About the Guest
Would you be more careful about what you said if you knew one day you would have to account for each word? Listen as Dr. Paul David Tripp, Director of "Changing Lives Ministries," tells Dennis Rainey why our idle talk hurts our relationship with God and others.
Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Would you be more careful about what you said if you knew one day you would have to account for each word?
Paul: If I have an apple tree that consistently produces twisted, pulpy, inedible apples, I know there is something wrong at a deeper level than the individual apples. And if I have a harvest in my marriage of constant conflict, then right away I know there is something going on at the level of desire – you want something but you can't get it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to see if we can get to the root of some of the issues you may have been dealing with in your marital communication in recent days.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. I wonder how many couples who find themselves in conflict never have the benefit of having somebody skilled to come alongside them and say, “Look. Let me help you look at some of the deeper issues here,” and so they just keep fighting and can never figure out what the problem is.
Dennis: I think about 99 percent.
Bob: You think?
Dennis: I do. In fact I think one of our problems in resolving conflict today is that most of us have never received one hour’s worth of training around how to speak the truth in love, how to forgive, how to ask for forgiveness. I mean, you just go right down the line, Bob. The Bible really talks a great deal about how we should relate to one another, and equips us if we’ll listen to it. But most of us have never been trained biblically in how we resolve issues that we can’t solve with one another.
Bob: One of the projects that, as you know, I’ve been working on over the last year has been taking some of our key principles from our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and interpreting those in a video environment for an event that we’re calling The Art of Marriage.
It’s a six-session video event designed for a lay couple to host in a local church or in a community or in whatever setting where you can gather anywhere from four to 40 to 400 or 4000 couples together. All of you get together and you go through these six sessions from the DVDs, and one of the sessions that we’ve put together is on communication and conflict.
In fact, we start off by talking about God’s purpose and design for marriage, and then we talk about why marriages go bad, then we talk about understanding our biblical responsibilities as husbands and wives and embracing that. Then we talk about communication and conflict, then we have a session that’s devoted to intimacy and sex, and then a session that tries to help couples understand that your marriage and your family is about more than just the two of you.
Dennis: You know what I like about it, Bob, is it’s just exactly like the Weekend to Remember. It’s not only biblical, but it is people being authentic about the challenges and struggles they’re experiencing in their marriage. But then they talk about how to apply the truth of Scripture to your marriage. Then you end up with a project where you give people time to work through what they’ve learned and apply it instantly and practically to their own marriage, with their own spouse, and talk about “How do we begin to implement this in our marriage and family?”
Bob: The premier weekend for The Art of Marriage is about four weeks away now. It’s February 11th and 12th. That’s when Art of Marriage conferences are going to be hosted in cities all across the country; in fact, hundreds of locations have already been set up. But we’ve still got folks this week who have been contacting us and adding their location, saying “We’re going to do this in our church or in our community. We want to open the doors and invite others to come.”
We’ve got a big interactive map on our website. You go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on The Art of Marriage logo, and you can see all of the different locations where the events are being held.
Dennis: Yes. In fact, I know a doctor who lives in a town of about 35,000 people. He saw this and he said, “You know what? The Weekend to Remember will never come to my community, and so what we’re going to do is we’re going to go to a local college -- it used to be a junior college – it’s now a four-year school – and we’re going to see if we can rent their facility, their theatre, and show The Art of Marriage in there. He’s got enough room for 400 people to come.
He’s gone around town talking to pastors and other leaders in their community wanting to get the word out. So here’s a doctor and his wife who want to make a difference in the marriages and families in a small town. They will make a difference.
I predict, Bob, that we’re going to see dozens of locations around the country, not only on the weekend of February 11 and 12, but in the next ten months that follow February. Throughout the year, people are going to be bringing this into their town and saying, “You know what? Let’s push back against this culture of divorce and let’s provide some help and hope biblically to our family members and our friends.
Bob: If you want to find out about hosting an Art of Marriage event, or attending one of the upcoming events, because, again, these are open to the public, so you can go on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, click on The Art of Marriage link, find out where there’s going to be an event near you, and then in many cases you can register online and plan to attend that event and be a part of the premier weekend for The Art of Marriage video event. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information and click on the link for The Art of Marriage.
One of the guys who is featured in The Art of Marriage video sessions is a guy named Paul David Tripp. He’s an author and a conference speaker. He and his wife Luella have four grown children, live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He’s on the staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia. He wrote a book called War of Words where he looked at the whole process of communication and looked at it in a marriage context and said, “What causes couples to get crossways with one another in marriage?”
We sat down with him as one of about a dozen authors and experts that we interviewed for The Art of Marriage. Today we’re going to hear a portion of an interview that we did with Paul – oh, this was a number of years ago – around this issue of communication and conflict in marriage, and how couples can do a better job of listening to one another and expressing themselves to one another.
Paul: Let's say there's a wife out there, and what she desires is a loving, understanding husband. All of us would say that's a desire for a good thing. The women out there say, "Don't see anything that's wrong with this, because that's a good thing; I would say that's a good thing."
The Romans 1:25 principle helps us understand how that good thing becomes a bad thing. Here it is. Desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing. When that desire takes control of me and now sets the agenda, now I can only respond to you in one of two ways.
If you're helping me get it, I love you. I thank God that you are in my life. I think good thoughts about you. But if you are in the way of it, I'm angry at you. I have spontaneous irritation. I think bad thoughts about you.
Now, the problem is what I would call the morphing of desire. If I could go through this for a moment: Desire in and of itself is not a bad thing. God has given us the capacity to desire. Those desires must be held with an open hand. That's Christ saying, "Father, if it's possible, let this cup pass from me." That's not a bad prayer – “But not my will, but yours, be done.” It's always a submission to a greater agenda. Not wrong having an agenda – but I always hold my agenda in a submission to a greater agenda.
Now, here's what happens. Desire quickly morphs into demand. Now I've closed my fist around the desire, and if you're going to take it from me, you're going to have to fight with me. Demand is "I must." You notice that desire has begun to claim turf in my heart. I'm not holding it in an open-handed way anymore.
Dennis: "I must" or "I deserve."
Paul: Yeah, that's right. Now it goes further – demand quickly gets viewed as need. That's the essential nature of this thing is the way I view it now. You know this, that the vast majority of things we call needs just aren't needs. You know how quickly desire becomes need if you have children.
I've never had one of my children come up to me and say, "Dad, I sorta, kinda, desire a pair of shoes." They always say, "I need a pair of shoes." I look down at them, I see leather-encased feet, you know, it's not actually a need, but they're convinced it's a need.
Now, desire has become demand, demand now gets viewed as need. Now, that's all happening inside of me. I don't realize it's happening. I don't realize that growingly I am now being controlled by the desire for this thing.
Now it breaks out into my relationships. Need sets up expectation. Think about this – if I am convinced it's a need, and you say you love me, what does it seem right to expect?
Bob: That you'll meet my need.
Paul: That you'll meet the need.
Paul: And it seems righteous for me to be angry at you for not meeting it. There's a direct relationship there between a sense of need and expectations. I am now not entering the room empty. I am now not entering the room with an open hand. I have a list of silent demands, and I'm not mad at you just because what you did is wrong, but because in doing something wrong, you have taken away from me what I crave.
Expectation, when unfulfilled, leads to disappointment. You know, you know this if you've ever looked at vacation brochures before taking a vacation. I say to people all the time, “Don't look at the brochures, you'll have a better time,” because the brochures elevate the expectation to a level that you'll never reach.
And so I am now disappointed – again, not just because you've done wrong, but in doing wrong, you haven't met the level of my expectations, which is the result of desire gone wrong.
Then disappointment leads to some aspect of punishment. I don't mean any kind of proper discipline. I mean striking back at one another.
Let me point to one of the simplest, most common forms and talk about how destructive it actually is – the silent treatment. You know, somebody doesn't meet my expectations, so I curse him with silence.
You're riding in the car with somebody and say, "My, you're quiet." The person says, "Is it a sin to be quiet?" That's a bit of a clue. You say, "Well, you're usually talkative. Are you angry at me?" "I'm not angry. I'm just being quiet." Now, what are we actually doing there?
I'm saying to you, "Because you have offended and not met my expectations for whatever time it satisfies me, I will treat you as if you're dead." Now, if you have that happen 10, 12, 15, 20, 40 times in a marriage, it will set the character of that relationship. It's a very powerful thing.
Now, that's a little strike-back. Think of striking back with words where I say things to another human being, because they've dashed my expectations, that person, who I say I love, should never, ever hear -- that will ring in their mind again and again and again.
So you have what the Bible says is my problem in my relationship with you is not just that you're a sinner, we all know that. We're all imperfect people, and there is a messiness in relationships. But in your failure, you actually step on the things that are really controlling my heart and I strike back.
Bob: I want to go back to the beginning of that cycle and see where we could veer off in a different direction and how we'd do that. Let me just review it.
You said you start with a desire, and a desire becomes a demand, and a demand then winds up being a need. You begin to view it as I have this need, and that sets up expectations, which lead to disappointment, which lead to punishment, right? That's the cycle.
Let's start off with something different. Let's say you have a desire that your husband would lead your family spiritually. We'd look at that, and we'd say, "That's a legitimate desire and, in fact, it's a biblical expectation." So if I have that desire, and you say I need to be open-handed and kind of leave that before the Lord, does that mean I just desire it, but I remain passive?
Paul: The question I would ask is this. If this is a good thing, first of all, what are the ways that I can be too focused and too controlled by this good thing?
In other words, I just become a condemning wife because I listen for spiritual leadership all the time, and it's like life is a final exam of spiritual leadership. You want to drive a man underground? That will do it.
You're actually pushing him in a very different direction. He becomes defensive, he becomes angry, he feels like nothing he can do is right. So what are the ways, what are the places in my life, where I tend to be over-controlled by this desire for a good thing?
Maybe a wife would say, "Hey, I just realized I've been way too critical in our personal family worship times. It's great that this guy even wants to have these. And, no, he doesn't always lead us like an eloquent teacher, but he's doing it.”
So I'm looking, first, not at him but at me. Where are the places where I allow myself to be way too controlled; therefore, way too demanding; therefore, way too critical in this good thing and actually push us in a very different direction?
Dennis: But, Paul, you're not saying, in having this expectation that Bob used here, of a woman expecting her husband to provide spiritual leadership that she should reduce her expectations to zero?
Paul: No, and I would say, further, that you want to retain the expectation or the desire, because the desire is a good thing. You want to make sure that you're not too controlled by that desire, but there's another thing.
You need to ask yourself the question – how can I be part of the production of this good thing in the life of this man that I love? Rather than where are the places where I can just point out that he's not measuring up? Where are the places that I can encourage and stimulate this good thing that needs to be in his life?
Dennis: You know, a relationship that doesn't have expectations is a dying relationship, because the nature of relationships in an intimate way is that you do begin to have expectations – certain fundamental expectations – of one another. That you'll call each other, that you'll keep the relationship alive, that there will be certain things of respect done to encourage one another. Is that an accurate statement, Paul?
Paul: Oh, absolutely. I think, particularly, as believers, we ought to have the highest of expectations.
Dennis: Just don't worship the expectation.
Paul: That's right.
Bob: Don't be controlled by it; don't make it your master. And so let me go all the way to the end now – somebody who is experiencing disappointment, and where there has been punishment in a marriage or a family relationship. They're saying, "We keep coming to this same place. We keep punishing one another; we keep being disappointed with one another." How can they begin to dig back and look under the surface and say, "What's really going on there and how can I get to a fix?"
Paul: I think the simplest question is – what was I wanting that got me here? What is that powerful desire that gripped me, that got us into this? Husband and wife both ask the same question. And then the Bible's direction is very simple – confess and then repent. Repentance is turn and go in another direction. Let's talk about a brand-new way of doing this.
Imagine the wife saying to the husband, "I have been terribly critical of you. Every time you try to share things scripturally, I have some criticism, and I need your forgiveness." And the husband says, "You know, I think I've cared more about your opinion than God's call to me to be a good father and a spiritual leader in our family, and I need your forgiveness. Now let's talk about the way we can do this in a different way."
Dennis: And so the wife, who is desiring intimacy with her husband, who longs for a soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart relationship, that's not wrong.
Paul: Absolutely not.
Dennis: That's a good desire.
Paul: God wants her to have that desire.
Dennis: But when that desire becomes preeminent and she thinks about it first thing when she gets up; her radar is on throughout the day in ways that he doesn't meet that need with her – when he doesn't call, when he doesn't help with the kids, when he zones out in front of the TV instead of talking with her. At that point she needs to, you are saying, repent of being preoccupied, focused, and fixated on a need that is going unmet, and begin to find a way to encourage her husband and build into her husband.
Paul: And I have encouraged thousands of wives, literally, to ask this question – how have I held this good desire in a way that is conflict-encouraging and conflict-producing? What a wonderful question. Because I'm not saying I want to let go of the desire, but I'm holding it in a way that actually encourages the very thing that I say I don't want – and that won't be solved by just getting after the other person. I've got to deal with me.
Bob: I just want to pull back, because that's a great question. How have I held onto this desire in a way that's conflict-producing? And if we recognize the desire is good but the conflict is not where we want to go, then we've got to do something different with the desire than what we've been doing, right?
Dennis: Yeah, you just can't keep going back …
Bob: … insanity …
Dennis: … repeating over – and yet we do.
Bob: You know, I quoted Bob Dylan yesterday. You remember me quoting that great theologian, Bob Dylan?
Dennis: How could I forget?
Bob: I was thinking today about the Bee Gees. Do you remember their song? (Does Bee Gees impression) "It's only words" – The point is, we often think of our words as being things that really aren't that significant. Yet this whole digging under the surface we've been doing, where we look at our desires, and we look at what they lead to in terms of expectations and how that leads to disappointment, how that leads to punishment – that's where it starts to show up is in the words.
We can say it's only words, but all we have to do is peel back behind the words, and we find a whole truckload of garbage, often, that's sitting back behind those words.
Dennis: Bob, that was very well said – much better than your Bee Gees attempted imitation.
Bob: Thank you.
Dennis: I want to say here, Paul David Tripp's book, War of Words – this book is going to take you deeper than just words. It's going to take you to heart issues like we've talked about today, and I would encourage every one of our listeners to think about getting a copy of this and perhaps begin to go through this a chapter at a time with your spouse.
Bob: Read through it together?
Dennis: Read through it together and talk about it.
Bob: We've got it, of course, in our FamilyLife Today resource center, so if listeners are interested they can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and request a copy or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and ask for Paul David Tripp’s book War of Words.
Let me also encourage you, though, to attend one of the upcoming showings of The Art of Marriage. This is the new succession video conference that we’ve put together that is being hosted in hundreds of locations all across the country coming up Valentine’s weekend, 2-11-11. You can go online and click the link for The Art of Marriage and type in your zip code and you can find where one of these events is being hosted near where you live.
It may be a church you don’t go to – that’s fine. They’d love to have you come out and be a part of this marriage event with people like Paul David Tripp and Al Mohler and Dennis Rainey and Barbara Rainey and Crawford Loritts and Voddie Baucham and Wayne Grudem and others.
It’s a great six-session video conference. It’s funny. It’s fun. It’s compelling to watch, and it’ll help you. It will help you with your communication. It’ll help you with the issue of sexual intimacy in your marriage, with how you resolve conflict, with understanding your roles in a marriage relationship. You can see the promotional trailer when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click on The Art of Marriage link.
If you check and find that one of these events is not being hosted near where you live, then host one. You and your spouse can host one in your local church or in another location in your community. All of the details about how to do that are online at FamilyLifeToday.com when you click The Art of Marriage link. So, hope you’ll check it out.
I have a cameo appearance. In fact, it would be fun if our listeners can spot my cameo appearance they ought to send us a note and say . . . I’m in costume. I’m in disguise, but we’ll see if they can find me in The Art of Marriage event. Again, find out more online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us if you have any questions at 1- 800 - “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
I also hope you’ll get in touch with us and consider making a contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are listener supported; your donations are what keep us on the air. This month, if you’re able to make a donation to help support the ministry, we’d love to send you a thank you gift.
It’s a daily devotional guide for couples written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called Moments with You. There is a reading for each day – one page. You read through it together, there are some discussion questions for you, a passage of Scripture to look at, and then a suggested prayer you can pray together.
Again, the Moments with You daily devotional is our way of saying thank you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your partnership with us; we couldn’t do what we do without you. So this is just our way of saying thank you when you help support the ministry.
You can make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and if you do that and you want the devotional, type the word “YOU” in the key code box on the online donation form. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and when you make your donation by phone just ask for a copy of the devotional book, and we’ll send it out to you. Again, it’s a full year-long devotional that we’ll send to you and we really do appreciate your partnership with us.
And we hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to talk a little bit more about this event that’s coming up on February 11th and 12th, this Art of Marriage video event. We’ll let you know what’s behind it, what we’re hoping happens, and how you can be a part of it. So I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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