Tag Archives: Brain Pickings

Sulking and the Idolatry of Relationships

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I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.

Joseph Bonifacio defines the verb sulk:

Blog - Sulk - joseph bonifacioPhoto Credit: Joseph Bonifacio

When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.

Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.

Today I read the most fascinating description of sulking by Alain de Botton, author of On Love: A Novel and The Course of Love: A Novel

Blog - Sulking - Alain de Botton - fanpopPhoto Credit: Fanpop

At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”Alain de Botton

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Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every  requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.Alain de Botton

Sheesh.

We can make it hard on those we love the most.

In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:

““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”Martin Heidegger

It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them.Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?

A senior couple enjoying a cup of tea together

5 Friday Faves – On Studying Your Spouse, Aging, Taking Criticism, Daily Routines, & Black History Month

Blog - Friday Faves

Hello, Friday. I don’t know about you but this has been a week of highs and lows in this world of mine. Hard news in some situations washed over by exquisite answers to prayer in other situations. As happens often with God, in the quiet of this morning, a favorite, heart-lifting passage in the Bible came up in my reading.

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”Isaiah 26:3-4

Even the Bible verses atop my facing journal pages this morning were like an anthem from God that all will be well. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.”John 14:27 and “My times are in Your hands, Lord.”Psalm 31:15

With that intro to welcoming Friday this week, here are five of my favorite finds – all from the internet this week, although I did have a lot of sweetness in the real, as well.

1) Studying Your Spouse – Michael Hyatt welcomed Jackie Bledsoe as guest blogger on his website this week. Bledsoe writes very winsomely about how he learned to study his wife. He talks about how we, too often, think we know enough (relating to any field of study and work, ministry, marriage and family). Regarding his marriage, he observed: “We were both growing, just not together. My interests were changing and my wife, Stephana, didn’t always notice. Stephana’s needs were changing, but I was oblivious to them. Finally, we reached a point where we felt we didn’t really know each other. That was a scary discovery, one that you may be able to relate to. You may know the ins and outs of your business or ministry like nobody else. But maybe you don’t know the ins and outs of your spouse like nobody else. It may be time for you to enroll in the continuing education about your spouse.” Bledsoe lists 3 ways to get an advanced degree in your spouse: 1) Do new things together; 2) Take notes: and 3) Use your calendar. Read more here.Blog - Friday Faves - Marriage - DaddyshangoutPhoto Credit: Daddy’s Hangout

2) Aging – a Video – I came across a video this week that really got me thinking about how I view aging. It is entitled The Wall. It is the work of Aroha Philanthropies, an organization “devoted to the transformative power of the arts and creativity, inspiring vitality in those over 55, joy in children and youth, and humanity in adults with mental illness”. Blog - Aging - ioagingPhoto Credit: IoAging.org

The video begins with two elderly persons looking at the imposing face of a wall filled with the words that terrify most of us about getting older. Then as the video progresses, the images change to  more engaging and lovely words that depict what can be part of our experience moving from youth to mid-life to older life. Through creativity and the arts from childhood throughout our years, we might see a very different future, with growing older being our “encore years”. Something to think about for all of us…and especially for our young creatives – to see these “old ones” as valuable peers…just a bit farther down the same road.

3) Taking Criticism – Dan Cumberland, writer and photographer in Seattle, Washington, writes about responding to a scathing comment he received once on one of his blogs. Complete with foul offensive language. In his article This Guy Really Hates Me (How to Take Criticism). In his post, he lists 5 guidelines of how to handle criticism:

1) Is there truth in it?; 2) Is it affirmed by others?; 3) Is the source credible?; 4) What are the source’s motives?; and 5) What can I learn here? Then Dan talked about how he dealt with his critic.

We all receive criticism and also, if we’re honest, dole it out ourselves. Hear Dan’s counsel: “When you receive criticism and negative feedback there’s a needed balance. Don’t write it off, but also be careful not to let it bring you down too much. Work to find the truth. When you don’t understand, ask for clarification.”

When we are offered criticism, take it – as a gift. Do with it what is helpful. Don’t fall into the trap of returning harm for what you perceived as harmful. You want to be better than that.Blog - Taking Criticism - Feedback - quotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

4) Daily Routines Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, wrote a fascinating post on Mozart’s Daily Routine – How a day is composed in the hours between sleep o’clock and symphony o’clock. Routines are a great help for me to organize life and truly accomplish what I hope to accomplish. I’ve written on routines, habit change, and productivity previously. Popova’s article (and others she linked in her post) offers a glimpse into the daily life of greatness. It was inspiring and refreshing. Early in Mozart’s life, he went without employment but maintained deep discipline in his composing of music. Later, as his popularity rose, he compromised his sleep in order to continue writing. Mozart’s life was legend for unhealthy choices, and he struggled at times with deep depression. The lesson for us is in a daily routine that helped him, whether poor or privileged, to produce magnificent music that continues timeless in its beauty.

Blog - Daily Routines Photo Credit: Tito Goldstein

5) Black History Month – Phillip Holmes wrote a great piece, on Black History Month, for Desiring God. It is entitled More Tough Skin and Tender Hearts – How to Prepare for Conversations on Ethnic Harmony. He talks in a frank and loving manner about evangelicalism and ethnic harmony. Holmes urges us to have real conversations across races and ideologies, rather than white-with-white (or black-with-black) discussion with those already in agreement with us. If we wrestle with the struggle, across racial, religious, and political lines, we might actually come to a place of true reconciliation.

I want to have the kinds of conversations he encourages: “As we engage in complicated conversations about racism, be sober-minded rather than drunk with hatred, frustration, and annoyance. Embrace humility and love those you disagree with. But continue to pursue truth and justice as these two are defined in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible must remain the basis for why we believe what we believe and a careful study of it reveals that it has much to say about ethnicity and injustice…These conversations are complex but necessary and we need men and women who can sit down and have hard conversations considering the other more significant.”

Read his full post. I do want to quote one more vital point Holmes covered beautifully: “As a church, whether we as individuals are white, black, brown, red, or yellow, Christians have to constantly remind ourselves of our primary allegiance. If you are a child of the king, adopted into the household of faith, you are Christian first. I am one million times more Christian than I am black. My brown skin may be what you first notice about me, but by God’s grace, my Christian faith is what you will remember… I count it a privilege to be physically dressed by my creator in such a beautiful skin tone…but I will forever check others and myself when I notice our ethnicity is taking precedent over our heavenly citizenship.”

Also read Kimberly Davis’ Black History Month and the Common Language of Christ.

Vector Illustration for black history month including names, time periods and what each person did. See others in this series. Makes a great poster large print.

Photo Credit: Teach Hub

What were some of your finds or favorite things of this week? I would love to hear about them. Have a safe and joyful weekend!