Sunday, November 5

Negative Interpretation

I subscribe to a verse-of-the-day service from K-LOVE Radio, a nationwide network of Christian radio stations based out of California. Every morning I get a verse in my e-mail inbox. Lately, I've been using them as a jumping off point for my morning devotions, which are about as likely to be in the morning as any other time of day.

Today's verse hit me pretty strongly. Samuel is concerned about anointing David as king of Israel. Saul is already king, and a mighty warrior to boot, but David is just a kid yet. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by [Saul's] appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

That last part of the verse stopped me in my proverbial tracks this morning. I had been thinking as I was waking up and getting out of bed that I should write something about fighting again. About how it's so easy to fight with the man I have pledged to love and the child who needs my love the most. So easy to lose my cool and yell at them in a moment of frustration.

Last evening was supposed to be simply a lovely time to celebrate a birthday for one of my best friends. She had a group of us meet her at a special restaurant and we all shared a meal together. And, that part of it was a good time.

Unfortunately, we've been a bit under the weather at our house, and both Adam and I were heading into the evening not feeling our best. I don't know if this is how it works in everyone's marriage or if we're just special this way, but when I am feeling especially high maintenance (during illness or times of unusual stress or whatever) but Adam is not stepping up and pampering me a bit more than usual I start sniping and complaining at him.

It's rotten and unhealthy and terribly passive-aggressive, so of course he jumps right in and gives me more of himself because he knows I'm hurting.

Uhm, no. Being of a sinful nature himself, he gets all defensive and starts snapping back at me. Then, if we're not careful, our little sparring session soon escalates into a full-blown argument, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing good.

Studies have shown there are particular danger signs that can be seen across the board in troubled marriages. The authors of the book Fighting for Your Marriage label four as: escalation, when the fight starts about a small issue and soon has exploded into WWIII; negative interpretation, taking an innocent comment and reading into it an insult; withdrawal/ avoidance, not being willing to discuss controversial topics; and invalidation, suggesting a partner's point of view is worthless.

People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As Adam and I have reviewed the four signposts, we have found our biggest problem lies in the area of negative interpretation. Both of us are quick to jump on the defensive when the other might possibly have said something to suggest we may not be quite competent. Which was exactly our problem last night. Both of us were not looking toward the heart of the other, to what we meant when we spoke, but only at the outward appearance of the words, especially as they reflected our own poor thoughts of one another at the time.

I am not always a literalist when it comes to Bible interpretation. I don't know if God created the world in six 24-hour days. And I don't think staying up all night so that the sun doesn't go down while we're still angry (Ephesians 4:26) is necessarily the wisest course. Last night, even our apologies seemed to stir up more conflict. So we quit talking for a while and got some well needed rest. This morning, feeling better after a full night's sleep, it was much easier to apologize with sincerity and not simply duty.

Early in our relationship, Adam made a comment to me that I found rather startling. He said it amazed him that our conflict could actually bring us closer together. On the surface, that doesn't make any sense, and literally interpreted, it shouldn't. What he really meant was working through our conflict together brings us into a more intimate relationship. Which, while it takes more effort in the moment, is so much nicer than sitting back and pretending you don't have problems.


  1. Hugs. This was a good thought-provoking post.

  2. PK,

    Thanks! It certainly made me think as I was writing it out. I'm glad I could offer you something to think about, too.


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