Arguments are fights without physical punches, but they can hurt just as much – or more. Having an argument with a loved one can be an ugly thing. Kinda like a catfight with lion-sized claws: fur balls, spit, and blood flying through the air. Sometimes, insults are spewed like hot lava and cause damage that takes a while to smooth over. But that’s just it. When both parties really love each other, you can eventually smooth it over. Having Jesus in the mix helps loads with the smoothing process.
Recently, I have managed to get into two tangles with my people. It stinks when this happens, however when the safety net of “this person isn’t going anywhere despite what I say” exists, often the verbal chainsaws come out and the cutting begins. In addition, it is generally not just one point of contention that comes out. As the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” lands, the pent-up feelings from other situations, current life’s circumstances, hormones, the weather and the dog’s behavior all seem to converge for a heated exchange of the ugly variety.
Now, when I say that whoever is involved in the fray can “smooth it over”, this doesn’t come without emotional injuries that need healing, but healing is possible. It takes humility, usually on both sides of the argument – and someone must be the first to step forward. This takes courage, not knowing whether your step toward peace and reconciliation will be received. It takes selflessness in that you have to be willing to fall on your sword and not stand to the death on whether you are right. This means giving the relationship priority over winning the argument. Tough stuff.
Oh, you can forego all of this stuff. There are plenty of us who shove it under the rug and never bother to make amends. This only serves to create a wedge in the relationship. The next time there is a quarrel, the wedge gets bigger and the chasm gets wider between the two sides. Or you can stuff your feelings inside and then the emotional turmoil grows teeth and eats at you on the inside in ways that can actually cause mental and physical problems. Or you can walk away from the relationship altogether, but then that begs the question, “is/was the feud really with someone you love?”
This is where Jesus helps more than we can help ourselves. First, we need to acknowledge that these kinds of interactions come from our being human with a propensity to sin, and not from Him. As a matter of fact, in the Book of Wisdom in the Bible, Proverbs, our Lord gives us lots of advice to steer clear of this sort of verbal war. “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (20:3) “An angry person stirs up conflict and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (29:22) Even the apostle Paul gives his young friend Timothy the advice to warn the church at Ephesus, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…” (2 Tim. 2:23-24) If we are totally locked into the joy and peace and self-control that Jesus adds to our life, we won’t hurl words and emotions out there that do damage.
When we slip and fall, however, there is GREAT news! Jesus FORGIVES us when we sin against Him by losing control! We make it right with Him first by acknowledging our goof and asking His forgiveness. It is granted. Next, we have another chance to be more like Him by going back into the ring with the humility, courage, forgiveness, and love that He lavishes on us, in order to lavish them on someone else. We ask for forgiveness from those with whom we had the altercation. Again, tough stuff, but Jesus helps us do the tough stuff!
Paul expounds on how one operates when coming from a love stance: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things…endures all things. Love never ends.” (I Cor 13:1, 4-7,8) This is where we need to dwell.
When I have let stuff fly out of my mouth that hurts someone I love, my brain immediately asks me the question, “if this is the last thing you ever got to say to them, would you want that to be it?”. I might be on the right side of the argument. I usually am 😉. But what cost am I willing to pay to stand on that hill? And on the rare occasion that I am wrong, don’t I want the grace that Jesus offers me in forgiving my EVERY sin, extended to me from those I love? Oh yeah.