Living Out Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.— Ephesians 4:29
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he offers us some timeless wisdom. One of the things I love most about studying the word is when I come across something that I believe in my heart to be true, but also has been backed up by research. The idea that when our talk is encouraging and positive, we are able to benefit others and build stronger relationships as opposed to when our talk is unwholesome or negative seems like a no-brainer. However, it’s sometimes difficult to see the concrete ways in which the words of the bible apply to our lives.
In one of his many studies on couples, Dr. John Gottman, a world famous relationship researcher and therapist, found that couples were positive, stable, and happy, if the ratio of positive to negative interactions was greater than or equal to 5:1. Couples who were heading for divorce had ratios of around 0.8:1. This ratio is one of the factors Dr. Gottman has used over the years to be able to predict with 90% accuracy which couples will divorce and which will remain married by watching them interact with each other for just 15 minutes. Positive interactions included things like showing interest, being nice, and being empathetic. Negative interactions included things like criticism, hostility, and anger.
“Building others up according to their needs” is sometimes the hardest thing to do. In fact, in the middle of an argument, our goal is often to do the exact opposite—to tear the other person down. A spouse’s harsh words can stay with us long after the disagreement is over. Over time, these patterns of negative interactions can create resentment and distance with your spouse. The next time you find yourself at a crossroads in a discussion, remember what’s at stake. Build up your spouse. Empathize with them by putting yourself in their shoes. Pray for God to give you the ability to be more Christ-like in your interactions not only with your spouse, but with everyone.