So, I really didn’t know the power of my words until I got married – when I began to fully and completely do life with another individual. And though I quickly caught a glimpse of this during the first six months of marriage, my eyes are still constantly being opened to this reality.
I’ve realized that when I am with co-workers or at church or small group or playing sports with friends or even having people over, I am highly sensitive to how I might appear, and everything I say is measured and intentional. It’s like, “Hello, New Social Setting!!!!!” and I flip a switch mentally and emotionally, and I put my guard up and behave in a certain manner. Here, I am keen to come across in a certain likeable and agreeable way, and effort and focus are spent on being laid-back, charming, and somewhat cool (I do what I can!).
When I am with friends, I am highly sensitive to how I might appear, and everything I say is measured and intentional.
At home, I am with Rachel as we fill time and space doing life together. And when there is time and space to be filled, words come out of my mouth. For example, I bring up news related to my sports teams. I share my struggles and successes with her, from the mundane to the monumental. I ask “how’s your heart?” I flirt in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I crack jokes. I engage in what my sister calls “ASB” – attention-seeking behavior – just to get Rachel to laugh. I would do all of this when we were dating, and all of it is great, and in these cases my mouth doesn’t get me into trouble.
However, now that we’ve been married a few years, I have let my guard down. This is often a good thing, when it involves emotional walls coming down, and the deepening of true, relational intimacy. But it’s a bad thing when it involves becoming complacent.
Because when I get complacent, I sometimes am a bit of a jerk.
Here’s the point: What I have learned is that I never intentionally or even unintentionally hurt Rachel with my actions. And I never intentionally hurt her with my words. But sometimes, I unintentionally hurt her with my words.
Sometimes I come across a little abrupt when making a point. Sometimes I convey a bit of annoyance when I’m reminding her to do something. Sometimes I betray judgment and even condescension when she makes a choice I wouldn’t have made. This is all with my choice of words, tone, and manner of expression.
Sometimes I convey a bit of annoyance when I’m reminding her to do something. Sometimes I betray judgment and even condescension when she makes a choice I wouldn’t have made.
I have also realized that some of the ways I say things to her are said in the way I would say things to myself. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly talking to myself in my head or under my breath, in sharp, abrasive commands that are not kind or loving at all.
For example, I don’t ever remember saying to myself, “That’s okay, Sameer, that was a wonderful attempt and you are so deeply and truly loved by God regardless of whether you accomplished it, and so give yourself a pat on the back!”
Instead, I say to myself things like, “Come ON, Sameer!” “Get it together!” “Do better!” “No rest for the weary!” “Work harder!” “Get it done!” “Rise up!” Now to be sure, I don’t command Rachel in any way, shape, or form, but when she does something differently than I would, my “Gahhhhhhhhhh!!!!” or my “What is happening here?!” or my “FRICKETY FRACK!!” are just euphemisms covering over the more harsh equivalents of what I want to say.
And that gets conveyed. Rachel is no fool. She picks up on my irritation or criticism, and my words cut deep.
So I often just wish I could just keep my mouth shut. I definitely don’t want to hurt her. But when there is time and space to fill when doing life with someone, you can’t operate in silence. I’ve thought about it, but that would be weird and not very ideal in a healthy marriage.
I often just wish I could just keep my mouth shut.
And so I try to remember to pray Psalm 141:3, where I ask God to set a guard over my mouth, and keep watch over the door of my lips to keep me from speaking thoughtlessly.
But I still mess up sometimes. I really, really, really want to get better at this.
I know it’s easy to say, “Relax, you’re human! We all mess up in these ways with our significant others, or other people we care about! Cut yourself some slack!”
I just don’t want to think like that, because you can find an excuse for anything if you try. I know we are so busy, and exhausted, and doing our best given so many stressors and hardships in life. But that’s everyone’s story. And you and I have seen a lot of crappy behavior and words out there justified or rationalized away. They’re still fundamentally wrong. And it’s always wrong to hurt others, especially when that outcome can be prevented with some intentional personal growth.
You and I have seen a lot of crappy behavior and words out there justified or rationalized away. They’re still fundamentally wrong. And it’s always wrong to hurt others.
So, I want to put in the effort.
If you recognize this pattern in your own life, I hope you want to work at it too. Our loved ones deserve that. God deserves that, for giving us loved ones.
When you see or talk to Rachel, ask her how I’m doing. Really. And if you’re up for growing in this area and ready for some accountability, let me know if I can check in with you – or your loved one – to see how you’re doing.