By Don Gentry
If there is a universal truth about relationships, it’s that arguments are inevitable. Even in the happiest and healthiest relationships, there are moments of tension and disagreement. With this in mind, we can see the importance of knowing how we can argue well with those we love.
I would like to share with you five tips that I have learned after 18 years of marriage that can transform our relationships.
1. Guard Your Tongue.
If we could bring our tongues into alignment with the word of God, ALL of our relationships would prosper.
The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things.
Proverbs 15:28 (HCSB)
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
Matthew 15:18 (NIV2011)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
James 3:9-10 (NIV2011)
Our tongue is a world of evil. It can create a world of hurt if we are not careful. I could list multiple other scriptures that have to do with learning how to control our tongues, but let me close this point with one last passage about our “words.”
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV2011)
When you argue, remember that the goal is to resolve the situation, not make it worse. Our words, if not carefully chosen, in the heat of the moment can create much more harm than good. If we really love and value the other person then we will learn to control our tongues.
2. Don’t Bring Up Past Occurrences; Stay On Point.
Parents and spouses, please learn to stay on task with the actual point of the argument. If you can’t figure out your main point, then you are not ready to enter into an argument, you are simply ready to fight.
When you are angry, make sure you take enough time to actually figure out why you are angry. I have seen many individuals take out all their frustrations from work, driving, internal strife, etc. in an argument with their spouse, or children. The topic of the argument changes with the whim of the individual’s emotions, and by the time the argument/lashing is done, so many things have been spewed that we have no idea what was being resolved.
In the heat of the moment, please don’t throw in your spouse or children’s face past arguments or wrongs. If you “say” you have forgiven them, then those past grievances are dead. They are left in the past. Regurgitating them simply means that you have not dealt with the issues or put it to rest.
3. Give Up Your Right to “Win”!
This is a tough one, especially if you like to debate or are competitive. In fact, this is admittedly what I have to keep in check whenever I find myself in any discussion/argument. I found very early in my marriage that if I argued my point (which I can do well) I found that I would shut my wife down. I can shut my children down just as quickly.
For example, my natural inclination is to know what I believe, that I think I am right, and that I can defend my beliefs well, BUT I love the other person more than me and the only way I am going to hear what they have to say is if I keep my mouth shut and listen. That doesn’t mean I don’t share my opinion, it means I don’t have to win! Remember it is about what is helpful for building others up, not building myself up.
4. Don’t Go to Bed Angry!!!
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)
Again if we could actually put into practice what the Bible says it would benefit our relationships greatly and alleviate an incredible amount of internal strife. There was a moment in time where my wife and I had come to a point of disagreement. We talked about it, we shared our frustrations, but I was still very angry.
I did not go to bed that night. In fact I stayed up and hit the heavy bag in the basement for hours. I had to do a great deal of introspection while “exercising.” What I discovered is that a great deal of my frustration with our current argument was a manifestation of what was going on at work that I had no control over. We can look back and laugh about that night, but that night was not filled with laughter. Staying up and processing my anger, not feeding my anger, resolved the issue without hurtful words being said.
5. Don’t Harbor Bitterness. Learn to Forgive!
Last but not least, don’t hold onto past hurt and pain. It breeds bitterness and anger. It is from this root of bitterness that our angry words stew and breed, then when the floodgates of anger open, out comes a cesspool of hurtful words.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Ephesians 4:31 (NIV2011)
The reality is you are going to get angry. You are going to have arguments, and disagreements. If you don’t, then there are other issues that I don’t have time to discuss. The Bible doesn’t instruct us not to get angry, it says don’t sin in our anger. God wouldn’t give us these instructions if he didn’t give us the ability to fulfill them. Learning how to implement these truths takes time.
In order for any of this to be made possible you will need three words to become a sincere part of your language. . .
I AM SORRY!
If you don’t or can’t utter those words with sincerity, then I can assure you that you have not learned to fight fair. A genuine apology and position of humility will help you learn to put into practice these five key elements. I pray that we can all do a better job of living these truths out in all of our relationships.