It’s not a matter of “IF” it’s a matter of “When”.
Put two people in a room – different backgrounds, personalities, experiences, sensitivities – and then throw in marriage and season it with a little sin and you’ve got the perfect recipe for conflict . . . sometimes very sharp conflict.
But, Lisa and me? Oh, we’re different. When it comes to marriage communication, we basically walk on water, never a harsh word passing between us. Isn’t that great?! So, being the picture of godly self-control and gracious communication, what follows applies to everyone else.
. . . and, if you believe that and are interested in owning your own star, I can get you a good deal on one within our galaxy!
No – the truth is that, while Lisa and I have a great marriage, we also can have our “moments” when we give way to our flesh. We don’t plan on it and it’s not common but, it does happen . . . like, two days ago.
That’s right, two days ago, when we had a sharp disagreement about a serious matter. (Now, of course, I was completely in the right and if Lisa would have taken the time to see things from my point of view this whole thing could have been avoided! *wink)
Seriously, even a solid marriage is not immune to sin . . . but, let’s remember, sin is a choice. It’s always a choice. It isn’t something that just happens to us when we’re not paying attention.
And, not too long ago, Lisa and I weren’t paying attention . . .
When it comes to our special needs daughter, Avonléa, Lisa and I are hyper-protective and the incident involved her: Enter Pit Bull with lipstick and underfed Grizzly Bear.
Lisa saw it one way; I saw it another . . . in other words, we both saw the situation from our own perspective.
Lisa may have the stature of a shrinking violet, but the force of her personality (when she lets it show, which happens rarely) is every bit as strong as mine. It wasn’t pretty.
We did get it resolved in a biblical manner, but it didn’t have to happen in the first place. The entire matter could have been diffused in seconds if . . .
. . . if I had responded differently.
How we respond in the moment of emotional intensity has the power to heal or destroy. When we respond, we are exercising power.
How Our Response Has the Power to Heal or Destroy
When you’re playing football, a strong defense is critical to winning. And I had a great defense (or so I thought), but we weren’t playing football.
This isn’t a sport. It’s marriage – it’s not about winning, it’s about relationship.
That is easy to forget when Pride starts cheering for your perspective in the middle of a disagreement. We often respond to our spouse bringing an offense to us like the defensive line at a football game – you’re not getting past the line of scrimmage. But when we are determined to win during relational disagreements and problems our marriage is always the loser.
The way we respond is a massive part of turning something small into something huge or transforming something serious into something seriously destructive.
How do you respond to your spouse when the heat of disagreement rises? Our flesh tells us one thing. The Bible tells us another. Our flesh tells us to meet intensity and anger with equal or greater force. The Bible says exactly the opposite: A soft answer turns away wrath. ~ Proverbs 15:1
A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath
A soft answer? Not exactly our first impulse in the heat of the moment, is it? In the context of an argument, our flesh translates “soft” as weakness, but nothing is farther from reality. Softness as a response to anger in interpersonal relationship is bursting with force and power.
What is in that “soft” answer that makes it so powerful in defusing anger? It has to do with from where that answer came.
A soft response comes from a heart of humility. Have you ever tried to have an argument with a humble person? It doesn’t work because it always takes two to have a heated argument and humble people don’t engage in those kinds of exchanges. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Only by pride comes contention:”
Regardless of how you were approached, responding to your spouse with a soft answer instantly communicates those things foundational to any valued relationship. Humility has a lot to say.
Humility says, I don’t automatically assume you are completely wrong and I am completely right.
Humility says, I would never just disregard your concerns. How you are feeling matters deeply to me.
Humility says, I am willing to take the time to truly listen to what you have to say.
Responding with a dismissive attitude (pridefully!) or in anger (also a prideful response!) is the easy road. What could be more natural to our sinful flesh? Responding to your spouse in humility with a soft answer is supernatural and happens only if we’re walking in the Spirit.
There’s no question that another opportunity for disagreement will arise in your marriage (and mine!) – probably sooner than later. If you want your marriage to win then win the battle against the natural impulse of your flesh to lash out with a harsh response.
Why not prepare now to respond with a soft answer and make a massive, positive difference in your marriage?
The next time I feel the temperature rising and I’m tempted to respond in the flesh to something my wife/husband says to me, please help me to listen to the voice of your Spirit. Help me to respond to the check in my spirit, reminding me to keep my emotions under control and to respond to my husband/wife with a soft answer. My flesh always wants to get defensive and lash out or just withdraw altogether. Please help me to love my spouse by walking in your Spirit and responding in a way that would please you. Help me to always remember the power of a soft answer.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Matt Jacobson is an author, president of Loyal Arts Literary Agency, and teaching elder in the local church. Most importantly, he’s married to Lisa and together they’re bringing up their 8 children on a small acreage in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. When they’re not gardening or reading, you’ll find them holding hands, sipping Peet’s coffee, or deep into conversation with some – or all – of their children. The Jacobsons are authors of several books, including a winner of the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal for children’s literature. Matthew is the author of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife, companion book to 100 Ways to Love Your Husband.