I’ve got a research project for you. Don’t worry, it’s quite simple and you might even find it enjoyable. Here’s what you do: Take a random survey among your coworkers, friends, or neighbors asking one question – “What are the top reasons couples fight?” I’m curious as to what responses you’ll get, but in case you don’t have the time to pester your acquaintances, let me tell you what those who’ve already done the research have discovered.
Almost every survey taken on this subject has produced remarkably similar results. While the phrasing and ranking of items vary depending on the source, you will consistently see topics such as money, intimacy, kids, and schedules/priorities among the top results. Any one of these subjects can easily cause acrimony in the best of relationships, but I’ve come to believe that none of these matters of contention are the real reasons couples clash.
Whether it’s a marriage, BFF’s, coworkers, or even the parent/child relationship, the true cause behind most disagreements can be explained with one simple word: perspective. A perspective is simply a point of view, the manner in which something is seen and understood. The reason this causes contention is that we often want others to see things from our own perspective. It’s like the lady who found herself disappointed with the result of her husband’s eye surgery. She told her friend, “We spent over $4,000 on laser surgery for his eyes, and he still can’t see things from my point of view!”
Disagreements arise when two or more people have differing perspectives AND refuse to hear or understand the opposing view. It’s okay when someone thinks, feels, or believes differently than you, but a verbal brawl is all but guaranteed when, in stubbornness, you only care about how you see things.
I raise this issue because as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live visibly different lives than those who don’t follow the Way. Since our Savior taught us that the unsaved will recognize the redeemed by how we love one another (John 13:35), I think it’s important that we start treating our relationships with much greater care. Take a moment to consider what the Apostle Paul wrote on the subject.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4, ESV)
These verses remind us that when we treat our interests (another way to say perspective) as more important than the interests of others, we are simply being selfish. Scripture doesn’t say that we aren’t allowed our own opinions and perspectives but we are called to consider the views, feelings, and needs of others as more significant than our own. That’s not to say the other person is always right (cue a deep sigh of relief from those in the “I’m Always Right Club.”) However, whether right or wrong, we should value what that another other person sees, thinks, feels, and needs more than we value our own perspectives. I like how author Stephen Covey phrases it: “Seek first understand, then to be understood.”
The next time you find yourself on the verge of an argument, I want you to remember two things. First, take a moment to consider how Jesus would want you to respond. Even in the midst of opposing perspectives, your words and actions should be characterized by an attitude of Christian love. Second, shut your mouth and spend some time listening. Sorry to be rude, but you will be amazed at what happens when you spend more time trying to understand another person’s perspective than just focusing on getting your point across. Who knows? You might just find that what the other person had say was exactly what you needed to hear.