Men: Can We Be Conscious of Unconscious Mistakes? (Part 2)

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Many husbands and fathers have written to me saying, in effect: "Many times I have no idea that I am coming across unlovingly to my wife and daughter. As a man, I learned that I have a tendency to be harsh and angry and communicate with "a look" that can kill or have a tone that slices their hearts when I am tired and frustrated. When I do this, it makes sense to me why my wife and daughter get so hurt and dramatic, and then want to talk to me about how they felt so unloved.

“Unlike my son who does not personalize my reactions, the women in my life do take everything personally, as though I say things just to hurt them.

“I learned that the women in my life end up criticizing and complaining, telling me that I was unloving because they felt unloved. Of course I did not feel unloving. I felt like I was just telling it like it is, but even so, there really is no one who talks to them like I do. They naturally interpreted me as not loving them as people.

“As women who filter their world through the love grid, I was not conscious of crossing the line. Because I did not feel unloving, I did not see what they saw. In hindsight, I see it now.

“I guess I assumed they would understand that my momentary reaction was just that--momentary. I move on. I drop it. No big deal. I hold no grudges.

The issue to me was that I simply wanted them to see the issue at hand. I was not attacking them personally. I was trying to solve a problem and they needed to respect my solution. My look of disgust was to motivate them for the future. However, I was blind to the overkill this was to them.

“Because I did not intend to offend them, but rather to help them, I did not see my conduct as offensive. I subconsciously gave myself a pass on my looks and tones since I did not feel unloving.”

Job 34:32 states, "Teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will not do it again." Though Job's friend, Elihu, later receives God's rebuke for misjudging Job, what he utters here echoes Scripture elsewhere.

The Psalmist pens, "Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12). He sings elsewhere, "Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me" (25:4,5).

We also read, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (139:23,24).

Each verse captures the idea that we make mistakes unconsciously.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:4). In other words, Paul recognized that there are "hidden faults" that we "do not see." There are moments when a person does not "discern his errors." There can be an "offensive way" in us that escapes our notice.

A husband does not intend to be unloving toward his wife and daughters, but can appear that way, and in fact, be that way.

Now, no man will ever love perfectly. Practice only makes perfect in restricted ways. I mean, there have only been 23 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball. No hits, no walks, no hit batsmen, or any opposing player reaching base for another reason.

Practice does not make perfect in fathering or marriage. It really comes down to decreasing his imperfections. For example, appearing less unloving toward the women in his life.

For this reason, here's an action item that may sound odd: be conscious of what you are not conscious of. Ask God to teach you what you do not see about your unloving appearance. Ask Him to reveal "any offensive way" toward your wife and daughter.

Yes, I agree that your wife and daughter personalize too much and wrongly accuse you of being unloving when the fact is you would die for them. However, every guy I know admits he could appear less unloving.

When a man is fatigued and frustrated, his default mode is to appear unloving. It makes little difference that our hearts are in the right place. Even yelling at a labrador--a sweet and sensitive spirit--crushes the spirit of that dog. It makes no difference how much the man loves his dog, his appearance is killing it.

Of course this example pales in comparison to the wife and daughter created in the image of God.

Bottom line, it makes no difference how much love we feel in our hearts, the question is simple: do they feel that we love them?

An honorable man recognizes that he must go beyond his feelings into their feelings, and trust that the women in his life are good-willed, tender people who have a need that only he can meet.

They are not trying to lie or to put him down, but they feel vulnerable around his masculine strengths.

Do you see this about you?

Ask God to show you, and then believe that you can carry the truth with a loving look and tone. You will not lose power, but gain influence over time. However you must discern your unconscious mistakes. You must learn to be conscious of what you are not conscious of.

-Dr. E