You’re a fixer. You may not be very good with your hands or with mechanics or with electronics, but you’re a fixer. When your wife or child comes to you with a problem or a complaint, you don’t respond by just feeling their pain, you offer them solutions. It’s what you do. Sometimes, that solution is a very practical one; one I’ll call the ‘hammer.’ You tell your wife, for example, “I’ll call the plumber and get the toilet repaired, then it won’t back up anymore.” Sometimes, the solution is an encouraging, emotional one; one I’ll call ‘duct tape.’ You tell your child, for example, “It’ll be okay. Let me kiss your boo-boo and it will start to feel better soon.”
You are designed to be a fixer, so fix you must. The question to be asked, with each scenario in need of fixing, is, “Which tool is the proper tool to use: the hammer or the duct tape?” To apply the hammer when duct tape is needed is to misread the nature of the situation. If your five-year-old scrapes his knee and complains of the pain, you use duct tape and tell him it will be okay. You don’t use a hammer, telling him you are going to amputate the leg so his knee won’t hurt anymore—at least, you don’t say that and mean it!
Here is a scenario in which we often find ourselves using the wrong tool: your wife has been homeschooling your children for a few years now and she has been doing all right. She gets stressed, and longs for Christmas and summer vacations, but she’s continuing on. One evening, you come home from work to find her hair frazzled, the house in disarray, her clothing covered with what looks like orange juice, and streaks of make-up down her face revealing the paths of tears. You ask her what is wrong and she unloads on you. The children have been unruly, Timmy doesn’t understand the math and she’s not sure she does either, Lucy can’t grasp phonics, and Sally refused to recite her memory work. Oh, and the house is a mess and she’s too tired and lacking the time needed to clean it.
You love your wife. I know it; you know it; she knows it. So, you do what you do best and you fix it. You look at the situation which is terrorizing your wife, and you pull out your hammer. You tell her, “If it’s too much, we’ll stop homeschooling the kids and we’ll find a good program that will help them get the Christian education we want them to have.” There will be professionals who can teach Timmy his math, Lucy her phonics, and Sally her grammar. The unruly kids will be out of her hair for part of the day, and she’ll have the time and energy to handle the other tasks around the house. You offer all of this because you love her and you want to protect her. You are coming from the right position, a needed position, but you might have grabbed the wrong tool.
Above is what you said; out of a desire to protect your wife, you told her you’d help find a program that can help your children. However, what she probably heard was that you don’t think she can do it and that you are going to find someone who can. Where you applied the hammer, she needed the duct tape. In applying duct tape, you would have heard her cries and told her you trust her; you believe in her; you know she can do this; you know the kids are learning. The power of your words, your encouragement, your duct tape would offer her those words and she would believe them. She would be energized by them. She would go forth with that encouragement the same way your child believes that you kissing her boo-boo will fix her knee.
In both situations, you’ve “fixed” the problem that your wife is facing. In the first, however, you did so in a way that demoralizes her. In the second, you did so in a way that builds her up. She can do it, she is capable, and she is worthy of your trust, so provide her with the caring, edifying words she needs to believe so herself. This is the power you have to fix something (with duct tape!) in a way that will enable it to actually work. Know this, though: sometimes second and third applications of duct tape are necessary. It doesn’t mean the duct tape isn’t working, and it doesn’t mean the duct tape is the wrong tool; it just means you need a bit more.