The words we say to others matter…especially in marriage.
What we say to our spouse can either soften their hearts and draw them closer to us or the words we sling can pierce their souls and push them away from us.
In our fallen and flesh-filled state, a hurtful word (or two!) can definitely spill from our lips or our spouse’s. Then what? After all, once the harsh words are released, you can’t take them back.
How does one forgive and forget what was said?
This is what one wife is dealing with in her marriage. Here’s her story…
What do you do when you and your husband have a knock down drag out fight where you and your husband have said ugly things. How do you forgive and forget? I can’t forget his ugly words? They keep replaying over and over in my mind.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:32
Renew your mind…
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
ERIC: Hi, I’m Eric Engle, here with my beautiful and talented wife, Jolene, for another episode of The Marriage Mentor.
JOLENE: In this episode I got a letter from Melissa – and as you’re listening, just know that I read every single letter that comes my way. Obviously, as the ministry gets bigger, I don’t have the time to reply to each one, so we do the best we can with the podcast here to respond to your questions. Anyway, so here’s the question: “What do you do when you and your husband have a knock down, drag-out fight, where you have said ugly things. How do you forgive and forget? I cannot forget his ugly words, they keep replaying over and over in my mind.”
What’s that stupid little childhood saying? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That’s a lie from the pit of the enemy, right there. They do hurt.
ERIC: The premise of that saying is, ‘I’m gonna be tough and I’m not gonna let it hurt me.’
JOLENE: In marriage that’s not a good view point to take.
ERIC: The first thing I would say, and I want you guys to hear this, if you can, don’t say those things. Bite your tongue, go out, and jump in the pool. Walk away.
JOLENE: Get in your car, drive away… Gee, I’ve done that!
ERIC: Don’t say that stupid stuff!
JOLENE: Well, in her defense, not all of us come from a mellow Christian home; I came from a home filled with rage. We slammed doors, cursed – the whole nine yards! When I got saved, I was wondering what I did with what’s been imprinted on my brain. Well here’s the beauty, we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us, if you claim to be a believer in Christ Jesus, and you have the Holy Spirit within you. That was all fine and dandy for me as a new believer, but how do I connect the dots when I’m reading my Bible and you’re making me fuming mad and I don’t understand everything? I remember times when I was so bent out of shape and thinking, ‘keep your mouth shut, keep your mouth shut’.
ERIC: I have never upset you.
JOLENE: Yeah you’ve never upset me (laughs).
ERIC: I started with the end at the beginning – to not say that stuff. But obviously, the question is, what do you do when the words are said?
JOLENE: They’ve been said… So then let’s give a ‘pre-teaching’. Here’s some preventative teaching, we’re going to do both. Let’s say that you’ve moved into marriage and maybe you’ve come from a household like I did – where rage was the norm, things were thrown and all of that stuff – Jerry Springer type show. Keep your mouth shut, keep it shut, keep it shut, keep it shut.
ERIC: Here’s a great picture to keep in your mind: it’s like pointing a loaded gun at someone when you say those things. Would you really do that? Would you take out a loaded gun and point it at your husband or wife? You wouldn’t do that. And so remember that, when you’re about to say those things it’s like pointing a loaded gun – do not do that.
JOLENE: And once the words go out, they’re gone. You can’t take them back. I’ve said words that I can’t take back – I remember a family member calling me a whore, I still remember that to this day! And that was probably over 20 years ago because I’ve been saved now for almost that long. Again, the preventative teaching is, as a man or as a woman, if you’re listening in, go for a walk, go for a drive. I’ve gotten in the car before in our early years of marriage. Because I didn’t know how to handle it, but I did know I couldn’t take the words back.
ERIC: So how do we get over it?
JOLENE: Here’s some things that I’ve done. My first thought is, ‘let me stick it right back in your face’, because that is my flesh, my flesh says ‘you’ve hurt me, so I want to turn around and hurt you’, but that won’t solve the issue, nor will it make my marriage better. My challenge to you is a couple things…
I want you to look to the end at the type of marriage you want, because if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’re going to have the same type of marriage today that you did last week. So if you want a better marriage, you have to start retraining your processes about how you think. This is what I’ve done. I go back to scripture, because scripture is the only thing that will bring that balm to my soul when Eric says something and I’m hurt by it.
ERIC: The healing medicine.
JOLENE: Yes, I think about Ephesians 4:32, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” I can look at that verse and say ‘psh, I’m not doing any of that, because you’re not acting that way.’ Kind of like a tit for tat. But that’s not going to get me to the type of marriage I want. I have to look at that verse and say to myself, ‘I need to forgive him.’
ERIC: And the Bible teaches that if you don’t, then God’s not going to forgive you.
JOLENE: Right, right. So I have to look at, if I made this choice to not forgive you, then my prayer life is hindered and Christ hasn’t forgiven me. With those two things right there, unforgiveness is not an option. I am really quick to forgive Eric, but now – the forgetting part.
ERIC: She says, “how can I forget his ugly words”, I would think part of that would be to realize that he’s probably been hurt too. There have probably been some ugly words on the other side.
JOLENE: I would imagine both have slung ugly words. I’m not responding to this listener as if there’s been emotional and verbal abuse; I’m reading this as, ‘we both had an argument, we said some ugly things’. Obviously, if there’s emotional and verbal abuse that is habitual in your marriage, you need to go seek further Biblical counsel and walk with someone.
ERIC: I think the first thing to do would be to go and approach the Lord: ‘Look, I’m rotten’ and if you go and approach your spouse and say ‘Hun, I’m rotten, I am sinful, and I was wrong’ and then ask for forgiveness. It’s not ok if you just forget it, try to brush it under the rug, or think that time will take care of it – you’ve got to have that active role and say ‘I’m rotten’. And frankly, if you live your life with the premise that you are rotten…
JOLENE: Like Job, “I am vile”.
ERIC: Right. Favorite verse! Job was griping about things and God said, ‘oh really? Tell me how I did this and tell me how I did that! And how about this?’ And Job’s response was, “I am vile” and he certainly was. And is! We’re all vile.
JOLENE: And then you have the apostle Paul, who refers to himself as the chief of sinners. I think for me, as a woman who naturally is affected by words, I always have to go back to scripture and recognize where I fall short, because I do fall short. I’m sure I probably said something to you that stung a little bit and I spewed the venom right back on you. So as you said, recognize your part in it. When I recognize my part in my sin and I go to you and ask for forgiveness, here’s something that happens in the influence of a wife when she does this: if you make the first move to ask him to forgive you for the words you’ve said…. How would you respond if we had some big blowup and I was the first to apologize?
ERIC: You usually are the first to apologize, because I’m probably more stubborn than you are. You’re a forgiving woman – which is one of the reasons that I married you, but that’s another story. The fact that you come first and say you’re sorry, makes me feel like a jerk, because I was probably the one that was more to blame!
JOLENE: And that’s the perfect example of how the Holy Spirit comes in and convicts you. A wife doesn’t really have to do anything to her husband, other than asking what God and the Holy Spirit are prompting you to do. If I, as a woman, sit back and do what the Word says or what the Holy Spirit is convicting me to do, and I go do it, then you’ll have the movement in the marriage the way God intended.
ERIC: Right. Normally we see people pointing the finger at the other person, ‘it was him’ or ‘it was her… they wronged me, they hurt me’. The Bible calls us to deal with our own sin first. Take care of the log in our own eye, before we go after the speck in their eye.
JOLENE: Right, right. We don’t need to be the sin sniffer, but as the wife who is struggling, she’s playing right into the enemy’s hands as she’s replaying her husband’s ugly words on repeat. And that’s what the enemy wants you to do; he’s like, ‘haha! I caught her; I got her! And now she’s sucked up in all of this.’ Now to the wife, let me challenge you: choose to be a forgiving wife, regardless of what your husband does or doesn’t do. And then the next thing is: you choose to renew your mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” The pattern of this world is to be unforgiving and to be bitter and to hold a grudge. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So when I’m struggling with stuff that Eric’s telling me, I could put that on repeat or I could look at him with best intentions and say, ‘he’s just rotten like I am’.
ERIC: The Bible talks about not keeping a record of wrongs. And here’s what happens: if you forget what’s behind and press forward like Paul talked about and you don’t spend your time keeping a record of wrongs, things go so much better! I remember one of our worst arguments was when we were in a Bible study and they said, “think back about a time when you had an argument”, and I don’t know what it was, but it was really stupid. We couldn’t think about anything, but then we were like, ‘remember that one time’ and we got into an argument about it! It was so stupid! We had put that behind; we had forgotten about it, we had laid it to rest. But then we went back and dug it up.
JOLENE: Well, it was funny because the intention of the Bible study was to draw us closer, but they used an unbiblical premise to do that. And I was thinking wait a minute, we’re now at odds with each other because they asked us to do something that was contrary to the Word of God.
ERIC: And we said we were never going to do that again.
JOLENE: Yeah, we threw the bible study in the trash and we didn’t go back… But anyway, that’s a different topic. You’ve got to renew your mind. Also, when we were talking about Paul in his verse about forgetting what was behind, the verb tense of ‘forgetting’ is an on-going thing. So whether it was the words your husband said, or for me it was my sexual past, I had to go back to forgetting – it was an on-going thing, I had to say ‘okay, Lord, your Word says this and I’m going to choose this.’ I’m being decisive to choose God’s Word over how I’m feeling, because the enemy will use those feelings to wreak havoc in marriage.
ERIC: Yeah, sure. He did that to Jesus: ‘hey, you feel hungry? Look at these stones; turn them into bread.’ Absolutely.
JOLENE: Be a decisive wife, a forgiving wife, and a wife who renews her mind. That’s how you could move past this, because it’s an on-going thing in every marriage. Eric and I might not be having ugly words on a regular basis, because we tried early on in our marriage to not do that, but we will have arguments. I have to decide if I’m going to let this stew in my heart or if I’m going to deal with it and move on. The best thing in every marriage is to deal with it and move on, but always deal with it in a Biblical way.
ERIC: It comes to either building up your house or tearing it down.
JOLENE: That’s pretty much all I have for that. I’m Jolene Engle, here with my husband Eric and we’ll see you next time.
Live a poured out life for Christ,