Mark and I sat across from a couple who asked us to mentor them in their marriage. They rarely had a nice thing to say to one another. It soon became evident they reacted to one another impulsively and had little self-control over their words.
I once read a verse in the Bible that said “Reckless words pierce like a sword,” and another that said, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Those are some pretty strong statements about the power of our words.
Most of us don’t allow our relationship to get as bad as this couple who admitted to calling each other terrible names. If we’re honest, though, many of us are easily irritated by our other half and our careless words do pierce our spouse like a sword. Our fast-paced, stress-filled lives too easily find us impatient, short-tempered and reacting rather than responding to one another.
The remedy for our impatience with one another is to push the pause button on our impulses. When we are tempted to speak harshly or carelessly with our spouse, we can use three steps to exhibit self-control.
- Stop — When you’re irritated, angry or frustrated, don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. Stop before you speak. Resist the urge to speak words that pierce like a sword.
- Think — Carefully consider if what you want to say will be helpful to your spouse and your marriage. Think of words you can use that will express your feelings but not put your spouse on the defensive.
- Choose — Recognize that you are at an important “Y” in the road. Wisely choose your response. Speak words that will bring life to your marriage or bite your tongue and don’t say anything at all until you can respond respectfully.
When we control our tongue, we trade instant satisfaction for the greater vision of a life-giving marriage. Sitting in our living room, we challenged our friends to start with these three small steps. We asked them to change only themselves. Three months later, they reported success. Dozens of small daily choices were revolutionizing their marriage.
There’s wisdom in measuring our words. As we stop our impulses, think before we speak, and choose our words carefully, we can bring healing and life to the one relationship that serves as the foundation of our family.