How to Make, Disturb, and Keep the Peace
About the Guest
Sometimes the way to peace is through conflict. Christian counselor Lou Priolo encourages listeners not to shy away from conflict, but to face it head on, knowing that's the only way we can finally gain resolution and peace. Lou gives examples from his own marriage on how his wife sometimes gently confronts him. The key is communicating with love, not anger or sarcasm.
Lou Priolo encourages listeners not to shy away from conflict, but to face it head on, knowing that’s the only way we can finally gain resolution and peace.
How to Make, Disturb, and Keep the Peace
Bob: If you haven’t realized it yet, your spouse married a sinner; and that means there’s going to be conflict. Here’s Lou Priolo.
Lou: In a Christian marriage, we have the responsibility, not only to commend and praise each other, but we overlook as much as we can: “It is the glory of man to overlook a transgression,” “Love covers a multitude of sin.” But when our spouse continually struggles with an issue that the Bible identifies as sin—our believing spouse—we have a responsibility to go to that person and to try to help her.
Lou: So, yes; in our home, there is ongoing confrontation.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are times when confrontation needs to occur in a marriage. When it happens in your marriage, does it go well?—or does it go sideways? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I have to tell you that I smiled when I saw a copy of the book we’re going to be talking about today and the author who wrote it. The book is called Resolving Conflict. The subtitle is How to Make, Disturb, and Keep Peace. I thought: “Why would you put Disturb in there? Who’s going, ‘I want to disturb the peace in my relationships’?!”
Dennis: Well, you know why; because we’ve interviewed this guy before. [Laughter]
Lou Priolo joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to the torture chamber!
Lou: Thank you. It’s so good to be here!
Dennis: You like to disturb other people. We like to disturb guests. [Laughter]
Lou: You do! [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, Bob stole my line! I’m going to ask you about the Disturb Peace in just a second; but I want our listeners—at least, the few of them who don’t know you—to know who you are. He is the President of Competent to Counsel International. He and his wife Kim have been married since 1987; they have two daughters.
And I wanted to ask you this question: Why the Disturb word?—How to Make, Disturb, and Keep Peace—with a book that is about resolving conflict?
Lou: Simply because, sometimes, there can be no peace without conflict. There are several portions of Scripture that tell us that, as Christians, we have to initiate a course of action to confront someone / to convict someone. As a result of that, there may be a conflict.
The Bible is filled with examples of conflict—different kinds of conflict. So conflict is something that we, as Christians, ought to not shy away from and ought to understand the different components of it so that we might learn how to respond as the Scriptures say we should to the different types of conflict.
Bob: But nobody wants conflict. I mean, nobody is saying: “Boy, I hope I get into a nice fight with my spouse today.
“I hope that I can mess up a relationship.” We all want the peace; right?
Lou: But peace is not only the antithesis of war—it’s the result of war. Guys, I’m a counselor—I’m a Biblical counselor. A big part of my job is confronting people—it is convicting people of their sin. Sometimes, I don’t want to do it! But there’s this little plaque—it’s an imaginary plaque that sits on the wall between the two chairs in front of my desk. It’s a quote from Proverbs—and the proverb says, “He who reproves a man will afterwards”—not during but afterwards—“find more favor than he who flatters with his lips.”
And so, it’s my conscience that drives me / it’s my conscience, because the Scriptures say it’s my job to confront a brother who is caught in a transgression. The Bible gives me all of these instructions that require me to take a course of action—
—in this circumstance and in that circumstance—to do what could result in a conflict. And I cannot shy away from that because: “There is no fear in love,” “Perfect love casts out fear.” If I love my Lord, and if I love the person I’m ministering to, then I’ve got to be willing to overcome my fear and to tell the person the truth in as loving of a way as I possibly can.
Dennis: And so how has Kim disturbed you? [Laughter] I just—I want to cut to the chase here. Your wife is married to a counselor. She knows these principles—you’ve undoubtedly shared a few of them with her.
Bob: He’s learned a few of them from her, I think!
Dennis: Right! So give us an illustration of how your wife has disturbed you that has resulted in peace.
Lou: In a Christian marriage, we have the responsibility, not only to commend and praise each other, but we overlook as much as we can: “It is the glory of man to overlook a transgression,” “Love covers a multitude of sin.”
But when our spouse continually struggles with an issue that the Bible identifies as sin—our believing spouse—we have a responsibility to go to that person and to try to help her.
Lou: So, yes; in our home, there is ongoing confrontation; but yet, you have to remember that there are a lot of different ways that people can be confronted—or convicted is really the word in Matthew 18.
Lou: In fact, that’s the word used in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” So conviction is something that the Scriptures do, and convicting is a verb in several instances in the New Testament. It’s something that, not only the Bible does / it’s something, not only that the Spirit does; but it’s something that one Christian is to do—in the verbal sense of the word, as a verb—to another.
It was the first year of our marriage, and I had gotten into the habit of staying up and watching television late at night.
Kim comes—I had my nice little “man cave” in this particular house that we had. [Laughter] So she came in one night, and she says, “Lou, don’t you think you should come to bed?” I said: “Ah, I’m not tired! You go to bed; I’ll be in there in a few minutes.” She said to me: “Lou, this is like the third or fourth night you’ve been staying up—like close to midnight / past midnight. Don’t you think, for the sake of your counselees, that you ought to get some sleep? Are you really going to be alert enough tomorrow? Shouldn’t you come to bed?”
I knew she was right—so I said to her, “It’s not a sin for me to watch television.” [Laughter] At which point, she said to me, “Well, Lou, how about if we call Pastor Ed tomorrow?—our pastor—and let’s ask him if he thinks what you’ve been doing this week is a sin.” I said, “I’ll be right there!” [Laughter] Well, that was the first year of our marriage. You know, we’ve learned how to perfect things and smooth things out as the years go by. [Laughter]
The fact is—it really all depends on how you respond to it—that’s really the thing. If you respond in pride and defensiveness, it’s not going to go well.
Lou: But if you learn how to respond in humility—and that the big thing about convicting people, who are fellow believers, is you’ve got to use the Scriptures.
You know, you guys know me pretty well; right?
Lou: I’m pretty verbal. I have a pretty good handle on the Bible. I’m kind of opinionated.
Lou: I could be like the locomotive going down the track at 200 miles per hour.
Dennis: Right; 250; yes.
Lou: Right; and my wife can stop me on a dime. She just opens the Bible and points, basically; because most of the time, I like to argue. I would be very willing to argue with her; but most of the time, I’m not willing to argue with God! So she brings the Scriptures to bear on the issues in my life. Most of the time, even though I may not like it, in a relatively short period of time, I’m going to confess—I’m going to say, “You’re right,” because the Scriptures are really what the Spirit uses to convict us of our sin.
Dennis: But, Lou, there are a number of our listeners, who know there’s something wrong in how they’re relating to their spouse, or how their spouse is relating to them, and they don’t know the chapter and verse that your wife does—they don’t know where to point. They’re just wondering, “How do I do this thing called marriage and family?”
Bob, I’m reminded, at this point, about the Weekend to Remember®.
Dennis: There’s a session we give, Lou, in the Weekend to Remember—I’m sure you’re familiar with it—it is on resolving conflict. It’s one of my favorite talks to give. I’m now giving it with Barbara, which creates conflict in preparation to give the message on resolving conflict. [Laughter] In fact, we were in Atlanta, and it was a sold-out crowd of like 1,100 people. Barbara and I were having a conflict seconds before the sound came on and the lights came on. [Laughter]
Lou: Of course!!
Dennis: We were live with the teaching from the Holy Book, the Bible, and we were up there trying to resolve something. [Laughter]
I am having to whisper to her, “Will you forgive me?” [Laughter] I mean, yes!—I mean, this is real stuff we’re talking about here!
Lou: Right. So, for the issue about knowing the Scriptures—it’s not usually necessary to know the reference or even the whole verse. Most of the time, if you can identify the other person’s sin in biblical terms—Kim may say to me, “Lou, don’t you think that’s selfish?” or “…that was inconsiderate?” or “…that was harsh or unkind?” All she really needs to do—because I know the Scripture—is to use the Scriptural term for what I’m doing wrong; and that usually, with me, will get the job done.
Now, the other side of the coin is—we all have patterns and habits of sin. So, if your children or spouse have a particular sin into which they constantly struggle, you may have to do a little work to find a few passages of Scripture; but the fact of the matter is—it’s worth it, because the Scriptures are really what the Spirit is going to use to bring conviction.
Dennis: You’re talking about “Speaking the truth in love,”—
Dennis: —which is also a Scripture.
Dennis: But it’s not always the attitude we have when we speak the truth to our spouse or to our children.
Bob: Well, in fact, there are some people who are really good at the truth side / not so good at the love side. So, when it comes to speaking the truth in love, which is the default for you? Do you tend to be too loving or too truthful?
Lou: Oh! Too truthful! [Laughter] Yes, my flesh just pops out; you know?—to which I’ve had to learn how to ameliorate, biblically—by really marinating my mind in the truth of God’s Word, and having a wife and two daughters who, when I step over the line, will call me on it.
Bob: Yes; and you don’t want anybody to back off from speaking the truth. Some people will say, “Well, I’ll just lie,”—that’s not the right response to it.
You do have to figure out how to speak the truth with kindness, with gentleness, with compassion, with love; right?—with the other person’s best interest at heart.
Lou: Right. There’s a chapter in the book called “You Put the Words Right into My Mouth.” It talks about how we can, as Christians, sort of help each other. It’s sort of a counseling technique I used with my counselees, even before I was married. Maybe two counselees would be talking to each other. One of them would flub a line—one of them would say something inappropriate or unbiblical. I would just say: “Whoa! Sally, can you think of a more gracious way to say that?” or “George, could you say that again without the sarcasm?” or “Mary, would you be able to restate that so it sounds like a question rather than an accusation?”
So this is something I sort of imported into the marriage when we were first married. Kim might say something to me: “Lou, the garbage has been here for two weeks! Will you please take it out?”
Then I would take the essence of what she said and sort of give it back to her—sort of as a re-do—sort of like a director, you know, directing an actor to re-do a flubbed line. “Sweetheart, it would mean so much to me if you would take the garbage out!” [Speaking with a sweet voice] Then she would say it back to me, usually with her teeth gritted: “Sweetheart, it would really mean a lot to me if you would take the garbage out.” [Laughter] And then I would respond: “Oh, it would be my pleasure to take the garbage out for such a lovely and kind woman as you!”
Bob: At which point, I would say, “Could you restate that with a little less sarcasm in your voice?” [Laughter]
Lou: Yes! [Laughter] So then, we rocked along this way for—I don’t know—maybe a year; and then, one day, it happened. I came home from work: “You spent how much for that!? “What were you thinking?! I thought we agreed not to spend more than $25 on unbudgeted items unless we agreed together on it! Sweetheart, didn’t we agree not to spend more than $25 on unbudgeted items without consulting the other person first?”
“Yes, Lou; but if you remember, we also agreed that: ‘If we saw something that was on sale, and it was not in the budget, we could purchase it, subject to the other person’s approval; and we could bring it back if the other person did not approve.’”
Through the years, we learned how to respond to each other and sort of talk to each other without stepping on the land mines in the other person’s mind—just simply by rehearsing new and different ways to communicate. The biblical basis for this is found in the book of Proverbs: “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer.” Sometimes, we have to think ahead about how to answer!
Bob: Can I just ask you about the other side of speaking the truth in love?
Bob: Because we tend to look at those people, who are truth-tellers without love, and we go, “You see, they’re the bad people.” And we look at the people, who are loving and kind and gracious—but who aren’t speaking the truth—
Bob: —and we give them a pass, because they’re acting nice. It’s no less sinful to mask the truth with some kind of false sentiment than it is to blurt it out with no love; is it?
Lou: Right; the consequences are different, but there are consequences for both. But, again, I think, as I said before, this has to be driven by our conscience. Our conscience has to tell us we must be loving; our conscience has to tell us we must speak the truth. Depending on the context / depending on the person with whom we are speaking, we must learn the skill of communicating in such a way that it is loving and truthful.
The Bible has so much to say about communication—most people would be amazed! And so, as Christians, we ought to be the most effective communicators in the world; because the Scriptures are filled with all kinds of verses on communication!
It’s very important that we develop the skill of communicating as we are maturing in our relationship with our children, with our wife, with the people with whom we have to do life on a regular basis.
Bob: And that means, sometimes, having to speak the truth, even when we know that’s going to be disruptive or it’s going to be disturbing to the other person—we do it kindly and graciously—rather than being afraid. I think there are some husbands or wives, who get paralyzed by: “I don’t want to say anything, because I know it’s going to upset,” “…I know it’s going to cause conflict,”—they just keep silent, when keeping silent is sinful in that situation.
Dennis: Well, they may be in a marriage relationship with a volcano. Nobody enjoys attempting to speak the truth in love and having lava splashed on them when you attempt to disturb them and you attempt to resolve a conflict.
Speak to the person Bob was referring to earlier, who just retreats / who just says: “You know, it’s easiest not to disturb here. It’s just going to cause an eruption—
Dennis: —“and more lava and more hurt.” What should that person do?
Lou: Yes; there’s so much I can say. In a half-hour program, it’s just very difficult. There’s an entire chapter in the book—it’s called “Love Communicates.” Basically, the chapter talks about the selfish nature of not communicating. If God says: “In this circumstance and that circumstance, you have a responsibility to open up your mouth and to speak the truth in love,” and you don’t do it, then, generally speaking, that’s a sin.
I say “generally speaking” because, as you said, there are extenuating factors—maybe you’re married to somebody who really has a serious anger problem—but, again, there are issues there that the Bible addresses to teach you how you can work in that kind of situation.
For example, where is it written that Matthew 18 does not apply to husbands and wives? Matthew 18 says: “If your brother sins, you convict him. If he listens to you, then you’ve won your brother. If he doesn’t listen to you, you bring one or two other people in in hopes of persuading him that he’s sinning. If he will not hear you, then you tell it to the church.” So, it basically says that you get other people involved. Well, if you’re dealing with two people, who are professing believers and they’re going to a Bible-believing church—they’re members of a Bible-believing church / a church where they had to, arguably, give their testimony to someone—then, if a husband and wife cannot get a conflict resolved, they need to go outside the marriage and bring somebody else in.
“Is it true,”—Paul says to the Corinthians—“there is not one wise man among you who shall be able to judge between brothers?” Well, why doesn’t that apply in any way to a husband and wife?—I think it does!
Dennis: Yes; there are those who are listening—
Dennis: —in fact, I can imagine a man, who may struggle with being more of a dictator—
Dennis: —and may not struggle with it, but may just be one; okay?
Lou: Right; right.
Dennis: He hears you say that and says: “That really helps! That helps me a bunch in my marriage! I know what I’m going to do with my wife.” You’re not suggesting, now, that men use this as a club with their wives; or for that matter, a wife with a husband. You’re talking about someone who is wanting to offer reconciliation and redemption to the other person—you’re talking about peace being achieved—
Lou: Right; sure.
Dennis: —not further inflammation here.
Lou: Yes; I mean, this is not the first tool you’re going to take out of your toolbox or probably the second or the third; but the fact of the matter is—at some point, if you’re married to a believer and the believer is not willing to hear you, then there is the requirement, really, in most cases, that you get someone else in.
Now, again, it doesn’t have to be as draconian as it sounds; for example, another situation: Kim might say to me: “Lou, I think that decision is”—maybe she would say—“selfish,”—or some other term.
“Before you finalize that decision, would you please go talk to Brother So-and-so?”
A husband may say to his wife: “Honey, before you do that, why don’t you call Sister So-and-so? Tell her what’s going on.” You know, this is presumably like a Titus 2 woman in the church: “Why don’t you tell Sister So-and-so what I said, and how you responded, and ask her if she thinks that that response was in line with the meek and the quiet spirit that the Bible says a wife should have toward her husband?”
It’s not like I’m going to just grab you by the neck and drag you before the elders. It’s really a matter of understanding that, at some point—not necessarily the first or second time things fail—but at some point—and you’re going to, arguably, agree ahead of time that, “If we can’t get a conflict resolved, we’re going to go outside the marriage to get some help.” Maybe you’ll even have prearranged and pre-agreed-upon people—you know, maybe for finances, you’re going to go to Brother So-and-so; or for communication, you’re going to go to Sister So-and-so—but to have this prearranged and pre-agreed-upon set of people—that, if you need help outside of yourselves / outside of the marriage, you can pick up the phone and call for some help.
That’s really the spirit of what I’m talking about—not that we’re going to drag somebody, you know, before the court.
Dennis: And I’ll use an illustration. I just got off the phone with a young lady, who has been dealing with her husband’s drinking. It’s severe—it’s destroying her, as a woman, wife, and a mother. She has confronted him before; he hasn’t listened. We talked about gathering some wise counsel around her—
Dennis: —and build some boundaries and know how to, ultimately, save this marriage from utter destruction and to save his life from utter destruction.
Lou: Right; right.
Dennis: So we’re talking about building a plan here.
Dennis: That does involve other people to help protect you in the midst of something that is severe.
Dennis: There are things that are going to destroy you, your children, your family, your marriage. At that point, you need to take appropriate measures to preserve that which is important to you.
Bob: Yes; here’s what you’ve got to recognize. When you’re going to step in and work to resolve conflict in a marriage / in a relationship, you’re stepping into a territory that has all kinds of land mines buried all over the place. Unless you’ve got some skill / unless you’ve learned how to navigate this terrain, you can wind up doing damage rather than bringing healing.
What Lou’s done, in the book that he’s written, which is called Resolving Conflict: How to Make, Disturb, and Keep the Peace, is—he has charted that territory for us so that we can step in, and we can avoid those land mines, and we can get to peace. I would encourage listeners—get a copy of the book. It’s available from us, here, at FamilyLife Today. You can order, easily, online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Again, our website—FamilyLifeToday.com.
The book is called Resolving Conflict by Lou Priolo. Or you can order by calling 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this issue—I heard somebody say this, years ago—“If couples can learn how to resolve conflict effectively, it’s the single most important skill you can develop in a marriage relationship that keeps your marriage bond strong.” I mean, think about it!—if you know how to forgive / if you know how to resolve conflict, you can experience the repair work of the Holy Spirit; and you can continue to thrive in marriage.
That’s why subjects like this are so important. It’s what we’re all about, here, at FamilyLife—helping to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world. And, do you know what? We’ve got a lot of listeners who agree with us. In fact, some of you have joined together with us in this ministry to help expand the reach of FamilyLife Today, so that these broadcasts, our resources, our website, our events—
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about how we can resolve conflict and how we can make sure we don’t allow a root of bitterness to grow in our own heart. Lou Priolo will be back with us again tomorrow. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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