Monday, August 19, 2013

Tongues of Fire

It's time for a little

I read a funny little email the other day that described why men are "happier" in life.  Some of the quips were oh, so true, while others were just silly.

Here a few:
  • Chocolate is just another snack...
  • They never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is "just too icky."
  • They know stuff about tanks.
  • A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
  • They can open all their own jars.
  • The same hairstyle lasts for years...decades, even.
  • One wallet and one pair of shoes -- one color for all seasons.
  • They can 'do' their nails with a pocket knife.
  • They have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache.

One particular line made me giggle, but since then has had me thinking:
"A woman has the last word in any argument.  Anything the man says after that is the start of a new argument."

I admit, I'm a girl who likes to have the last word.  Because I like to be right.

Whether I really am or not.

The problem is that when I insist on being right, I'm telling my husband that he is wrong.  And when I argue that I am right ALL.THE.TIME. that means that I'm telling him he's wrong.  ALL.THE.TIME.

Sometimes I try to "bite my tongue" and keep quiet about things, consoling myself by thinking about how right I am (and how wrong he is).  But it never really works.  Even if I don't spout my thoughts in the moment, they always seem to come out later when my guard is down.

James 3 tells us that it is impossible to tame the tongue, calling it a "fire" and a world of "evil," "unrighteousness," or "iniquity" (depending on which translation you're looking at).  In other words, it is highly destructive and it cannot be bridled.  Left on its own, it will consume everything in its path.

Do I want my husband to be consumed by my words?  Do I want him to be destroyed by what I say?  That old saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me..."  Yeah, we all know how much of a lie that is.

Words DO hurt!

Even if they weren't intended to be hurtful.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us: "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  

We may not be using words that we consider to be "foul or abusive," but are we being careful to use our words to encourage our spouse?  Or are we more concerned about voicing our own opinion, our own need to be right?

Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too."

I find that when I am consumed with being "right," I am only looking out for the interests of one person: myself.  Whatever the topic is, it usually isn't important enough to be arguing about in the first place.  Shouldn't my husband's feelings be more important to me than some trivial piece of information?  Is being right so vital to my well-being that I am willing to go to battle against my husband in order to defend it?

Which is my better ally, my husband or my "rightness?" 

I want to choose my husband.

And yet my weak flesh continues to choose "rightness."

So what to do?  How do we contain this unbridled fire of our tongue and re-direct it in a way that builds up our spouse instead of tearing him down?

Here are a few suggestions:
  1. BEFORE you step onto the battlefield, surrender to God your need to be right.  Get down on your knees with Him and hand him that desire.  Ask for it to be replaced by a strong desire to encourage and build up your spouse.
  2. Tell your spouse that you don't want to argue about being right any more.  Ask him or her to join you in that commitment.
  3. When that moment arrives when you want to argue, ask yourself if it's really a life-or-death matter.  Is it going to make a difference in the long run?  If not (and usually this is the case), tell your spouse, "This isn't worth the trouble.  Who cares which one of us is right?  Let's just change the subject."
  4. Seal the deal by verbally "appreciating" something about your spouse. 
I know that for many of us, this is NOT going to be easy. Even as I typed these steps, my human nature fought to say, "But what if I really AM right?   How do I just let that go??"  That's where we trust the Holy Spirit to intervene and claim victory over our flesh.

We cannot tame the blazing fire of our tongues.  But God can.  And being right is far less important than making our spouse feel loved and encouraged.  Join me today as I make a commitment to surrender my need to be right and focus instead on making my spouse feel valued.

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