I had something to tell Mr N and it wasn’t something pretty. It was a long list of complaints about things he did and didn’t do the previous day that enraged me. I was hurt and I was trying to find the right words, to channel my feelings to him. I didn’t want my complaints to lead to a quarrel like it has before. After scribbling my list of grievances, I read through it and saw that there was no way this wasn’t going to start a fight.
I decided to implement the wisdom I had read in a quote by Mary Kay Ash. It says,
Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise.
So I went back to the top of my message and added a sweet line, “Thank you for being the amazing man you’ve been.”
Then I went to the bottom and added, “Love you still.”
Doing this, wasn’t as simple as I have written. I was bubbling with anger and all I wanted to tell him was how angry I was! But I had to take a moment to breathe and allow the Holy Spirit work through me. When I read through the message again, it sounded much better. The first version sounded like it had come from a person who was just mad and giving up. The second sounded like it came from someone who so much loved her man despite the odds. It made a whole lot of difference.
By the grace of God (and only by the grace of God!) I continued with business as usual at home, not acting like someone who had been hurt. After Mr N saw the message, he came to me, hugged me and said he was sorry. He explained the reasons for his actions but still maintained that he was sorry. This doesn’t happen all the time.
Too many times, I have hurt my marriage by saying words that shouldn’t be said. By exploding in the heat of anger. By saying words that were garnished with bitterness. The results were far from pretty. Scripture says, our speech should always be seasoned with salt:
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you should know how you will respond to each person.” Colossians 4:6
I cook food a lot and one thing I have learned is no matter how many ingredients you put in a meal, if there is no salt, it will be lacking. Salt is what gives life to a pot of beans. So our speech being seasoned with salt means our speech should always have some life in it. It shouldn’t be bland and bitter. It should be properly seasoned with the right choice of words.
This doesn’t just happen. You have to work consciously towards it. You have to decide to say the right things at the right time. You have to choose to see the glass half full rather than half empty. You have to restrain yourself from saying all the things you think of. Not every thought deserves to be spoken because the Bible says, “the heart is deceitful above all things.” In fact, it says only fools vent all that is in their hearts:
“A fool uttereth all his mind: but the wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” Proverbs 29:11
You gotta love King James!
So the next time you want to say something not-so-nice to your spouse, take a deep breath and sandwich that criticism between layers of praise. Start your vent with something positive and end on a positive note. I remember Mr N telling me one day after we had an argument that he still loves me, in spite of everything. That was a defining moment for me. Each time I think of it, I am certain of his love and commitment to me.
May we say words to our spouses that reassure them of our love and commitment to them.