How to Fight Fair and Face Anger

Patsy Rae Dawson

One person can totally change the course of arguments--even when the other person doesn't want to fight fair. God gives everyone, including timid wives, bullied husbands, and adult children, the power and right to teach family and friends how to fight fair so real communication can take place.

Often anything goes when problems arise from name calling and ridicule to hurling wild accusations. Some fights escalate into screaming and destroying property. When such actions begin, often one partner retreats from the argument as the subject becomes taboo. The dirty fighter assumes he/she has settled the issue. Instead, the problem lives on in the mind of the capitulating one to build bitterness and anger and dislike for the other.

Children who grow up in such homes either learn to scream back or to be codependent with a verbally abusing mate. They falsely believe that fighting like cats and dogs is normal for families, even families claiming to be Christians. Many Christians excuse their behavior with, "That's just the way I am when I get mad," or "Home should be where we can just be ourselves."

Fortunately, one person possesses tremendous power to totally change the course of arguments--even if that person is a timid wife or a bullied husband or the adult child of a controlling parent. God filled the Bible with instructions on how to fight fair and face anger.

Rule #1: Maintain a Calm Disposition

Prov. 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Prov. 25:15: "By forbearance a ruler [prince--KJV] may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone."

"Ruler" or "prince" comes from a word "that is a military term. It signifies the man responsible for recruiting, an administrator in the army" (Theological Wordbook, p. 807).

Eccl. 10:4: "If the ruler's temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses."

"Ruler" is from the same word that is translated "rule" in Gen. 3:16 where God told Eve that her husband "shall rule over you." It is a general word for authority over someone. (Theological Wordbook, p. 534)

These verses reveal the power of a calm disposition over those in authority whether with military leaders who bark orders or from an irate mate in the home. This lesson teaches many skills for developing a calm way of reacting that allows one to think clearly and intelligently when confronted with a dirty fighter. These skills help solve problems even when the other person attempts to stifle real communication by intimidating outbursts of anger.

An abuser shouts down problems to live in a fantasy world
that denies the common problems of living in the real world.

Well-Kept Secret: Many Women Verbally and Physically Abuse Their Husbands, Boyfriends, and Children

One wife regularly threw things at her husband, often went after him with the broom, and even chased him down the basement stairs with a skillet of hot gravy. In a separate event, a seventy-year-old wife publicly berated her husband, “I ought to slap you; you're so stupid!” When asked about the scratches on his face, one young man said, "My girlfriend jumped on my back and clawed me." While these true examples may seem extreme, such women have existed since the beginning of time.

Nearly three thousand years ago, Solomon described the effect of such wives in Proverbs 30:21-23. He said, "Under three things the earth quakes, and under four, it cannot bear up,” one of which was “an odious woman when she is married.” Odious means “to hate, an enemy, a foe.” And if a man were so unfortunate as to marry a woman full of uncontrolled anger, her contentions were as a constant dripping. He might as well try to hold oil in his hand or try to capture the wind as try to live peacefully with her (Proverbs 27:15-16).

Solomon described the special misery of marrying a verbally abusive woman in Proverbs 21:19:

It is better to live in a desert land, than with a contentious and vexing [angry-KJV] woman.

A Word to Fathers and Mothers

If your mate is verbally abusing you, then in all likelihood your children are suffering from abuse, too. You are the adult in the situation. Your children need you to learn how to fight fair and face anger so you can develop good communication skills to teach to them.

One mother went through the Challenges in Marriage material and concentrated on learning to fight fair. She dealt with a verbally abusive husband who called her vile names and constantly judged her motives. She wrote:

Our sixteen-year-old daughter told me at one point that I had changed so much in such a short amount of time that there was no way her dad could not have noticed. She said he was probably stunned and confused by it. She was amazed herself. I told her when we get serious about obeying God, He works changes in us beyond what we can even imagine. I knew the Lord was working in me through all this but I was also beginning to see that much work had to be done in my own heart before some things within our marriage could be addressed.

Listen to all the rules on fighting fair and facing anger taught in Challenges in Marriage: What to Do When Sin Inhibits Love and see what a difference it can make for your family.

You need this lesson if you're

  • Walking on eggshells
  • Have the same fight over and over
  • Intimidated by someone's anger
  • Sweeping problems under the rug
  • Living with ridicule
  • Called ugly names (some unmentionable)
  • Told you're stupid
  • Thinking everything is your fault
  • Overpowered by another's anger
  • Supersensitive to another's moods
  • Blaming yourself for setting him/her off
  • Told everything is your fault--he/she wouldn't act this way if you acted better
  • Trying too hard to keep peace in the family

This lesson teaches how to

  • Analyze past fights to prepare for the next one
  • Remain calm and clear headed when someone is ranting and raving
    (eventually the immaturity of anger will become obvious and will lose it's hold over you)
  • Keep the argument on track to really solve problems rather than just blow off steam
  • Deal with name calling
  • Refuse to answer motive judging and wild accusations
  • Insist on fair fighting when the other person fights dirty
  • Deal with "your" things being broken
  • Teach your kids how to fight fair with each other and future mates