Many women have told me they don’t want to keep arguing with their spouse or child, yet they continue arguing. It almost seems the mouth goes on auto-pilot, but God’s Word is clear that the words of our mouth really come from the heart (Luke 6:45). At that moment, what seems most important is getting what we want, even if we have to sin in order to get it.
It is the heart’s desires that drive passionate arguments (James 4:1). We want something that conflicts with what another wants, so we fight and quarrel until we get it, or get mad because we didn’t get what we wanted, or got what we didn’t want! Idolatry is the biblical term for wanting something so bad we sin to get it, or sin by our words, attitudes, and reactions when we don’t get what we want.
Choose to Think Like Christ
So why does anyone keep arguing when we know it is wrong, and it is counter-productive? Titus 3 begins with a discussion about authorities and respect for them, about being peaceable, gentle, humble instead of hateful, self-centered. Is it not our selfish desires that become the dictators, telling us what to argue for and to keep going until we get what we want? We set ourselves up as our own authority, our own little god, determining what is valuable for us to attain. Other human authorities (parents, spouse, or boss) and even God, are disregarded. Pride rules.
At that moment when we are tempted to argue, we must change gears in our thinking, allowing gentleness and humility to point us to peace so we can quit arguing. We must see that whatever we desire in no way compares to the abundant mercies and grace of our Lord and the life He has given us. Our thinking must focus on eternal values and Christlikeness if we are to change and develop the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the put off /put on principle, replacing our old way of responding (arguing for what we want) with humility and gentleness, that will help us to change permanently.
Replacement thinking must begin long before an argument begins, because in the heat of the moment, we tend to toss all godly reasoning out the window to welcome instead an idolatrous desire. By daily renewing our minds in the principles of the Word, change begins to shape our thoughts and desires into those of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). We begin to desire humility and wisdom rather than conforming to the culture around us which daily bombards us with anger, rebellion, selfishness, arrogance, and rights. Growth and maturity take time, so we should seize every opportunity to practice gentleness and humility and to renew our minds in Christlikeness.
Choose to Talk Like Christ
We must choose to talk and act in His character instead of reacting on our flesh’s desire, which only destroys relationships (James 4:1-12). We may not literally kill the other person, but our arguments may kill the marriage or friendship! They always hurt the other person. Our angry words never lead to a righteous end (James 1:19,20). All words have either the power of life or death (Proverbs 18:21), so they can build up and encourage another person, or tear down and destroy that person (Ephesians 4:29-30). It grieves the Lord when one of His kids tears down another one of His kids because HE loves them both, and at that moment one or both are totally disregarding His character and His commands using words for selfish goals or to destroy the opponent. There is a righteous way to address problems in love and honesty (Ephesians 4:15, 25), with a goal to help the person and to solve a problem.
Words that we speak are so important because they directly reflect our heart’s desire. They expose whether we desire to honor the Lord or to get what we want. They declare who is really the Lord of our life, Christ or self. We should pray with David, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Only the Holy Spirit has the power to convict us of our words and to help us replace them with acceptable words!
Choose to Act like Christ
We can choose to act in His character as heirs of His grace and mercy, living out the good works he calls us to do (Titus 3:1-9). This passage ends with an admonition to avoid foolish disputes, worthless argument. That is a reflection of a heart change where the words and actions change to match the New Creation in Christ Jesus. Acting in kindness and forgiveness rather than continuing the angry arguments (Ephesians 4:31-32) become the new way of life that honors the Lord.
Practical Homework Assignments for Change
- Study all the passages in the article above and compare how your communication matches what the Word says about your words. If repentance is in order, go to God and to the others you have offended with your words to ask forgiveness and to commit to a better way to communicate.
- Study Proverbs and over the next few weeks and write out every verse that relates to how you communicate to others. Choose the verses to memorize that are most applicable to your words and put the verses into practice to improve.
- Journal specific temptations to argue and how you handled the temptation. Did you give in to the argument or did you communicate with gentleness and humility? What could you have done or said in a better way?
- Make a list of the issues you find yourself arguing about. Is there a common theme? What does your heart repeatedly desire? Is there an idol of comfort? Pleasure? Acceptance? Security? Ease? Someone’s approval? Etc.?
Join the Conversation
How can you use there biblical principles to address an argumentative spirit?