(An excerpt from Cultivating Love: When Secrets Surface by Dr Ken McGill)
(Excerpted from Section Two: Assessing the Soil). This section is about engaging in work that helps you to examine your heart, your behavior, and to see, hear and understand how your behavior has traumatized and deeply wounded your spouse (whether intentional or unintentional behavior). This process of self-examination and ownership provides the “spiritual visine and Q-tips” that help you to see and hear, but more importantly, to integrate, own and to begin to cultivate empathy, regarding how your behavior has hurt your spouse, or in some cases, each other. Truth and Empathy are powerful change agents as you consider the ingredients that are necessary for remediating the soil of marriage, healing the soul and the spirit of a person, in addition to reducing the shame associated with addictive behaviors.
The Truth is probably the most effective shame reduction “agent” (Phytoextraction) and one of the most powerful catalysts for growth (Phytostimulation) that I know of, especially when I think of engaging in processes and behaviors that will result in healing and enriching the soil of a relationship.
Speaking the Truth in Love (Ephesians 4:15) is effective, due to your willingness to engage in ongoing dialogues where clarity, transparency, introspection, ownership and responsibility are the order of the day, which potentially results in behavior that removes, detoxifies, and cleans up any unhealthy contaminants that currently pollute the garden of your heart, and the garden of your marriage.
Likewise, Speaking the Truth in Love also provides you with the opportunity to experience understanding, as the transformative and “healing” ingredients of insight, empathy, sympathy and compassion are integrated into your communication and behavior, and go a long way toward readying the soil of the heart for healthy, if not downright explosive personal and relational growth. Imagine looking at a field of black earth that has just been plowed and is ready for planting. In that condition, the soil is rich with nutrients and minerals, which suggest that almost anything could grow in it. This is the outcome we want to achieve, but the possibility to grow anything only occurs when the soil is detoxified, and that occurs when you are truthful to your God, to yourself, and to another human being, in this case, being truthful with your spouse.
The purpose of these two exercises is to provide you with information that will help you develop skills to “Know the Truth,” that is, to accurately identify your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are present in you (your reality), and to accurately identify the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that your spouse or partner demonstrates (his or her reality). Becoming skilled in knowing one another, then “assembling and integrating” the information you discover into a “picture” that helps you to understand your partner is a key spiritual behavior to cultivate. Why is this? Because we all want our “personal reality” to be understood. I’d venture to say that being loved could be at the top of the list of “intimacy needs” that are important to many people, and that Understanding probably runs a very close second. When you feel understood, then you have probably engaged in a “Speaking the Truth in Love” process where you felt safe to be open and vulnerable with your partner, and you were probably edified by them providing to you the fruitful behavior of empathy and compassion, which resulted in understanding, connection and hope, because both of you used your mind energy creatively and purposefully. You “grew” and were simultaneously edified by understanding, which is possible when you know, express, investigate, share and respect the truth that resides in your own heart and most importantly, within the heart of your spouse.
Practically, you are encouraged to approach these exercises as an opportunity to look at your own behavior, to see, hear, integrate and understand how your behavior has offended, harmed, wounded or traumatized your spouse, whether intentional or unintentional, then to engage in a process of “course correction” to help heal any infractions you have committed. Equally, you are encouraged to embrace and utilize these principles as a way to enhance and grow in your ability to become knowledgeable about the “heartbeat” of yourself and that of your spouse. Engaging in this process of self- and other examination will hopefully provide you with the “spiritual visine and Q-tips” that helps you to see and hear, but more importantly, to integrate, own and to begin to cultivate empathy, regarding how to move from harmful to heathy behavior, as you engage in a process that repairs the soil and prepares it for future growth.
As is often the case with paradoxes, telling the truth does not harm another, nor is it lethal, but on the contrary, provides a launching pad for you to build safety and healthy intimacy into your relationship with your God, your self, and it helps you and your spouse to connect, heal and growth together. Thank you for your desire and willingness to develop your ability to KNOW the TRUTH.