One of the biggest blessings of sitting in a good women’s class is finding out that many marriages are like yours, and so are many husbands, at least in some ways. That is the light bulb moment I spoke of.
We were studying Hannah and shaking our heads at Elkanah, who was the typical oblivious man. Despite the fact that the scriptures call Hannah and Peninnah “rivals,” the same word used in Num 10:9, “when you go to war against an enemy,” he either didn’t notice the obvious tension in the household or he thought it trivial.
“Why are you so upset?” he asked Hannah. “Aren’t I better to you than ten sons?” That was supposed to not only assuage a bitter conflict in his home, but overcome a cultural stigma that weighed on Hannah every hour of every day. Really?
My first inclination was to call him an egomaniac (“aren’t I better…?”), then unfeeling, or at best clueless. But another woman pointed out that he obviously loved Hannah. Look at the special way he treated her, and the point he made of doing it before others when the family offered sacrifices at the tabernacle. A real jerk wouldn’t have done that. He was simply being a man.
So, over the years, we have learned to point out “man things.” We say to our younger women, “He didn’t mean anything by it, honey. It’s a man thing.” The point isn’t that men do not necessarily need to learn to do better, but that women need to stop judging them unfairly, as if every time they do one of those things, they are deliberately setting out to hurt them. Nonsense! They have no idea they are hurting you. They love you and if they did think it might hurt you, they wouldn’t do it. That little bit of wisdom has brought a lot of us through some tricky moments in our marriages.
Unfortunately, we do that to one another in the church too. It can’t be that nothing was meant about us specifically when a comment was made—it simply must have been meant as an insult or a hurtful barb. It escapes us that we are talking about people who love one another, and even though we are supposed to be loving them too, we automatically assume the worst. It is the worst kind of egotism to imagine that every time anyone speaks or acts they have me in mind.
I tried to look this attitude up in a topical Bible and do you know where I found it? Under “uncharitable” and “judgmental.” Isaiah talks about people “who by a word make a man out to be an offender” (29:20,21). Isn’t that what we are doing when we behave in such a paranoid fashion? It isn’t anything new. People have been making false judgments, jumping to the worst conclusions possible, for as long as there have been people.
What did the Israelites say to Moses? “You brought us out here to die” (Ex 14:11,12). Really? He certainly put himself to a lot of unnecessary grief if that was his purpose. He could have just left them in Egypt and they certainly would have died as oppressed slaves.
Eli watched Hannah pray at the tabernacle where she and her family had come to worship and accused her of being drunk (1 Sam 1:14-17). Talk about being uncharitable.
Actions like those do not come from a heart of love. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, 1 Cor 13:7, which means I put the best construction on every word or action of another, not the worst. It means I am concerned about how I treat them in my judgment of them, rather than being concerned with how they are treating me. If I am not careful, I may be the one with the ulterior motives.
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses, Prov 10:12.