2. You are unfair when you hold on to things from the past. Today we often hear people speak about the problem of carrying around emotional baggage. I believe the problem in most marriages is much more serious than that. I have found that emotional baggage is many times rooted in sinful baggage. What do I mean?
Let me illustrate how the typical couple acquires the sinful baggage that will greatly affect a marriage relationship emotionally. Suppose a wife gets up in the morning and makes a nice breakfast for her husband. He comes to the table and complains about the food and speaks very harshly to her. She becomes angry and resentful but says nothing. She simply puts this offense into what I call her “stuff sack” inside her heart. Her husband then goes to work and his wife goes into the bedroom and finds his dirty clothes in a pile on the floor. She angrily adds this offense into her “stuff sack.” She then enters the bathroom and looks at the sink only to find the remnants of her husband’s morning shave all over the countertop. She again gets angry and stores up her resentment within her heart all day long.
That evening her husband comes home and walks in the door to find the house a total mess. He also gets angry and begins to store-up his resentment in his emotional “stuff sack.” He then greets his wife who is still in her bathrobe and has not even brushed her hair from the morning. He fumes inside because he has asked her to take better care of herself with little response. All of a sudden there is a scream from the kitchen. Dinner has burned because she was too busy watching a talk show on television. The wife sees her husband’s disgust at the whole situation and she explodes like a volcano. He then responds in like manner. After a few days of tension and coldness, the angry conflict seems to be forgotten, but it is still unresolved. However, the following week the same thing happens all over again. This time there are different circumstances but with the same result. Does this sound familiar? Have you had similar situations occur in your home?
What should you do instead? Deal with each issue as soon as possible. Scripture teaches us that we should keep a very short account of the offenses that occur in our relationships. Paul expressly taught, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27). In other words, take care of the conflicts before each day ends. If you don’t, you are opening the door to the devil and inviting him to have a grand opportunity in your marriage. Disobeying this command means that conflicts will always become worse, not better. All you are doing is storing your resentment up for a bigger explosion down the road. Don’t hold your resentments and then unload them all at once on your spouse. That’s unfair.
Here is a simple plan for the next conflict you encounter. When you sense yourself becoming bitter inside, begin by asking God to forgive you for any hatred or resentment (Mark 11:25-26). Remember, don’t harbor the bitterness! This is where all the problems begin. Then choose to forgive your mate from your heart, which will then enable you to be ready to grant forgiveness when your mate acknowledges his or her offense. Next, seek the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit that you might have a controlled attitude as you go to your spouse and calmly explain how he or she has sinned against you (Gal. 5:16-17). Last, don’t be dishonest. God loves “truthful” lips (Prov. 12:19).
3. You are unfair when you personally attack your spouse. Personal attacks upon your spouse with harsh words, innuendos, exaggeration, or blame are incredibly destructive to your entire relationship. The chief problem with such attacks is that they fail to resolve anything with reference to the conflict itself. In fact, they usually only intensify your differences. Paul warned, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:29-30). Corrupt communication is not only swearing or foul language, but any words that tear someone down instead of build someone up.
Saying such things as, “You are such a slob. I hate you,” “You are so pigheaded,” or “If you don’t like it, why don’t you divorce me?” only serves to grieve the Holy Spirit of God and corrupt and destroy what’s left of your relationship. You need to stop this kind of language today while there is still time to repair your relationship. The worst thing about attacking your partner is the fact that you never get around to attacking the problem. Failing here only assures you that this conflict will come up again very soon.
How can you keep yourself from getting into the attack mode? One of the simplest ways is to use wisdom in your choice of words. When communicating with your spouse you might say, “John, I am very frustrated with these clothes on the floor. Can we talk this over?” Or, “Honey when I come home and have to step over toys and shoes just to get to the kitchen, it sets me off before I can even say hello. Can we talk about this?”
In addition, controlling your anger will greatly help you to refrain from personally attacking your spouse. Anger always begins to boil inside your heart when you hold on to an offense day after day without resolving it. Resolving issues quickly will keep you from those volcanic eruptions where you spew out the resentments from several previous conflicts. You must learn how to “stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Prov. 17:14).
Controlling your anger can also be accomplished by simply asking God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. It’s not enough to simply want to control your anger, you need a power beyond yourself to help you do it. Paul said if you would “walk in the Spirit” you would not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
It all comes down to a matter of choice when you are dealing with the issues of conflict. Do you want to resolve the issues or allow them to continue to fester? Do you want to discuss the problems in a controlled way or explode and resolve nothing? Do you want to do it God’s way or try to handle it your way? It’s your choice.
Click here if you missed How To Fight Fair – Part I.