“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul mentions two kinds of speech: that which builds up and that which pulls down. This verse and the surrounding passage show us 10 ways that we can handle conflict well — 10 ways to fight like a Christian.
1. Examine your heart.
This is a huge first step in any conflict. Even if you’ve been wronged, what does your emotional response say about your heart? Is it possible that malice, wrath or bitterness have snuck in? These things are like alarm systems for your heart, pointing to idolatry, which is often a much bigger issue than whatever your spouse (or brother or friend or boss) has done to you.
2. Overlook whatever you can.
Part of speaking to others with grace is discerning what needs confronting and what should be overlooked. That’s a lot of what Paul means by that little phrase, “as fits the occasion.” On certain occasions (not all!), confronting little infractions only serves to heighten tensions. There are times you need to speak up and confront; and there are times to just let it go. There’s a real art to knowing the difference.
3. Be practical in how you fight.
Again, think about what “fits the occasion.” My wife and I have learned the hard way that there are certain times, places and moods that are just bad for arguments. So we never fight, for instance, if we’re both exhausted. We table the argument and come back to it within 24 hours, after we’ve had time to rest. Now, there’s always a temptation to just table a critical discussion endlessly, so you need to be sure to keep your word. If you say, “Let’s talk about this in the morning,” then put it on your calendar and actually bring it back up.