Many people long to be in a deeply committed relationship full of love and laughter. Though love and laughter are present in healthy God-centered relationships, hurt, disappointment and anger also make appearances from time to time. Our selfish nature and expectations toward our significant other guarantees miscommunication and lack of understanding is inevitable.
We often tell ourselves that it’s because “men and women are different” or because of previous emotional baggage. While these are valid points, they are not the only factors at play. The devil likes to lurk in our relationships, causing chaos whenever and wherever he can. Satan loves to scheme. He feeds off of conflict and hurt feelings. The more we argue, the better.
In order for us to maintain the joy in our relationships amid all the bickering and unintended arguments, we need to recognize the ways in which Satan will try to slither into our dating and marriage lives getting between us and our loved ones.
If there’s one thing about Satan, he’s on our side. I’m not saying he’s on our good side, but he’s behind us in the sense that he wants us to give into our temptations and find satisfaction in our short-term desires. He cheers us on during a fight and incites us to regard ourselves more highly than our loved ones. This is the exact opposite of what we read in Philippians 2:3 where we’re told that we ought to practice humility and value others above ourselves.
A Lesson from Screwtape
We can’t underestimate the power and influence of the enemy. He is extremely clever in his ways. We see an example of this manipulative influence showcased in C.S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters. Uncle Screwtape instructs his nephew Wormwood to make sure that two people living in the same household each maintain a double standard:
Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context of the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent.
Sound familiar? Many people, myself included, carry the same double standard.
When I first started getting into fights with my boyfriend, I had an extremely difficult time admitting when I was wrong or apologizing to him. On the flip side, I had no problem expecting and demanding an apology out of him whenever he had said or done something to upset me.
Pride poisons our relationships.
Humans are really good at justifying their feelings and actions, particularly negative ones. When we are in a bad mood or act out, we will go to the depths of the earth to explain why we feel this way and are acting like that. In doing so, we tend to turn ourselves into a victim and place blame on others for our hurt feelings, thus blinding ourselves to the other person’s point of view. This can quickly escalate into a full-on argument in which our goal is to come out on top.
These moments falsely reassure us that we’re right and the other person is wrong. Satan uses our hurt feelings as a platform for sinning against others causing more rifts in our relationship. Pastor Rick Warren put it best: “He whispers in our ear and gives us little thoughts, suggestions, and ideas. When you’re in the middle of an argument, he starts whispering things in your ear, like ‘You don’t have to take this kind of stuff. Retaliate. Who do they think they are? Get even. Assert yourself. Don’t put up with this kind of stuff. Show ‘em who’s boss.’ He tells you all the things your pride would love to hear.”
Forgiveness is a habit.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Learn to recognize when Satan is egging you on and don’t fall for his schemes. While it’s good to express our feelings and needs, the Bible also instructs us not to sin in our anger. (Ephesians 4:26)
Not only does Satan provoke us to sin against each other, he gives us permission to feel the way we do by reminding us of previous times we were hurt in similar ways, thus prolonging our hurt feelings. When I first began arguing with my boyfriend, I had a tendency to get sucked into my own emotions to the point where feeling hurt sometimes felt like an addiction. This is the beginning of a downward spiral for the more we hurt, the worse we feel. We begin to drown in our own emotions, robbing us of the joy we could be experiencing instead.
It’s OK to hurt, but we also need to make a habit of forgiving each other just as easily as we hurt. Ephesians 4:31-32 reads: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
When we are upset, our default is to rely on our own logic or on the comments of our friends, instead of on God and His wisdom. This leads us to say things we might later regret or act in unholy ways. This is exactly what Satan wants. He wants us to look inward and around rather than up. Like Wormwood was doing to his human, Satan plays on our insecurities, pinning us against one another and causing us to act out of fear or worry. “But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) When we let God rule our relationships and resist the devil, he will flee. (James 4:7)
A good friend once told me that worry looks in, fear looks around and faith looks up. Let’s start looking up.