Wine, Waiters, and Rorschach Tests

The ancient Greeks thought that the best way to discover a person’s true character was to serve them a couple glasses of wine. As inhibitions fell, underlying personality traits would shine forth. This is the philosophical underpinnings of the modern-day business party — get people to let down their guard and loosen up, so that you can see what they are really like.

The Waiter Rule is another tool employers commonly use when evaluating potential hires. Interviews are conducted over lunch, where the applicant’s treatment of the wait staff can be closely observed. His kindness to the girl refilling his water-glass tells much more about his true character than his courtesy to a prospective employer.

For years, psychologists have used inkblot or Rorschach tests to analyze personality types. The patient is shown a series of nondescript splotches of black on white and asked to identify the shapes. If every inkblot looks like a monster with fangs, there is likely an underlying problem.

Wine, waiters, Rorschach tests — each of these methods have proven helpful at revealing what a person is really like.

When a post my wife wrote a few weeks back went unexpectedly viral, we discovered a new way to find out what people are really like — by reading their blog comments and associated discussion boards!

The anonymity of the internet is the electronic equivalent of a couple of drinks. People tend to let their hair down when they are online. Some let it way down. And then, much like a waiter, the blogger is put at the mercy of the commenter.

But angry, hateful replies reveal more about the person leaving the comment than about the post they’re attacking, especially since hurling abuse at a blogger is even less risky than being mean to a waiter: a blogger isn’t going to spit in your food.

If you are reading this, you may already be familiar with my wife’s blog 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband and my corresponding blog 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. We wrote these posts the same week we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary, to commemorate the 25 happy years we’ve spent together.

These articles have enjoyed immense popularity/notoriety, with well over three million views and 400,000 pins on Pinterest, not to mention the 1000+ comments they have generated. We’ve passed through as many of these comments as we could, both good and bad.

The positive replies were full of kudos and encouragement. The negative replies were full of indignation and outrage.

We normally edit out curse words, but a few of the dissenting opinions were so vile in language or imagery that they couldn’t be cleaned up adequately to publish. The discussion boards were even worse, enough to make a sailor blush. While it does not bother us that some readers disagree with our ideas, we’d prefer that they do so in a well articulated, intellectually honest, and mutually respectful way.

What we found most striking about the negative responses — once we moved beyond the foul language — was the vehemence and venom with which many were written. Pure, undiluted anger. You could almost sense the writers’ blood vessels about to burst as they pounded out their comments on their keyboards.

Whenever you give a two stimulus and get a ten response, there is eight of something you don’t know about contributing to the reaction, especially when literally hundreds of thousands of people think the stimulus/blog is terrific. It made me wonder more than once what is smeared on the windshields of some people’s lives that makes such a beautiful thing appear so ugly to them.

The next thing that seemed almost universal to the negative responses was that Self is clearly on the throne. Positive responders seemed to understand that putting your partner first is the bedrock of a healthy relationship. The dissenters made it abundantly clear in tone and just as often in words that their marriage is more about what they get than what they give.

Of course, no one likes to be considered self-centered, so some of them tried to get partial credit as a caring person by slipping in the old, “I respect my husband, but…” Then they’d list all the ways they refused to show it.

If somebody tells you, “I’d love to come to your party, but…,” you can be fairly certain that they aren’t coming.

The last thing we couldn’t help but note was the hypocrisy displayed by many of these writers on virtually every level possible. If asked about “hate speech,” I’m certain that every negative responder would decry it. Yet many of them had entire websites dedicated to mocking and attacking Christianity in the most abusive ways they could come up with. Many insisted that women should be free from oppression, then proceeded to cuss out a sweet stay-at-home grandma who was just trying to celebrate her silver anniversary. They argued that women should have their own voice, but repeatedly and systematically tried to block my wife’s blog on Pinterest. They insisted that women should make their own choices, then venomously berated my wife for making hers, calling her life “worthless” and her choices “disgusting.”

The message they sent was clear: “Don’t let a man abuse you… that’s our job!”

What is amazing to me is that, through it all, my wife has maintained her serenity. I asked her whether she were bothered by all the angry comments, and — here again — her response speaks volumes to her character.

“I’m not bothered in the least for my own sake,” she assures me, “but I feel sad for theirs. It makes me want to pray for them.”

So that is what we have committed to do. We are praying that their hearts and eyes would be opened and their lives would be blessed.

Jesus said, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.” (Matthew 5:44)

If you have been following this blog and understand the concept of unconditional love, we invite you to join us is praying for those who need it most. Pick a name or two from the negative responses and lift them up in prayer over the next week or month or year.

If — on the other hand — you hated these blogs, feel free to send us a railing reply. We’ll be happy to add you to our prayer list!

The Road Less Taken

My wife asked me to write the foreword to her first book. Here’s what I wrote.

The Road Less Taken

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14 (NIV)

This is the story of the road less taken.

Are you being herded along the highway of conventional wisdom, jostled by every whim and worry? Are you marching lockstep with hordes of unhappy people to destinations unknown? Are you starting to question where you are going? Why you are going there? And how come everyone seems so miserable along the way?

Then push your way to the edge of the crowd. You may have a bit of a struggle because everyone is packed in so tightly. You may step on some toes. You may get some angry looks as you squeeze by. You may even hear a few harsh words muttered in your direction. Just apologize and keep moving.

Once you break free of the masses, look down the little knoll into the meadow below. Can you see the narrow trail of pushed-down grass cutting through the field of green? Let your eyes follow it until it disappears into the golden wood. Now look at the forest. See the trees as they sway gently in the breeze. Notice the glint of sunshine in the distance, perhaps from a hidden lake, and the little wisp of smoke rising as though from a single chimney.

Turn back around and look at the crowd. Most of the people are expressionless, sullenly tramping along. Some are angry, shoving and elbowing their way forward along the giant conveyor belt that reaches to the horizon. Here and there you see an occasional smile. Your previous companions have moved on and are disappearing into the distance.

Now you face a decision. Do you rejoin the crowd or follow that little grassy trail to see where it leads?

This book is a letter home from someone who took the little grassy trail.

It has been my privilege to hold the author’s hand and walk side by side with her along that trail for the past twenty-two years. Nothing you read here is hypothetical. It is all very real. She has lived out daily every single bit of advice she gives. Although it is packed with scientific studies and Scripture references, her book is as much a journal as anything else: a very personal answer to the question, how do you make it all work?

In fact, this book is just the first of a three-part series answering that very question. Each installment is written in the spirit of Titus 2:3-5, which tells older women to encourage younger women to “love their husbands, love their children, and to be workers at home.” The series gives a detailed description of what each of these three imperatives looks like in a modern context. This first book deals with successful husband-wife relationships. The second book addresses meaningful parent-child relationships. And the third gives practical advice on managing a home.

When you read these books, you will be challenged to step outside your comfort zone. You will be asked to be more than what you are, maybe more than what you think you can be. As you follow some of the advice, you may find yourself frustrated, skeptical, and possibly a little afraid. From time to time, you may even look back over your shoulder, across the meadow, at the slowly marching crowd and wonder if you made the right decision.

Fear not. What awaits you at the end of the trail is well worth it. I’ve been there. I know.

A Birthday Letter to My Oldest

Dear Jon,

Many people think that going off to college or getting married is the big leap to independence, but I think that getting a car of your own is when the transformation from child to adult really begins. In two days, you turn sixteen, and you will get your driver’s license shortly thereafter. In the years that follow, my responsibility for you will shrink, as yours for yourself grows. Many parents face this time with fear, but I face it with joy and absolute confidence that you will fulfill and exceed all my expectations for you. God has blessed you with a sharp mind, strong body, and sweet spirit, but has given you a “thorn in the flesh” (diabetes) to keep you humble, just as he did me (adoption).

I know you are well-equipped to face the three major choices life presents: choosing Christ, choosing a spouse, and choosing a career. The first you have already done, although in reality it is Christ who chose you and called you to Himself. The second is merely a matter of finding someone who loves God, is committed to marriage in general and to you in particular, and is compatible in temperament and ability with you. The key is to be the sort of person you want to marry (friendly, hardworking, etc.), look in the right places (church, not bars), and not waste time on relationships destined for failure (non-Christians, etc.). The third is an issue of finding something you enjoy doing, that is inherently good, but allows you to provide for your family. For me it was medicine, and I suspect for you it will be the same, but I leave that to you and the Lord.

Beyond that, life is merely a matter of finding a balance between the many things God has given us to do to serve Him, while keeping in mind His command to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love others as ourselves. There is really only one priority – serving God, but many manifestations of that goal. Taking care of ourselves physically by eating right, exercising, etc. is a part of serving God, just as taking care of ourselves spiritually by prayer, Bible study, and serving others is part of serving God. In fact, treating others the way we want to be treated is merely another way to honor and serve God. After all, people are eternal; everything else is temporary. I remind myself of this by never having anything I’m not willing to let go of and entrust to God, including my life, including my children, and including you.

I love you,

Dad