Together communication and attitude have potential... either for good or for evil. Here’s what we mean…
It was attitude that took out yet another marriage. They were in their twenties. They were the parents of two beautiful children. He, however, had a miserable problem. She endured it. The problem was alcoholism. It left it’s smell on every facet of their young lives and in every corner of their family.
Their time together became a proving ground for her coping skills. He could not or would not share the load of raising the children or caring for the home. Extended family relationships — what there was left of them — strained under her lonely efforts. Bills mounted. Floor space deteriorated. Access to God through prayer alone stood between her and a breakdown.
Then the impossible happened. Late one night, while watching a television evangelist, he gave his heart to Christ. The old man dropped dead. The new man came alive. His life changed that night.
Within a few days the fog lifted. Once again, he could see clearly. Every new morning erased more of his fuzzy thinking. Each new night he went to bed with vivid memories.
Soon he began to assume responsibility. She was elated. The first six months rushed by like a wind of bliss. It was a second honeymoon.
However, for every inch of responsibility he reassumed, she lost an inch of control. Now that he could think again, he began to inquire about debt. He eagerly paid attention to the children’s school work. He even attended parent-teacher meetings. Making up for lost time, he called the doctor to schedule appointments. He invited in-laws over for weekend cook-outs. He planned their first vacation. He began to manage the checking account.
At first she was delighted. Later she discovered a new problem. While he lived in a state of alcoholic stupor, she lit the fires. She made everything go round. Now she was a partner. Now she needed negotiation skills. This new stage of life pulled her between ecstasy and exasperation. Soon the exasperation dominated the tug-of-war.
She found herself quarreling over issues she once longed to have lifted from her shoulders. He was surprised. She was frustrated. Their honeymoon joy lost ground to interpersonal conflict.
She once thought the removal of alcohol would end their nightmares. He once thought the same thing. She once thought his willingness to help out would create the perfect marriage. He once thought his new found willingness to lead would set his wife upon a pedestal. They were wrong. The removal of alcohol, while a true blessing, paved the way for a new round of learning. All the old skills — her in charge, him in a stupor — were overturned. Their marriage needed serious renegotiation.
With the tables now turned, he sought counsel (like she used to do) and she withdrew into a shell (like he used to do). He began to grow. She began to shrink. Friends, family and their pastor tried to help, but the years had taken their toll. She felt broken. He was dismayed. From her brokenness grew an attitude of defeat. From his dismay grew an attitude of indifference. And from messed up attitudes there grew significant communication breakdowns. Soon they just quit talking to one another. They drifted apart. It was not explosive. Just sad. Sad and needless and wrong.
You see, the relationship between communication and attitude is too close to dissect. Our Lord Jesus once said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18,19). No wonder so many books, seminars, classes and college courses designed to increase communication fail to produce. When we fail to address the core issue of poor communication — attitude — no amount of technique will overcome the problem.
Ricki Lee Brooks
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