July 3, 2013 - Marriage

My father once said that kindness was the most important trait missing in marriages that fail.


At first, I thought he might be off base—it would have been the first time. Then I discovered something I never expected. Kindness could make the difference between a happy home and a nuclear kill-zone.

In the process of counseling young couples, Gwen and I found that the one thing missing most in troubled marriages was, in fact, kindness.

What does that mean? It means that if a couple struggling from an issue would communicate without throwing stones at each other, their marriage might actually survive.

How did my father know that? Well for one, he had a great marriage, and our home was filled with kindness. In fact, I cannot recall him ever uttering an unkind word to my mother. It wasn’t in his character.

He also knew because he was a keen observer. He listened and watched as others fought and fussed, and when the dust settled—he was often the last man standing. He taught me about peace and understanding.

The day my father died, I told him that he was the one who taught me how to love my wife. He was surprised. I guess he thought I wasn’t paying attention—but I was.

In the early years of marriage, most couples struggle a little while others struggle a lot. When arguments escalate, those to whom we were able to teach some coping skill, did well while others failed. The main component of those coping skills was various forms of kindness.

But what categories of kindness are important in marriage?

  • Combat – When tensions are high and you want to fight back, it’s difficult to remain calm. This is especially true when you have all the ammo you need to bury your partner, or if he/she just hurt you with what they said or did. Lashing out is a natural response—we have to short-circuit the way we’re wired so we can trigger a new reaction when confronted in battle. This one is tough, but with practice it gets easier.
    • Proverbs 15:1 tells us that, a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. That applies not only when someone screams at you for hitting their car in the parking lot. It applies best to marriage and other close relationships. We need to hone this as a skill.
  • Anger – Sometimes an argument can get out of hand—we’ve probably all been there. This is true even in marriage. So what are we supposed to do when tempers flare? Even though we try to be civil, it can be a lot like the, “He pushed me first” way of thinking. This is when we need to take a deep breath and respond in love—in kindness.
    • Galatians 5:22 states, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness . . .  It is a fruit of the Spirit, so we know we’re on solid ground.
  • Just because – “Just because” is my favorite form. Showing kindness because we can is not only fun, it also makes a statement to our spouse that we were thinking fondly of them, and just had to do something about it. If that doesn’t provoke fireworks (the good kind) don’t be discouraged. Eventually, it will.

Of course there are many forms of kindness and these are just a few. But the mindset of kindness is the goal. If we program our brains to culture kindness, it will grow and become part of us. It will spread from our marriages into every relationship we have. Then they really will know us by their love.