Life At Its Best: Learn to be happily incompatible
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When asked about the secret to his happy 50-year marriage to his wife, Ruth, Billy Graham responded, "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."
How great is that? It's obvious Mr. Graham understood something incredibly important to long term and rewarding relationships, and it's this: none of us are completely compatible. We choose to be.
Whether we've been married two months or two decades, we find things we don't always see eye to eye on. And part of developing lasting relationships in our marriage, families and friendships is learning to resolve conflicts. That's where the importance of communication comes in.
The word "communicate" actually means "to join," and there's no relationship that God wants to join together more than the marriage relationship. He has things he wants us to accomplish together that will make a difference in this life and beyond.
So, let's look at some principles God gives us for successful communication.
James 1:19-20 tell us, "My dear brothers, take note of this that everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not produce the righteous life that God desires."
What God's saying here is that wrong communication in any form (words, body language, facial expression) will produce the wrong spirit in a relationship. We end up with anger instead of love, pride instead of humility and exasperation instead of patience. So, how do we keep these negative emotions from allowing us to communicate well?
First of all, we learn to listen. It's so easy for us to think we know what another person is thinking and feeling before we've even heard them out. In conflict, it's tempting to want to interrupt, cut people off or begin processing our response before they've even finished speaking.
But as my mom used to say, God gave us two ears and one mouth because he wants us to listen twice as much as we talk. Being a good listener is an art that definitely takes effort. But there is no greater feeling to know somebody has taken time to really hear and understand what matters to us.
Second, not only should we be quick to listen, but we should also be careful to speak. Proverbs reminds us that a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. In other words, we should use our words like an artist uses their tools.
They paint a little bit, step back and evaluate what they've produced. Their goal is to create something of beauty. In the same way, we want to use our words thoughtfully and carefully to create beauty in the lives of those we love.
God created marriage, and he knows exactly how it's supposed to work to produce favor and blessing in our lives. So, why not follow his plan for communication?
Our differences don't have to make our marriage fail. Like Billy Graham, if we'll remain "happily incompatible," embracing our differences and adopting God's method of communication, our marriage can flourish into all he designed it to be.
Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria. faithfamilyvictoria.com.