Have you ever heard of a minister who "was a good man, but his wife ruined him by talking too much"? This is a regrettable state of affairs, as everyone knows, and fortunately it is not true in the majority of cases. But allowing that it is true in some in stances, it may be of help to air some observations that I as a minister's wife have made.
I do not profess to know why some women talk more than others, any more than I know why the same holds true of some men, but I suppose the main reason might be that they enjoy talking. Talk is not always harmful, neither is it always harmless, so for those who do a lot of talking constant vigilance is required to guard against words that might be detrimental in their influence to themselves as -well as to others.
Home is the place where love, peace, and contentment should reign, but disappointingly enough the home in some instances is the place where one gives vent to injured feelings and hurt pride. This should not be true of the Christian home, and certainly not of the minister's home. "Parents, when you feel fretful, you should not commit so great a sin as to poison the whole family with this dangerous irritability." Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 386.
Setting the Stage for Trouble
As soon as a husband opens the front door his wife can be sure of his state of mind if he is wearing a dejected, downcast expression, says nothing at all, and retires to his study as though he were headed for the electric chair. This atmosphere of gloom infiltrates into every nook and cranny of the house until even the children are led to inquire, "What's wrong with daddy?"
Having perhaps read that "they [ministers' wives] can cheer them [husbands] when responding, comfort them when cast down, and encourage them to look up and trust fully in God when their faith fails" (Ibid., p. 139), the wife may quietly ask, "Did something go wrong today?" to which her husband is very apt to grunt an abbreviated "M-m." This leaves the wife feeling completely helpless. Not wishing to pry, she tries to smooth over the situation by preparing his favorite food, and answering the phone and the doorbell to relieve him of any added annoyances.
This unpleasant mood may continue for days, or it may end after one night of good rest, to be repeated as soon as the next major problem arises to cause the minister undue anxiety. The family feel that they are being blamed for church problems, and the children always wonder what frame of mind their father will be in when he returns home. With the father who drinks this is not an uncommon situation, but it does seem quite out of place for the Christian father, and even more so for the Christian minister.
The convenient time may arrive when the husband decides to tell his wife about the bur den he has carried so silently and yet so obviously for days. By this time he may have be come reconciled to the circumstances and feel much relieved in mind, but in the meantime his wife has been building up a real resentment to the problem and its unidentified human components, because of the effect it has had on her home and family. While her husband was so emotionally upset she was developing her own state of emotions, so that the stage was all set and waiting for the curtain to be drawn for her act in the scene. As soon as he tells her the facts as he sees them, her blood pressure starts rising. To think they would treat her husband like that! Why should they make a doormat of him? Why does he have to be the goat? She tries to forget the incident, but the disparaging details keep turning over and over, stamping themselves more indelibly upon her mind, and injecting themselves more deeply into her "defense mechanism."
While in this whirl of emotions she has a caller. Although she had no intention of mentioning that specific episode, the caller unwittingly brings up the problem. Almost before realizing it, the wife hastens to her husband's rescue with a deluge of unwise, and possibly revengeful, words. Of course he was right! Naturally. But it may be that in the opinion of this caller her husband was all wrong; so the story is off to a good start and goes its rounds be sure of that before it is through.
In such instances the wife would have been wise to heed the counsel found in Testimonies, volume 1, written to a minister's wife who talked too much: "God does not wish us to hear all that is to be heard, or to see all that is to be seen. It is a great blessing to close the ears, that we hear not, and the eyes, that we see not." Pages 707, 708. Of course Satan was on the job, and doubtless arranged for the caller to be there at the crucial moment. Had she spent more time carefully and prayerfully considering the matter, she might not have expressed herself so freely.
How to Avoid Such Difficulties
Now, I don't have all the answers to this problem, but perhaps in order to avoid the embarrassing situation that this composite story illustrates, the husband might have left his cares on the doorstep before entering the house, come in cheerfully and greeted his family, then asked to be left alone in his study for a while. He would then be following the admonition, "Leave your business cares and perplexities and annoyances when you leave your business. Come to your family with a cheerful countenance." Ibid., p. 695. The wife would no doubt have cooperated willingly in keeping the children away, and would have gone about preparing the evening meal without the needless tension and worry set in motion by the husband's glum mood.
If at a later date he chose to tell his wife about the problem, she would not have remembered nor perhaps even known the unpleasant effect it had had on him; therefore she would not have been already conditioned to jump to the defensive at the first provocation.
Silence may be golden, but there are times when silence can speak louder than words. Facial expressions betray the thoughts. In my opinion it is far better for the husband to speak what is in his mind, if he is going to cause unnecessary suspense by absolute silence and a sullen disposition.
Perhaps those husbands who come home with a radiantly beaming countenance in spite of difficulties encountered during the day are those whose wives talk the least. Nevertheless, there is by no means any excuse for the wife's talking too much, for she must realize that controlling her own tongue has much to do with her husband's success in the ministry. A great responsibility rests upon her shoulders, and never should a mere love of talking permit her to forget that responsibility.