Monday, September 2, 2013

Confess the Offense

Pastor Garcia had a great message Sunday (as usual) about longsuffering.  One of his points was how the fruit from longsuffering will enable us to control our anger.  Scripture tells us not to hold it in or pretend you’re not angry. (Eccles.7:9)  Pastor Garcia said we should “confess it at the offense.”

Funny, Rick and I had just talked about that on our way to church.  We talked about how far I had come in expressing my thoughts and opinions.  When I was growing up, my father ruled the nest.  His word was the ONLY word.  No one dared question it.  (Of course, my father was also 6’6” and looked like John Wayne with a very domineering manner. I was afraid of him.)  I grew up believing I had no opinion.  If I did, it didn’t matter, and I certainly couldn’t voice it.

When Rick and I married, we started out with wedded bliss but it quickly dissolved after our children came along.  I never told him what bothered me until issues piled up, and I could hold them in no longer, usually at an irrational time such as when I was tired, sick, hormonal or whatever.  Then I would scream ugly words that I really didn’t mean, and Rick and I would get into arguments that were never resolved.  Our poor communication skills almost cost us our marriage.

So how do we ‘confess it at the offense?’  This can be a daunting task for many people.  If you don’t feel the least bit intimidated by this, then you’re probably someone who has no problem voicing their opinion. Unfortunately, most people who readily voice their opinion don't always think before they speak, like my father didn't. There is a fine line between what you should and shouldn't say to your spouse, so we have to carefully choose our words when expressing offense.  I’ve met few couples who have achieved the act of rationally ‘confessing at the offense.’ Those couples undoubtedly have gone through their own fire to learn how to do so.

Our human nature is to react emotionally when we are criticized or offended.  It’s difficult to hear that we may not be doing something right.  We all want to be perfect, especially in the eyes of our spouse.  No wonder we take such great offense when they don’t see us that way.  Then add on top of that, illness, tiredness, stress and all the other problems in this world, and you find a golden opportunity to start World War III in your marriage.  It all starts with one word taken offensively and not dealt with correctly.

Communication is a difficult but necessary skill we need to learn to keep peace in our lives and marriages.  When incorrectly used, it becomes the core of all our problems.  Yes, you may be scraping by financially, but as a couple, you can work through it, together.  It’s the wrong communication that will cause the problem – how you discuss (and blame) your lack of money. 

Women seem to have more difficulty in pinpointing the true issues bothering them when they are emotionally charged.  That’s why it is so important not to speak before thinking about what you want to say.  It’s even more important, though, not to bury it and walk away.

For example, when Rick watches too much television, instead of not saying anything and letting it fester, I've learned to lovingly ask him if he could turn off the television.  The television was a big issue for us when we went through our crisis, and I didn't realize it at the time. I've had to learn to calmly and positively express my concerns and not let them build into a mountain of offense.  Rick has also learned to respect my sensitivities and is more than willing to compromise with his television viewing.

It is certainly easier said than done to ‘confess at the offense’.  For me, though, it has become a blessing from God to be able to deal with problems right away instead of internalizing them to cause an even greater set of issues.  It has taken me a long time to learn this skill, and I don’t feel like I’ve totally mastered it.  Well, maybe I have with my husband – he would tell you I have no problem telling him what’s bothering me now.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Proverbs 17:27, 28 – “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

It is important that you learn to communicate positively with your spouse so you don’t build up a wall of offense between the two of you.

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