Have you ever tried to take a hot cake out of the oven without potholders? That would be crazy, right? You’d probably not only drop the cake and ruin it, but you’d also burn your hands in the process. However, if you waited until the cake cooled down, it wouldn’t be a problem to handle at all.
My husband and I deal with heated conflicts the same way. Whenever our emotions become heated, we remind ourselves that we need to wait to “handle” the problem or resolve the conflict.
Now, it hasn’t always been this way—hence the messy marriage! In the past, there were way too many times when we both tried to handle the conflict immediately and were burned because of it. Through the hard-knocks of life and God’s conviction, we’ve come to learn that—Timing is key to handling conflict in a healthy and responsible way.
There are four emotions that could be considered “fire-starters” in a conflict. They are:
If we are feeling any of those emotions, or ones that are related to the fiery four, then we can expect that our emotions will become heated—and like a cake in the oven—expand.
When our emotions heat up, we are ultra-sensitive to the other person, escalating the conflict. When our emotions expand, we cannot see past the moment of injury. And we also cannot see how dangerously distorting our anger is to our perceptions. In other words, we lack the perspective that waiting until our emotions return to normal provides for us.
So the next time you are tempted to handle a conflict in the heat of the moment, take a step back. Let your partner know that you need some time to think about the conflict before discussing it further. Then allow yourself the time to do some cooling off and deflating. Here are some practices that help that process along:
- Pray and ask God for perspective and compassion
- Read your Bible
- Journal about what you think your partner’s perspective might be
- Rest before discussing, if you are stressed or tired
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” –Proverbs 29:11 (NIV)