Why Scare My Wife?

Why Scare My Wife?

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Corlette and I have very different depth perception. A car that I see as being a hundred feet away she sees as being a hundred inches away.

So when I’d make a left turn with a car coming towards us in the opposite lane, she would tense up, grab the door handle, and jam her foot against the floor as if there was a second brake pedal on her side of the car.

Her apparent lack of trust irritated me, so once we’d made the turn, I’d sigh loudly and say, “See, we had plenty of room” … which did nothing to diminish her sense of near disaster or reduce the adrenaline that had sent her heart racing.

Frankly, it didn’t do much for our relationship either.

All of this changed when the Lord prompted me to evaluate my behavior through the three lenses of relational wisdom: Self-awareness, Other-awareness, God-awareness (aka, the SOG plan).

As I thought about Corlette’s reaction, I realized that this was not a matter of trust. It wasn’t something she chose to feel; she was truly frightened by my driving. When I turned in front of an oncoming car, her brain simply processed the data in such a way that she was genuinely convinced we were in danger … thus the rush of adrenaline and reflex pumping on a nonexistent brake.

Although my actions were not premeditated, I finally saw that I was repeatedly subjecting Corlette to unnecessary fear.

This realization forced me to take an honest look at my own heart. Why, to save a mere six seconds of time, would I knowingly scare my wife?

The answer to that question was not pleasant to face. I was guilty of insensitivity, a lack of empathy, pride, selfishness … in short, a recurring failure to love.

Finally and most importantly, I had to ask myself how God viewed my behavior. It took only a moment to realize I was not pleasing him. The Bible contains clear instructions on how to treat people in general and my wife in particular, all of which I’d been sinfully ignoring. For example …

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

“It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Rom. 14:21).

“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24).

“I try to please everybody in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many” (1 Cor. 10:33).

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).

“Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor …” (1 Pet. 3:7).

As I reflected on these verses, I realized that I had not been looking out for Corlette’s interest to feel safe. I was not giving up my driving preferences for hers. And I was certainly not living with her in an understanding way.

I finally saw that this wasn’t some small difference of opinion between her and me. Since I was violating clear biblical commands by being insensitive toward my wife (whom God views as a beloved daughter! Col. 3:12), this was a matter of me sinning against God. Therefore it was time for repentance.

So the next time we were driving together and I needed to make a left turn with a car coming toward us, I waited … and waited … and waited. By the time the car passed and I actually turned, it was obvious to Corlette that there had been plenty of time to turn ahead of the other vehicle.

Realizing I’d waited in deference to her, she reached over and gently touched my arm. With a warm smile and pleasant voice, she said, “Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you.”

Instead of the mutual irritation such turns had previously caused, I felt a wave of affection and thankfulness from my wife and for my wife …

Which moved me to ask myself, “Why did it take so long to realize that such a simple gesture would bless her so much?”

How about you? What is your “left hand turn”?

Have you been ignoring ways that you scare, frustrate or disappoint another person?

Have you been oblivious to ways you could comfort, encourage, or support someone else?

One way to overcome such blind spots is to simply look at your relationships through the three lenses of relational wisdom: self-awareness, other-awareness, and most importantly, God-awareness.

Like me, you may find that major improvements come from very small changes … like waiting just six seconds to make a left hand turn.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  • I heard this proverb during my recent trip to South Africa: “If you don’t think little things matter, just spend a night in a room with a single mosquito.” How can this insight motivate you to apply the principles in this post?
  • Why is it helpful to examine our conduct toward others through all three lenses of relational wisdom (God-awareness, other-awareness and self-awareness)?
  • Describe some “little things” that other people do that scare, frustrate or disappoint you.
  • Now try to discern some “little things” that you do that may scare, frustrate or disappoint others. In other words, what are some “left-hand turns” in your life?
  • What are some small changes you could make that would comfort, encourage, or support someone else?
  • Commit to one small change this week and follow through until it becomes a new habit.

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11 Responses to "Why Scare My Wife?"
  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Stan could have written this whole thing himself (except for the SOG part). He hasn’t gotten there yet!

  2. I’ve been a big fan of your material (starting with Peacemaker) for years, and a church member keeps mentioning RW to me. I have a problem with SOG, however. Why is “self” first and “God” last? I understand acronyms, and think GOS would be slightly less memorable but more biblical. Please help me understand why the order is switched. Thanks

    • Great question, Brian. As you guessed, the primary reason I use SOG rather than GOS is simply because it sounds better and is more memorable. It is not to give priority to the elements, especially not to make self more important than God (something we emphasize during our full seminar). A secondary reason is that SOG recognizes the reality that most people don’t usually live with a constant focus on God; rather they are focused on their own life experience, which will often drive them to God (a pattern that is repeated over and over in the Psalms, see, e.g., Ps. 77). SOG is certainly not a theological statement of priority; it’s just a simple acrostic that helps people to remember that we always need to be thinking three dimensionally about our relationships.

      • Thanks for the answer, Ken. I figured it was something like that. Have you heard the acronym “JOY” (Jesus, Others, You)? Even more memorable! Also, while some Psalms may follow the pattern you suggest, the one you cited (Ps 77) begins very much with God awareness in verse 1, and only in verse 2 and following does Asaph share what he’s feeling. I just paged through my Bible, and found that 131 out of 150 Psalms have God or Lord in verse 1, and another handful+ use other nouns or pronouns to describe Him in verse 1.

        While I agree that self-awareness is important (and I try to practice it), in our society today the majority–including many Christians–never move beyond their own feelings. So is starting there the best place, or starting where they need to be? For me, the thing that jolts me into action is remembering Scripture that makes clear God’s view of a situation. God bless you!

        • Thank you for your thoughts, Brian. There is certainly an argument for what you’re saying. What we try to emphasize in our training is that we need to address all three dimensions, starting from wherever you happen to be at the moment (worshiping God, seeing that someone else is suffering, or being aware of your own present heart condition). Moreover, we encourage people not to see it as a “1, 2, 3, I’m done,” but rather as a continual awareness of God, self and others. Of course these are all simply man-made constructs, so they are inherently limited.

  3. Ken,
    Thank you so much for your addressing the order in which you present the acronym for relational living. I suffered under decades of self-righteous, defeatist attitudes and behaviors as I attempted to deny that I had any of my own feelings about anything!! I thought about what God would want from me in nearly EVERY situation, but I was constantly throwing the baby out with the bathwater as I sought to skip over any reality that I struggle to reconcile what I see and hear with what I “should” do (especially when those “should’s” come from well-meaning humans, including myself). I missed the actual act of worship that requires presenting my whole, real, true self to God. Self-awareness is not antithetical to the Gospel in my experience; it has restored me to a life of joyful repentance and connection to God. “Putting God first” usually resulted in my denying my true experience and giving God access to a tiny part of me who was telling him to just go ahead and take everything from me, because that was the point, right?! “1, 2, 3, I’m done”…that was the story of my life; thank you for the scenario you described above, where that husband will hopefully never stop realizing his need for grace!!

    • Thank you for your encouraging feedback, Catherine. It’s wonderful how each of the three elements of the relational wisdom fuel and reinforce the others. The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand others. And the more we understand ourselves and others, the more we see our need for God and his lavish love for us. Which helps us to love others better and open our hearts more and more to him. The cycle goes on and on, with each type of awareness making us more aware in the other dimensions.

  4. Thank you for the heavenly reorientation. The ending of the story almost brought tears to my eyes. It’s amazing how easily I can be entranced and entangled by things of extreme triviality (often pertaining to doing things the “right” or “better” way) when what is so much grander, more beautiful, rejoicing, and eternal await me when I free myself of those things.

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