We (Neil and Melissa) will be doing a joint post today. The first part will be written from Neil’s perspective, and the second part will be from Melissa’s. We will conclude with some joint thoughts.
From Neil’s perspective:
Mornings have become a hectic time for me. With age, I’ve had to add a couple of different tasks to my “get ready for work” routine, including CPAP machine cleanup, stretches for tendonitis in my shoulder, and vestibular therapy for some nagging issues I have with dizziness. Having so much to cram into such a small time frame is not fun. I love lifting weights, and I feel like I have to rush through it…the one thing in the morning I actually enjoy!!
Well, that being said, this morning was crazy, as it often is. I had several things happen that set me back, and I was beginning to realize I would be late for work no matter how fast I moved. One thing that needed to be done: packing my lunch. In passing with my wife as she was getting ready, I made the comment, “I really don’t have time to get my lunch together”. And believe me when I say this, I really laid on the pity party pretty thick. I walked away knowing exactly what I had done. Did you see what I did there?
I wanted Melissa to help me by packing my lunch. Instead of being direct and simply asking if she would, I played a little manipulative game with her. I made comments that could possibly have induced guilt and pity, with the hopes that she would pack my lunch for me.
This may sound ridiculous. This may sound mean. Well, it was both. I had chosen to be sneaky and manipulative rather than open and honest. I had chosen to wear a mask instead of engaging her with humility. Before she had time to respond to my trickery, I went to her and apologized. I told her exactly what I had done and what I was hoping to get out of her. I believe I could tell by the look on her face that she already knew. She looked at me and told me she understood that I was having a difficult morning. Thankfully, she chose to forgive me. Once again, as she has so many times, my wife offered grace to me. When I did not deserve it, she forgave me and even packed my lunch while I wasn’t looking.
For some of us, it is so much easier to hide behind indirect behavior than it is to be open and direct…even with those we are closest to. Many times, we do it without realizing what we are doing or the impact that it has. Well, let me be very clear here. It is hurtful, very hurtful, to manipulative others with indirect behaviors such as pity parties (like what I did in the example above), blame, shaming statements, bullying, or any behavior that isn’t born of humility. Checking our motives is CRUCIAL if we are to walk in grace and love, which is the only way that truly produces intimacy and maturity in our relationships.
From Melissa’s perspective…
Most mornings, like Neil, I have several things that I like to get done before going to work. I prefer to work out in the mornings, eat breakfast, wash dishes or start a load of laundry and then try not break my neck from rushing around to get dressed and ready. I have a tendency to forget about time when I plan my to-do list! This morning, though, was a relaxing and easygoing morning. I was not going to work out. I had laid in bed a little longer than usual and was enjoying moving slowly through my morning. I was not rushing. I was calm.
Before drying my hair I looked at the time. I breathed even slower when I realized that I had plenty of time left. I could finish drying my hair and then cook a hot breakfast and actually savor each bite. I hear Neil come in. Immediately I can tell that he is not feeling this same calmness. His morning looked different than mine. He was huffing and puffing and naming off all he had already done and all that he had left to do before going to work. I started to feel ashamed of myself. I couldn’t continue enjoying my calm morning and sit down and slowly eat my breakfast while he was running around. I had to jump in and help.
Different emotions began to take over. There was some anger toward him for ruining the calm zen I had going on. There was shame at the fact that I was moving slowly and enjoying calmness while Neil had so much to do. The least I could do was use my time to help. After all, that is what he wanted me to do right? He was not directly saying it but I felt it. My breathing became shallower. My movements became rushed. Now I was in a hurry to get my stuff done so I could also help get his stuff done. It became my responsibility to fix his problems. Like my post said last week, I am a fixer.
In the end, I prepared his lunch so he could mark that off his list. That was really the only thing I could do to help him. I spent time trying to decide if I could do anything else. I ate a very quick breakfast and then I rushed out the door. Did I even remember to pack my own lunch in that frenzy?!?!
The truth was he was feeling overwhelmed that morning. His plea for help became a guilt-ridden expectation and stayed that way until he decided to talk with me about it. He owned what he was doing. Even though I knew what he was doing, I still responded out of guilt and shame. Time seemed to stand still long enough for us to talk through this. The craziness of the morning looked quite comical then.
Neil apologized and it was not an obligatory apology. I know this for several reasons, one being he confessed it to me before I even had a chance to respond to his behavior. He, in detail, was able to tell me what he did and why he did it. He had searched his own heart. It was a sincere apology that was only possible because of humility. He took the courage to tell me that he was manipulating me even though he did not know if I would forgive him or throw his lunch plate at him. These crazy, little moments are times of growth.
A conclusion from both of us…
Neil could have held onto his little secret, and the situation would have remained unresolved. Melissa could have held a grudge, and the situation would have remained unresolved. Trust us, we do both. On the morning we’ve shared with you, we chose a different, better path together.
Asking ourselves why we do the things we do helps us to see what is in our hearts. Sometimes it reveals things that we need to ask forgiveness for. Sometimes it reveals the need to offer forgiveness. Giving and receiving forgiveness is a gift of grace that causes wounds to heal and love to deepen and flourish.
-Neil and Melissa
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