We all know the experience of someone being frustrated at us and feeling like we have been completely misunderstood. Most of us have also experienced the humiliation when we assumed something about another and later found out we were wrong.
Misperception is one of the biggest reasons conflict begins and escalates. The only way for misperceptions to be cleared up is for both parties to be willing to engage to win together, in a back and forth process long enough to find resolve by listening to and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. There is a revealing story…
There is a revealing story amongst the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin of their god Elegua. Clothed in red and black, Elegua is the Guardian of the Crossroads of Life.
On the first day of the week, Elegua donned a hat — red on one side, white on the other — and traveled to a crossroad. Stepping silently, he walked between two friends, one seeing the red side of his hat, the other seeing the white. Later in the day the two friends spoke to one another about the mysterious man:
“It was a fine white hat that he wore,” said the first man.”
“No, you are mistaken, my friend,” said the second man. “I saw it clearly and his hat was brilliant red.”
“Are you calling me a liar? It was white as that cloud in the morning sky.”
“Do you say that I am blind? It was red as the blood that will flow from your nose!”
Their quarreling turned to blows, as each man insisted that he was right and the other wrong.
Trickster Elegua, who had been secretly watching them fighting from a distance, chuckled at the sight. He walked over to the bloodied and furious men and separated them at arm’s length.
“See, fools, this hat of mine — red on one side and white on the other. Ha! I laugh at you from the depth of my belly, that you would strike each other over something so ridiculous as the color of a stranger’s hat. Your clothes are in tatters, and so is your friendship. Should you not choose to wrestle with more important matters, and together defeat your families’ hunger? Clothe your children? Improve your lot?”
Proverbs 20:3 could be translated: It is to one’s honor to cease from strife and be still “but every fool is quick to quarrel.” NIV
How often do you and I act as “fools” as we seek to prove our point and fail to attend to the more important matters such as loving each other well enough to drop our defenses and truly listen to the heart of another? We simply cannot and will not grow together in the midst of conflict if we do not take turns to hear the other person well.
Crucial to resolving conflict and growing deeper relationally in our marriages, is that we commit to an ongoing process which allows each party to share their heart while the other gives them the respect to listen non-defensively. Rather than volley back and forth across the conflict net to see who can win, both parties pass the conversation baton back and forth as they engage to win together. In so doing we remind ourselves that we are not each other’s enemies, but on the same team!
Never forget there IS an enemy–and he wants to kill, steal, and destroy your marriage – but that enemy is not your spouse!
What about you? What helps you to stop a quarrel or keep from quarreling? Please leave a comment below!