You said I Do, so that Means, You Do What I Say

Something has been on my mind as of late. The memory is from about 8 years ago. I was on the phone with a client and feeling a little insecure for not having wrapped up an assignment. My wife happened to be in the room, so I motioned to her to retrieve the client’s file from my drawer, as I continued the conversation. My phone beeped letting me know the battery was low. I indicated to my wife to hurry but she didn’t understand my gestures or read my mind. The phone beeped again and I thought it had died for good. I unleashed. I felt like she, being my wife, was an extension to me and as such should be in tune with my needs, my wants, my mind, whether I expressed myself or not. Then I realized the phone was still on and my client heard every word. I tried to recover, but it was too late. Someone from the outside saw behind the curtains.

What had changed in my relationship with her? At one point in time I strived to earn her respect and love, and I returned the sentiments. And if anyone else spoke to her that way, I’d have their hide. So why was I entitled to do so?

I’ve treated my children the same way, like extensions of myself. For some reason, believing that the relation gave me license to treat them in ways I wouldn’t dare treat another that wasn’t related.

I’ve worked a lot with youth and I think I’m pretty good at it.  When teaching a youth a skill, I’m patient; I explain myself, I teach, I’m kind and friendly, and loving. But when teaching my child the same, I use words like, “Cause I told you so” and “Don’t question me” and “Just do as your told.” Why?

A few years ago we were able to adopt a young man, one of those youth I had worked with. I noticed the discrepancy of how I treated him versus my natural born children and I started to question my parenting methods.

I’ve spent the last couple years trying to repent and change. I’ve taken a hard look at all my familiar relationships. Those that I’ve treated the worst are family; those that have treated me the worst are family. The only physical altercations I had growing up were with family. The worst names I’ve been called were by family, a sister in particular. Maybe it’s because my family knows who I really am and the rest is a show? No. I have genuine relationships with many others that know all about me, and I don’t feel the need to disrespect, control, or manipulate them.

I used to think that that’s just how it goes. I can treat someone close to me that way because I care so much.

good samaritanBut what gives a child the right to verbally degrade her father? What gives a husband the right to disrespect his wife? What gives a wife the right to demean and belittle her husband or her children?

Christ taught, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I interpreted the Good Samaritan parable as loving people of different beliefs, origins, cultures as myself. I’ve done this. But why would that exclude those closest to me?

An hymn written by H. R. Palmer states this beautifully.

Angry words! oh, let them never
From the tongue unbridled slip;
May the heart’s best impulse ever
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment’s reckless folly
Thus to desolate and mar.

Angry words are lightly spoken;
Bitt’rest tho’ts are rashly stirred—
Brightest links of life are broken,
By a single angry word.

I’ve noticed that the times that I’ve degraded or belittled anyone, particularly my family, is when I hate something about myself and I’ve taken it out on them (extensions of me). It’s not right. Just because two people said “I do” doesn’t give free license to disrespect, control, manipulate, degrade, shame, or belittle in any relationship that formed because of those vows.

I’ve realized that those in my family aren’t extensions of me and have no obligation to do my bidding. They, like everyone is entitled to respect, kindness, courteousness, and gentleness. My adopted son helped me see this and I’m a better dad and husband because of it.