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One Principle That Could Save Your Relationships

Last week, I was around thousands of people in new environments—a multiday volleyball tournament and a few days visiting attractions and theme parks. During this time, there were two distinct observations that continually assaulted me:

(1) the weight of so many people—a lot of people are obese.
(2) the way people talk to one another—a lot of people are mean to one another.

Maybe one day I’ll write about weight (doubtful), but for today I have a thought about the latter—people being mean to one another.

I’m a people-watcher by nature anyway, but the environments where we waited in lines, sat closely to people and were gathered in crowds basically became “observation on steroids.” If I boiled my observation into two categories, it would be:

1. Spouses saying unkind things to one another.
2. Parents verbally belittling their children.

I know this isn’t a new observation, but it was such a strong scent that I couldn’t escape.

Since it doesn’t take intelligence to be critical, let me suggest one relational principle that has helped me. I realize it’s easier said than done … but it’s as simple as:


I realize this takes self-control and a degree of humility, but the results are amazing!

  • When an emotion is triggered and you want to react with a verbal dagger … don’t.
  • When your pride is enhanced and you want to say something that will be a zinger comeback and put the other person in their place … don’t.
  • When your patience is exhausted and a strong reaction will make you feel better … don’t.

I have a quick wit and a propensity for sarcasm, and that is an amazing combination of skills that creates some really strong statements … that nobody hears but me.

As a spouse and a parent, I’ve had to learn that I don’t need to say everything that I think. When I do, it ends up:

  1. wounding
  2. triggering more reactions
  3. demeaning those I love
  4. enhancing the situation
  5. creating negative memories

Words are powerful! Misguided words hurt … they hurt deeply.

Just because you think something doesn’t mean you have to say it. Remind yourself, not all words need to be spoken.


Practice it for a day and see how it goes.

Question: What would keep you from doing this? Any thoughts?  

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Doug Fields has been in youth ministry since 1979 and former pastor to students at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of 50+ books, including the best-selling Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry & Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry. He's also the founder of Simply Youth Ministry, an instructor at Azusa Pacific University/HomeWord, and on the leadership team with Youth Specialties. You can connect with Doug through his blog at www.downloadyouthministry.com! More from Doug Fields or visit/subscribe to Doug's blog at www.dougfields.com