When it comes to relationships, it’s important to see potential pitfalls before it’s too late. We need to plan to avoid the things that would hinder us from keeping our relationships on-track and healthy. Because in the heat of the moment, we can destroy a relationship if we are not careful.
Galatians 5 :22 tells us, “ … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” This passage points out the attributes that we should have if we walk in tune with God. Summing up this list is one particular life skill and character trait that will keep us from doing the most damage to our relationships: self-control.
You see, in the heat of the moment, we can react without thinking about the terrible consequences our vicious words or foolish actions could have. What good does it do to pour ourselves into our relationships with noble intentions of loving someone forever if we don’t also make plans to protect the relationship from key areas of stress and temptation?
Knowing these three main danger zones, and being honest with ourselves that we could fall in these areas, will help us walk with self control.
- With a glance of the eyes: “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.” (Prov 6:25) The book of Proverbs, in its earliest chapters especially, warns us to be careful of seductive eyes and adulterous liaisons. Men and women both need to guard what our eyes linger on, or whose eyes are lingering on us! It can begin with a glance of the eyes, but it always continues with a walk down a pathway away from our commitment to a loved one. We call them affairs of the heart, but they start with a glance of the eyes. Then it leads to an intimate conversation. Then time spent together. And then we shatter our partner with infidelity, broken trust, and selfishness. But we don’t have to go that route: self-control will help us to fix our eyes on Jesus and turn our gaze away from that temptation. We don’t have to go down a path that will ruin our marriage and family if we decide what we will focus on.
- In a burst of anger: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander … ” (Eph 4:31) When rage boils up inside us and we shoot out whatever accusations and caustic words we feel like saying, we do extensive damage to our relationships. We need to control our tempers, which means we need a life submitted to God and an escape route to avoid saying what we don’t mean. It helps to have a plan ahead of time of what you will do when you start to feel that anger brewing. For some, quickly walking away and getting to a quiet place can help calm us down. For others, we need to pause and express the hurt or fear underneath the anger and ask our partner to pray for us. This turns a volatile scene into a scene of humility and grace where the fruit of the Holy Spirit is seen.
- With an audience watching: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers…” (1 Peter 2:17) There are times in every couple’s relationship where an uncomfortable exchange takes place in front of an audience watching. There’s nothing more embarrassing and awkward than seeing a couple unravel in front of a horrified crowd nervously averting their eyes. Whether it’s one partner siding with someone else in front of their spouse or having a fight in front of your in-laws, decide ahead of time that you two will never throw each other to the lions, so to speak. Loyalty means you respect each other in public and address your disagreements in private – never in front of an audience, and especially not in front of your children. This is not hypocrisy. This is a commitment to honor each other, even in the midst of a disagreement. You can decide to take the time to work out things later in private.
Our relationships will thrive if practice self-control. This means that we can approach those pivotal moments of stress and temptation with a cool head and calm heart. We don’t want to react without thought for the future. This is how we avoid making terrible life-impacting decisions in the heat of the moment.
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