JENNIFER FLANDERS, Family Matters
My father was one of the friendliest, most gregarious men I’ve ever met. He loved people - but he also loved a spirited debate. Mom always said Dad would argue with a fence post. My mother was decidedly not fond of fiery discussions. She has always detested conflict of any sort.
Dad would often tease Mom, trying to get a rise out of her, but she would not be baited. He might as well have been arguing with that famed fencepost, for all the luck he had in drawing his wife into an argument.
By nature, I tend to take after my father, but by conscious effort, I try to follow my mother’s example.
Want to avoid angry arguments in your own marriage? Follow these 9 guidelines to keep tempers from flaring:
1. Practice attentive listening Pay attention to what your spouse is trying to say. Don’t just pretend to be listening while you mentally rehearse what you plan to say next. “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” – Proverbs 18:13
2. Demonstrate genuine love If you focus on the reasons you love your spouse instead of on the things that irritate you, you’ll be much less likely to say something you later regret. “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12
3. Maintain calm voices Don’t allow the pitch to creep up in your conversation. Maintain a gracious, soft-spoken demeanor at all times. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
4. Use word pictures Well thought-out analogies are a great way to communicate a concern without being abrasive and accusatory. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11
5. Keep sweet speech Let your words be filled with kindness and seasoned with grace; never resort to name calling or exaggerated accusations. “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” – Proverbs 16:21
6. Exercise patient understanding View the situation from another perspective. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and be empathetic. “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:29
7. Remain cool-headed Don’t be rash. Weigh your words carefully, always and only speaking the truth in love. “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” – Proverbs 15:18
8. Show sincere humility Rid your heart of all pride and condescension; neither serve any purpose but to stir up strife and discord. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6
9. Express earnest repentance Show appropriate, unfeigned remorse over any wrongdoing. Apologize for offensive things you have said or done without excusing your actions or casting blame on your spouse. “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19
Through her example, my mother taught me that I don’t always have to have the last word. I don’t need to drive home my point. I’m under no obligation to convince others I’m right.
It takes two to argue. Isn’t it liberating to know that? It takes two - and you don’t have to be one of them.
Jennifer Flanders still enjoys an occasional friendly debate, but does her best to keep the peace on the home front. You can read more from her on the topics of marriage and motherhood at http://lovinglifeathome.com