Several weeks ago in Sunday School, I made myself quite conspicuous by accidentally hurling my breakfast pastry onto the dirty floor. If you were in the room, you could not have missed it, especially since Eric and I were sitting in the front row. My brain quickly began thinking of appropriate reactions and the one it settled on was: laugh at yourself – which I did… and would do again!
As I reached to retrieve my cheese danish, our Sunday School teacher declared it “clean” by way of the ten-second rule. There was no way outside of a $10,000 cash reward I was going to put any morsel of food in my mouth after it touched that dingy floor.
More recently, the same teacher suggested we should wait ten seconds before responding to our significant others when a conflict is brewing. Ten seconds. Well, there might be something to this ten-second idea. Though the ten-second rule may never apply to my dining habits; I think, in the context of relationships, it is a wise and effective preemptive strike!
Think about it. How many of your past arguments happened as a result of a quick tongue? If I had to give it my best guess, I would say somewhere in the neighborhood of around 80% for me! Waiting to respond will not keep every potential conflict at bay, but it can prevent the conflicts which do rise from spinning out of control.
The Crazy Cycle
In our pre-engagement coaching sessions, we talk with our clients at length about showing love and respect appropriately and how instrumental that is in creating and maintaining a peaceful, functional home. The concept of the Crazy Cycle comes from Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s book, Love and Respect, and it refers to what happens to couples in conflict when we feel disrespected or unloved.
A wife feels unloved and she reacts disrespectfully towards her husband.
The husband feels disrespected and reacts unlovingly towards his wife.
In a matter of seconds, a simple conversation turns into a war. Almost all of our clients can think of crazy cycle moments in their relationships. We are so quick to react in our own defense and off the tornado goes!
In order to show love and respect, we have to bridle our tongues. This requires us to think before we act.
Ten Seconds of Restraint May Save You Ten Years of Regret!
Giving ourselves as little as ten (sometimes less) seconds to breathe deeply and evaluate situations can save us bucket loads of potential regret! Oh, the comments I would have avoided and the decisions I would have changed had I allowed myself ten seconds to think and calm down.
When I was sixteen, I accidentally set the oven on fire. Embarrassed? Just a little. After my mom took a fire extinguisher to the flames, I hurled an insult at her suggesting it was her fault for not teaching me to cook. (She would have gladly taught me to cook had I ever stayed in the kitchen long enough to learn!) In my immaturity, I passed the buck with the first defense that popped into my underdeveloped, childish cranium. The result? I hurt her feelings deeply. That is one comment I would take back in a second if I had the opportunity.
When Can We Use the Ten Second Rule?
The ten-second rule comes in handy in a myriad of situations:
- Should I post this to Facebook? It is filled with passive-aggressive comments, makes me look petty, and portrays my sweetheart in an unflattering light. As angry as I am, I think posting this would be a mistake. Ten seconds = looking petty and immature averted!
- Should I respond to my significant other with this excellently crafted, witty, in-your-face comeback? It is a good come back. I am not sure when I will have another one as legendary as this. I want to say it, drop the mic, and strut out of the room victorious. Still, if I do, what will it cost me? At the very least it will cost me a pleasant evening. At most, it could cost me my relationship. There is no good reason to disrespect my special someone that way. Ten seconds = fight averted!
- Should I say what I am really thinking? I do think the dress makes her look bigger than she is, but would saying so crush her? Absolutely it would. She did not ask. She is still beautiful. Ten seconds = hurt feelings averted!
- Would the comment that is trying to come out of my mouth make the situation better or worse? He is wrong. He has been wrong repeatedly about how that situation unfolded. He is so sure he remembers it correctly. I have proof I am right, but does it matter? Is proving him wrong in this instance necessary? Nothing important is riding on whether or not the facts are displayed, so instead of entering my evidence, I will agree to stop talking about it. Ten seconds = petty argument averted!
- Will my life or my significant other’s life improve if I make this decision (whatever it is)? I want to watch a seventh episode of my favorite show, but will that make anyone’s life better? It will allow me to procrastinate from my work another twenty-two minutes; but, in the end, will I feel any more fulfilled than I do right now? Is it in the best interest of my boyfriend? Will my girlfriend benefit from me having one more episode under my belt? Probably not. I can make better use of my time for myself and for my sweetie. Ten seconds = wasting more time averted!
- Is there a significant chance I will regret saying what I want to say? How many times have I told her not to hug on me while I am playing my video game? It is like she wants me to lose focus so I will quit playing and spend time with her. If she wants my attention she needs to just say it. She looks like she is coming in for a hug. Here she comes. Ah. I love this girl but it is not always time for affection! I want to yell at her. Seriously, I want to tell her to back off. What will happen if I tell her to go away? She will probably cry. It will probably make her feel unwanted and unloved. She will be crushed. Is it worth it? No, it is not worth it. But, when I am calm and neither of us is distracted, I am going to look her in the eyes, gently explain my frustration, and set up a boundary for the future. Ten seconds = crushing my sweetheart’s spirit averted!
- Will this comment, action, or reaction glorify God? He has it coming. He is always instigating something. She is asking for it. I am so done being nagged. If she can overreact, so can I. Someone needs to teach her a lesson. If he can talk to me that way, I can disrespect him in front of his friends. It may be the only way he will ever learn! Well, just because she made me angry does not mean I need to purposefully hurt her. That is not godly. Just because he messed up and hurt my feelings does not mean I should retaliate against him. God gives me grace and I should extend that to him. Ten seconds = sinful action averted!
I Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (ESV)
When I have abided by the ten-second rule, I have seldom been disappointed. Even if you are quick-witted, it is wise to leave yourself some processing time – time which might convince you to refrain from making a costly mistake.
Just as we cannot put toothpaste back in the tube after we squirt it out, we cannot put words and actions back in our minds after we express them. Ten seconds of your life, regardless of how busy or stressed you are, can save you from painful regret. We should all get in the habit of stepping back, counting to ten, and then carefully evaluating our next move.
Do you stop and think before responding to your sweetheart? [Comment below!]