I was sitting in a counseling session one day with a married couple. They were arguing, and I was listening, watching how they interacted with each other. I was hearing harsh tones, watching their body language fluctuate between aggressive gestures and then defensive, protective ones. They were both talking, loudly, but no communication was actually happening, because neither person was listening to what the other was saying. If you are married, you may not be surprised by this description. Every couple argues and has moments of conflict.
In my experience working with couples, I can honestly say that the deciding factor in a couple’s ability to have a successful argument is attitude. The attitude with which a person engages in an argument with another tells me everything I need to know about the couples’ relationship strength, love for one another and hope for the future. There are two attitudes I see: one of patience and one of pride.
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,Ecclesiastes 7:8-9
for anger abides in the heart of fools.”
The patient spirit starts the conversation gently, wisely choosing her words so as not to immediately ignite tempers. The proud spirit charges angrily at the other person, temper already hot.
The patient spirit listens to responses, making an honest effort to hear her spouses’ point of view. The proud spirit talks over her spouse, only interested in making herself heard.
The patient spirit is slow to anger, coming to the conversation with love for her spouse. The proud spirit is overwhelmed with anger, coming to the conversation with love for herself.
The patient spirit has a big picture perspective on the circumstances, knowing that nothing stays the same forever, that she has the ability to change and that this argument is temporary. The proud spirit can’t see past her hurt and is fixated on her feelings in the moment. She doesn’t understand that emotions and circumstances are fleeting.
The patient spirit can resolve a conflict well because she is willing to compromise and wants peace. The proud spirit will keep the conflict going indefinitely, only interested in winning.
The patient spirit is willing to be wrong and apologizes when she has done or said something hurtful. The proud spirit seeks only to be justified in her actions, no matter how hurtful they may be.
The patient spirit perseveres, because she knows some things take time. The proud spirit gives up, because she can only see herself in this singular moment.
The patient spirit readily forgives her spouse. The proud spirit holds onto grudges, looking to make things even.
So the next time you find yourself in conflict, with your spouse or anyone else, ask yourself about your attitude – are you coming with patience or pride? Your attitude makes all the difference.