The other day I sat for hours in the corridor of a courthouse on a cold cement bench that rested against an icy marble wall. My friend and I waited for a sheriff to call us inside to settle the custody battle over her children. As time ticked by, the hall filled with clients and their attorneys. I watched and listened as the tension between couples grew, and the verbal assaults began.
“Can you believe that M-F’er called me a witch?”
“What in the F- is she thinking?”
“He’s an idiot!”
“I hate you!”
“Back at you!”
Meanwhile, an attorney approached a woman tapping on her cellphone and tried to speak to her. He made several attempts, but she refused to look up. Finally, her ex-spouse yelled, “See! If she cared about her kid, she’d get off that dang phone!”
Another man argued that he had to drive one hour every day to pick up his son from school, while his “ex-witch” worked only ten minutes from their kid.
In the midst of the chaos, a woman who looked about five months pregnant, ran out of a courtroom and begged me for a pen. I pulled one from my bag and handed it to her. Meanwhile, her three-year-old boy, dressed in a beaver outfit, ran after her, but she closed the door in his face to prevent him from entering the court proceedings. The little boy frowned as he returned to his grandfather, and started to climb all over him. After a few moments, the man asked him, “Do you love me?”
“Nope,” said the little beaver.
“Why don’t you love papa?”
The boy paused for a moment and thought, and then said, “Because.”
The toddler continued to play as his parents yelled obscenities behind closed doors about his future.
Children don’t see sides of issues; they hear a dad arguing and assume his father doesn’t believe he’s worth the hour drive to pick him up from school. They watch as their mother texts a friend instead of giving her attention to his or her well-being, and they experience a parent who rudely excludes them from conversations and forces them to stay with grandparents while they fight over the future.
I grieved as I listened to words filled with murderous intent inflicted upon people who once professed love for one another.
Why do we allow disagreements to escalate beyond repair? When all reasoning is exhausted, people resort to name-calling to wound the person who doesn’t see things their way. However, the loser of a quarrel does not realize that the beginning of insults signals desperation. Name-calling announces to the other side that you have nothing more to add that’s credible to your position. Instead of admitting defeat, you allow your wounded pride to take over and resort to drawing (verbal) blood for losing.
Insults dissolve relationships; it shoves feelings of love to a corner. If allowed to fester, anger and resentment can lead to hatred, and then words form venom with a desire to murder.
Is it worth it? If we can learn to refrain from speaking until our frustration passes, not only will we come back to the disagreement with the clarity of mind needed to forgive, but we can recall the love and commitment made before the fight.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (NASB)
In his book, Philippians For You, Dr. Steven Lawson says, “Paul is saying that the Philippians must do nothing in a contentious manner. ‘Selfishness’ means a fractious spirit that produces strife. It is the kind of self-seeking and self-promoting attitude that creates, or even seeks and enjoys, divisions. Pride exalts self above the glory of God and the good of others. But being a Christian means that we die daily to self (Luke 9:23).”
After I read that statement, I remembered a classmate in college who once told me he argued with his wife the night before. Then with his head down he said, “You know Lizette, I let her win. I realized that being happy is better than being right.”