Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Naggity Nag Nag

Nag at Work II

We all know that nagging doesn't work (link to the original Nag at Work post). What we might not realize is the infinite variety of nagging that we indulge in.

So, let me start with a little story...

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were getting ready to go to church when my husband made a Big Mistake. The Big Mistake hurt my feelings, but we didn't have time to hash it out in the mad dash of getting five children and two adults out the door. All I managed was a quick, "Wow, honey, that hurt. Thanks for that," in a sarcastic fly by.

In the meantime I yelled at my Autistic son for something that wasn't his fault. Did I feel bad? Indeed, I did. In fact, I got into the Nagivator Seat of the van after apologizing for the third time and berated myself all the way to church. It's only about a 30 minute drive, so I wasn't half done by the time we got there.

We arrived. My husband put the van into Park, turned to me, put his hand on my knee and proceeded to give me the best apology in our entire history together. "Chris," he began, "I am so sorry. It was dumb and thoughtless and you didn't deserve that. I am sorry." 

I was shocked. I was stunned. And I was perplexed because, frankly, I'd no clue what he was apologizing for. I was so distracted by my own mistake that I'd actually forgotten about his. I still don't remember, so I can't fill in the blanks here. It took me a minute to connect this apology with any event and then all I managed was remembering being upset, remembering the moment I called him on it, but nothing more.

I stammered something appropriate (I hope) and we proceeded with debarkation procedures and managed to be seated before the first song (barely).

"That was some apology," I reflected as we settled into our seats. In those few short minutes I had to think, I pondered along these lines: "What could have brought that on? It wasn't major, really, or I'd have remembered. Why was he so sorry this time? What was different?"

Then God hit me in the back of the head with a two-by-four. I was different. 

I'd not had time to battle it out. I'd not had a chance to discuss the issue to death. I had not insisted on an apology. I had not nagged and questioned him on his motives. I'd been too busy, and then I'd been too subdued by my own mistake. I'd been quiet. There was the big difference. I'd let my husband's own good nature work on his conscience instead of my sharp tongue.

The really stupid part of all this is knowing that nagging doesn't work and needing to learn this lesson anyway. The only good thing about this story is I've been doing much better about letting some time come between any given incident and the discussion of it. I did learn something and have been duly rewarded. The apologies I'm receiving lately are improving over the resentful, "Fine! I'm sorry!"s of yore.

What I learned from it was that nagging is not limited to me trying to get something done. Sometimes it's about making him make me feel better--using him to bandage my feelings. Pope John Paul II once said that the opposite of love is not hate, it is use. We are not to use anyone as a means to an end and we are especially not to use our loved ones. We are to love. Period.

If nagging is something you struggle with, too, here's some hard won gems I've learned this time around. (For the hard won gems I learned last time around, click here.):

Nagging is Fruitless
Nagging does not get real results even when it seems to. Someone parroting what you want to hear just to shut you down is not a satisfying replacement for the real thing.A real apology after a day or so of reflection is more emotionally satisfying than a forced one in the moment. Let some time and space in.

Nagging is Damaging
If this is you, open brain and insert God. Amen.
Even if you are in the right, nagging him to admit you're right is not right. Nagging is using language to bend someone to your will. It's selfish behavior. Marital discord does not heal by adding more bad behavior into the mix. Marriage is about pulling together. Family life is about being a Christian even when you're hurt. It's about bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving 70 times 7 times, only it is up close and personal. It's hard work! God calls us to be faithful in all things, but especially in these day to day moments where we chose to be Godly or not. Nagging is a choice, a bad one. Like any choice when we face any temptation, we can choose to serve God or we can serve ourselves.

Nagging is Not Christian
Nagging drives a wedge between you and your beloved. When you nag you are being aggressive. You are generating resentment. You are saying, in effect, that you will continue to behave badly until he behaves better. It's you making him suffer because you have suffered. That sounds incredibly antithetical to the Christian call to bear wrongs patiently. In fact, it is using his sins against you as an excuse to sin against him.

Nagging is for God Alone
No, I'm not saying that God nags. What I'm saying is that the only place where nagging bears any fruit at all is in prayer. Like Luke 18:1-8, you may indulge in your need to nag by nagging God. The best part of this little piece of advice is this: in order to change bad behavior you must replace the behavior. In the case of nagging, you don't have to stop nagging, you merely need to change the object of your nagging. If your spouse is upsetting you, go to God over and over and over about it. Pour your heart out, complain, whine and cry. He can take it. He can also do something about it for you.

In fact, the first thing He is likely to do about it is to change you.


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  1. And this is just one example of why the two of you are so special. (Alex)

    1. You are so sweet, Alex. But you are only catching the Highlight Reel. I don't believe you've ever met my Inner Porcupine. Andy's slowly taming her, you know. :)