It’s often after I have shared a deep feeling – the kind that is a huge, real, meaningful, heartfelt FEELING. All I’m really looking for is validation.
Not even suggestion.
Early in our marriage this came up. We were newly married, still at Florida State doing college courses. It was late night study time and I said,
“I NEED chocolate.”
NOT “I want chocolate”
but “I NEED chocolate – for life and breath, or there will be death.”
Rather than going out to the closest convenience store to serve and love me, and prove to me his absolute adoration and devotion, by purchasing ice cream or candy bars for me, he instead proceeded with this.
“Well, you really don’t NEED chocolate. We don’t NEED anything really. There’s a huge difference in needs and wants. And this is certainly under the “wants” category.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A lesson? That is not what I was looking for. I needed CHOCOLATE!
I don’t have vivid recall of that night, because it likely makes me look pretty slimy and whiny, but, I do know – I didn’t end up with any chocolate.
This same charming man, a few years later in our marriage, said these words. These were way harder to hear, but honestly, just as true as his previous wisdom.
“No one can MAKE you feel anything.”
out of his mouth -
These words spoken after I shared my heavy heart – how a friend had hurt me so badly with her words, and how I was absolutely justified in my feeling angry and hurt and betrayed. “She makes me furious. She totally frustrates me!”
Again,I just wanted him to say, “I know honey. I bet that really makes you sad. Let me give you a big, cuddly, comforting hug darling.”
“Yep, even when it’s way worse than a friend hurting you, even when someone keeps hurting you, over and over again, NO ONE can make you feel a certain way. No one MAKES you angry or hurt. People do hurtful things, and we live in a broken, messy, ugly world – but in response to all the pain you may experience in life – you get to choose your response.”
I went through every situation I could think of.
“You mean, someone punches me in the face, and they didn’t MAKE me angry?”
“No, they didn’t MAKE you angry. They just punched you in the face.”
Can you imagine being married to this man? Is he crazy or something? He was MAKING me angry!
“My sexual abuse as a child? That person still makes me angry – whenever I think about it.”
“Honey, I hate that this is a part of your past, because I know it is painful. But, NO, even this person can’t MAKE you feel anything today – not anger, not un-forgiveness, not hatred. Even though this is a piece of your story, you choose every day, every moment, how you will respond to it. Only YOU get to MAKE you feel something or not feel something.”
Did I already say that I think this guy – my husband – is a madman!?!
“Okay, what about this? What if someone murders one of our parents? You mean to tell me that person didn’t make me FEEL anything?”
“Again, you will feel outraged, but that person, the person that murdered, or abused – THEY are not MAKING you FEEL any of this. They did something, something horrific, something that has greivous consequences – but they don’t have power over you today.”
Well, that was then, and thank God, this is now. And now, after years of practicing this truth, of deciding over and over again, not to let my stories, and my feelings, and my emotions dictate my truth – I totally see his point. But it has taken years.
By the way, this guy I am married to, he’s no madman; he’s actually a gentle, generous, wise man.