When elephants live in a tree

A dear friend once compared my marriage as similar to two elephants living in a tree—it’s possible, she said, but could get very uncomfortable at times.

My friend was “colorful” with the way she described situations, and after almost 24 years of marriage, there are times it does get a bit cramped in our little tree.

I can’t speak for other marriages because I really don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but I can say at our house we do get upset with each other for having differences in how we feel and think.

It’s not right to blame and resent each other for being different, and I am beginning to learn that through some difficult times.

Sadly, I must admit that for many years I spent too much time and energy being angry and frustrated over something I couldn’t control or change. Whatever those differences were, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

It didn’t stop with my family, either. I found myself resenting others, too, whe­ther at work or in dealings generally with people.

Funny how I rarely reverse my anger and frustration and blame myself for being different.

What I need to continue learning is that when I blame someone in my family, at church or in professional circles, there’s also something wrong with me.

Not always, but oftentimes when someone quits a job, it’s because of the inability to get along with others. The person believes he or she have been treated unfairly or are bitter for one or more reasons.

The point is that resentments never produce respect and friendship.

In fact, the opposite is true. Differences with someone generally become a source of retaliation, anger, bitterness and counteraccusations.

It’s sad how many times I have blamed my spouse or someone else for being different than me as if it were a moral defect or intentional act on their part.

Of course, being unfaithful, lazy or lacking effort in a relationship can also eat away at harmony, inserting in its place obstacles too great to overcome for compassion and understanding.

One story I remember reading compared a troubled relationship to a game of tennis.

One person wanted to play tennis so much she got the tennis rackets out, proper clothes, tennis shoes and waited on the court for her partner to get in the game.

The partner, however, chose instead to sit on the bench with his shoes, clothing and racket laying beside him making no effort to play.

Another analogy was of a couple pulling a horse cart filled with a heavy load that required the couple working together. But, all of a sudden, one of the partners decided to sit on a nearby rock and watch as their partner pulls the heavy cart alone.

Laziness or lack of effort in each of these scenarios is enough to try anyone’s patience and understanding.

But an affair with someone can result in a marriage ending quickly. There is someone to blame.

In a recent article I read about forgiving our differences, the author, Ron Rohlheiser, questioned who is to blame or who’s at fault?

He said if anyone is to blame, let’s blame nature and God.

“We can blame nature for its prodigal character, for its overwhelming abundance, for its staggering variety, for its billions of species, for its bewildering differences within the same species, and for its proclivity to give us novelty and color beyond imagination.

“We can also blame God for placing us in a universe whose magnitude, diversity and complexity befuddles both the intellect and the imagination. Our universe is still growing both in size and in variation, with change as it’s only constant.”

Rohlheiser said God and nature, it appears, do not believe in simplicity, uniformity, blandness and sameness.

“We aren’t born into this world off conveyor-belts like cars coming off a factory line.”

But, Rohlheiser said, blame isn’t the proper verb here, even if in our frustrations with our differences we feel that we need to blame someone.

“God and nature should­ not be blamed for providing us with so much richness, for setting us into a world with so much color and variety, and for making our own personalities so deep and complex.

“How boring life would be if we weren’t forever confronted with novelty, variety and difference. How boring the world would be if everything were the same color, if all flowers were of one kind, and if all personalities were the same as ours.

“We would pay a high price for the easy peace and understanding that would come from that uniformity.”

Rather than be angry at someone because they feel or think differently, the challenge should be in understanding and sharing the feelings of another, forgiveness and peacemaking.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reach her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com.