In Ephesians 4:32 we are encouraged to: be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us. The key to being kind and tenderhearted is consideration for someone else’s feelings. We tend to think of the opposite of love as being hate but it appears that the opposite of love is apathy… just not caring.
We tend to think of the opposite of love as being hate but it appears that the opposite of love is apathy… just not caring.
The prophet Malachi is the last prophetic voice of the Old Testament and he brings a strong rebuke against the Hebrew men for how they have dealt with their wives. Three times in chapter two they are admonished about dealing treacherously with their wives.
We often associate ‘treacherous’ with plotting and scheming, but here the Hebrew relates to not caring for another. When we become callous and apathetic, we don’t care if our spouse is hurt or whether we hurt them. This is a dangerous place for a marriage!
A diagnostic heart exam may be helpful to reveal the condition of our heart. When our spouse is upset, do we find ourselves saying [or thinking] things like ‘I don’t care’ or ‘that’s your problem you deal with it’. If so we need to take steps to regain consideration for our spouse.
I have watched couples in my office during marriage counseling when they are callous. I have watched as either a husband or a wife broke down in tears in my office and, their spouse watched stone-faced. When we see our spouse hurting and their pain does not stir compassion we have lost consideration.
When we see our spouse hurting and their pain does not stir compassion we have lost consideration.
Similarly, when they are hurting and we think, “ good they deserve it” we have become callous.
When someone is examined by a cardiologist and; they are told that there is hardening of their arteries, they need to remedy the situation. Otherwise, the quality of their life will be diminished and their life will be shortened. Similarly, in our spiritual lives, when we see that there is hardening of our hearts we need to call Dr. Jesus, the Great Physician. Fortunately, he still makes house calls.
In Ephesians 4:32, Paul notes that there is a relationship between a tender heart and forgiveness. We will explore this subject more fully in the section dealing with reconciliation. Nevertheless, we need to realize that a lack of forgiveness keeps us from being tenderhearted.
In addition Paul connects the discussion about consideration with the exhortation not to grieve the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. As we are sensitive to the work of God’s Spirit in our lives we remain more sensitive to the feelings of others in our lives.
One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction when we are grieving God. H.L Mencken described our conscience as that small voice that tells us that someone may be watching. When we are sensitive to the Spirit we confess when we are wrong. When we become callous to God’s Spirit we are self-righteous and, tend to deny when we have become inconsiderate of others. Accordingly, consideration requires that we walk in the Spirit!
In Ephesians 4:15 we are reminded to speak the truth in love. Conflict is inevitable in any close relationship, however, for many of us conflict is extremely uncomfortable.
Conflict is inevitable in any close relationship, however, for many of us conflict is extremely uncomfortable.
Often people avoid conflict rather than deal with the difficult emotions.
Imagine the couple at the boutique and the wife asks her husband “honey does this make me look fat?” The husband responds “No…you look fat in everything”. While he may be speaking the truth, he is probably not speaking the truth in love. In this scenario, the husband is being insensitive to his wife and it hinders his effectiveness to communicate the truth in love.
Another area to consider is the ‘volcano syndrome’. Imagine a spouse who is upset that their partner is going out several nights a week. Rather than tell their spouse that they are upset and trying to work through the issue the spouse just ‘stuffs’ the feelings. Finally, after several weeks or maybe months the spouse explodes like a volcano spewing hot lava! The eruption certainly reveals the conflict, but like a volcano there has been significant damage.
Imagine further that our couple talked about going out at night during the week. As the first spouse discussed the issue they asked their mate ‘Honey do you mind if I go out three nights a week?’ The second spouse had some reservations about it, but did not want to discourage their spouse so they said ‘It’s fine’ and never expressed their reservations.
Within the first week the resentment was beginning to build, but the spouse thought it would probably pass… so nothing was said. As the weeks went by, the second spouse was feeling more resentful but didn’t want to say anything since they initially gave approval. Nevertheless they started acting out. For example they stopped doing laundry and cleaning dishes thinking that ‘If you’re not going to be here why should I keep working?’.
Despite the fact that the resentment was building; and the volcano was about to erupt, there was no discussion. Then the volcano erupted…without prior warning. Unfortunately, there are more volcano eruptions than necessary.
By learning to honestly communicate our feelings with sensitivity and love we can deal with conflict in an appropriate manner. In dealing with conflict, we want to take responsibility for our own feelings.
In dealing with conflict, we want to take responsibility for our own feelings.
We often want to blame others for our feelings. As we seek to share the truth in love we want to avoid pointing a finger at others for our feelings.
In our earlier example, it is easy for us to imagine the spouse coming home after the third night out. Their spouse is pointing a finger and shouting: “You are so selfish staying out having a good time while I’m here alone caring for our house”.
The spouse is feeling lonely, but rather than communicate their feelings, they accuse their mate of being selfish and point the finger of blame.
Therefore to effectively work through conflict we want to take responsibility for our own feelings and speak the truth in love.