Reflections of Ancients; Findings of Moderns

Ancient wisdom is pregnant with insight. It does not have statistical research as its reference point but reflects the outcome of modern psychological social research. As you read the following statements stand before a mental mirror and see how often one or more of these insights pin points your own experience. Gather three or four friends before that mental mirror with you and every one of these statements will finger one or more of you.

Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings

Answer the fool according to his folly, less you too become like him

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a sharp one crushes the spirit

He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man (person) of understanding

A brother (or sister) offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it (the power of the tongue) will eat its fruit

He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends (17:9) [1]

According to Gottman, it takes a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative interaction to overcome it[2]. Other moderns have suggested even greater ratios are necessary. I once read a piece in which the writer suggested it takes 21 positives to overcome one negative. So whether five, twenty-one or any number in between the fact of the matter is that modern psychology echoes the ancients.

So what does this mean for your relationship? To answer that question, simply remember the last time your mate said or did something that hurt or offended you. How long did it take you to put it behind you? Once you have considered how long it took, ask yourself how many positive words or actions transpired in that period of time. You see, it is not so much that time heals but rather the positive events or words that transpire within that time.

The fuel of an enjoyable marriage is an other-orientation. Marriage is a multiple faceted jewel. Two very important facets are words and actions. Harvey often spoke to Mary in a demeaning manner. Over the years Mary closed down emotionally. She learned to deflect his words to survive.  Early in their marriage Aaron was deeply hurt with Irene’s facial expressions that embarrassed him in public. More and more he avoided being with her in situations where he had learned such disparaging expression would occur. As a result, he lived with a growing resentment towards her over their lack of meaningful friendships.

These two couples failed to live out an other-orientation. Harvey and Irene failed to recognize how words and actions cause great hurt and therefore separation and diminished enjoyment. However, Mary and Aaron failed to face these hurtful habits and challenge them in a respectful manner that would have demonstrated an other-orientation.

Modern psychology provides a variety of prescriptions for Mary and Aaron. Folks like them are often taught that they are victims and therefore their only hope is to set boundaries. However, the ancient writers of the Bible provide a better and wiser approach.  This approach can be summed up with the golden rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In this case this rule would include compassionate confrontation on the part of Mary and Aaron and a repentant spirit on behalf of Harvey and Irene. The practice of these basic biblical protocols would enable these couples to begin to build a constructive, positive relationship.

[1] These statements are from the book of Proverbs in this order: 25:28, 26:4, 15:1, 17:27, 18:19, 18:21 and 17:9.


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