emotional, and spiritual ramifications of the new direction. Will I be breaking any laws, harming any relationships, or sinning in any way if I do this?
- If you continue to remain highly uncomfortable with the new project, talk it out with your sweetheart (boss, etc.). If not, proceed with the first step and cautiously move forward.
(Note: this is assuming the person making the request has some authority in your life (e.g., spouse, boss, etc). If friends and family are trying to place demands on you, you can kindly decline their “requests.” This is only meant in the context of submitting to authorities (Romans 13:1-7) and submitting in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-28).)
Far, Far, Far Better
This process is so much calmer and less exhausting than immediate defiance. Not to mention, this approach is far better for relationships. Far, far, far better. It gives you the ability to consider the process before signing on or suggesting a different route. Most people are willing to consider different options when they know their ideas have been properly digested and not thoughtlessly disregarded.
If the day comes I simply cannot do something Eric asks me to do, I can tell him calmly and respectfully. In the meantime, I know most everything he asks of me will be reasonable (choose a reasonable spouse!!!) and I can use the steps above to keep my feet from getting sore and my marriage from endless suffering. ~smile~
Are you a professional heel-digger? How has this approach been working for you? Is it time to step forward toward some uncomfortable growth?