The “Inspector”: A No-Win Game Both Spouses Can Play

By Keith Miller | February 2, 2009

My husband is so picky about having everything in the “right” place (the place he thinks is right) that he is constantly picking at me. I was not raised to even pick up my clothes or towels that dropped on the floor. He wants every towel and wash rag hung up, and he also wants all the edges straight. And lately it seems like it’s getting worse. Nothing I do seems right. We’re both Christians trying to live for God, but when he gets on his critical master sergeant high horse I want to excuse myself (from God) and hit him with a golf club (at least in my imagination). Do other Christians have this much trouble dealing with little things?

I don’t know how many other Christians do, but years ago when I was first married, I remember one morning saying, “What’s so horrible about leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night?”I was furious and defensive. I knew that her reaction at breakfast was far too heavy for the nature of the complaint. That made me mad too . . . and frustrated. It seemed as if everything I did anymore bugged her—innocent mistakes like leaving the shower head at “on” over the bathtub or forgetting to close the closet door in our bedroom.

I work very hard, spend a lot of time with our family, and try to be generous as a provider. These petty complaints over a few mechanical omissions that were totally accidental, and from my perspective, seemed unreasonable.I was beginning to suspect that I had a nagging wife. But as I drove to work the realization came back that—as bad as it was—the incident the night before was not as big as her anger. (This almost always means that the present argument is not the real one.) So I began to try to find out the true cause of this rash of getting mad about “little things.” It seemed obvious that something I was doing or being was causing her to run up her red flag.

When the dust settled during the next couple of days, she was able to tell me, “Honey, what these careless things you keep goingreallysay to me is that you don’t care enough about me to make an effort to stop doing things that make me mad and frustrated.” She stopped and then went on, “I guess I keep waiting for you to remember, and when you don’t, I get madder.”

“I really do care . . . ,” I started, in defense of myself. But I stopped, because I know that wedowhat we unconsciously want to do in life. I may protest to high heaven that I honestly want to remember things and just cannot. However, I have learned that this is often a deceitful trick the mind plays ON ITSELF. Many psychologists have understood that we seldom forget something wereallywant to do unless we have a reason that is hidden . . . often from ourselves. A golfing enthusiast may forget to take his wife shopping, but he is not likely to forget a golf partner. A young man in love with his girlfriend is not apt to forget to pick her up for a date—even if he does forget to do his homework assignment and to mow the yard the same weekend. Although I am terribly forgetful about many things, I did not forget a single basketball practice or game during the twenty years I participated in that sport.

Remembering this made me realize that I was evidently not interested in helping my wife’s feelings of discomfort and frustration—at least not interested enough to remember certain little common courtesies. Why not, I wondered? I love her and want to be a good husband. And I feel certain that God would have meatleastcare for her needs and comfort with common courtesy.

Then I remembered. Several weeks before I had been feeling especially romantic. And she had been feeling especially tired. I had interpreted her tiredness as a purposeful rejection and was particularly furious when she claimed later that she had not gotten my signals. I remembered smoldering and thinking, “If she really loved me, she would always be sensitive to my needs!”
So that was my problem. The world was centered inmeagain. But being too proud and “too good a Christian” to set

out consciously to punish her for hurting my pride, I repressed the feelings. And I got back at her subtly and unconsciously by forgetting things that hurt her pride—things that made her feel the way I had felt: that she was not loved enough for me to think about her needs and comfort.

And do you know what? When I realized that the problem had started inmeweeks before and it was that most pervasive sin of self-centeredness, my average improved tremendously in remembering the shower head, the toilet seat, and the closet door.

For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic of the whole world. It is the self-will which prefers “my” way to God’s—which puts “me” in the centre where only God is in place.It pervades the universe. It accounts for the cruelty of the jungle, where each animal follows its own appetite, unheeding and unable to heed any general good. It becomes conscious and thereby tenfold more virulent in man—a veritable Fall indeed.
William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel

Thank you, God, for showing me again that so many of my complaints about other people could be stopped if I would only see my sin. I am amazed at the way I can hide my true motives even from myself. But I am grateful for finding out another of the deceitful maneuvers my ego uses to protect the “fine man” image . . . when a consciousness of my true intentions would destroy it. Please help me see my self-centeredness sooner, and to give it up sooner. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But God searches the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” Jeremiah 17:9, 10 The Message

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on The “Inspector”: A No-Win Game Both Spouses Can Play
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