See Something, Say Something
I absolutely love to travel. I am a nervous flyer, but I really enjoy where flying takes me – an odd paradox, for sure. Through the years, God has blessed me with the chance to travel to over twenty countries and to a large portion of the lower forty-eight.
George Bailey says it best in the beloved Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, “You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors & train whistles.” Another really excitng sound is whenever an agent of the US Dept. of Homeland Security checks your passport, looks you in the eyes, and says, “Welcome home.” I’m grateful for all our country’s incredible men and women who work tirelessly to keep us safe. One of the ways Homeland Security does that is to promote the idea, see something, say something. Meaning – if something doesn’t look right and could be a threat to security and well-being, don’t turn a blind eye; instead alert the proper authorities who can take action.
Interestingly enough, marriages are the same way. In my experience with marriage counseling (and as a married guy myself), a large number of couples have conflict because they are unwilling to address an issue, habit, or experience they have had with their spouse. Instead a husband or wife is quick to sweep the trouble under the carpet and prefer rather to not deal with the subject. The only problem is, as with the result of neglected national security, the thing that seemed small can actually turn into a massive act of destruction.
What can a marriage do to prevent such a disaster? How do we exercise “see something say something” in covenant relationship? Consider the following.
Be Gracious Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. In Chapter 3, Paul urges us to be tolerant and forgive. Tolerance is not defeat. Tolerance is not weakness. Patience is a Fruit of the Spirit and should be called upon frequently in marriage. If you are bothered by something your spouse has done or said, start by seeking God in prayer – asking Him to convict your heart. Is this truly a big deal? Or does he/she need tolerance and grace from me in order to avoid an unnecessary situation? Notice I did not say, have they earned tolerance or grace! Ask God if you are making an intentional mountain out of an accidental mole hill.
Be Honest Colossians 3 goes on to teach that we should exercise tolerance and forgiveness whenever someone has a complaint against us. If your spouse does not know you have been hurt or are being bothered, it is not possible for he/she to ask forgiveness. Yes, a Christ-like spouse should seek-out peace, but in our humanity and imperfection we often do not realize we have hurt our spouse’s feelings. It is only in Nicholas Sparks books that the perfect spouse can “read minds.” While it would be nice for your spouse to identify and understand the frustration or hurt they caused proactively, it will likely take you being honest in order for them to learn what hurts and frustrates you. This is especially true for a newly married couple, but as couples will also change over the decades, it is just as true for a long-seasoned marriages as well.
Be Wise Diverting from Colossians and considering the teachings of James, in chapter 3 verse 17 he teaches the elements of wisdom: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Imagine how your marriage will change if you bring this attitude into conflict?! As a spouse who might be frustrated or hurt by your spouse, it is important to be wise. Do not fly off the handle. Do not choose a random time and place to bring up wounds. Fight the urge to respond by inflicting emotional harm in return. Ask your spouse if there is a time later that day or the next that you could talk through something that is on your mind. Create the best possible environment to foster wisdom, as James describes it. While it might feel good to snap, retaliate, or (as the kids say) “pop off”, but these are examples of unhealthy conflict resolution. This is not wisdom as God gives, but vengeance as man desires.
The measure of a great marriage is not the absence of conflict, but rather how well you respond to conflict. Healthy conflict resolution is so much easier said than done – especially when you have experienced sincere hurt or wounds. But take your wounds to Christ. He will comfort. He will heal. Pursue peace in your marriage by being gracious, honest, and wise toward your spouse.