Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David Hawkins, director of the marriage recovery center, will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Watch out!" my wife shrieked as we headed for home after spending the evening in town.
Startled by her cry, I yelled back, "What?" while continuing to switch lanes. No sooner had I barked out my words than I saw what had concerned her. There in the blind spot of my car was another car swerving to miss me.
My heart pounded not only from my wife's reaction, but the now-obvious near-mishap. Had my wife not sounded her cry, I might have hit the car moving up on me.
"Whew!" I said, adding an apology. "I'm sorry for barking at you. Thanks for warning me about that car."
"Didn't you see that car?" she asked anxiously.
"No, I didn't see him at all. I'm sorry."
I continued driving, reflecting on what just happened. If my wife had not warned me, would I have careened into the other car? What would have occurred had there been an accident with both cars traveling at sixty miles an hour?
Interestingly, my first reaction to my wife's warning was not one of thankfulness but irritation. I was not immediately thankful for her assistance in averting disaster, but annoyed. I reflected on how often that is the case with the rest of my life. I don't welcome her helpful feedback, but become defensive when she points out my blindspots. Last week, we focused on the need to be wise in how and when we give advice. This week, let's explore the importance of receiving advice.
My wife's words, and my immediate reaction to them, reminded me of an email I received recently, illustrating this point.
Dear Dr. David. I'm not sure what to do about my husband's reaction to any suggestions I make to him. I see many things he is doing with his life that bring trouble into our lives, such as his spending habits, his addiction to video games, and the way he ignores our daughter. Each of these areas cause me real concern, but he won't listen to me. He says I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I can assure you that each of these issues is a big deal and may be the cause of our marriage ending. How can I tell him that these problems are real, and that if he won't listen to me, we could end up divorced one day?
This email highlights my point: we have blind spots that can kill us, and our prideful defensiveness must be dealt with if we are to grow. Like my wife warning me of danger, we need others to point out our blind spots, and refusal to learn from others is not only foolish, but dangerous.
What can we do to learn from our mistakes? How can we lower our defensiveness so that we recognize our blind spots and learn to eliminate them? Here are a few suggestions.
First, develop an attitude of receptivity to feedback from your mate. Rarely do our mates come to us with malicious intent, but rather with feedback that will help us grow. Learn to see our mate as a messenger of information that helps us, not harms us.
Second, rid yourself of arrogance and pride that suggests you know it all and don't need helpful feedback. We all have blind spots and need others to point them out. We are blind to these areas of difficulty—hence the words ‘blind spots.' We will never be able to fully see them, and must have an attitude of humility and teachability.
Third, apply this feedback to your life. Welcome feedback that will help you grow, show your mate that you are willing to put their feedback into action. Humble and teachable, grow from the feedback, decreasing your blind spots. Your mate will appreciate this attitude and you putting their advice into action, improving your marriage.
Fourth, notice how this receptivity increases immediate contact with your mate. Willing to listen and learn from your mate, notice how you are appreciated. Notice how your mate feels safer in approaching you with critical information, and learning from this feedback, problems diminish. With problems eliminated, there is greater room for intimacy.
Finally, ask God to help you become a stronger, wiser individual from the feedback received. Seek areas to apply your new-found wisdom. Ask God to deepen your faith and your marriage because of these new applicable truths.
Please share your thoughts on this topic of ‘blind spots.'
March 16, 2010
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the marriage recover center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including dealing with the crazymakers in your life, 90 days to a fantastic marriage, and saying it so he'll listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.