Perhaps it would be easier to make our case using an example. Recently, we were trying to get out of the house to go to church and be on time. I (Stephanie) have to admit I am typically the one who is running behind trying to get one last thing put away or rushing because I did not plan my time well. Paul will often playfully turn the hall light on and off letting me know he is by the door ready and waiting. Usually I will laugh it off and tell him I am coming. This particular morning, however, I was feeling overwhelmed, anxious and rushed. Instead of responding to his playful gesture lightheartedly, I snapped at him with a sharp, “I’ll be there in a minute!” I had a poor me attitude thinking, ”Why am I the only one who sees dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter?” My tone reflected my frustration and resentment, but I did not take the time to share any of that with Paul in a healthy way. He could tell I was not happy, but had no idea why. My tone turned what could have been a talkative and pleasant ride to church into 15 long minutes of silence. To Paul’s credit he did not respond in kind and instead allowed me some space to reflect on my own behavior.
We have noticed that if our tone expresses impatience, exasperation, and/or judgment, our conversation is likely going to deteriorate into hurt feelings or an argument. But if we pay greater attention to having a tone that is loving, patient, kind, and compassionate, we will usually respond in kind. For example, if Stephanie asks me what time we’re supposed to be at a meeting, I might be inwardly perturbed that she didn’t read the note I left her with that information. Well, whether she read the note or not, she still needs the information and it is still my responsibility to respond in a way that honors our vows. I can make a choice to respond with a kind and loving tone or one that lets her know I’m displeased with her inattention.
We are not suggesting that we stuff feelings of resentment – we must express those in a healthy, constructive way. What we are suggesting is that in the heat of the moment will likely not be the best time to do so. At the end of the day, our words can either be life-giving or life-draining. The choice is ours.