Jacqueline O’Neill answered, “Have I learned the Truth about Love and then used that knowledge to love everyone around me?”

Sowmya Govindarajan wrote, “What do you want out of this life? What is the purpose of your life? Where are you and where to do want to go?”

Using I instead of you

Someone said, “The devil invented questions.”

After her husband backed the car hit the garbage containers, she shouted, “Didn’t you see the blue containers?” Hearing it, her husband felt that immediate and obvious blame was being assigned to him. He wasn’t alert, he forgot an important task, and he was like an inept employee who had to be told everything. He probably responded defensively, with immediate frustration and irritation.

Communication with “I” statements takes more time than asking questions. The advantage is that it does not place the person being questioned in a defensive mode nor does it assign blame. We have been educated in an educational system that focuses on questions. We have been taught to live life asking questions. Questions within an academic world may be constructive; but, questions within a relationship tend to be more destructive than constructive.

Questions tend to work best within a hierarchical system, because it is “teacher to student,” “employer to employee,” or, “bishop to clergyperson”. Though questions seem to work in a hierarchical system, they also tend to be irritants and cause trouble, like sand in a gearbox, when the emphasis should be on teamwork. Questions seem to shape authority ...the person who asks seems to be in control or is in the process of taking control.

According to the writer of Genesis (3:1b), it was the devil (snake) who asked the first question: “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” Up to that point in scripture, God had never asked a question and the question mark had not existed.

You and blame

Beyond the matter of control, the assigning of blame is a basic problem with most questions. Blame is assigned whenever a question with a “you” appears. In the Genesis account of creation, God asked: “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat the fruit that I told you not to eat?

The man’s (Adam) response to God’s questions assigns blatant blame. The man (Adam) answered, “The woman you put here with me gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

A young husband, at 5:30, opening the front door shouts, “Honey, where would you like to go for dinner this evening?” His intention may be all well and good; however, his words create immediate tensions: 1) he has already decided that they should go out, she had no voice in the decision, 2) he has assigned responsibility by using the word “you”, and, 3) since he has not noticed that the dining table is set with linen, the china, and candles... leaving his wife with the feeling that he doesn’t appreciate her evening preparations.

In other words, his question, “Where would you like to go for dinner this evening?” may indicate that he doesn’t value teamwork, that he lacks regard for her position, and that he is a bit short in the matter of consideration.

Faced by his question, she has several options. Option one could be the response, “I’d like to go to the Olive Garden?” Option two is to say defensively, “I hurried home to prepare dinner and I had hoped we would have a romantic dinner here at home.” It’s not an obvious “no”, but it is as close as one can get. Option three “I don’t know, where would you like to go?”

Keep in mind that he asked, “Where would you like to go...?” Her response of going to the Olive Garden, might be delightfully acceptable to him; but, it won’t be if he was thinking about going to the local bar for a beer, fries, and a hamburger. Her response, of a romantic dinner at home might delight him or disappoint him...it all depends upon what his interpretation is of a romantic dinner. Her third option, “I don’t know...” leaves the door open for him to make the decision; either she has to live with it, or negotiate for another location.

Hopefully, the conversation won’t end with, “You don’t ever want to do what I want or go where I want to go.”

Planning — Anticipation

This process can be simplified. It calls for consideration. It calls for planning. Having this discussion, the night before would have helped both plan their day for an evening of joy. It would have been simplified, if one of the partners said, “I’d enjoy taking you out to dinner tomorrow evening. I thinking of going to either Tom’s Bar or Grill or to The Olive Garden.” There is an invitation, there is an opportunity to do something special, there is time to dress properly, and there is time to secure babysitters, if necessary.

Planning promotes anticipation. Anticipation in a marriage is more important than the element of surprise. This is not to say that all surprises are bad. A gift that comes as a surprise can be beautiful, lovely, and meaningful...providing it can be afforded, providing it is not a bribe, and providing it does not come in the form of a guilt offering. One needs to be mindful that surprises, all too often, tend to indicate that someone has taken control of a specific event and of a specific span of time.

Signing off…

Doug Britton in his book Who Do You Think You Are wrote: 1. God created you. You are not an accident... and, 2. God has a plan for you. You have a purpose in life (see Ephesians 2:10).”

The Rev. Russell Rudolf is a retired Lutheran clergyperson. You may contact him at R3Rudolf@yahoo.com.

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