Re-Blog: Reading Your Bible Relationally


NOTE: As I’ve been working through a Black & White Thinking Series, this blog caught my eye on how Black & White Thinkers may read the Scriptures – informationally. Though we all may do this, it is a good reminder how reading the Scriptures relationally can draw us nearer to the heart of God.  This blog was written to Pastors, but can be for all of us.
– Fred Jacoby

“One of the temptations for pastors is to engage the Bible only for sermon preparation.  Because we preach most every week, we are always looking for fresh content for our preaching.  As a result, one of the challenges for pastors is reading the Bible personally as a Christian rather than simply reading it as a pastor looking for sermon material.

Today I want to share a practice with you that has been very helpful in my journey.  First, let me give you a little background.  I grew up in a Christian home where the Word of God was loved and studied.  There was great respect for God’s Word.  And to this day I believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

And most of my life, I have approached the Bible informationally, not relationally.  When I approach the Bible informationally, my goal is to elevate my knowledge.  But when I approach the Bible relationally, my goal is to elevate my affection and love for God.

Growing in knowledge is important, but knowledge without relationship is dangerous.  That was one of the big issues Jesus had with the Pharisees.  They had biblical knowledge but their heart was far from God.

In recent years, when I sit down with my Bible, I try to remind myself that this is not just a book with great truth and accurate information.  Behind the book, is a personal God.  I am meeting with the God of the universe, not just reading a book.  And he wants a relationship with me, which makes the Bible different than any other book ever written.

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) says

‘For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.’

The Word of God is alive and powerful because God is at work in it and through it.  He energizes His Word and applies it to my life.

So, before I start reading Scripture, I usually start with a simple prayer… ‘Lord, today I want to meet with you and I want to deepen my relationship with you.  So, speak to me.  I am listening.’  I am reminding myself to read the bible relationally, not just informationally.  As a pastor, my default mode is to come to the Bible looking for truth that I can use in a sermon.  The irony is that I can come to the Bible looking for truth and actually be disconnected relationally from the truth-giver.

There is an old story about a group of at a dinner gathering.  At the dinner was a well known orator.  That night he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm.  He masterfully recited that most well known of Psalms and everyone in the room was impressed.  There was also an older pastor there that night and someone asked him if he would also recite the 23rd Psalm.  But instead of the people being impressed, they were moved.  Afterward, someone commented, the orator knew the Psalm and the pastor knew the shepherd.

I don’t want to be a pastor who simply knows the psalm.  I want to deeply know the shepherd.

When my wife and I started dating 40 years ago, we were in college. The problem was that we lived 600 miles apart.  And, it was before the days of cell phones, e-mail, and text messaging.  We were poor college students but we were in love and had a deep desire to connect with each other.

So, we worked out a plan.  We would do all we could to see each other once a month.  Then, we would call each other once a week.  That was all we could afford.  But, every single day we wrote a personal letter.  For over a year, every day I wrote a letter to Connie and she wrote a letter to me. I was the envy of all the guys in my dorm because I received a love letter every single day.

When I would go to my mailbox each day and pull out that letter, I want to tell you that I never read them informationally.  I always read them relationally.  I never did a greek word study from her letters.  I never created an outline for teaching.  I knew that behind those words on the page was a person that loved me and that I was in relationship with.

That’s how I want to read the Bible.  So, in all your efforts to grow your church and preach great sermons, don’t forget to pursue a love relationship with God.  I suspect there are some of us who need to return to our first love.  We need to be reminded that our first priority is the Great Commandment before the Great Commission.

A minister once asked Mother Teresa how to best live out his calling… ‘spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be all right.’  This week may you grow in adoration of the Lord Jesus.”

A Poem: Dependence

hands

DEPENDENCE

To be dependent & needy, is there any worse thing

than to be incapable of handling most everything.

I know that I should do all that I can

because that is what defines the measure of a man.

To be self-reliant and live on my own…

To spend my money or to take out a loan…

To pay it all back or give to the poor

because they all need help from those who have more.

But sooner than later the tables all turned

I can no longer do things I had once learned.

My body’s grown weak. I barely can stand.

I’m forced to redefine the measure of a man.

Ashamed of myself I can no longer be

a motivated, grateful, self-reliant me.

How could life come down to all this?

Frustration and pain, I’m in the Abyss.

Yet what good does it do to question my God

or beat myself with this iron-heavy rod?

When I pity myself I get only worse

and place myself in center, in first.

The reason for being has always been to love

This has been our gift from our God above.

So if I am here to help others to care

My existence, at least, is simply to be there

To give opportunities for others to reach out

and see beyond themselves, beyond their doubts

I am, after all, not only my own

But am here to be used by the Living Stone

If my dependence alone helps others to love

than I hope they succeed by His strength above.

I pray that I can go through all of this well

give glory to God and give thanks in this hell.

May I encourage you as I play this Job role

It’s the least I can do for this life, to Him, I owe.

Author: Fred Jacoby

 

Emotions and the Black & White Thinker

emojis2

Texting your emotions through emoticons (emoji’s) is easy.  Expressing your emotions well can be a little more difficult.  Working through your emotions, on the other hand (acknowledging, them, allowing yourself to feel them and then express them)…well, this is tough.  We are complicated.  We are physical beings, mental beings, emotional beings, and spiritual beings.  Every part of us interacts with every other part of us and the end result is us.  A complicated mess.  Our emotions alone are complicated as we may feel multiple emotions at the same time.  The death of a loved one can bring about feelings of sadness for us, happiness for them if they are in heaven, fear of moving forward without them, and anger that they are no longer here.

I’ve had numerous conversations with Black & White Thinkers who admit that emotions are often uncomfortable, unwelcome, complicated, and confusing. Depending on how one was raised, emotions may be more like an enemy.  You avoid them, you kill them, or you stuff them deep down inside never to see the light of day.  They are neither welcomed nor something you work through.  As the “All or Nothing” thinking reigns, difficult emotions are often pushed to the ‘nothing’ category.  Negative emotions such as hurt, pain, rejection, fear, loneliness, sadness and grief may be at most acknowledged, but are never allowed to remain on the surface.  Black & White Thinkers typically don’t like the nuances and abstractions (intangibleness) of feelings as they are complicated and confusing.  They will either choose to feel or not to feel, or perhaps simplify by overlooking the multiple emotions and funneling them into one emotion, such as anger. Yet if a Black & White Thinker wants to have healthy relationships, all emotions are necessary to understand, feel, and express in healthy ways.  Why? Because healthy relationships require emotional connections such as compassion, empathy, love, and joy. And these emotional connections with others come only when one works through the difficult emotions themselves.

For Black & White Thinkers, there are some differences in expressing emotions for those raised in relationally detached homes versus those raised in more affectionate homes. Those raised in affectionate homes (positive relationships) seem to function in relationships better as they were allowed to express their feelings and encouraged to work out their feelings within relationships.  Those who have been raised in relationally detached homes (abusive or emotionally stunted relationships) tend to distance themselves from most emotions and are unable to work through them well.  Because of the inability to work through the emotions, the ability to sympathize or empathize lessens, resulting in difficult relationships.

Sadness:  For those who grew up in relationally detached homes, sadness is often seen as being weak or foolish.  You deal with it by “sucking it up” and moving on, not allowing oneself to grieve or feel sadness.  The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps!” mentality is how to cope with sadness.  Any feelings of hurt or sadness may be forced below the surface and never dealt with or is solely expressed only through anger.  For Black & White Thinkers who were reared in affectionate homes, however, sadness is allowed and support is typically offered, though it may not be accepted.  Since Black & White Thinking is typically all or nothing, sadness may also be pushed to the “nothing side” and refused to be felt since it is uncomfortable.

Happiness:  If a Black & White Thinker is raised in a relationally detached home, joy and happiness would likely never be found within relationships, but typically found in either pleasurable activities or through performance in (school)work or sports (ie. success and physical pleasure).  Therefore, hard work and success is often valued and feelings of pride in self-accomplishment would equal happiness. This often frustrates spouses who seek happiness through a relationship with their spouse. Being raised in more of an affectionate home may help a Black & White Thinker recognize the importance of relationships and value people more, leading to happier relationships.  (Note from a Biblical Counselor:  There is nothing in Scriptures that states God wants us to be happy or that that should be our goal.  Happiness is often a result of placing Him first in our lives and relationships.  For more on this, click here!)

Anger:  Anger is easier to feel and express than hurt or rejection.  It’s simpler.  You express it, let it out, and then you feel better…mostly.  Often, anger can be the “go to emotion” for many people.  If you are a Black & White Thinker growing up in a detached home, anger may have been the only emotion that was observed and felt the most.  In physically and emotionally abusive homes, anger is the ruling emotion and the expression of it was likely seen on a regular basis.  Some have vowed never to physically hit others like they had been hit, but the inability to sort out and work through other emotions or recognize the importance of relationships continue to bring about a different kind of abuse.  Emotional abuse.  This is when the emotion of anger continues to reign and the expression of it is used to control another person so that they do what you want.  When anger is expressed poorly, however, the impact on the relationship is profound.  The spouse may begin to live in fear of the person as their anger, intimidation, and control sets the relationship on a disconnected and downward spiral. For Black & White Thinkers who have been raised in affectionate families where abuse was non-existent, anger certainly exists, yet it often does not reign.  Anger is felt when situations are perceived as bad or wrong, and it may be expressed in either unhealthy or healthy ways, but anger may also not be dealt with or it can be ignored. From observation, I would say that most Black & White Thinkers who have been raised in affectionate families are more likely to work out their anger within the relationships than are those who have not been raised in such families.  There are more likely to be apologies and forgiveness for actions and expressed anger, which helps relationships succeed.  (For more on Black & White Thinking and Anger, click here.)

Truth be told, as a more Relational Thinker, I am tempted to do the very same things. Ignore the negative emotions and maybe they will go away.   If Black & White Thinkers and Relational Thinkers are to mature emotionally and relationally, emotions ought to be admitted, felt, processed, and worked through to some extent in order to have healthier relationships.  For Black & White Thinkers raised in detached homes, this would most likely require the help of a trained counselor and a willingness to change.  Most are not willing to change or recognize a need for change unless their relationship with a spouse is either at or past the breaking point, and then it may be too late.  It is not uncommon to see a spouse (typically a wife) leave her Black & White Thinking husband because of his emotional disconnection and abuse, only to find that when the relationship is threatened, the husband is now willing to change.  But the wife has already been too hurt and hardened her heart towards her husband.  Addressing these issues before it gets to the breaking point could save the marriage and allow for a better life and relationships.  Though I have seen some extremely detached Black & White Thinking individuals change to the point of saving their marriages, it required humility, brokenness, the willingness to work through emotions, and conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit.

 For More on the Black & White Thinker, Click on the following Links:

The Black & White Thinker: An Introduction

The Black & White Thinker: An Introduction (Part 2)

Black & White Thinking Through a Biblical Lens

Grace & the Black & White Thinker

The Black & White Thinking Christian

Is Black & White Thinking a Mental Illness?

Black & White Thinking in Depression

When Black & White Thinking is Ruled by Pride

Black & White Thinking in Anxiety

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Men & Women

Black & White Thinking in Anger

When You are Disappointed in Yourself

sad man

“I can’t believe I did that…again.  I am so stupid! Why can’t I stop!  Why did I say that?  Why did I do that?  You’d think I’d know better.  Loser.  Idiot.  Stupid.”

If we talked to others the way we talk to ourselves, would we be called bullies or abusers?  Self-criticism and self-condemnation are frequent occurrences when we mess up in speech or actions.  The thoughts of messing up or failing quickly turn into name calling and character attacks.  A simple “I can’t believe I did that” turns into “I am stupid.”  The focus goes from a criticism of the action to an attack on the person.  We may then judge ourselves to be incapable and unworthy.  Being disappointed in ourselves often leads to anger towards ourselves.  Anger turned inward often leads to depression.

Being disappointed in oneself is fairly common.  As long as we’re human and imperfect, we’ll mess up.  We’ll fail.  We’ll make poor decisions, and we’ll do it over and over again because we think it’ll be different this time, we forget, or we don’t care.  It’s no wonder that the Scriptures liken us to sheep, the world’s dumbest animals.

Why do we find it so hard to accept that we fail often?  Why is it equally as hard to differentiate between failing and being ‘a failure?’ Losing and being ‘a loser?’  Doing something stupid to being stupid?

If you’re disappointed in yourself often, here are a few things to consider:

  1.  Expectations:  What did you expect when you messed up?  Most people would agree that “nobody’s perfect,” but that doesn’t mean they believe it.  Or perhaps we would agree that we aren’t perfect, but we should meet a certain set of standards. We should do better, be better, or perform better means that we shouldn’t mess up, fail, or do a bad job.  We should learn from mistakes and shouldn’t make them over again.  Whenever we do what we shouldn’t, we are disappointed with ourselves because we fail to live up to our standards.
  2. Accepting Reality:  Failing is probably the one constant that we fail to accept.  We say, “I can’t believe I did that!”  Well, why can’t you believe you did that?  Do you think that you are incapable of messing up?  Do you expect that you wouldn’t or couldn’t mess up?  We ought to “think soberly” about ourselves and neither think too highly of ourselves nor too lowly, but instead to be realistic (Rom 12:3).  We are not the “me I want to be,” that is, the ideal me.  We have to accept who we are, and that means accepting that we are imperfect beings who make bad decisions at times, who choose to sin, and who fail in actions, words, and relationships.  Accepting this is important.
  3. Worth & Grace:  We make “worth statements” when we are disappointed in ourselves.  If we call ourselves names (“Idiot”) or condemn ourselves (“I’m so stupid”), we are judging ourselves and essentially declaring our worth (or worthlessness).  Instead of focusing on the action or decision (“that was dumb” or “I could have done that better“), we may focus on our personhood (“I am so stupid“)… and believe such statements.  We assume such judgments about ourselves are truth, and so our disappointment with ourselves turns into anger, then depression. Yet if our worth were to be found in our actions (successes or failures), not many of us would have much worth in ourselves as we make mistakes, poor decisions, and sin on a daily basis.  Although it’s appropriate to be convicted over sin, our condemnation has fallen upon Christ, therefore we do not need to condemn ourselves (Rom 8:1).  We would also do well to have the same mindset as Paul who states, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (I Cor 4:3-4).  He does not judge or condemn himself, but recognizes that responsibility belongs to the Lord.  He has learned to live by grace, which is to give and receive favor that is not based on actions, neither is it earned by successes or limited by failures.  His worth is defined by God’s favor, and not his own actions or words of other people.

I never knew how difficult parenting would be.  I’ve made poor decisions. I’ve been self-centered in many decisions.  I haven’t always loved well.  I haven’t always shown Christ to my children.  I look back and wish I could have a do-over, because maybe it would be different.  And so, I live with regrets and disappointment, knowing that I have failed in many ways.  And yet, even if I could have a do-over, I also believe I would mess up in both similar and different ways.  Why?  Because I am imperfect.  I am a sinner…and God hasn’t completed His work in me yet.  This is hard to accept, but accepting it is a must.

When we deal with disappointing ourselves, identify your expectations (recognizing the words “should” and “shouldn’t” will give you a clue!), accept the fact that you are a work in progress who remains broken, imperfect, sinful, and unfinished (Phil 1:6), and believe that your worth is not defined by your failings or your self-declarations (“I’m stupid”), but through faith in Christ.  Speak the Truth to yourself (Truth is defined by His Word, not your feelings), and stop listening to yourself.  Only then will we begin to overcome our disappointments in ourselves.

If you found this blog helpful, feel free to click on these links for more of the “When You Are Disappointed…” Series.

When You are Disappointed with Your Life

When You are Disappointed with your Spouse

When You Are Disappointed in God

 

 

 

When You are Disappointed in Your Life

Bruises on forehead. Domestic violence“This is not the way that it’s supposed to be.  My life was not supposed to go like this.  I should be in a different place.  I should be with different people.  I should have been born in a different era, to a different family, in a different country, with different physical traits or mental capacities.  I should have been richer, taller, or skinnier.  I should have a better job, a better spouse, better kids, or better parents.  I should be happier, but I’m stuck in my life and unable to escape the hole.  It is what it is.”

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?  If so, you may be disappointed in your life.  It’s not that there is only one thing that stinks, but perhaps many things that just aren’t what you expected or desired.  It’s also not that there is anyone else specifically to blame for the disappointment as if someone did something that ruined our lives (though perhaps there are some runners up).  Perhaps it is more a series of events that have unfolded which seem to have brought you to this Life of Blah.  If you’re dealing with general disappointment in how your life has turned out, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Life can certainly be difficult when you are in difficult circumstances and have difficult people in your life.  Maybe you feel like you can’t make them happy.  Maybe they cause suffering in your life and you don’t experience the happiness you would like because of them.  Remember this, if you live to please other people, or even to please yourself, you will frequently be disappointed.  Why? Because they will never be pleased 100% of the time.  And if we look inside ourselves, we also see that our hearts are also never satisfied.  We always want more (Read Paul Tripp’s book “The Quest for More” on this topic).  And as we always want more and are never truly satisfied with what we have in this world, we will always be disappointed.
  2. Although there may not be any person that has caused such disappointment in your life, there is one constant in all of your circumstances and relationships. To put it bluntly, that constant is you.  What you believe will affect how you perceive your life. How you perceive events in your life will effect how you react or respond to situations.  Disappointment stems from your beliefs.  If you believe you should receive a life without suffering, any struggles will be perceived as unfair, unjust, and unwelcome.  You will be disappointed because you did not receive what you thought you should.
  3. You have many options on what to do with this life.  When some people consider that their life simply stinks or is horrible, some people only see two options: 1) Live a horrible life without happiness; or 2) commit suicide (see my blog Considering Suicide if this is what you are thinking).  These are not the only two options.  Life can get better, but it is a series of many decisions over time that you must choose.  One such choice is to choose to live a better life.  Life is not something that happens to you, it is a gift given by God.  So choose to live it.  Make living an active verb, not a passive one.  You can overcome because Christ has overcome for you (John 16:33, I John 4:4).

My mother-in-law has many mottos to live by.  One such motto is this, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”  And if you don’t get what you want, she’d say, “too bad, so sad.”  This little bit of tough love demonstrates what we need to hear from time to time. We don’t get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do get to choose how we respond.  Disappointment is a typical human emotion brought on by certain desires or expectations that don’t come to fruition, but how we respond will either reflect our faith and trust in God’s will / plan for our lives or whether we are constantly grieving that our will was not done.  I am reminded of the lyrics of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It is Well.”  After losing his daughters in a sinking boat in the Atlantic Ocean, he visited the location and penned these words: “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, Though has taught me to say, It is well. It is well, with my soul.”  Horatio’s peace and joy did not come with the right circumstances or the right people in his life, it came because he had the right trust in the One whom is in control and who makes good from the bad.  This is how we deal with the disappointment in life.

For more in the “When You Are Disappointed” Blog Series, click on the Below Links:

When You are Disappointed in Your Spouse

When You are Disappointed in God.

When You Are Disappointed in God

One of the most read blogs I have written is “When You Are Disappointed With Your Spouse.”  I guess this blog has been read often because in marriage, we are often disappointed.  Our spouses, quite frankly, let us down.  Forgotten anniversaries, thoughtless gifts, unspoken or harsh words, not listening, inactivity in the children’s lives, not romantic, etc.,  are all ways we are disappointed in our spouses.  We’re disappointed because they fail.  They disappoint us because they are sinners.  They disappoint us because our expectations are unrealistic.  And after such disappointments we are left with the task of dealing with our disappointments.

disappointed statue

Spouses aren’t the only ones who disappoint us.  If we are honest with ourselves and God, we are disappointed with Him.  It’s not that God sinned against us, but there are times we some feel as though God has wronged us.  The death of a loved one. Sickness.  A lost job.  A wayward child.  A cheating spouse.  Any form of suffering that we feel is undeserved, unwanted, or untimely is a ticket to Disappointmentville.

As we wrestle with our disappointment with God, it’s important to look at a few questions: Why are we disappointed with God?  What did we expect or want from Him? What do we need to do to overcome our disappointment?

First, “Why are we disappointed with God?”  This is an easy answer for most people. We’re disappointed because God didn’t do what we think He should have done.  We conclude He made the wrong choice or a bad decision and if I had a choice, the outcome would have been different…even better.  We might argue, “If I was in charge, this wouldn’t have happened.  A better decision would have been ______.”   Or maybe we might say, “He (She or I)  didn’t deserve this.  He did all of these good things and he should have been rewarded or blessed, not given more suffering!”  Such questions doubt God’s goodness and wisdom and proclaim that we know better or are more wise than He.  Yet these questions are honest questions as we wrestle with pain and suffering outside of our control.

Secondly, “What did we expect or want from Him?”  There are multiple answers to this question, yet perhaps all the answers can be summed up in this: Not this.  If we say that we (or another) didn’t deserve what they we through, we expected Him to be like the boss who is obligated to give what is owed, such as a paycheck for work performed.  If we say we wanted a life without suffering, then we expected heaven on earth.  Or if we say we had dreams and God messed them up, then we expected Him to be compliant with our dreams.  Any time we are disappointed with God, we wanted or expected something from Him, and He did not comply with what we thought would be best.

Finally, “What do we need to do to overcome our disappointment?” In other words, How do we deal with it?  Many have chosen to distance themselves from God for an extended period of time.  Disappointment quickly turns to anger and anger leads to 180 degrees from God and towards self.  This can lead to depression or outright defiance against God. So, what can we do?

First, be committed to work it out with God.  Don’t settle for being disappointed and distanced from God.  Our natural tendencies may be to avoid conflict with God (or others) because we do not want to deal with the pain of the events that led to the disappointment.  But if you aren’t committed to working through this, there may be additional hardships caused by such avoidance (anger, hurt relationships because of anger, etc.).

Second, humble yourself before Him.  Confess your feelings, thoughts, and accusations to Him.  It is not okay to be angry with God, but if you are, tell Him out loud (sometimes we need to hear it expressed out loud).  Then repent.  Remember that He is God and we are not.  Reread Job’s arguments to his “friends” and to God.  He also did not feel as though he deserved any suffering he received. Yet God’s response to Job (Job 37ff) involved Job’s need to repent and humble himself before God.  Without humility, you cannot overcome your disappointment with God.

Being committed to work through the disappointment and humbling ourselves before God puts us in a place for the third step: Challenge your theology.  Challenge your idea of what good means (Mark 10:18).  Is God good all the time (& all the time God is good) (Ps 100:5)?  Can He be good even when I am hurt? Can good come from what is bad/evil (Rom 8:28-29)?  Is God wise (1 Cor 2)? Does He know what He is doing (Ps 147:5, Job 21:22)? Is His way perfect (Ps 18:10)?  Do I know best or does God (1 Cor 2:16, Is 55:8-9)?

Finally, trust Him.  This will be difficult to do if we don’t first humble ourselves and challenge our theology.  In order to deal with our disappointment with God, we must believe that He is greater, wiser, trustworthy, faithful, all-knowing, compassionate and good.  Does God have a plan? Yes.  Do I need to know and understand what God is doing for it to be OK with me (Prov 3:5-6)? No.  Is God good? Yes.  Is what happened good? No. Will He turn it into good? Yes.  How? We don’t know.  Will you trust Him anyway?  It is only when we believe in the character and promises of God that we can deal with our disappointments with God and move forward in our relationship with Him.

I’ve had a conversation with a man who lost his wife to cancer.  He and several children suffered greatly at her death.  As we discussed the loss, we discussed several perspectives.  One, that his wife was taken away from him by God.  The other perspective is that the Lord did not take her, but received her by His grace and made a promise that he will see her again through faith in Christ.  It is because of the character and promises of God that brings hope to the disappointed.

Friends, all of us will be disappointed with God, probably many times in our lives, because He does not do what we want Him to do. Let me encourage you to continue to work out your faith and disappointments and draw near to Him who compassionately hears.  Our ways certainly are not His ways, but God is good, God is Love, and God will not leave you nor forsake you.  And if you need assistance, feel free to set up a time with one of our counselors.  www.foundchristcounsel.org

(If you found this blog helpful and wish to share it and perhaps, help others, please click one of the links below to share!  – Fred Jacoby)

Black & White Thinking in Relationships: Differences in Men & Women

Below is Part 10 in the Black & White Thinking Series.  Please click on the respective links for Parts 1-9:  Part 1 (Introduction), Introduction (Part 2)Part 2 (Biblical Lens),  Part 3 (Grace),  Part 4 (Mental Illness), Part 5 (Depression), Part 6 (Anxiety), Part 7 (Pride), Part 8 (Christian), and Part 9 (Anger).man and woman head

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Men are like Waffles.  Women are like Spaghetti.  There is no doubt that men and women are different, yet both men and women can be Black & White Thinkers.  And even though there are some similarities in the sexes with Black & White thinking, there are some differences as well.

SIMILARITIES

To review, Black & White Thinking involves processing events and situations as “all or nothing,” “either – or,” or “right or wrong.”   This type of thinking over-simplifies all the ins and outs of situations and reduces them to basically two choices.  Since there are only two choices (good or bad, right or wrong, etc.), it is important to meet the standard (successful/good), or else you fail (failure/bad).  While standards can be good, setting standards without a measure of grace is unwise.  Black & White Thinking may lead to setting high standards for others and criticizing them when they fail to meet them.  Such interactions will cause others you are close to to feel insecure, lonely, and resentful.  In situations of abuse, Black & White Thinking combined with pride is always present.

DIFFERENCES

Generally, men and women who think or process things in Black & White do so differently because they are created male or female.  Hormones, societal norms, and past events and relationships will certainly influence how one perceives, processes, and performs (acts).  These influences will also impact the amount of Black & White Thinking that is present in the individual.  Typically, the greater the hurt, broken relationships, or trauma of the past, the greater the Black & White Thinking may be in every area of life.  In all cases, when Black & White Thinking is combined with pride, it is about my way, or my will be done in the relationship.  It is important to be mindful of these laws (expectations / standards) as they can harm the relationship and cause hurt feelings, fears, and resentments.

Ladies First

In general, women seem to be more relational (and probably less Black & White as a whole) than men. I believe this is because women were created by God to be Relational. This conclusion is based on the ability and plumbing to give birth and bond with their children through breastfeeding.  In addition, the Creation order and reasons for Woman to be created seems to suggest that woman was created FOR relationship (Gen 3) with man. Therefore, I would conclude that women seem to be created to be more Relational, in general.  So it would make sense that either women are more Relational and less Black & White in their thinking, or, at least, the content of their Black & White Thinking may be more relationship oriented.   For example, in many Black & White Thinkers with whom I have spoken, the Black & White Thinking in women often occurs as “relational laws.”  In other words, your husband MUST love you (love is desired by women, whereas respect is more desired by men) by spending time, serving, etc. That becomes the right way and only way to love, and your husband must do this or a punishment (criticism, withholding sex, etc.) will be given.  Either you love me this way (which is rightor you don’t love me (which is wrong).  Demanding love (instead of desiring it) thus becomes an idol of the heart.  This idol is held on to because she knows she is right, but in holding onto it, she becomes wrong.  This can turn into being controlling and will cause damage in the relationship.

Some questions for female Black & White thinkers: What if your husband was loving you in other ways?  Why are these other ways dismissed as wrong?  What relationship laws have you set in your heart? How do you respond when you don’t get what you want? 

Men, Your Turn

Although the same Genesis account shows us that Adam desired companionship and, I believe, wanted to be IN relationship (It was not good that man was alone – Gen 2:18), man was not created FOR relationship like woman (unless it is a relationship with God), but instead was created FOR work (there was no one to tend the Garden -Gen 2:5, 15).  But to be clear, relationship is important and necessary for men to learn, grow, love, and become like Christ.  In addition, although women were created FOR relationship, they were created to be equal with man, and not FOR man to do as he wishes. If the Black & White Thinker believes that his spouse is created FOR him, to please him and make him happy, he is outside of God’s plan for marriage.  Like women, male Black & White Thinkers also have “relationship laws,” but these laws are not about being loved, but about being respected. When these desires become demands (from desiring respect to demanding obedience), however, the laws will become overbearing to spouses.

Some Questions for male Black & White thinkers: What if your wife is honoring or serving you in other ways?  Why are these other ways dismissed as wrong?  What relationship laws have you set in your heart? How do you respond when you don’t get what you want?

Final Thoughts

The differences above are not meant to be comprehensive, by any means, but outline areas where God has created men and women differently (men desiring respect and women desiring love – see Eph 5 and the book, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs).  “Relationship Laws” are essentially expectations and standards set for the other person (or maybe for oneself), that when unmet, result in criticisms or “advice” for the other person.  The goal is to make the other person into your image of a perfect spouse (as if they are created to make you happy or fulfilled).  However, our goal is not to get others to meet our standards, but for us to seek after Christ and be changed so that we become like Him (the full image of God).  Future blogs will continue to address other relationship issues that occur in relationships with someone who is a Black & White Thinker.  What would you like to know more about?  Write any questions of comments below…