“Recognize When Sleeping on it Might Be Smarter After All”
We’ve all heard “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” So late at night, when we’re tired, anxious, and emotionally drained from a contentious “discussion,” we continue to hash it out.
“No, we can’t go to sleep,” we tell our spouse, “We have to resolve this!” Most of us have heard happy couples say “never go to bed mad”… but it turns out they don’t follow their own advice! In the research, when pressed on what they actually do, these wise couples admitted that when they are getting emotional and upset, they sometimes realize it is better just to go to bed. And that strengthens their relationship instead of weakening it.
Why? Well, it turns out that Ephesians 4:26, is taken much out of context. Here’s the full verse: “Be angry, yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” It turns out, Paul is quoting a verse in Psalms: “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
You might want to read that again.
The Bible never says “don’t get mad” or even “don’t go to bed mad.” The key is not to sin – to never let anger get the best of us and cause us to hurt someone else. The happiest couples have found that, if you are too tired or upset to come to a peaceful resolution, putting an unresolved issue on hold is not sinful. What would be sinful is trying to not address an issue and holding on to your fury at your spouse. What would be sinful is escalating to hurtful words, or until an exhausted spouse agrees to something they will later regret.
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!” says Proverbs 15:23. And that is certainly easier after a night of rest.
In fact, the pressure to resolve it right now can be even less fair to a husband who, like most men, may need some time to process what he’s thinking and feeling so he can truly feel heard… and so you both can get to a better resolution the next day. And that, it turns out, is the key difference between the happiest marriages and those that are struggling. Happily married couples sometimes go to bed with the issue unresolved; but if the issue is still a concern the next day, they deal with it. The problem comes when we avoid something hurtful and hope it just goes away.
So the next time you’re up late, weary from trying to bring closure to an issue, don’t feel guilty about thinking about it overnight and remaining silent. Chances are, you’ll see more clearly in the morning. There’s even a good chance that that major issue won’t seem so major to you anymore.
Dear Lord, please help me to be wise about how I speak to my spouse during times of conflict – especially when I am tired and upset. Help me to never sin in my anger, and to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Amen