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  • Robert Bowen

Loving Much

Anger. An emotion that can be volatile to a marriage if not handled correctly.

I’m sitting in our Jeep about to leave the storage unit in route to our home. Presently, I’m wrestling with frustration and impatience. You see, we have been told that the area where our home is located is no longer safe to habitat, making it imperative that we move ASAP. This means that we have to prepare to move immediately. The initial notice was a flyer taped to our front door. The notice to vacate was for June 2015, approximately four months from the date it was received. Since we live in a fifth-wheel travel trailer in a mobile home park, we were not nearly as put out as our neighbors; but, the story has now changed. This leads to why I was heading to our storage unit. I had brought some equipment from our home only to discover our climate-controlled storage unit had water in it from the flood of rain North and East Texas has received in the past week. With other obligations aside, such as work and school, I now have to move all my film equipment from one storage unit to another, while also worrying about finding another RV park within a 10 mile radius (impossible btw) with only a four days notice; not a big deal until you consider we have been where we are for two years. None of this really makes a bit of difference to anyone, except maybe my family.

How I react to all of these “problems” determines how I handle myself, specifically my communication with my wife and family; and, can even lead destructive patterns in our relationship if I am not careful. Sometimes, it seems very easy to let these types of situations lead to anger that lashes out on my loved ones. I know this because in my past, this has happened. This is exactly the situation I was confronted with when I found Cara Joyner’s, The Best Marriage Advice I've Ever Heard. The article hits home with “…three tips to conquering conflict” in your marriage (The Best Marriage Advice I've Ever Heard). It was exactly what I needed in that moment to provide to redirect my path toward forgiveness and peace.

According to Joyner, walking in the door after un-expectantly having to rearrange a storage unit, was probably not the best time to approach my wife about how much time the children had spent playing video games while I was gone.

Joyner’s first tip is to “Know when to call it.”

She recommends taking a look at the situation to determine if the present time is constructively conducive for relationship mending. If not, then step away, ‘take a breather” and come back later. I have to say this is sound advice. I know plenty of times, I felt the need to finish a conversation right away, to get it settled, only to make matters worse. There’s something to be said about walking away or taking a drive to consider your own stance. In some of those cases, I realized I was actually in the wrong. Instead of intensifying the situation and making matters worse, we could come back to the discussion in 15, 30 or even 60 minutes later (or however much time is needed) to resolve the issue. It says in Proverbs 1:5 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” This means taking time to listen and receive direction directly by the Holy Spirit or through counsel that seeks The Lord.

So if you are in a situation where you need to take a break, then ‘timeout’ and listen to gain the proper perspective. Forgiveness means giving yourself and your spouse time to reconsider each other’s stance on controversial topics.

On the other hand, had I walked in and let the children’s video game playing add to my feelings of being upset and frustrated, and chosen to make snide comments to my wife about what a fun time they must have had while I was gone, I would have been engaging in what Joyner calls the “passive-aggressive battle.”

This leads to Joyner's second tip, "Say "no" to a passive-aggressive battle."

To this, she says, “Say ‘no’.” She states:

“Nobody wins in an argument your partner is not even aware you are having. Withholding affection, turning a cold shoulder, casting the silent treatment, and engaging in unloving conversations about your husband when he isn't around all drive you away from your spouse. In the end, you will only become more frustrated and nothing will be resolved” (The Best Marriage Advice I've Ever Heard).

I have to watch myself from falling into this pitfall. In the past, I would have come home to a welcoming family but indirectly complain about how the house should be cleaned better.

I would make commentary indicating the kid’s room could be cleaner or ask why their toys were strung out across the yard. I would say “I’m not mad” and smile at them; however, my non-verbal reactions and the tone in my voice would be incongruent with the statements. James 4:6 demonstrates that there is grace in our life given to us by God almighty. If I was held to the same standard I was attempting to uphold my children and wife, I would fail miserably. Using Luke 11:1-10 as an example (Jesus taught his disciples to pray), as a father, I should walk along side and teach my children, instead of complaining indirectly and reacting passive-aggressively. Later on, after I had calmed down, I could sit down with my wife to discuss my expectations, verses her plan for the children while I am gone [See how that works…#1 helps avoid #2].

Making sure I make sure to discuss my expectations with my wife on a regular basis verses the children’s' or her needs, makes way for forgiveness, as well.

Or, there is always Joyner’s last tip: “…consider if this is a time for silence.”

She suggests taking time to consider whether the potential conflict is in the best interest of your relationship. Consider whether the topic needs to be discussed or maybe it’s something that you need to resolve within yourself. The issue may not be your mate; rather, it may be you with your ‘hang up’. Verify if a conversation is needed to begin with. I remember hearing my wife speak similar words to me. Proverbs 5:1 states “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding.” Before starting a battle with your mate over something that may be petty at best, seek another perspective, including the Lord’s will, for guidance.

The book of James also points out in chapter 1:19, the first thing anyone should do is listen and consider before speaking, especially if anger is involved. In other words, don’t react with your words or actions without considering everything that is going on. So, since I was already upset, I likely did not notice the total clean-up my wife and children had done while I was gone, or consider the video game time was a reward for their help in getting it done quickly to help prepare for our impending move. Considering the whole picture, even just looking around our home to see what had been accomplished (rather than considering what hadn’t), I would have settled my own questions as to how or why she thought it was necessary to allow them an extra privilege. Giving my wife and children the benefit of the doubt, in this case, would have been the most forgiving thing I could do, and instead of upsetting the whole household, would have brought me more peace.

Ultimately, every partner will make mistakes, bad choices, etc. Forgiveness is needed in every case. Joyner points out that “When we only forgive in the absence of painful emotions, its meaning is lost. If we wait to stop feeling angry, we rob forgiveness of its value.” Whoa! This speaks volumes.

If I wait until all my anger subsides, then what am I forgiving? Letting go of anger, while I am still frustrated or upset takes a dedicated effort. However, it also gives grace to learn from mistakes, opportunity to reconsider perspective and time to consider all options before acting or reacting. In my life, it is strengthening relationships and building stronger bonds with the ones I love. As Jesus says, the one “who is forgiven much, loves much.” Certainly, I am seeing more loving reactions from my family as I strive to be more forgiving of them.

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