Let me paint you a word picture of one of my worst moments, and one of my husband’s best moments…
A while back I was working hard at a job that was literally not paying off. I had spent all morning on the phone arguing with the insurance company because they refused to cover some necessary medical care, and then I was gone for several hours working hard to help other people solve their problems.
I came home to my beautiful family and pets and our comfortable home, but I was NOT feeling grateful or appreciative. I was feeling drained, tired, and not enough. The negative self-talk was a-flowin’.
I came in and greeted my loved ones unenthusiastically. I trudged to the kitchen and realized I had not made a new meal-plan for the week, something I rely heavily on for my sanity, nor had I been to the store in over a week. We had very little food. Great! Now I’m a failure at life, work, home, motherhood, at being an adult. We have no plan, no food, the house is dirty, and I SUCK!
You know that nasty, rock-in-your-stomach, flushing face, suddenly burning up feeling you have before you throw up? You know it’s coming, but there is nothing you can do about it but make your way to the nearest bathroom and hunker down for the worst? Well this was where I was. Only instead of throwing up, I was on the verge of a grown-up temper tantrum. It was not going to be pretty, but I was barreling down the tracks too fast, and my breakdown was inevitable.
Having finally decided upon making some pancakes and hastily throwing together the batter, I pulled my sad, past-its-prime, warped skillet out of the cabinet. Resentment washed over me as I held that god-forsaken pan in my hand.
This skillet represented all of my negative feelings in that moment. That pan wasn’t good enough for the task of making even pancakes, just like I wasn’t good enough for just about anything. That pan needed to be replaced just like my car, and the broken garage door, and the broken garbage disposal, and the jeans in my drawer with a hole in the crotch. In that moment I couldn’t afford a new pan, just like I couldn’t afford to pay those medical bills if the insurance company didn’t cover them. That pan was the bane of my existence. It represented the existential crisis of my worthiness as a human being.
A bit dramatic? Maybe. But this is truth. Remember how I told you I was in deep? I wasn’t kidding!
I greased the pan and began making pancakes. When it came time for flipping them, what do you think happened? They stuck to the pan! Of course they did! Why shouldn’t they? This pan is junk, just like I’m junk. I can’t even cook simple pancakes now! What the heck is wrong with me?
I stand there and bellow. I swear and curse the pan, the pancakes, and the universe! I brusquely yank the pan off the burner and chuck the now smoking mess into the sink. “I just want SOMETHING to work! I just want SOMETHING to go right today!” I scream at my husband, the innocent by-stander. I’m not angry anymore, I’m just deeply, beyond-words sad. I am a literal hot mess, pancake batter splattered on my work clothes, my hair messily falling out of what was once a neat bun, my face flushed with anger and stained with running mascara and tears.
This is not a pretty picture. My toddler was staring in astonishment from the living room, no doubt storing away those interesting new words mommy just screamed at the top of her lungs for future use at church or maybe in front of those judgmental mommies in play group. My husband swooped in like a first responder in a hostage situation and gently took the spatula out of my fist, and hugged me close.
That hug was spiritual. He hugged me hard and close and didn’t let go when I attempted to straighten my hair and wipe the melting raccoon eyes off my face. And then he kissed me. He kissed me in a way that was not romantic. This scene was not going to make the cut in any Nicholas Spark movie adaptation. He kissed me almost as if it was a life-saving measure. This was CPR and I needed life-saving love rather than life-saving breath.
In that pivotal moment, he gave me what I needed, not what I deserved.
I could go into what I could have done differently in this situation, and I can assure you that this incident was an excellent learning tool that certainly set the cogs of personal growth into motion, but this story isn’t about what I did. It’s about what my husband did. It’s about giving others what they need, rather than what they deserve.
He didn’t do anything complicated or magical. His act of radical kindness and love in my moment of darkness did not require and complex training or special skills. He assessed the situation, saw what I needed and provided it regardless of what I deserved.
That act of love meant the world to me. It saved me from myself in the moment and reaffirmed the health of our marriage and my love and respect for the man I married. I am challenging myself in the coming days to approach interpersonal difficulties from the paradigm of giving what is needed and putting aside what is deserved. I deserved a lecture, but what I got was love.
I’m willing to bet that you will come across a situation this week where someone in your life deserve a reality check, a lecture, a wake-up-call. What would happen though, if you showered that person in what they need in that moment rather than what they deserve? What will happen if you give words of encouragement when the person really deserves a lecture on when to move on? What will happen if you show kindness when that voice in your head says they deserve your disdain? What will happen when you give what others need, not what they deserve?