Writing, blogging, creating cards and all other creative endeavors have been beyond my capacity this week. To be honest, I was so paralyzed, I could not even decide what to fix for dinner most nights. My usual jovial demeanor, my flirtatious attitude towards my husband, my patience with the dog – all have been disrupted.
It all resulted from a disquieting personal revelation I received as I studied the positive effects of respecting my husband. Inevitably, the true value of a positive quality can only be measured by comparison to its antithesis. It was my mental review of the negative effects of disrespecting my husband that led to a disgusting realization. Obviously then, to share the revelation requires a confession.
(I believe in keeping blog posts brief, preferably less than 500 words, so my challenge today is to be pithy. If you reach the end of the post and have questions, feel free to ask. I appreciate questions as well as comments.)
As I was creating autobiographical sketches for the blog and my business, I had to face and contemplate my unconventional qualifications in the field of marriage relations. It raises a valid question that I am bound to be asked and will be expected to answer.
What qualifies me to expound and exhort the words of Ephesians 5:33b? I will be forced to admit that I feel qualified because of the sheer volume of experience that I have in marriage - in failed marriage - that is.
I have been married four times, meaning that I have failed three times.
It has only been through my study of wives respecting their husbands that I have come to understand my culpability in the failure of those marriages. Without exception, those marriages would have been much stronger, much healthier and much less susceptible to failure had I respected the man that I married.
I have avoided ownership of that statement because it comes with an overwhelming weight of remorse. It also provides a powerful clarity concerning respect - unconditional respect. The most horrific realization is that the contempt I felt could have been lifted from my heart had I only respected them.
Which also makes me wonder if respect is one of the steps of forgiveness? I’ll leave that to another day.
But I am compelled to consider the effect of respect on contempt. Would it surprise you to know that contempt is the antonym of respect? They cannot exist in the same place at the same time. They cannot occupy the same heart at the same time. One will preclude the other. More importantly, I cannot feel respect or contempt without a conscious choice, considered cultivation and active participation.
I can choose to respect my husband as purposefully as I can choose to despise him. And, AND, I can choose either in spite of his actions.
Did you ever teach your children about how they choose their feelings? I remember being taught that no one can hurt me unless I choose to feel hurt. That was all well and good in the schoolyard playground or when other girls were making fun of me. I was told that regardless of the actions of another, I choose to be or not to be hurt.
What? Does the same “rule” apply to contempt? I propose that it does.
Contrary to popular opinion, respect is not earned and neither is contempt. Just as I can choose to be or not to be hurt, I can choose to respect or not to respect regardless of the actions of another. Respect is no more a natural by-product of an action than is contempt.
In three failed marriages, I chose to be contemptuous. I chose to be disrespectful of my husbands. I chose how I would react to their actions. The most self-condemning realization is that I chose to be disrespectful, bitter and contemptuous towards every offense – no matter how large or how small, no matter how real or presumed.
It is horrifying to realize that I was in control through it all. I caught hold of a wave of hatred and I rode it to the bitter end. And then I dragged it along after me - for years beyond the divorce settlements. Sure, my mouth would say it was over and through, water under the bridge, and what not. But, my heart still retained a claim on bitterness and contempt.
For those of my readers who are insisting that I recognize the fault of the men in these failed marriages – I admonish you gently with a hush. “Shhh”. I must leave those accusations, those condemnations, and those reparations to the Savior.
If I truly am a Christian then I really, really need to understand Christ’s teachings concerning similar cause and effect situations. In all of my studies, beginning with childhood Bible stories, it has been paramount that I understand one thing. Christ does not react to actions. He turns the other cheek, He forgives and He has asked me to do the same.