(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
Why do people blame their present behavior on their past experiences?
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and Power.
Colossians 2:8-10, NKJV
Malcolm and Dorothy sit, stone faced, across from the counselor in the consulting room, with an invisible wall between them. They are very busy Christians who have been married for twenty-two miserable years.
She says that he does not treat her like a doormat, but like the dirt under a doormat! She would do anything in the world for him, she says: “If only he would show some appreciation and give me just a little bit of affection and tenderness. But no, he just takes me for granted. AII he wants is for me to wash his clothes, cook his meals, and keep the house. He is a very proud, selfish, bad-tempered man given to very loud yelling.”
To show how inconsiderate he is, she told how he bought her the Lincoln she drives when he knew perfectly well that she wanted a Cadillac. She must even beg him for a meager allowance. But today, the counselor looks at a well groomed, elegantly dressed lady and observes that underneath the expensive clothing is a very hostile, bitter woman.
They live in a large, professionally decorated, color coordinated, beautifully furnished and landscaped house. They could not wish for a better air-conditioned place in which to carry on their bitter relationship. Their two children live on the opposite side of the country and as far away from their parents as they could get. The maid does her best to avoid getting chewed out by either one of them.
Malcolm sits there shaking his head, teeth clenched, as he listens to her side of the story. When it is his turn he describes her as a spoiled, selfish, demanding person. From the start of their marriage everything had to go her way, from keeping the house, to when they ate, choosing friends and activities, raising the children, choosing their clothes, and on and on. He finally gave up on her and concentrated on developing his business. He let her run the house and the family. He had his territory; she had hers. Their buffer zone was the children.
Now the children are gone and all that is left between them is mutual hostility and strong differences of opinion.
Malcolm had been raised in a lower class European family where the father called all the shots and the women followed instructions. His father had a violent temper and would abuse the family verbally and sometimes physically. Malcolm is much like his father, except he never physically abused anyone. He admits to being self-centered.
Dorothy grew up in an upper middle-class home. She had very few limits, was quite self-centered, and often pouted when she couldn’t have her way. She could be called a spoiled child. Her parents provided a stable home and her mother tended to dominate the family.
Obviously there is more to each of their histories. But at this point she will only admit to being a misunderstood lady and this brings great frustration to her.
When this couple began to seek help, they could have turned to a counselor with either a humanist or a biblical perspective. The two approaches would be quite different.