There is a story Eric recounts from Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages to our clients and it touches me every time he does. It goes something like this: A woman visited her therapist and told him, “I hate my husband. I want to leave him, but not only that. I want to hurt him deeply.” Her wise therapist replied, “If you want to hurt him, do this. Go home and treat him like gold. Give to him, love on him, and make him feel as special as possible. After a few months of that, just up and leave him. That will hurt him the most.” So, she went home and began working on her fiendish plan. Several months later, the therapist saw his client in town and inquired about their last discussion. “Did it work? Did you leave him heartbroken?” She emphatically replied, “Why would I leave him?! Our marriage is the best it has ever been!”
What changed about her husband? Nothing changed about him. What changed about her? She began treating him with honor, love, respect, and the utmost care; and, when she started showing him love, she began to feel love again. You will not always feel loving towards your sweetheart or spouse. When you feel the least love is when you should give the most love – even if the thought physically sickens you. ~smile~
Has he been grouchy and unkind to you today? Buy him his favorite coffee drink and have no regrets even if he does not receive it with gratitude. Has she been dramatic and exhausting? Write down five reasons why you love her and put it where she will find it. These responses are not natural; they are the opposite of natural. We want to return hurt for hurt and anger for anger, but that is the fastest way to destroy a relationship. If our relationships are going to grow and thrive, we have to control our emotions and decide how to respond. We have to be proactive and not reactive. When our tooth throbs, we do not punch it for hurting us; we seek to heal it.
By nature, I am a listener. When surrounded by people I do not know well, I listen to their stories and take in their comments. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, though, this can get us off track in our coaching sessions. Eric normally does well in keeping us on track; yet, sometimes I simply cannot resist asking, “Please, tell me more about that story.”
In my inner life, I tend to be a listener too. I listen to that voice inside my head that wants to take tiny seeds of bitterness and grow them into huge trees.
“She went to that movie without you? Face it. She does not care as much about your friendship as you do. Maybe she loves you, but she loves her other friend more. Even after you made plans to see that movie together, she still went with someone else. That hurts.” (Repeat 1,000 times)
“He is working again? Wait, he is not working! He is playing a game!!! You were supposed to go out to dinner tonight. The one night you get to spend together, he is killing time on that stupid game. He has always chosen games over you. Why do you take that? He takes you for granted. He lost interest in you a long time ago.” (Repeat 1,500 times)
“She gave you another unsolicited suggestion? Your entire life she has expected you to change. There was always something about you that was not good enough. When will she realize you are just not like her? Are you not sick of hearing, ‘Try this and try that’? It is like she is telling you that you are not worthy of love unless you shape up.” (Repeat 26,000 times)
None of these examples are true. A friend going to a movie with someone else is no indication of her feelings towards me. Eric’s decision to play a game before we go to dinner has nothing to do with whether or not he loves me. Having a loved one share a helpful solution to an ongoing problem is not an indication that she finds me weak or unlovable – she cares – that is all.
Listening to ourselves can be dangerous. If a friend whispered the same lies in our ears that we whisper to ourselves, we would walk away and probably end the relationship; but, we sit day after day and entertain damaging lies that turn mild disappointments into major problems. Divorce always begins with one small, bitter seed.
If we have time to listen, we have time to talk. We can and should combat those lies. We can combat them with our words and we can combat them with our actions. He is playing his game again, but instead of brooding about it, I am going to clean out his car so he has a nice surprise waiting for him when we leave.
She went to the movie with someone else, and it stings a little; however, I am going to invite her for another movie and buy the popcorn. This lone “offense” is not going to be the end of our friendship. If the sting does not go away, I will humbly talk to her about it. There is a good chance she either forgot we were going to see it together, or she found herself in an awkward situation. Either way, I am not going to make negative assumptions about someone who has proven her faithfulness to me in the past.
When you feel the least love is when you should give the most love.
When we feel hurt, angry, or neglected, we can pour weed killer on the situation or allow it to grow out of proportion. Perpetually lonely people often allow hurt and resentment to grow and take over. Emotionally healthy people are less likely to let problems linger.
So, the next time you have to decide between listening to yourself or talking to yourself, speak up; and, use your actions to combat those lies you are tempted to believe.
When we show love to others, our feelings quickly follow.
When you are hurt, how do you respond?