One of the frequently offered pieces of advice I had received before I was married comes from Ephesians 4:26, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  Though sagacious and sound advice, I would have been better served with some advice about controlling or reigning in your anger, because letting the sun go down on my anger is something I have never done.  I’ll a stay up all night and fight.    

Quick with my words, sharp with my tongue, and able to dismantle another’s argument in a few quick blows is how I’ve always operated in conflict.  But operating that way in a marriage made me quickly realize that something had to change or our marriage was going to crash and burn.

What need to change was the way I responded in conflict.  There are three simple questions I began to ask myself when my husband and I found ourselves in conflict together.  Though I may still be angry and still think I am right, these questions have completely changed the way I respond and the way I treat my husband.  Here are three questions to ask yourself before responding the next time you find yourself in conflict  

  1. Is this statement true?

If your statement begins with an absolute, (you always, you never, I always, I never etc.) it’s more than likely not true.

‘You always leave the iron on when you leave for work in the mornings, and I’m sick of having to come behind you like your mother and turn it off!’

Not true.  My husband may frequently leave the iron on when he leaves for work, but he doesn’t always leave it on.

Absolutes are usually not true, and they’re not a fair way to fight.

  1. Is this kind?

Ask yourself, is what I’m about to say kind?

We commonly confuse being kind with being nice.  The truth isn’t always nice, but it is kind to be truthful with others.  

 

It is imperative that you be honest and truthful in relationships and that you be kind.  What you say may not be nice, but you can be kind, gentle, and gracious with what you say and how you say it.

Remember that saying you heard at least a dozen times in your childhood ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?’  Insert kindness in there; if you can’t say something kind, don’t say anything at all.

  1. What am I trying to gain?

Our wants and needs are often the motivating factors behind our words and actions.

It’s important to identify what you want or need because the want or need may not be wrong, but the way you go about getting it may be.  Being mean, manipulative or dishonest are ways that we can compromise our beliefs and values to get what they want to need.  

Often we just want to be heard or understood.  There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about that desire, but more often that I would like to admit, I have gone about getting what I wanted or needed, which many times is being heard or understood, in a manipulative or mean way.

Next time you find yourself in conflict, before being quick to respond, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself;

  1. Is this statement true?
  2. Is this kind?
  3. What am I trying to gain?