In the last post about communication the biggest application that I wanted to make is that even when you are the one who is hurt or needy or upset, you need to take responsibility to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Other people who are around you do not necessarily know what to do with you, and you need to take responsibility to help them. Even if what you are saying is, “Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about that right now. What have you been up to?”
Let’s imagine a scenario in which a woman in the church just had a miscarriage, is struggling with fertility, or maybe isn’t married at all but would like to be. She could very easily be angry and hurt if no one says anything. She could be angry and hurt if people say something. She could be angry that no one said, “I know how you feel”, and she could be angry if someone said, “I know how you feel.”
This kind of thing is very awkward for the people who would like to show support and love. It can be like the Russian roulette of community living. You try to say the right thing, but instead you will hear three years later through someone else what you did wrong. Part of the problem here is that we tend to think of our interactions as a situation where one person bears the responsibility and the other person receives whatever they have to offer. And often what they have to offer is not the right thing. But Christian living means always loving your neighbor. It means loving them when you are down, and loving them when they are down. We all need to take responsibility for our own half of the communication. If you are struggling with depression, don’t expect that everyone else knows this and is just choosing to ignore it. If you are struggling with wanting a baby, don’t think that every comment about a pregnancy is aimed at you. If you are wanting to be married don’t take it personally when other people are married.
Now here is the real reason that I wanted to bring this up. When you are needy (or mad, or hurt, or sad, or whatever), and someone close to you wants to help, you have an obligation to help them help you. Do unto others, and love your neighbor as yourself. We often use the fact that we are having a hard time to be completely appalling to the person who is trying to help us. You need to communicate with your husband what you need. You need to say, “I don’t think I need a solution right now, I just need a hug and to laugh about it.” What you do not need to do is perfect your cold-shouldered scowl and hug -shrug.
Now here is the trouble. It is easy to be in your bad mood and feeling completely confident that there is a perfect, obvious, and right thing that that person should have said, yet they completely failed. They are ignoring the clear path to making you feel better and are instead trying to help you with the laundry. They are ignoring the obvious, and messing everything up. But if you prioritize them, and you take the risk of trying to communicate your needs, you will often find out something unfortunate. You cannot tell your husband what you need him to say to you because, Lo, there is nothing that he could say to you that would not annoy you right now. It is often the case that everyone else’s bad communication is actually our own bad attitude. If you try to express what you need, and you find out that you cannot say it yourself, you may have found out whose fault it is.
One of the great side benefits to this is that when you focus on loving the other person, you are laying down your defenses. It is a way of being open to their support and kindness. Often times, when you lay down your defenses you will find that the imperfect and clumsy things that they are saying are actually perfect.