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Meditations on Proverbs for Couples
by Leslie Parrott
Learn More | Meet Leslie Parrott | Meet Les Parrott
Like a Kiss on the Lips
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.
Of all the little expressions of love—a box of chocolates, a handwritten poem, or a bouquet of handpicked wildflowers—I think my favorite is a good old-fashioned kiss on the lips. Whether it be the gratuitous kind that comes with greeting my husband after a day at work or his surprising ambush kiss while standing in line at the grocery, I always feel especially loved when Les gives me a simple kiss.
Did you know the word kiss comes from a prehistoric syllable that is believed to be the sound of kissing? However the word originated and whoever named it really doesn 't matter to me. I just know I like kisses. And why shouldn 't I? Kisses, according to a Danish saying, are the messengers of love.
No wonder then that Solomon, in all his wisdom, equaled a kiss on the lips to an honest answer. Love cannot last without honesty. Our honest answers create trust, the very bedrock of a relationship.
Every couple tells little while lies to one another in an attempt to be more loving. If we don 't like our partner 's cooking, for example, we might say, "Oh, it 's wonderful." A little lie won 't hurt our relationship, will it? Wrong.
Consider Ron and Cindy who had been married only a few weeks when he cooked his famous barbecue ribs on their brand new grill. As they were eating, Ron asked Cindy if she liked the ribs. Cindy knew Ron had worked hard to make them and was afraid that she would offend him if she was honest. "Oh, yes," she told Ron, "they 're great!"
Believing that Cindy really liked his famous dish, Ron began barbecuing quite regularly, and there were always leftovers which had to be eaten. After a while, Cindy could bear it no longer, and in a moment of anger about something else she confessed that his barbecued ribs made her gag and she never wanted to see them on her table again! Ron was shocked and hurt. She had lied to him. "How can I ever believe you again?" he asked.
Should Cindy have told Ron right from the beginning that the ribs made her gag? Not if she cared about her marriage. Honesty does not require brutality. Truth is brutal only when it is a partial truth or when it is meant to cause pain. To be both honest and loving, she could say something like, "Not really, I 've never liked barbecue on the grill—but I love seeing you cook."
The tragedy of most small deceptions is that they mushroom, ultimately creating a cloud of distrust that hovers over a relationship. Surely that 's what was on King Solomon 's mind when he wrote this proverb. So take his advice and whenever possible kiss your spouse on the lips with honesty.
- Consider a time when you told a white lie to avoid hurting your spouse 's feelings. What was the result? Could you have handled the situation better by being honest?
- Oliver Wendell Homes said, the sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer." In what ways is an honest answer the same way?
Happily Ever Laughter
Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking!"
Leslie and I were in the middle of a joint project and had just resloved a small tiff about my being more patient with her work style. She is process-oriented, relational, and unruffled, while I am task-oriented, sequential, and eager when tackling a project. And because I push myself hard most of the time, I tend to push others, including my wife, and can become irritatingly impatient.
We had just resolved this squabble, or so we thought, when the following words tumbled out of my mouth: "Can 't you pick up the pace a little her? We 're never going to meet our deadline at this rate!"
Leslie looked at me in sheer amazement, made a quick study of my facial expression, determined I was serious, and burst into tears.
I would have done anything to rewind the clock thirty seconds. I winced, but I couldn 't deny that my true feelings had seeped out, and I could do little to retract the words that had given me away. Or could I? In a vain attempt to do just that, I resorted to a knee-jerk response invented for just such an occasion. With as much sincerity as I could muster, I uttered the infamous: "I was only joking!"
Yeah, right. Leslie and I both knew I hadn 't been joking. It 's one of the oldest tricks in the book. Literally. Solomon must have heard it used plenty to have written this proverb.
For centuries, then, we humans have figured that if we could convince a friend or spouse that a harmful comment was meant as a joke, we 'd be off the hook. After all, laughter is good medicine (see Proverbs 17:22). It 's true. In addition to laughter 's positive biological effects—stimulating endorphins, lowering our blood pressure and heart rate—laughter simply improves our mood and increases our sense of belonging. No doubt about it, joking around is good for the soul, and even better for a marriage.
But when a spouse tries to gloss over a hurtful remark with the "I-was-only-joking" line, it 's like shooting arrows at our spouse. And it 's downright deceitful.
Far better than trying to cover the mistake, is offering a simple apology: "I 'm so sorry."
- Have you ever caught yourself trying to deceive your partner by playing the "only joking" card? If so, what was the result?
- What are you doing to bring constructive, happy, healthy humor into your marriage?
Are You Listening?
He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.
I (Les) recently talked with a man who 'd seen a demonstration of a remarkable new product—a universal computer that can translate from one language to another at a rate of a thousand words per minute.
The demonstration involved two couples conversing long distance. One couple was from Africa and spoke Swahili. The other, standing by their igloo in Alaska, spoke Klinget. As the couples spoke, they smiled in understanding and appreciation as their words were translated instantly and flashed upon the bottom of a life-sized split screen that showed both couples.
The problem occurred when the African man used an idiomatic expression to compliment the wife of the Alaskan gentleman. He said that she looked like a bird—high praise in Swahili. However, when it was translated, the message came through, "Your wife lookes like a pigeon."
The Alaskan man scowled until the machine straightened out the translation and he understood the intended meaning—his wife was beautiful, like the most lovely bird in Africa. At that point, my friend told me, the couples ' expressions began to glow. They understood each other.
Understanding, whether it be across continents with different languages or across the kitchen table with different perspectives, is the bridge we build from our hearts, and it cannot be constructed quickly, not even with a high-powered computer. Of course, that 's the tempation, especially in marriage. We want to build an expedient bridge to our partner 's pain, or happiness, as the case may be. But understanding—which can only come through patient listening—can never be rushed. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill-will."
How many times have you heard your partner describe a predicament—a mishap at work, a problem with the kids, a misunderstanding with a friend—and proceeded prematurely to solve his or her problem? You laid out three easy steps to clean up the whole mess, checked it off your evening 's to-do list, and got ready for dinner. Husbands, in particular, seem compelled to fix their partner 's problems, but the truth is, men and women are wqually guilty of this marital mishap.
So the next time you are tempted to fix or explain away your spouse 's problem, remember the words of this proverb: "He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame." In other words, listen to your partner as if you were frim two different continents.
- Answering before truly listening is one of the easiest communication mistakes we make in marriage. Why do you think this is so?
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