I enjoy a very occasional glass of wine, and this has become a bit of a problem between Korie and I. Okay, A LOT of a problem. In the early days of marriage we would be out at some restaurant enjoying a wonderful evening together until I would indicate my beverage of choice. Immediately Korie would shut down emotionally and look at me as if I was some detestable insect. Not one to be outdone, I would hit her with all of the passages in the Bible that validated my decision to imbibe. Jesus’ first miracle. Paul’s prescription to Timothy for what ailed his stomach. I’d even go Acts 10, Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 on her. Right there in the middle of the Cheesecake Factory I would conclude my defense by saying, “You do know I’m twenty-six, YEARS BEYOND the legal age for drinking. So if Jesus and Capitol Hill are okay with it, then I guess I’m good." I’d then take a few swigs of my Merlot and grin like a Cheshire cat.
It didn’t get better, only worse.
I remember getting so…so hacked off at the "Pharisee” for a wife God had given me, that I asked in the middle of like round forty over this drinking argument, “What’s your deal?”. What followed changed my life and settled the matter. In the middle of some restaurant Korie broke down and shared with me how everyone she had ever loved had abused alcohol. The near death experiences. Unpredictable home life. Seeing me with a wine glass in my hand lead her to conclude that I would be another certain victim. I think I ordered an Arnold Palmer that night.
Communication theorists tell us there’s five levels of communication. Ranking them in order from most superficial, to the most intimate:
1. Cliche/Non-sharing (Good morning! How are you? Fine. Nothing’s been said).
2. Facts/Sharing what you know (Who won the game?)
3. Opinion/Sharing what you think (Who will win the Superbowl? Falcons of course)
4. Emotive/Sharing how you feel (I’m angry, sad, fearful, hurt).
5. Transparency/Sharing who you are (I have a really hard time with self control.)
Maybe you’ve put it together by now, but the issue for Korie and I was not alcohol, it was that we were communicating on two different levels. I went facts (no offense to those out there who think drinking is wrong). The Bible says it. The government okays it. So let’s do it. Korie was at level four. She went feelings. When she saw me drink it brought up a history of bad experiences. It was only when I met her on her level of communication that we were able to get to understanding and journey deeper into oneness with each other.
This is the problem with discussions on race by the way. Pick a controversial topic, anyone. Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman. Jenna Six. Rodney King. My white brothers typically go level two in their communication. You know all facts. Well Zimmerman was within his rights. Trayvon didn’t have a clean record, he was a known drug user. Some funky stuff was happening in that neighborhood anyways. And according to the law Zimmerman was within his rights, or so the level two communication goes.
But what I want my white brothers and sisters to see is that when this happens we minorities aren’t communicating from level two, we’re level four. We FEEL violated. We FEEL like once again black life was devalued. We FEEL as if justice was aborted. And what we need at this moment is for you to set down your “wine glass,” come to our side of the table and try to FEEL what we FEEL. We can dispute facts all day long, but one can never argue feelings.
The only thing that’s going to get us to the other side of the table and do the work to get at a sense of understanding is love. The same love that compelled me to hear my wife’s heart, must the kind of love that allows us to enter into dialog with one another exploring more than facts, but feelings as well.