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In an online article titled 18 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Strong, it reads, “Keep the playfulness alive. We all love to play, regardless of our age. Do the following: have fun together; do something ridiculous together, and just let go. In addition, the next time that your partner says something that bothers you, try responding with a joke instead of getting defensive.”[1] One loving woman responded to this by saying, “It is difficult to respond with a joke when something our partner said annoyed us.”

HUSBANDS - Love Your WivesAnother online article says, “Here’s an amazingly simple thing you can do in your daily life that can work serious wonders. Just take a slight pause before you speak.”[2] This is a common thought by persons trying to help us improve our friendships as well as our relationships. However, I would say they have only touched on half of the answer. Without that other half of the answer, the pause really does not help. Before we offer the other half of the answer, let’s take a pause to explain the obstacles that stand in our way.

There are four factors that contribute to our getting upset or angry at what someone says to us. (1) We are imperfect and live in an imperfect world, compounded by the fact that God’s Word says we are mentally bent and lean toward doing bad. We read, “When the LORD saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great and that the whole bent of his thinking was never anything but evil, the LORD regretted that he had ever made man on the earth.” (Gen. 6:5, AT) (2) We have a wicked spirit creature, Satan the Devil, who is misleading the entire world of humankind. We read, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet 5:8, ESV) (3) We live in a world that caters to the imperfect flesh. We read, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:16-17) (4) We are unable to understand our inner person, which the Bible informs us is wicked: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The apostle Paul tells us, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” There is only one major factor in all four parts that will have an effect on the other two, you. Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:12.

Yes, we create our own stress when someone says something that we feel is unloving or unkind. Because (1) we do not understand our true imperfection, and our imperfection is easily misled by point number (2), Satan. Moreover, we are easily enticed by point number (3-4), the world and its desires, as well as our heart. We read, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jam 1:14-15, ESV) Only by an active faith in Christ, and a true understanding of our imperfection, can we hope to function in an imperfect world, defeat Satan, gain control over our imperfect flesh, allow God to read our heart and help us not to fall victim to our own desires of the eyes. Now, let us get to that second half of our Pause before you speak.

The Bible tells us that (1) we are mentally bent toward evil, (2) we have an inner heart that is treacherous and we cannot fully understand it. This means that no human can go without ever saying something hurtful, unloving, or unkind to the people they love. It is impossible. If one of the mates has the mindset that they “should” be able to, there is no way for that person to grow in the relationship until he or she recognizes our imperfection as true. The above also has an impact on what we do when we paused before we respond.

If we just pause before we speak, our mind that is bent toward evil and our treacherous heart will feed us inappropriate thoughts, which will only upset us more. What can we do? We must pause and reason with ourselves during that pause. First, we need to identify when a comment to us is upsetting. We will feel a tenseness in our chest. We will feel our blood pressure rise. We will feel our heartbeat quicken. We will feel tense all over. Our mentally bent mind will begin to race with thoughts. If we feel these things, it is paramount that we pause and ponder. That is the second half of the answer, ponder. We are going to use a couple as our example. The husband has an irrational thought and before he can stop himself, he says something offensive to his wife. She immediately has the above physical, mental and emotional reaction.

Pause and Ponder

She will pause and say the following things to herself:

  • What was his intent when he said that? Did he willfully mean to cause me harm? Or, is it his mentally bent imperfect mind and treacherous heart speaking?
  • I know that he truly loves me very much. So, it is likely not intentional. He just misspoke.
  • Every day, he expresses his love and concern. This comment is not what that loving man would say if he thought it through.

The most important equation in this pause and ponder is the word intent. The second most important equation is the person’s character. Intent means that the mate willfully and intentionally, purposely meant to hurt his or her mate. If you deduce that the person had no intention of hurting you, it will ease your tension. Now, what is the mate’s character? If the mate 95 percent of the time says loving, caring, thoughtful comments to you; then, this means his hurtful comment is out of character, not really him. If it is the mate’s sinful nature, human weakness, his or her imperfection that brought about the hurtful comment, Jesus said we are to forgive him or her an unlimited number times. We go to God every day with our sins and are very grateful that God is so gracious, so as to forgive us because we are repentant and sorry for our human weaknesses. Therefore, we should be quick to forgive others for their transgressions against us.

NOTE: This unlimited forgiving does not apply to emotional, mental, or physical spousal abuse. In this case, separation is best until the offender seeks and receives help. If the offender is unwilling to acknowledge, accept his or her abuse, as well as refusing any kind of mental health treatment; then, separation may very well become divorce.

[1] 18 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Strong (Saturday, September 16, 2017) https://daringtolivefully.com/keep-your-relationship-strong

[2] Tool: Pause Before You Speak (Saturday, September 16, 2017) http://acleanmind.org/tools-techniques/tool-pause-before-you-speak/