Written by 9:21 am Blog

Men, Take Out Your Trash

I hate fighting with my wife. Radene is one of the most lovable people I’ve ever known. I’m not just saying that because I married her. I’ve had people tell me that again and again over the last twenty-six years. She has an infectious laugh, she has a humble demeanor, she’s modest inside and out, and she loves people where they’re at. How can I ever get angry with this wonderful woman?

And she’s a beautiful woman. She has looks and personality and spirit, so sometimes I think I’m the idiot for ever getting angry.

But it happens. For better or worse, my anger never lasts long. It’s usually quick, not lasting for more than a half hour or so. Early in our relationship, I learned that her anger lingers longer than mine, and I learned it the hard way. So, I’ve learned to let her be and allow it to run its course. In fact, I have a little test. This started when we would argue while traveling. We would take long drives across the country from Colorado to Mississippi. On that trip, there was plenty of time to step on a land mine. So, after my anger would subside, and I thought I had given her enough time, I’d slip my hand over on her leg. If she put her hand on mine, I’d know things were back to DEFCON 5. That continues to be my test to this day.

Arguing is completely normal. I always wince a little bit when I hear couples say they never argue. It’s not that I don’t believe them, but I simply don’t have a category in my mind for a couple that never argues. I didn’t have many girlfriends before I met Radene, but ALL of them came with arguments. My family argued. I argued with my friends on occasion. It’s just normal for most people. I’ve been called unflappable, meaning not much shakes me or gets under my skin, but even I have my limits.

In fact, Radene and I argued yesterday. It wasn’t over anything important, which is why it was so dumb. She didn’t listen to me on a matter, I overreacted, she responded in kind, and in our typical fashion the argument itself was over quickly.

I’ve been examining my response ever since. Why did I react with such force? It really wasn’t something worthy of the size of my response, but it’s what came out. One thing I do know. Luke 6:45 says that whatever is in my heart comes out of my mouth.

Had I stored enough offense in my heart that it erupted like a geyser over a small thing?

Yep.

Now, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t give you a bullet list of the offenses I had stored up. That tells me none of them were enormous. But a ton of feathers still weighs a ton. It might as well have been a ton of bricks. A hundred small offenses ignored has the same effect on your soul as one or two really huge ones ignored.

Eruption.

Most men are terrible at this. Husbands, boyfriends, fiancés, brothers, fathers, uncles, no matter what the role is, we are emotional hoarders. How do you avoid a hoard? You take out the trash a little at a time. You don’t have to walk each individual piece of trash out to the dumpster, but be mindful when you’ve reached a certain volume and take it out.

If I brought up every little offense, it would be tantamount to nagging. But if I’m mindful of taking out the emotional garbage regularly instead of letting things hit critical mass, these eruptions would hardly be a thing.

I want to be clear that my wife isn’t constantly offending me. She seldom does so. But even those occasional offenses need processing and disposal.

How should we take out our emotional garbage? All I can tell you is how I’m learning to do it (even though, apparently, I fell down on the job this time). Once upon a time, I had an anger problem. The LORD has largely delivered me from it, but it still pops up when I’m not mindful to take out my trash. How do I do it?

Stop being emotional hoarders.

First, there are things that I simply let go of. However, there’s a difference between letting go and ignoring. It’s easy to confuse the two. Ignoring feels like letting go because out of sight, out of mind feels like the offense is gone. Letting go is a conscious thing. With intent, you choose to let it go. That’s not sweeping it under the rug, but instead, it’s a purposeful examination of the thing, a recognition of its severity, and a conscious choice to forget it.

Second, things that need to be brought up don’t always need to be addressed at the moment. Timing is key. But the right time has less to do with her mood or disposition and more to do with my state. Am I in a good place to bring it up? If I bring it up, can I do it in an appropriate tone and volume? If she disagrees and pushes back, will I remain calm and not escalate things? If my answer to any of those is no, I wait. Maybe it’s a few hours. Sometimes it’s another day. Regardless, I make a mental note to bring it up later.

I can hear someone saying, “What about Ephesians 4:26?” Ah yes. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. I know people who have told me they never go to bed angry. They always make sure that things are hashed out before they go to sleep. Actually, I don’t typically go to bed angry. Anger typically prevents me from sleeping. So, in a way, I’m not going to bed angry. I may go to bed with unresolved problems, but I promise you that I’m not angry. For me, sleep and anger do not coexist. But lest I confuse the issue, let me be clear. Yes, many times, I allow unresolved issues to go into the next day. On rare occasions, into the next week. But here’s what I’m doing. I’m praying through. I’m keeping the matter before the LORD. If a day passes and I don’t sense my heart is right to bring it up, I don’t. I’d rather wait until I can deal with this thing in a gentle way. I’m not going to bed angry. I’m going to bed, resolved to work on my attitude more tomorrow so that I might bring the matter up in a loving and respectful way. In doing so, I’m obeying 1 Peter 3:7. I’m honoring her by waiting until I can discuss this thing and keep my cool.

Third, most of what’s left are the things that must be brought up today. When I say today, that covers a spectrum of timing ranging from it can’t wait to before we go to bed. On the side of it can’t wait, I try my best to do some quick personal troubleshooting. Can I remain calm? Can I keep my voice down? I wish I could say that I always respond well. If I have time, I try to engage in something that will help calm me, but that’s not always possible. Here’s where I fail the most. My voice raises, my tone sharpens, and my demeanor gets less than cozy. This is why my wife and kids have bequeathed me the moniker, bear.

Why are you being such a bear about this?

Now, here’s where the value of taking out the emotional garbage comes to life. If I have been faithful to do that, this bearish moment of mine that’s burning hot at the moment won’t have any additional kindling lying around to consume. But if I haven’t, that emotional garbage that I’ve allowed to pile up will ignite. What could’ve been a momentary flare-up now becomes something much larger and more damaging. And the bear will rage until all of the flame is extinguished.

Men, take out the trash. Stop being emotional hoarders. I’ve shared how I do it in the broadest terms I can think of so that, hopefully, you can adapt it and do it in a way that works for you. I haven’t thumped the Bible much in this post, but we’re commanded to live with them in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7) and love them like Christ has loved His church (Ephesians 5:25). This really is one of the best ways we can love our wives. They should feel safe, loved, and respected, so when arguments inevitably come, the fires of anger aren’t burning the refuse of old issues you’ve never processed.

Love her well. Take out your trash.

 

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Last modified: November 2, 2023
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