How can we be wives who open our mouths with wisdom and let the law of kindness guide our tongues?
We love ancestral lore in our family. It gives me a sense of familial attachment and continuity to know, for instance, that I am a descendant of a Reformation Era martyr, and that one of my shadowy fore-mothers was abducted by Indians and wandered out of the woods several years later with a little half-breed baby. My father's family even has its own form of the "I'm my own Grandpa" story that requires a large whiteboard and several different colors of markers to map out.
But then there are those other stories. The black sheep legends. The dusty skeletons that hang out in ancestral closets.
For instance, from way back in my husband's family tree, the story is told of how one boy's mother came home from serving a funeral dinner at her local church and thus did not have her own family supper on the table at the normal time. His father was so incensed at his wife that he refused to speak to her for several weeks. Scared by the silence reigning in the house, the boy went to his grandmother for advice and sympathy and was understandably perturbed when his grandmother answered airily, "Oh, honey, don't worry about that! There have been times when your grandfather didn't speak to me for months."
Besides the fact that this reminds us that our children will follow in our footsteps, it also illustrates the wrong way to give your spouse the silent treatment.
Recently I experienced a sore throat and lost my voice for several days. My husband and children enjoyed it a little too much, I think, in spite of their professions otherwise. (My kids declared they preferred my normal voice over my hoarse whispers and randomly generated sign language.) But those few days had a profitable impact on me: whilst stranded on my isle of pain without a voice, I gave some extra thought to the power of words, specifically when I should use them and when I should exercise my right to remain silent.
In marriage, for instance, there are seven excellent reasons we should opt to give our husbands the silent treatment.
7 Reasons to Give your Husband the Silent Treatment
1. When we are tempted to tear him down, be sarcastic, or speak unkindly.
2. When we are discontent or ungrateful.
Women who are discontent may drive their husbands to make foolish decisions. Have you ever heard about a man who went too deeply in debt for a house he couldn't afford, because his wife expressed discontentment over their living quarters? Has your husband ever done something special for you and you "thanked" him by expressing your wish that he had done something else? If you can't be grateful, be silent until you can!
Ultimately, the surest way to develop gratitude toward your husband is to be thankful to God. (Eph. 5:4, 19-20)
3. When we are frustrated about a decision he has made. (Ephesians 5:33)
No, his opinions and decisions are not always perfect. Newsflash: neither are mine or yours. I'm blessed to be married to a man who asks for and wants my opinion, but that doesn't mean he always does what I suggest.
A few months ago my husband made a decision that I didn't like (after listening thoughtfully to my opinion). For several months, every time the subject came up, I let him know how I disagreed with him over that particular matter. Thankfully, the Lord convicted me about what I was doing and gave me grace to apologize to him and adjust my attitude. I ended up loving the choice he made. (Go figure.) God blesses us when we let our husbands take leadership in our homes.
4. When our words or tone of voice will convey disrespect. (II Samuel 6:16-23)
Ask Michal if disrespectful words are worth the consequences. When King David came back to Jerusalem with the Ark of the Lord, his uninhibited worship in the streets struck his wife as undignified and she despised him in her heart. When he came home to bless his house, she met him with a gush of pent-up criticism that their relationship never recovered from. Listen to the way you speak to your husband. Do your words convey reverence or disrespect? (I have found this resource very helpful when it comes to hearing a man's viewpoint on what comes across as disrespect.)
5. When we are angry.
Maybe he hurt your feelings with some unkind or angry words of his own. Or forgot your birthday. Or made a poor financial choice. Take some time to cool down and control your spirit. Don't immediately blast him with your anger.
Proverbs has some choice words to say about anger:
6. When we have an unholy urge to blame-shift.
Blame-shifting is as old as the Garden of Eden. "But the woman You gave me. . ." "But the serpent. . . " We wives are not immune to the temptation. Just like Eve, when our husband blames us for something, we automatically want to respond by passing that blame on, either back at him or towards someone or something else. Instead, we should look honestly at our lives, evaluate the blame that is ours, own it, and confess it.
7. When we are tempted to ask a leading question.
Are your questions a test to see if he can get the right answer? We all know what this is like. "Does this dress make me look fat?" (My father had a droll answer for that one: "No, dear, that dress doesn't make you look fat.")
Maybe, like me, you start conversations by asking for advice you have no intention of heeding. "Do you think Junior should sign up for Little League?" (Because you don't want him to, and when your husband innocently says, "Sure," you plan to give him a bulleted list of all the reasons it is a bad idea.)
Just. Don't. Do. This.
We women are good with our tongues. We wield them with all the zeal of a warrior sometimes. It would help us to remember that "when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent" (Proverbs 10:19). Sometimes, in order to nurture our relationship, we should instead choose to give our husbands the "silent treatment."
Did you like this post? You might also like When True Love Doesn't Wait.
Tim and Laura
Timothy and Laura Berrey are missionaries with Gospel Fellowship Association. They share a passion for missions which has taken them to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They currently minister in the Philippines.
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