My husband, Mark, and I sat across from a couple who had asked us to mentor them. They rarely had a nice thing to say to one another, reacting impulsively and verbally lashing out. Like so many of us, they struggled with control over their words.
If we’re honest, many of us will admit to being irritated by our spouse at times. Our fast-paced, stress-filled lives too easily feed our impatience — causing us to react, rather than respond, to one another.
Scripture clearly defines the power of our words: “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18), and “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).
Because careless words can wound, practicing a little self-control at home is a great way to implement change in our marriage. When we are tempted to react by speaking harshly or thoughtlessly with our spouse, we can use these 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.
Think. Carefully consider if your words will be helpful to your spouse and your marriage. Is this the right time and place to share what’s on your mind?
Choose. Recognize that you are at an important fork in the road. Carefully choose your response. Speak words that will bring life to your marriage — or bite your tongue and say nothing.
As marriage mentors, we challenged the couple mentioned previously to start with these three small steps. We asked them, with God’s help, to focus only on changing themselves. Three months later, they reported success. Small daily choices revolutionized their marriage.
When we control our tongue, we trade instant satisfaction for the greater vision of a healthy, nurturing marriage. Exercising self-control in the little things may even help strengthen us to overcome temptation in the bigger things.
There’s wisdom in measuring our words — we can bring healing and life to our marriage.
Talk About It
- If we determined to stop, think and choose our words carefully when we’re irritated or upset, how might that change our marriage?
- Which of these three steps is the most challenging for us?
- Could we make any changes in the pace of our life to allow us to respond, rather than react, to one another?