Especially when you like to think you’re perfect
I felt proud of myself when I sneaked a glance at my work email while my husband and I were cleaning up after dinner.
The local TV station had agreed to cover an event I suggested.
“What was that?” said my husband, putting sudsy dishes on the counter so I place them in precise positions inside the dishwasher. (Yes, we wash our dishes before we wash them.)
“Oh, TV20 responded to my request to cover an event happening later this week,” I said.
It wasn’t my company’s event, but he persisted in a line of questioning that would have chased the most stalwart politician into a bathroom for escape. But though I didn’t hide, I didn’t provide the answers he wanted.
“Well, if I were your boss, I’d want you to know who was going from your office to …”
He was standing on my pride
Blah blah blah. I would have plugged my ears if I could. My husband prides himself on “telling it like it is,” and I know what he said was true. But it crushed me. I was a camel laden with straw. And Steve was adding more, handfuls at a time.
“Well, if I weren’t working solo, maybe I could take the time to get those extra details!” I exploded, punctuating my defense by plopping the last few dishes into their places and slamming the dishwasher door closed.
That led to a new subject — the fact that I was working solo instead of training new employees. Something else my husband attributed to my lack of action. The straw fluttering onto my back threatened to break me.
In December, my only other colleague (other than interns) gave her notice and worked her final days. The bright side was that I was able to prove the need for two employees. The downside? I had to find those unicorns in a world in which fewer people seem to need a job. Applications for both positions had closed a week into January. Three weeks earlier.
“If I had applied for a position and hadn’t heard anything for a month, I would have written the company off as not having its act together,” my dear husband said as the conversation progressed.
He was threatening my perfection
I provided my list of excuses. None got me off his hook.
“You should have been looking at applicants as they came in and at least reached out to tell them you would be contacting them.”
No matter that I had work to do. Deadlines to meet. Strong personalities in my office who wanted their work done now. Almost a week working from home while in Covid “jail.” Many excuses, none strong enough to hold up in Steve’s court of opinion.
Plus I knew he was right.
But still, I defended my actions (and inaction) — if only to prevent his words from tarnishing the crown of perfection on my royal head.
Later, as I washed my face and brushed my teeth, I could feel the blood pounding in my head. Stress.
I told him about it as I climbed into bed.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to add to your burden. I love you and want what’s best for you. I’m afraid you’re going to burn out if you don’t get the help you need.”
Behind the critique was love
At that, my meltdown began.
“I know you love me,” I sobbed. “I know what you’re telling me is right. I’m sorry I got defensive.”
As we cuddled under the blankets, I told him that just that morning, I had read Scripture about God correcting His children because He loves us. It had stood out to me, since I know I don’t take criticism well, and I’d highlighted in my Bible app:
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;Proverbs 3:11-12, MSG
don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
a father’s delight is behind all this.
In fact, I had journaled about it:
“Stay surrendered. Stay generous. Stay in the middle of His will.
“And stand corrected. Realizing that God disciplines whom He loves. You. And He sometimes uses humans to do it.
“Stop trying to be perfect. Just seek to please Him. And let Him perfect you.”(Sara’s scribblings)
I told Steve that. (Well, in fewer and sob-filled words.) I told him I knew I should translate what my defensive self perceives as criticism as love — and yet I’d still responded defensively!
I’d failed — despite my Coach’s directions just that morning.
I then told him all my other failings. My inability to plan and prioritize. My need to “put out fires” at work and meet the demands that come my way instead of making headway in hiring help. All at my own peril.
(I also told him I was old and broken and felt fat and ugly — but he said, lovingly, to give myself a break. “We can’t fix everything in a day.”)
To his credit, he let me cry. In fact, he said, “Go ahead and let it all out — and this isn’t a ‘there there now'” (which made me laugh hysterically. If you’ve read my Book of Ailments blog, you’ll understand).
When I went to work the next day, I checked the queue for new applicants — we had reposted one of the positions — and contacted one when I saw she might be a fit.
Why? Was I trying to do what Steve told me so I could say I did? Or did I believe that God uses my husband — and other people — to correct me when I’m wrong?
Yes and yes.
I do want to do what my husband tells me. He is often right and wise. More so, I want to receive discipline and correction so I can become better (not perfect). And I trust that God does use people to speak into my life.
Correction = Love in God’s math. And I’m thankful someone I love and who loves me knows to ask the right (hard) questions. To reveal my falterings and failings. To guide me to success.
And maybe next time I’m corrected, I’ll remember that. Sooner.
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