A Gentle Answer
By: Amanda Idleman
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” - Proverbs 15:1
Have you ever been so angry with your spouse not for what they said but how they said it? Proverbs clearly illustrates this practical truth: the tone we use in our daily conversation can have a hefty effect on the kind of response we get from those around us. In married life, conflict tends to start in the subtext of our interactions. A snippy tone, rolled eyes, a short response, or even a rushed exchange can be the kindling for major conflict. We have to be vigilant not to let careless responses steal the tenderness and joy from our marriages.
The struggle to champion tenderness in the midst of our daily hustles isreal. The pressure we face to meet deadlines, make dinner, tidy up, and care for our kids can squeeze the kindness right out of us. When your spouse forgets an integral detail for your day or asks a question to which they should know the answer, it can be so easy to unload all your pent up frustration on them when you respond. We should not save our worst for the one we love the most. Continually offering our hurried, incomplete, or snappy selves to our partners is a recipe for long-term deterioration of the love that once brought you together.
How can we remind ourselves to slow down and consider our responses in our marriages?
We need to spend some unhurried time together. Busyness is one of the best ways the enemy of our souls can distract us from the fact we have been given to our spouse to show the love of Christ. It is easy to forget that our spouses are worth the extra effort kindness requires. Press pause on life and reconnect with your spouse so you can be reminded that you are on the same team. They are not one more item to check off on the endless to-do list of life!
Be quick to listen when your spouse comments on your tone. It’s easy to let your hackles go up as soon as your spouse comments on your grumpiness. Rather than seeing their observations as an invitation to fight, see it as a red flag that tells you it’s time to stop and consider the state of your heart. The Bible also teaches in Proverbs 4:23 that we need to guard our hearts because everything you do flows from it. If harsh words are slipping out before you even have the chance to notice it, it’s pretty likely that your heart is either overwhelmed, tired, and you need to connect to the Lord in prayer.
Humility is key in changing the way we speak. We have to realize that unintended harshness is still harshness. How many times have you responded to the concerns of your spouse by declaring that “you didn’t mean it that way.” When we take a posture of humility we give up our “right” to fight and instead offer our spouse a listening ear when they bring up complaints about our tone.
Honestly, it can be hard to accurately judge how your words sound when others receive them. Even when we feel like we are doing our best to speak with care, there can still be holes in the way we communicate. Be willing to admit you don’t do it all perfectly and offer “a gentle answer” instead of “harsh words” when our other halves report our words hurt them, no matter our intentions.
Gentle words are a gift of grace to our spouses in a world that demands constant perfection and productivity. Pray that God will give you the strength to pause and consider how your words are either cultivating a deeper love and understanding in your marriage or provoking the temper of your better half.
Amanda Idleman is a wife, homeschooling momma to three amazing kids and is passionate about encouraging others to live joyfully. Amanda also loves to write as a freelance writer and on her blog (when she finds a spare moment for it). You can find out more about Amanda at her blog rvahouseofjoy.wordpress.com or follow her on Instagram at rvahouseofjoy.
It's time we get real about marriage & relationships! Join marriage coach, Dana Che, as she and her guests deliver witty, inspirational, real relationship talk from a faith-based perspective. New episodes of the Real Relationship Talk Podcast drop every Tuesday.
Originally published Tuesday, 11 July 2023.