“Are you ready?”
We had an appointment and Bob wanted to know how close we were to walking out the door.
“Yes. I’m ready.”
I began scurrying around the house and gathering the items I wanted to take with me.
“Why do you tell me you’re ready when you’re not ready to walk out the door? You don’t even have your shoes on!”
Actually, there was a very good reason I wasn’t poised to walk out the door. I wanted to make effective use of my remaining time. And there was a good reason Bob wanted to know if I was ready. He wanted to make effective use of his remaining time. We were both being a little selfish. Putting our own time schedule first. Neither of us wanted to waste our time waiting for the other. Selfishness, gets in the way of having a harmonious relationship.
A similar situation evolves when we prepare to give a workshop or speak at a retreat.
“Bob, are you prepared to speak?” He tells me is prepared. To Bob, this means he has thought through and is comfortable with his subject matter. He is ready to stand and deliver. To me, being prepared means I’ve customized the handouts, run through the presentation, packed the audio-visual equipment, and double-checked last-minute details. And the “Just in Case” bag—Post-it notes, Scotch tape, extra markers, a few paper clips—just in case.
I get a little anxious before events and over-preparing is my strategy for taking care of nervousness. (It’s not necessarily God’s strategy—just a strategy.) Bob is not tuned in to my nerves, so he falls short of my standard of being prepared and this makes me a little angry. “Anxious” followed by “angry” also get in the way of a harmonious relationship—moving together as one—and especially speaking at a marriage retreat.
What’s the problem and what do you do about it?
First, do a sin check.
“Lord, is there something I am doing that is inconsistent with how You’ve asked me to live?”
In the first example, we were both being selfish. In the second example, being thoroughly prepared is not a sin. Anxiety rooted in trying to handle all eventualities myself rather than relying on God is. Getting mad because Bob is not helping me take care of my anxiety my way definitely is.
Second, check your expectations.
Could Bob give me a minute or two to collect items and put my shoes on rather than expecting me to bolt out the door? Could I adjust and tell Bob, “Two minutes should do it,” so he knows how much time he actually has left. In the second example, I need to examine whether the “Just in Case” bag should be packed rather than just getting angry that it’s not.
Third, talk it through.
Talking, clarifying, and listening is a good thing.
“I would like to leave soon. Realistically, how much time do you need to walk out the door?”
“I am feeling anxious about our presentation. Would you mind running through it with me.”
I’ll give us credit for this: Neither of us are ornery people. When we understand where the other is coming from, we will try to comply.
The next time you feel an argument brewing, do a sin check on yourself. Would Jesus exhibit your attitude, say your words, or do what you are doing? Second, check your expectations. Is it critical to do everything you are doing in the way you are doing it? Third, talk it through. Even the things you think are minor may be interrupting your beautiful “dance.”
Bob has an upcoming workshop. I copied his handouts for him—and wasn’t mad about doing it. Next time we’re getting ready to leave the house together, I think I’ll put my shoes on and point to them so he knows I’m really ready.