As a child, I remember my mom telling me repeatedly that a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). I didn’t always want to hear it, but she was certainly correct (as was King Solomon)! There is something so powerful in how we speak to one another. The same statement can be taken with ease or with anger depending on how we say it. If you get married and get in the habit of being snippy with your spouse, you can expect your spouse to eventually get tired of it and retaliate in anger. If you are in the habit of being snippy, you might not even realize when you’re doing it!
In addition to how we speak to each other, there is something to be said for how often we speak to each other. Good conversation is wonderful, but in the case of conflict, less is more. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” So many arguments would end before they began if couples would put this verse into practice.
- Quick to Hear – When we have a difference of opinion with someone, it is natural to want to impose our views on the other person. Sometimes we try to out-yell each other, determined to have our point heard. This is both disrespectful and unproductive. When we force ourselves on others they have no interest in what we have to say. All too often these conflicts end with someone throwing his or her hands in the air and saying, “Forget it!” But what if we did what James 1:19 says? What if we stopped and listened? What if our first response was to hear and understand what our loved one was trying to say? Some arguments would never begin because it would become clear at the start that the disagreement is just a misunderstanding. Some arguments would be cut short because the other person just wanted to be heard and understood. You will gain the respect of others faster if you listen to them and seek to understand their points of view.
- Slow to Speak – Some things are better left unsaid. There are many times I have had excellent zingers or comebacks that I felt I could not hold inside; but, after I flung them onto Eric, I immediately regretted saying them. You can’t get words back. One time I heard a man tell parents to sit their kids in front of a tube of toothpaste and a plate. Then to have the kids squeeze the tube of toothpaste out onto the plate (big fun for sure). After squeezing out all the toothpaste, he told parents to give the kids the task of putting the toothpaste back into the tube. After watching the kids struggle to put the toothpaste back in the tube, the parents were instructed to show their children how it is easy for something to come out of our mouths, but impossible to put back into our mouths. Remember that what you choose to say to your spouse, whether hurtful or loving, will be out of your mouth forever. The more hurtful it is, the less likely your spouse will be to forget it. No matter how many compliments you give him or her, they will never take away the hurtful words you said to your spouse. Sobering.
- Slow to Anger – When we are living life void of humility, it is natural to get angry at a moment’s notice. Think about it. If everything is about me, then it would make sense for me to become angry when I was mistreated or inconvenienced. However, if I were humble and understood that I am a mere blip on the radar of this massive world, it would be easier for me to refrain from becoming angry at every twist and turn. Your future spouse will give you lots of opportunities to be angry if you want to be angry. But you will be far happier, guaranteed, if you heed James’ advice and are slow to get angry. When we are angry, we cannot think clearly and irrational behavior results. We can do great damage to our relationships when we give in to anger.
So, have you been quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry? I know I have failed in this area repeatedly, but the times I have heeded these words have yielded excellent outcomes. Take this verse and post it on a wall in your home. Read it repeatedly. Let the words get into your heart and transform your mind. Your future marriage will thank you for it!
Ask your boyfriend/girlfriend or fiancé/fiancée if he or she thinks you are quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Is he/she quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry?