August 13, 2009

Arguing: Win But Sitll Lose

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

There’s something we’ve been learning in our own marriage about communicating with each other that we’d like to discuss in this Marriage Message because we’re seeing so many others struggle with the same issue. That is, we need to be careful when arguing with our spouse that we don’t run over our partner with our words just because we’re better at communicating (arguing) than they are.
We may be able to out-argue our spouse but that doesn’t mean our point of view is more “right” than theirs. It just means that we may be more skilled, or quicker, or wordier at arguing our point of view than our spouse is.

Some people are better communicators than others but that doesn’t mean they “know” more than others or that the other person’s point is less worthy to be heard. It means that they can form their thoughts more succinctly and communicate them in such a way that it sounds better than how others can speak and convey their thoughts.

With this type of giftedness, comes responsibility. Those of us who have the ability to “out-argue” our spouse need to be careful because we can run right over our spouse with how we argue and make the other feel stupid and less heard (and valued). The Bible verse, “To whom much is given, much is required” comes into play here. Because of the skillfulness of how we, the more skilled debater can handle words, we need to be all the more careful not to use it to an unfair advantage.

We can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that because we’re better at making our point sound more legitimate than the next person, our point of view “wins.” But that can be a real flawed way of thinking. It usually doesn’t mean our point wins — it just means that we were able to make our point sound more reasonable than the next person. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) It also says, “The way of a fool seems right to him but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

Sometimes we can win the argument but lose in our marriage because we’ve made our spouse feel like what they think about things isn’t as legitimate as what we think. Just because they don’t know how to communicate what’s deep inside their hearts and minds as well as we can, it doesn’t invalidate what they feel. What they feel and perceive IS as important (and many times is more important) than what the argument is all about in the first place.

Eventually our spouse may come to the point where they won’t even try to get us to see their side of things because they don’t think we’ll listen to or care about what they have to say. It can drive them away emotionally from even participating in very important times of communicating with us. And then we wonder, “Why won’t he/she communicate with me?”

Actually, it started earlier in our relationship when we shut them down by not listening to “their side” of things or we made fun of their feelings because our point of view sounded better in our view than theirs did.This is called “giving each other grace and space” which is important. Be merciful and give grace (good will) to your spouse when and where they need it whenever it’s possible. If you’re more skilled at arguing than your spouse is, don’t run over them with your words. Keep in mind what the Bible says, “When words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Make sure you not only say what you feel is absolutely necessary to communicate to them, but also listen to what they have to say.You need to learn to listen. To learn the power of listening, you’ll have to begin with one vow: to rid yourself of the “How - can - I - get - you - to - shut - up - and - listen - to - me?” mind-set and replace it with a “What - can - I - do - to - create - a - safe - place - where - understanding - can - take - root - and - grow?” attitude. You may need to learn how to listen to the intention of their heart or listen to what they may want to communicate to you but for some reason can’t. And both of you may need to build up your speaking/listening skills so you can help each other in this. If your spouse won’t cooperate in this mission to help your marriage, then work to make this happen as best as you can. Ask God to speak to your heart as to how to apply them to your life with your marital partner.--


Anonymous said...

Wow, I just had an argument (quite petty at that) with the hubby today... then ended up praying that God will help us communicate in a more efficient way. Heaven sent post.

Lady A said...

So glad it was of help! I know the feeling.