I just read an article online that included a photograph that NFL Hall of Famer and broadcaster Deion Sanders tweeted, showing he and his children filling out police reports following an alleged attack by his estranged wife and a friend in Deion’s home.
I won’t pretend to know who’s at fault in this marriage, who’s the aggressor in this situation, or who’s going to win out in court in the end. But I do know who will lose. Everyone. The kids are being forced to take sides, to choose mommy over daddy, or daddy over mommy. They’re being shown that the way to settle disputes is to fight, to call names, and to involve people who have nothing to do with the situation or its solution. And in this case, it’s millions of other people. For the parents, when you play out your disputes in the court of public opinion with people who can do nothing to help you solve your problem (not that either seems to be trying to “solve” their problems anymore) you’re trying to get people to gang up on the other party.
When Deion and his wife Pilar married in the late 90’s, he credited her with helping him get his life together. “She’s a good woman with Christian values,” he
declared. Nobody’s acting very Christian now. Deion’s been trashing her in the
press ever since filing for divorce, now Pillar is accused of attacking Deion
in his home, and here are the kids, forced to fill out police reports about
their parents’ issues and having that event tweeted around the world.
The book of James states that man’s anger cannot bring about the righteousness of God. In other words, our blow ups don’t really change the behavior and attitude of the person with whom we’re upset. It may bring fear, it may change the situation for a while, but it doesn’t earn respect, it doesn’t change the heart, and it certainly doesn’t restore love.
Jay Adams, Christian author and counselor, wrote a book back in the 70’s called Christian Living in the Home that gave some relationship advice that still holds up today, and when employed in marriages, friendships, work place relations, would be of great benefit in avoiding volatile situations or defusing them once they’ve started. Adams stated that the book of Ephesians chapter four gave four rules of communication that were essential to healthy relationships.
Rule 1: Speak the truth. Have your word count for something. Be a person that says what he means and means what he says. Now some people take this
to the extreme, using the excuse that “I’m just keeping it real” in order to
spew any bile they want to and labeling it truth no matter how much it hurts. How we speak the truth matters as well. Speak the truth in love, with humility,
without judgment, in order to solve problems not exacerbate them. The principle of treating others as we would want to be treated would temper how we “use” the truth. But people need to be able to trust us when we say something, and when they can’t, we create an atmosphere of suspicion. Ever have someone swear that they’re telling the truth? Why do they need to swear that they’re telling the truth this time? Because possibly they don’t hold themselves to that standard at other times. That’s destructive to relationships.
Rule 2: Keep current. Don’t let things that upset you, offend you, or anger you linger. In fact the Ephesians passage suggests not to let the sun go down on your anger. If you do, you’re giving the devil a foothold, a place to drive a wedge in relationships. Many of us don’t deal with things that upset us. At least not
right away. We stuff them, ignore them, hope they’ll go away. But they don’t. And what happens to our attitude about the person who’s angered us? We get bitter, we start keeping score, until one day we explode, maybe over something quite insignificant from the outside looking in, but the accumulation of wrongs has now gotten the best of us and we can’t take it any longer. But had we dealt with these wrongs or at least perceived wrongs in the moment, we may not have built up so much animosity which blinds us to solutions. The old adage that your grandparents may have spoken about, “don’t go to bed angry” is sort of the playing out of this rule, deal with the upsets now rather than later.
Rule 3: Act don’t react. When someone offends us the great temptation is to react. To fire back. The problem is, we often act too quickly, before assembling the facts and thinking through what our reaction should be, and we make things much worse. Have you ever reacted to news about something someone
said about you or did to hurt you, only to find out after you ran your mouth
off, that you didn’t have the correct information? So we just stand there with
mud on our face. Or have you ever type out a vicious email, responding to things another person is said to have said or done to hurt you? And you hit send
before reading your letter through and realize later you said some very destructive things? Had you taken the time to act on the situation: find out
the truth, weigh what would be a good response to actually solve the problem
not throw gas on the fire, the possibility of a good outcome would have been
greatly increased. Let’s face it, even when we’ve done something stupid, if someone attacks us in a judgmental and sometimes public way, haven’t we been defensive and not open to peaceful solutions? It’s natural. On the other hand if someone treats you with respect, even though there’s been a disagreement, you are much more receptive to at least hearing their grievance and more open to working it out. Act don’t react.
Rule 4: Attack the problem not the person. The last verse of chapter 4 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you.” We need to be about solving problems, clearing up disagreements, not putting people in their place so I feel better about me. It’s not about winning, no matter what Charlie Sheen says. It’s about loving God and loving my neighbor as myself. Jesus said those were the two most important commandments, and the two that will go a long way to maintain healthy
relationships, and mending those that have been broken. When we’ve experienced the forgiveness of God, it makes it easier to forgive others…and ourselves.
God’s Word provides hope for us all. We’ll be studying Hope for Marriages and Families in April and May on Sundays 10:30am at Bethel Bible Church, 3225 W. 96 St.