Hi, my name is David, and I am a recovering “nice” Minnesotan.
“Nice” Minnesotans are notorious about not saying what we think or sharing how we feel directly. That does not mean it never comes out. It just usually comes out passive aggressively, dontcha know 😉 While I love how neighborly my fellow Minnesotans can be, this is one vice we would do well to kick.
As things devolved in my first marriage, I started getting hints about this dysfunctional way of operating. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) has a way of shinning a light on such things. My supervisor in my residency named this dysfunctional pattern as implicit messaging versus explicit messaging.
What implicit versus explicit messaging means is that I operated by encouraging others to read my mind as opposed to explicitly stating what I wanted or felt. If they were good Minnesotans, they ought to know what the friendly and neighborly thing is to do, right?
This pattern led to cycles of frustration and anger for me as people will inevitably fail to read minds, and ergo, I would fail to get what I wanted. The frustration came both from not getting what I want and either not knowing what I wanted or realizing I had no legitimate reason to be mad for not asking in the first place. At least if you ask and get a “No,” you know why you are angry or frustrated.
Explicit messaging is the way to go with people who care.
It is even the way to go with people who don’t.
And I say it is even Biblical.
I look to the Sermon on the Mount to make this point:
Jesus tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8, NIV
This clarity of asking for what we want is important. How will you get anything if you never ask? By asking explicitly, you place yourself in a place to receive. It helps both the person we are approaching and ourselves. This is true both with people who are willing to grant our request and those who are not.
Dr. Dobson’s classic, Love Must Be Tough, encourages faithful spouses to lay out the options explicitly to their adulterous spouse. This is what I did in a hard but good message to my ex-wife. I gave up trying to control the outcome of the marriage and gave her a choice: A) Give up her adulterous relationship convincing me that she has completely closed the door to morally illicit relationships or B) lose my friendship forever.
She chose lose my friendship–a.k.a. take your friendship and shove it!
While the response stung at the time, I am grateful that I laid out the clear choice explicitly. I am glad I asked for what I needed to accept the divorce or move forward with true reconciliation. Today, I have much peace about the ending of my first marriage.