“How do I look?” I asked, turning one last time in the mirror before getting ready to leave for church.
“Hmmm, actually, I think those pants are a little tight,” said Josh, my husband.
We’d only been married about a year and this was the first time Josh had ever said anything negative about my clothes.
“Well, I’ve had these pants for years and wear them all the time. If they were tight, why have you never said anything before?” I shot back hotly.
“I don’t know,” Josh said. “Maybe I never noticed?”
“How could you not notice if they’re too tight on me?” I exclaimed. “And if you never noticed, maybe they’re actually not too tight!”
Josh looked confused. “Look, I don’t know about all of that, all I know is you asked me right now and I told you what I honestly thought. Why did you ask?”
“Because I thought I looked fine and was all ready to go and now I have to change!” I said angrily.
But even as I pulled a new pair of pants out of the closet I knew I was over reacting. I’d asked the question expecting a response of affirmation, not criticism. And I’d gotten an answer I didn’t expect.
That was eight years ago.
I was reminded of this episode in our early-married life recently when Josh came back from getting together with a few guy friends. The topic of dress had come up and some of the men had agreed that neither one of them were completely honest with their wives when it came to the way their spouses dressed.
“I just tell her she looks good, even if I don’t like her outfit,” one man offered. But truth be told, he didn’t like the way his wife dressed sometime.
The other husband had attempted to purchase his wife a shirt he liked, but the gift had bombed and he wasn’t interested in trying that again.
That’s when I realized that it counts when it comes to being honest about the little things.
I’ve learned a thing or two since that day in front of the mirror eight years ago. I learned to trust my husband’s honest constructive criticism without over reacting. Well, most of the time.
If I overreact to Josh’s heartfelt honesty about an issue, I’m going to shut him down. He’ll eventually stop sharing truthfully with me—even about how I look—because he’ll know I’ll just get mad at him. Or I’ll just ignore him and do my own thing. I don’t want to be so sensitive and thin-skinned that I take offense at a genuine criticism offered by the person most important to me.
The fact is I value my husband’s assessment of who I am and the things I do. I’m reminded of Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” My husband is my best friend. I should be willing to accept hard words from him, even if it hurts. I’d rather have him share open and honestly with me rather than just say words that he thinks I want to hear.
This goes way beyond whether my pants are too tight. My husband reads my writing and points out an unclear thought or bad grammar. When I used to do graphic design he’d let me know when a design wasn’t up to par. And you know what? By doing so he’s always pushed me to excel instead of settle. Whatever I was trying to accomplish got better as a result. When I’ve been too close to something and can no longer see objectively, he can come in with fresh eyes and offer invaluable advice.
And I don’t want to give that up.
On the flip side, when he compliments me or tells me I’ve done a good job on a project I know he means it. He’s not just saying it so we don’t get into an argument. I can trust his praise is genuine and it means even more.
If I want my husband to take my opinions, suggestions, and criticisms seriously, then shouldn’t I respect his too? It goes both ways. I don’t want him to turn a deaf ear on my perspectives, whether it’s as trivial as his clothes or something as important as how we spend our money.
So now when I turn to Josh and ask, “How do I look?” I really mean it. Honestly.