The Towel on the Floor

“They didn’t understand what He was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.” (Mark 9:32 NLT)

In our aging, my wife and I don’t remember things so well and, too often, disagree as to what we don’t remember. You know the drill: “Why’d you leave the door open? Don’t you know the dogs got out?” Response: “I didn’t leave the door open. It must have been you.” There’s no constructive end to that conversation, so we’re learning to cut each other some slack.

Now, as we see an open door, or whatever the case may be, “Hmmm, the door’s open. I don’t remember doing that, but it really doesn’t matter, I’ll close it and that will be the end of it.” We rarely argue anymore, because most of the time, a few minutes into our argument, we can’t remember why we were arguing. So, we conclude, growing old together isn’t all bad. Between us we have about half a memory.

Seriously, a lot of arguments between spouses, friends, fellow believers in Jesus, and even with our “enemies” (which typically translates – “those with whom we disagree”) are based on surface things – or are they?

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Newly weds often get confronted with their spouses bad habits, such as leaving their dirty laundry or towels on the floor. While single, living at home, we too often assumed mom would pick them up, so it’s not uncommon for our wife to say some version of: “pick up the ________, I’m not your mother!” Of course, these too often become “fightin’” words. Why?

In a Family Life devotion by Janel Breitenstein, she wrote: “Rather than jumping to conclusions based on the “skin” of an argument, seek to understand what motivates your spouse. Because it’s probably not the towel on the floor.”

The “skin” of the argument is the surface stuff – i.e. “the towel on the floor.” But what’s motivating the argument? What’re the deeper feelings that are being stirred? It’s different with different people, but could it be the fear I’m being seen as just someone to “pick up after you? To handle your dirty ‘laundry?’ To not be seen as the capable person I am?”

Are you looking through “ME” and seeing someone to serve your needs? Am I not a person? Am I simply a means to a very selfish end for you? Often, our own insecurities rear their ugly head when we’re threatened to believe something about ourselves we don’t want to be true. Am I too overprotective of my own feelings? Am I not good enough to deserve better treatment? Am I not worthy of respect? Am I not valued enough? Am I not deserving of love? Does no one appreciate me simply for me?

These and a thousand other questions surface in unexpected ways, often over very small issues, such as “the towel on the floor,” but what’s the “red flag” that’s being raised when that happens? I remember, my first wife and I were newlyweds, sitting on our old, worn couch watching our little black and white TV, in our three-room apartment. I was very comfortable, so I asked if she would get me something to drink. Now remember, she was sitting by me, also very comfortable. So, she replied: “Are your legs broke?”

That was a defining moment for me, and us. She made it very clear that she was my wife, not my servant, which, honestly, I needed to know. But what kinds of other questions are really being raised in the arguments that ensue over very minor things? Let’s look at this more closely in tomorrow’s post.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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