Friendly Persuasion in Marriage
- Barry R. Leventhal, Ph.D. <i>Two Becoming One</i>
- 2004 2 Feb
It seemed like every time John and Laura got into a discussion, it quickly disintegrated into an argument. Neither of them meant it to start out that way. But given ample time, sure enough, more heat than light. John did his best to persuade Laura to his side of things. He reasoned. He flattered. He argued. He fumed. He exited. "She just doesn't get it!" he exclaimed in utter frustration.
Laura likewise did her best to persuade John to her way of doing things. She promised. She schemed. She argued. She fumed. She withdrew. "John is so close-minded!" she mumbled, throwing her hands up in despair.
From that point on, it was straight down hill. Recriminations. The silent treatment. And then, with the passing of time, things seemed to fall back into place-at least for a little while. Safe and distant interchanges ensued. Maybe a little intimacy from time to time. But then the inevitable default posture reappeared, as it always did. Right back to the power plays of persuasion. Who would get his or her way first? Who would have the final word on the next step to take? Who would be the most persuasive?
This is a typical scenario in most marriages when human persuasion overrides divine persuasion. The real question in most marriages is how to turn hostile persuasion into friendly persuasion. How do we allow God to persuade our mates to His kind of changes rather than our own? That's when it's time to turn to the divine wisdom found in The Book of Proverbs.
Here we can find God's lessons on the true skills of friendly persuasion-the only kind of persuasion that will transform our mates into God's design for a fulfilling marriage. God's blueprint for friendly persuasion in marriage is built on three connecting points. We need all three in order to persuasively connect with our mates.
1. Friendly persuasion in marriage begins with the heart not the mouth.
The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips (Prov. 16:23).
A heart of wisdom, like a deep well, springs up into the mouth so that positive persuasion can take place. Most of the persuasion problems that we experience in our marriages are, at the root level, heart problems. When we get our hearts right, then our mouths can be taught and positive persuasion is bound to follow. But that raises a pertinent question: Where does a heart of wisdom come from? Ultimately, a heart of wisdom must come from God Himself.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov. 9:10).
The fear of the LORD teaches a person wisdom, and humility comes before honor (Prov. 15:33).
God only teaches His wisdom to those who are teachable on the godward side, to those who live in a humble and obedient posture before Him.
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin (Prov. 10:8).
The way of the fool seems right to him, but a wise person listens to advice (Prov. 12:15).
In other words, the first step in gaining wisdom from God is to wisely listen to Him.
And normally this means hanging out with the right kind of people, especially with those who have mastered God's wisdom.
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm (Prov. 13:20).
Most marriages can become persuasive marriages when married couples bond together with other committed couples who want to follow God's blueprint. God is committed to building our homes into wise and skilled marriages so that He can display them before a ramshackled world.
2. Friendly persuasion in marriage grows with sweet rather than sour words.
The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasion (Prov. 16:21).
Mary Poppins had it right, "A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down."
How we say what we say is just as important as what we say. As someone has said, "When love is felt, the message is heard." Sour words corrode marital intimacy. Sweet words enhance it. And like a lovely flower, that's when friendly persuasion can blossom in a marriage, giving off the sweet aroma of God's own presence.
3. Friendly persuasion in marriage matures with patience rather than hotheadedness.
Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone (Prov. 25:15).
Patience means time. It also means waiting. Like anything that grows and matures, timing is crucial in the development of friendly persuasion in marriage. It is nurtured through the various seasons of a marriage. Early on in our marriages, we want everything right away. My husband must change right now! My wife just doesn't get it right now! But in reality, it is the slow, gentle persistent breezes that melt an iceberg-not the furious, harsh, hammering storms. They only enlarge and harden the iceberg.
Of course, it should not be surprising that friendly persuasion in marriage is grounded in God's friendly persuasion in our own individual lives. He is the One who is always seeking to bless and protect us through His Word, the only true Word that is absolutely flawless and trustworthy. God is the One who downloads His Word into our individual lives. He can also download it into our marriages as well.
He who gives attention to the Word shall find good, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD (Prov. 16:20).
Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him (Prov. 30:5).
In light of God's connecting points for friendly persuasion in marriage, prayerfully consider the following questions:
1. In the last six months, have you been a friendly persuader in your marriage or a hostile persuader? If your form of marital persuasion has been more like a hammer than a cotton swab, why not confess it to God right now and then ask your mate to forgive you.
2. In the next six months, how can you become a friendly persuader in your marriage? Remember, friendly persuasion is the outgrowth of a friendly heart and only God can transform our hearts. So why not ask Him to do so right now.
© 2003 Christian Family Life
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