I have a graduate degree in communication but there are days when I may as well revert to cave drawings, as those would likely be more effective. Anyone with a teenager can certainly relate, along with anyone in a relationship. I have a majority of days where I am on top of my game, and then I have days like yesterday.
One of the most important lessons I learned as a young person was that no one could hear me when I was mean. I may have been saying something that, at its core, had value, but the way I chose to say it canceled out any merit. Incidentally, I learned that lesson as a teenager – likely because that is when the need for it to be taught became apparent. There may have been a wooden spoon involved in the lesson…
Mom was good at object lessons (please refer to previous sentence). She taught me to evaluate my end game. If it truly is to cultivate understanding then how I communicate my feelings is just as important as the message I’m trying to convey. I still sometimes fall short, however. When my emotions are overwhelming I can be too aggressive in how I speak. My words become armor in an attempt to protect myself from rejection, but that is altogether counterproductive. The profound effect of feeling safe, though, is that when I fall short it is only for a brief moment in time and then I wake up and realize my old habits have no place in my current life.
It is only within the past year and a half that I have found my voice. There is no longer fear in my heart when I express an opinion; for the first time in my adult life I can say what I feel – be authentic – even if it isn’t met with agreement all the time. For many years I fell for the mirage of unity instead of the truth that embodies this beautiful concept.
Our pastor said something that resonated with me; unity will not always mean agreement. We can live in unity and not agree on everything. Nowhere is this more important than in relationships. Two people who agree on everything are living a lie. To disagree is to acknowledge the uniqueness of one another. And to be met with grace and understanding during times of disagreement only serves to strengthen bonds, not undermine them, which is what our culture would have us believe. If you’ve ever doubted that God has a distinct purpose for healthy communication(and a sense of humor) take a moment to consider how differently men and women communicate.
He said to Adam that it isn’t good for man to be alone so he created a helpmate for him. Isn’t that sweet? Until Eve decided to question the command of God and cause mankind to be kicked out of Eden. (Hey Eve, thanks, by the way. Childbirth is super great, thanks to you. Remind me to tell you how much I appreciate it when I get to Heaven.)
I feel like there are nuances of that story missing from the text. Allow me to fill in the blanks:
God created Eve for Adam. Adam is happy about it!
Adam: “Flesh of my flesh! How I love you!” (That’s Adam being happy about it.)
At first Eve is overcome with a deep sense of love for her man. And then she started thinking. She walked away to gather her thoughts. “Did God make him say that? He didn’t seem genuine when he spoke. His eye contact was off. What else was he thinking about?”
Eve (walking back while yelling): “Of course you love me. I’m your only option!”
Adam: “…buuuut…wait, what?” (Adam is now thinking it was easier to just name the animals. He is also wondering where the instruction booklet to his woman was located.)
Poor Adam. When Eve talked to the serpent he knew he shouldn’t have gone along with it but this chick was batsh*t crazy and he couldn’t risk another conversation where he ended up with scrambled brains.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years. Men (and boys) compartmentalize. That’s why they can fight and then an hour later be playing basketball together. They speak (at least the genuine ones) from the heart with no strings attached. What they say is actually what they mean. I think that is SO WEIRD.
In the female world, everything is connected. Our day mood bleeds into our evening mood. Things that have happened, are happening and will happen in the future occupy our headspace. All at once. We notice what a man says, how he says it, interpret 10 different possible meanings, pick the worst case scenario and then get angry at him for daring to say such a thing. (The “thing” could be, “I can do that for you!”)
Us: “Why? Why can you do that for me? Because you think I’m incapable? Because you don’t need me anymore? I thought I mattered to you. Is this the end for us?”
Man: “…ummm…wait, what?”
Sorry, fellas. It’s all part of the authentic package of your woman. And rest assured, no matter how crazy we seem, the crux of the matter will always be that we want to live in unity with you, heading the same direction, changing the world for the better alongside the men we love. God created us this way, in my humble opinion, because there is no better petri dish for personal growth than that which requires a man and a woman to communicate effectively. Hang in there, guys. It’s worth it. God promises.