The Scottish minister Hugh Blair said, "Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner." If you doubt that fact, just ask someone who is married. The tone in the home can make or break a marriage. This is why every marriage tune-up requires a communication tone down.
The tone of voice used between husbands and wives isn't the only critical factor in marital harmony, but it sure ranks right up there. After all, "a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)
Just think how many times in your own life you have seen this play out. Whether you are married or not, I am sure you recognize the way harsh words and angry tones only add fuel to the fire of conflict and disagreement. We have all experienced it personally, and we witness it in the lives of others as well.
Marriage can be heaven on earth, or hell on earth. Much of the time it is somewhere in between. But if you want far more heaven in your marriage, and far less hell, you will need a communication tone down. Without it, your marriage will rarely if ever reach the heights it was intended to reach.
A harsh response to your spouse during conflict is like pouring gasoline on the fire. On the other hand, a gentle tone is like pouring water on the fire. And while it's easy to describe these dynamics, it can be very challenging to utilize a gentle tone in the heat of the moment.
So what's a couple to do when the fire of conflict flares up in their marriage?
I know of only one solution to this dilemma. There is a river of living water which flows from heaven. It enters the human soul at the moment of spiritual conversion. And it flows on the inside of every believer. When a Christian says "no" to sin, including the sin of harsh communication, God's river of gentleness flows freely. On the other hand, when a believer gives into anger and uses harsh tones, the river becomes temporarily blocked.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not meanness, but gentleness. (see Gal. 5:22,23) In fact, gentleness is intended to be one of the constant and abiding traits of a believer. But unless we follow the Spirit's leading moment by moment, we can easily slip into a habit of using the wrong tone with our spouse and others.
By God's grace, husbands and wives can dial it back. They can tone it down. They can get a grip, and allow the Holy Spirit to once again control their words, their tone, and the atmosphere of their home. Few things are worse than a spiritual atmosphere filled with the dark clouds of hostility, and the lightning of caustic criticism and bitterness.
If you are a Christian, your life of discipleship will be tested in the home more than anywhere else. The home is where disciples learn much about spiritual maturity. And it can be extremely discouraging when you fall short of God's plan.
But don't give up. There is hope. There is a way back to the place of gentleness. In fact, many couples are enjoying that sweet spirit in their home today. In spite of their marital conflicts, which we have all had, they are enjoying much respect and tender loving care in their marriage.
We desperately need God's wellspring to fill us everyday, and even every hour. Annie Hawks wrote a hymn with these beautiful words: "I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord; No tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee."
Oh how we need Jesus. We need Him in our heart, and we need Him in our home. We live in a day where much bitterness and simmering anger permeates the culture. And yet there is a place of peace where the Savior meets with His people, and fills them with the fruit of gentleness. It is a quiet place. And He is there right now if you would like to talk to Him about your need for a marriage tune-up.
You can do it. You can be honest with yourself, and with your spouse. The two of you can make great strides in this area as you rely upon the Lord. And your marriage will then take on an aroma of heaven on earth. Every other approach tends to lead back to the polluted spring of the sinful nature. Only faith in Christ results in the refreshing water of God's wellspring.
So the choice is yours, and mine. Our marriages can be filled with God's grace. But only when we adopt the tone of gentle speech, a quiet heart, and loving communication. Anything else is just two people existing under the same roof, with a bunch of storm clouds filling their hearts and their home.
If you are married, I suspect the two of you didn't plan to ever drift away from gentle communication. And yet it happens. But don't give up. Look to Christ. Talk it out with Him and with your spouse. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and then be quick to forgive the sins your spouse has committed against you.
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16)
You and your spouse are well aware of your imperfections. But remember this fact: "Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner." And so the sooner we choose to tone down our communication, the sooner our marriage can experience the atmosphere of heaven.