GM,

Looks like this might be time to speak again of repentance...

The word repent has often been interpreted to denote a change in the way we act. We once did ___ and no longer do ___ and so we have repented. While our actions might have changed, it is still incumbent upon our own will and effort in order to keep those changes moving along. What it requires is for us to constantly override our own instincts and even long standing habits that come from our own experiences in life.

The word itself is in two parts. The first, "re-" means what we have come to think of it as meaning. "re-" before any term or action, implies to do that action again, or to "REpeat" that action. While I am referring to actions here, I am not talking about repeating just acting a new way and the second half of the word explains why this is true.

The second part of the word repent means to think. So the word in whole means to REthink, or literally to have a second thought, as in "I was doing X, but on second thought, I will do Y."

What this means is that what we do changes, but it changes because we think differently and not simply because we have acted differently. Our changed actions happen because we are thinking differently and not just because we are working to change the consequences of our actions. We choose to do something else because we now see that something else as the RIGHT choice and not simply as the choice that will result in our being perceived as a better person.

So real repentance means that we change what we do BECAUSE we think in a different way and not only as the result of our own will and ability to overcome our ingrained way of doing things in the past. It is the new thinking process that results in new habits and not merely stopping ourselves from doing things the way we have always done them.

Dr Harley's most basic concept of all of his basic concepts is that no matter what we do, it affects our spouse either positively or negatively. It is learning to act from this place of understanding that leads us to begin to put the feelings and needs of our spouse into proper perspective. It is understanding that before anything at all is done, what it will do to DWG's feelings is not just considered but addressed as being more important than the action itself.

When this sort of foundational change happens, the efforts to change behavior are easily redirected toward the changes that are needed. Once grasped, this leads us to ALWAYS be considerate above our own choices and in so doing, to make the right choice more often and more consistently than by sheer force of willing ourselves to do something in a different way than the way we have been accustomed.

This is what leads to true empathy for our spouse. It is KNOWING that what we do is not done in a vacuum nor is it done without causing a reaction in the emotional state of our spouse. It affects EVERYTHING we do because the reasons we do those things has changed.

And just so you (and anyone reading along) understand that I am not talking about putting your wife FIRST, above your own needs, desires and wants. I am talking about realizing that no matter what we choose to do, our spouse is affected by it since the marriage has created a special, not just connection, but relationship between us that is unlike any other relationship we ever have. Things done in the present affect the future in ways that must be considered BEFORE choosing what we will do today, even right this second.

This shift in thinking results in not only reduction in IB but also increases honesty since unless we can create true intimacy in the marriage in which we are both known fully and know and understand the other, it can become paralyzing to us to have to check with each other before doing something as simple as deciding what to order for lunch when not with each other. Only by KNOWING each other fully, and BEING KNOWN by the other can we begin to make choices that are best for BOTH of us and the two of us together rather than simply what makes us feel good, look good or seem good at the time. It changes from being seen as the right person into BEING the right person.

Mark