An old song says, “You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” That once popular tune could be the theme song of too many hurting homes.
Most wound first with words. Violence usually begins verbally.
Sometimes these attacks on those we say we love come disguised as humor. In his article, “How To Keep Your Love Ablaze,” Jack Mahill tells how he and his wife found themselves caught in a destructive habit that was hurting both of them. In his words: “Shortly after we married we discovered we had developed an ingrained habit of using sarcastic jokes in kidding one another. At first as we made little barbs and sharp remarks, they were totally harmless. We meant nothing by them. But over a period of a couple of years we began to discover this habit had become a convenient way of getting a good dig at the other partner now and then. We were hurting one another.” Now their rule is to avoid sarcasm while conversing. They just don’t want to wound one another anymore.
According to the Bible, marriage is the closest of human relationships. Two people become one in a union that is to demonstrate the bond God longs to have with each of us, a two-way bond of love. And this walk with God, pictured in marriage, provides a safe haven for what our Lord called abundant life, a life of lasting love.
Looking back on more than twenty years of a good marriage, Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” series, explains how he and his wife keep their home a safe haven, a place of love: “We know each other’s weaknesses, and we don’t exploit them. Long ago we discussed now unattractive it was to hear spouses bad-mouth each other, or to find some quirk, some irritating habit, and make a joke of it. That’s not love. Love is building up each other.”
Home ought to be a place where we’re sheltered from wounding words and hateful attitudes. If there’s a war of words raging in your marriage, make peace by reacting to caustic criticism in love.
Strategic silence may be the first evidence that you are disengaging from the conflict; not in sulking silence, but in demonstrating that you refuse to strike back, even when it might seem to be justified.
Solomon saw a soft answer as the best antidote for verbal attacks: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Answering softly will not be easy when under fire, but responding in kind will only fan the flame that may burn your house down.
Speak kindly to those you love. Say only what you would want them to remember if these were your last words. Since words flow from thoughts, stop thinking about the faults of family members. People who build on faults must expect earthquakes.
The Psalmist asked the Lord to guard his mouth, a wise choice: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
C.H. Spurgeon, the respected and still often quoted nineteenth century English minister, said it well: “The Psalmist is careful of his heart. He who holds the heart is in control of the whole person, but if the tongue and the heart are both in God’s care, all is well.”
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at email@example.com