Fighting fair (or why you shouldn’t ‘win’ an argument)
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
One of the hardest things I’ve learned to do in my marriage is to fight fairly, but it’s been the most critical love lesson of all. For when it’s done right, I’ve learned, God is at the core.
See, at the heart of how a couple argues is how they relate to each other, how they respect each other. In the best scenarios, arguing stems from care, from a place of love, typically from frustration about a small or large issue threatening the peace of the home in some way. You might be bickering about how big of a house to purchase or some perceived slight, or it might be deeper, like a dark secret now come to light.
Healthy, loving marriages—just like healthy, loving friendships—don’t avoid issues, sweeping them out the door and hoping they’ll fly away. They shine holy light into the darkness, and in that light, a deeper love emerges.
Throughout the New Testament, early Christians are called to hold each other accountable. The Apostle Paul frequently acknowledges that disagreements happen. People sin, whether intentionally or not. But as he instructs the nascent church, don’t ignore the problem. Address it. As he says in Galatians 6:1 (NIV), “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently,” or in Ephesians 4:25 (NIV), “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body."
Be honest, he’s saying. If the argument has to do with a sin on someone’s part, gently tell the one you love there’s a problem, and urge them toward repentance.
Gently. That’s the key word here. I’m not saying you should have scrappy yelling matches or those long periods of the silent treatment. That’s just reacting, not communicating. When we address an issue in a godly manner, we are to do it with love and consideration, not accusation and anger.
Paul ends Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) saying, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Those same sentiments are reflected in his advice to the Colossians: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV).
Of course, not all arguments are that simple. Maybe you think your spouse or friend has sinned against you, but the proverbial log in your eye is preventing you from seeing your own sin in the situation. Or maybe you’re being called out for misunderstood or unintentional behavior and you feel hurt that your loved one would judge your actions in this way. Maybe one of you is just plain grumpy.
The best and only way through it is that one “greatest” attribute—love.
Happily, Paul defines that for us, too: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).
God is love. He commands us to love others as ourselves, to show our faith through our love, to point to Him through our love.
So when it comes to arguments, remember: the only way to win is for everyone to win. If you come through a battle with one arm unscathed but the other broken and bloody, you’re still injured.
We are one body, literally and figuratively.
Jessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach.
She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate (AdvocateSC.org), the oldest newspaper in Methodism.
Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.