I am not a person who prefers to discuss very personal issues. And if I could forget a couple of things from my past I would choose to, but alas that is not how life works. But I learned the lesson of “public praise, private criticism” from my father after a very difficult time in my life and to explain how it had such a profound impact on me, I have to tell some of the backstory. Please know that I am offering up a huge amount of vulnerability and at the same time want to be gracious to all parties involved with the following story.
When people see this picture, feelings of happiness and memories of Christmas time possibly come to mind. However when I see this picture, I remember a very scary time in my life. I remember my first Christmas with Rebecca. She was 6 months old and I was a single mom.
When I was 7 months pregnant I discovered my marriage was unraveling. My life was turned upside down overnight. I called my dear friends in my small group from church and my family who all rallied around me. I spoke about it also with my group of friends from work. I was devastated and felt like I needed people to talk about it with. And at that point in my life, I couldn’t think or talk about anything but that. So I talked to almost anybody that offered an ear.
After Rebecca was born, I attempted to reconcile my marriage. My friends, coworkers, and family did not support my decision because, quite frankly, they knew too much. I had shared too much about our marriage struggles and issues to the point that they weren’t able to forgive or forget. It made reconciliation almost an impossibility. I was much more willing to forgive him because I still had a love for him that others didn’t comprehend.
When taking a walk with my father during those difficult months, I told him that I thought that I had sabotaged the possibility of reconciliation because my ex-husband felt judged by so many people in our lives. He felt exposed and that people knew too many details of what had occurred. He was right. The thought that kept coming up in my mind was that I had a responsibility as his wife to build him up, regardless of guilt or blame.
I shared these thoughts with my dad as we walked and he voiced the best advice I have ever received. He stated “Jennifer, always remember public praise and private criticism.” I never heard my parents say a bad word about each other in public. Never. It was a great example that was shown to both my sister and I.
Check out the picture above from about a year later. I don’t know if you can see it, but I had felt a peace and contentment come over me at the time this picture was taken. You see I met Jeff, the love of my life, and he took this picture on a trip to San Francisco to visit my parents. Not only did he love me but he loved Rebecca. And even more importantly, she loved him.
It was on that trip that Jeff proposed. During our courting, I told him about how I talked to my friends about the unraveling of my first marriage and how it still rubbed me the wrong way. Despite wrongdoings in my first marriage, I was responsible for my character and what came out of my mouth. I could control and be accountable for that. And I promised him that I would never say a bad thing about him outside of our home. And he promised me the same thing. And to this day, I would say we have done a pretty darn good job of it.
I have had people tell me that I must love fairy tales because my life always sounds like Disneyland. They have called me Pollyanna and Mary Poppins, and people have gone as far as telling me that I “blow sunshine” and that my life and family are perfect. In actuality, I have gone through more in 37 years than most people I’ve known. I went through a difficult time in high school with some health issues, divorce, and breast cancer. I know all too well about difficulties.
So, is my life perfect? Hardly. Is my marriage perfect? Nope, but Jeff and I work very hard at cultivating our relationship so that it’s pretty darn close. Are my kids perfect? Nope. They pick their noses, quarrel at times, struggle with some subjects more than others, can’t sit still and focus, etc. But I have a responsibility to my husband and to my kids to provide a safe haven, our home, in which they are safe to make mistakes. And thank goodness I have a safe place where I can be grumpy or irritable and not have to worry that my husband is going to go to work or to play golf with the guys and share all of those miserable details.
Jeff constantly tells me, “your coworkers think I’m perfect.” And my response is, “Well they should. I only tell them the perfect things.” And let’s face it, we all have people in our lives that constantly complain about their spouses, children, boyfriends, etc. They literally suck the life out of you. Let me encourage you to learn from my mistake over 13 years ago. Don’t do it. The power of the spoken word can damage people more than any weapon or fist. And often those words can be unrepairable. Let me encourage you instead to build your family members (and friends) up and only speak kindly of them in public. I guarantee your spouse and children will notice. And it will fill them up with an enormous amount of pride and security.
Life is tough enough without having our own close family members and friends tear it down for us. I am so thankful to have had good role models in my parents with building each other up in public. I also am thankful for that walk with my dad when I felt that I was dying inside as my marriage was unraveling but that he still spoke the truth to me as tears poured down my face. “Public praise, private criticism. Public praise, private criticism.” I hear it today just as loud as if my ears will never let me forget. And to this day, it is the best lesson that I have ever been taught.
Welcome back to the day of all pictures being shot in automatic with the flash and no knowledge of any photography.
If you are new to this site, I am in remission from cancer and am learning and experiencing life through my life list of 1300+ things and documenting them and other lessons I have learned or am learning along the way. You can read more here.
Also, every person on my blog roll to the right is insanely talented in their respective fields. But the greatest compliment that I can give each of them is that they are positive in their outlook on life and complimentary of their families. Not perfect but filled with grace. I highly recommend you visit their sites.