I don’t know many people who are not deeply disturbed by the stories swirling around Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court. And I don’t know many people, in the midst of this emotional saga, who have managed to remember their values.
Whether you wholeheartedly believe Dr. Ford’s accusations against Judge Kavanaugh or are convinced this entire drama is a disgusting front for partisan politics (or you land somewhere in between), there is something you need to know.
10 somethings actually.
I call them the 10 Commandments of Communication. These ten rules are what I try to instill in future spouses during our premarriage counseling sessions. Today they crossed my mind as I scrolled through the headlines, rants, and ugly reactions surrounding this important case.
I’ve decided to copy and paste them here without tweaking them for this political context. I would love for you to read them over and then check out my next step below.
1. You shall not try to “win.”—Our natural/sinful reaction to any argument is to win at all costs. We keep score, insult, interrupt, get defensive, raise our voices, call names, run away, and a thousand other ugly reactions when the goal is not to love, but to win. Therefore, mentally remind yourself that this conversation is about loving, not winning. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight” (James 4:1,2).
2. You shall never say “never.”—In our desire to win an argument, we often lie. How so? We use words like always and never. “You always say that!” “You never think about what I do.” “You always bring that up!” Unfortunately, these are blatant exaggerations that only make the other person defensive.
3. You shall not interrupt.—When we want to win an argument, we feel the need to interrupt each other. We want to negate the other person’s point by jumping in with our version of the truth. But love is patient and is willing to wait.
4. You shall pick your battles.—Sharing every single thing that bothers you is the quickest way to become a constant critic and a nag. Cast all your troubles on God, but choose which troubles to share with your spouse. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words” (Proverbs 10:19).
5. You shall resist OCD (Obsessive Comparison Disorder).—When we are criticized, our hearts immediately and obsessively compare our behavior to our spouse’s. Is he serving me? Is she always grateful for what I do? Why doesn’t he remember the stuff that I do right? Did she forget the time that I . . .? Sadly, OCD is a guaranteed way to continue the crazy cycle, miss your spouse’s point, and make your marriage worse. Instead, listen, empathize, and ask, “What can I do to help?”
6. You shall stick to the subject.—Our hearts hate being called out. Therefore, they desperately search for any other subject to redirect the conversation (“Well, you’re not so perfect either!” “You bring this up after the day I had?”). There might be times to address other issues, but this is not one of them. Focus on the subject that is troubling your spouse, and you both will be happier faster.
7. You shall not text (or watch the game or play video games or scroll on your phone . . .) and talk.—Love gives its full attention to another. Since no one likes being half listened to, God wants us to give our full attention to our spouse. Consider saying, “Let me finish up this text, and then I’ll give you my full attention.”
8. You shall repeat thy spouse’s point—When we want to win an argument, we are waiting for a pause so we can jump in and throw a few verbal punches. Don’t! Instead, make sure to repeat, in your own words, the point that was just made. Don’t add your opinion. Don’t agree or disagree. Just prove that you were listening and you understand exactly what your spouse is feeling.
9. You shall claim thy crap.—In order to “win,” we have to justify our wrongs. “I exaggerated because you . . . I interrupted because what you said wasn’t true . . .” etc. But that only fuels a crazy cycle of hurting each other. Instead, admit, with no strings attached, your sins. You’ll be surprised how often your confession prompts theirs. And even if it doesn’t, it’s the righteous thing to do.
10. You shall argue at the foot of the cross.—Bringing Jesus’ love into any conversation changes everything. Look up and see the Savior who speaks patiently and graciously to you at your worst moments. Then look out at your spouse. Remembering your countless failures and Jesus’ bottomless grace will give you the humility to speak as a fellow sinner, instead of a holier-than-thou saint.
Wow . . . I needed to be reminded of those commandments today. Did you?
A couple weeks ago when I wrote on the subject of Judge Kavanaugh, you all were incredibly respectful in honoring my desire to not turn the comment section into a free-for-all sinfest. Thank you for remembering love, the thing that matters most to God!
Today, I’d love for you to comment but about one thing in particular—your own sin. If you have fallen short of any of these ten rules as you’ve followed this news story, I’d be honored if you shared your confession below.
I’d be even more honored to remind you of Jesus’ response to your confession—“Those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
May grace and truth have the final word in this case and in our lives.
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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