When in an argument, we need to commit to wise fighting words. There are poisonous fighting words, and there are wise fighting words. What are the wise fighting words? They’re listed in James 3:17-18. It says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
So from that passage, we get seven rules for wise fighting:
1. Always check my motives.
I would always check my motives. Before I move into conflict, I need to ask myself: Am I doing this to build the relationship or to tear that person down? Do I just want to get this off my chest so I will feel better? Or is it really something that I don’t want to bring up, but I have to because it’s a tough issue. And to take this relationship deeper I’ve got to confront because it says wisdom from above is first of all pure. So I want to ask: Are my motives in bringing up this issue pure or do I just want to get back at them? So I always check my motives.
2. Never attack the person; attack the issue.
Never attack the person; attack the issue. It says wisdom from above is also peace loving. So my goal is to experience a deeper peace in the relationship, not to win the argument, because I can win the argument and lose everything. The root cause of anger is always hurt, frustration, insecurity, or fear. So I’ve got to come right out and say: I felt really hurt when you did that. When you do this, it makes me feel so insecure. And then you’ve just knocked the defenses down. You’re right to the root cause. You’ve humbled yourself to attack the issue, but if you just attack them — you did this and you did that, you make me so mad — then you’re just launching an angry bird missile. It’s just destroying the relationship a little at a time, and you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re just talking about the surface level. That’s why a lot of couples argue over the same things over and over again, never getting anywhere. They just destroy their marriage a little at a time.
3. Never raise my voice
The third thing is never raise my voice. It says wisdom from above is gentle at all times, not some of the time, at all times. When you yell, you fail in an argument. When you raise your voice and you yell and you scream, you fail. You can show emotion. You can get emotional. It can get heated, but yelling at the other person — that just causes defenses to go up, and it’s destructive.
4. Never interrupt
Never interrupt. This is huge. It says wisdom from above is willing to yield to others. Many times we’re just thinking about the next zinger that we’re going to get them with, and we’re not listening to their side of the argument. Just like: I’m going to get them on this one, and we interrupt. It’s so important to yield in an argument, in conflict, if you want to take it to the deepest level and to accomplish what it’s set out to accomplish, you’ve got to listen. To listen to their heart, listen to what they’re saying, really listen. Try to understand what’s going on, what the issue really is.
5. Never keep score
Never keep score. Most couples in marriage are just keeping score. They always have a score card in their back pocket, and they bring that out whenever they get into an argument. Remember when you did this fifteen years ago? They’re just keeping score. You did this so I’m going to do that. You can’t build a relationship with a score card in your back pocket. It says wisdom from above is full of mercy. So, you don’t use the past as a club. You get rid of the score cards.
6. Always follow the talk with action
Always follow the talk with action. It says wisdom from above is full of good deeds. So, when you are in a conflict and you come to this place where you say, “You know what? I am sorry. I won’t ever do that again.” You get to this reconciliation. When you say those things, you’ve got to follow them up immediately with action because those words aren’t really powerful until there’s action behind it. That’s why I talk to a lot of guys who say, “Well, I’ve asked her to forgive me. I’ve told her I’m sorry but she is still holding it against me.” And I say it’s because she’s waiting for you to act, and over time you build trust back because you’re to forgive right away when someone hurts you, but it takes time for them to build trust back. You don’t have to get right back in the same situation where you get hurt again. She’s watching to see if what you said is really true, and the only way she can know that is over time is if she sees the actions match the words that you just said. You can’t just say, I’m sorry, and it’s all done. You have to back those words up with action.
7. Always speak from my heart
And then the seventh thing, maybe the most important, is always speak from my heart. It says wisdom from above is always sincere. If you don’t get anything else when you’re in a conflict, drop the guard around your heart, drop the shield around your heart and really speak from your heart. A lot of times when we’re in conflict, we put a guard around our heart, a shield around our heart, and we put a mask on. We get real tough and get to be that tough guy, and we’re hitting them with the arguments, but you’re not getting anywhere until you drop the guard and you reveal your heart; and yes, it’s a risk. You can get wounded, but the only way you can take the relationship deeper is when you share from your heart. That means your heart has to be vulnerable. You have to risk getting hurt.