Passion and Perspective
Emotions are a gift from God, and everyone experiences them. But as good as they are, our feelings can easily get us off track.
Good, healthy emotions that we let run out of control or try to repress completely, can lead to runaway emotions that hurt our relationships. Runaway emotions cause those around us to feel like they are in a battle zone.
Pat Tillman’s story illustrates how runaway emotions work. He was a star player in the National Football League who gave up millions in earnings to fight for the United States in Afghanistan following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Sadly, he was killed in action, and it was eventually learned that Pat was fired on by his own men, an unfortunate case of “friendly fire.”
Tension, recklessness, confusion, and what military analysts call the “fog of war” are the causes behind friendly fire. Something similar happens when you lose control of your emotions in the home. A hasty response in a heated discussion can have a permanent and devastating affect on your relationship.
Before unleashing a verbal volley on your spouse in an emotionally charged situation, stop and consider how you can control your emotions. When you are engaged in a disagreement with your spouse:
- Take at least ten seconds before responding. In those moments, try to interpret your spouse’s facial signals and body language to better understand what he or she is really trying to say.
- Avoid specific words or citing past events that will trigger an emotional reaction.
- When your spouse makes a statement, repeat it to ensure you understood correctly. “What I hear you saying is…”
- Be respectful of your spouse’s opinion, don’t criticize, and never talk down to him or her.
Human communication is extremely complex and involves dozens of verbal and nonverbal cues—many more cues, in fact, than your brain can effectively process in any given moment. Always be humble and willing to acknowledge you may have misunderstood. And be gracious, making allowance for the possibility that your spouse may not have spoken in the most articulate or artful manner.
Taking control of your emotions is one way that you can love your spouse intentionally.
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