We’ve all heard the saying, “Pick your battles.”  For some of us, there is no such thing as “picking.” We battle whenever someone crosses our line in the sand.  For me, it is when I feel that my wife has treated me disrespectfully.  Whether she has done it knowingly or not, I battle when I feel wronged.  It has taken me a long time to learn that I do not have to battle every time my wife crosses that line.  In fact, there are times when my battling makes the situation worse, much to my chagrin.  I have learned that if my wife’s words or behaviors pass this three-part test it is better for both of us if I turn the other cheek.

Here are three situations when it is appropriate to turn the other cheek:

  1. When the other person’s hurtful words or behaviors are the exception and not the norm.

It can be healthy to forgive someone who only on the occasion hurts you or offends you.  This is by no means encouraging anyone to remain in a hurtful or abusive relationship. It is very common in a marriage to step on each other’s toes or hurt each other’s feelings without giving it much thought.  Because this is a reality, it is very helpful to choose to let some things slide.

RED FLAG: If you are harboring resentment or bitterness as a result of your partner’s words and behaviors.  This would communicate that your partner’s words and behaviors are hurtful enough that they need to be addressed.  Turning the other cheek in this situation might avoid a battle but the war will only intensify.

2.When the circumstances provide a good explanation for the action.

We’ve all had those days where nothing went right.  For my wife and I, we are in the stage of life with two small children and some days that fact all by itself is enough to make us irritable by the end of the day.  I try to overlook my wife’s irritability on those days because I know that I can behave the same way.  The trick is to resist the temptation to react.  I know that if I can be supportive of her and help her get through the remainder of the evening then her mood will pass and we will be fine.   It is foolish of me to battle with my wife when she’s had a long day and I’m offended by how she is treating me.  I tell myself in those situations, “Don’t worry about it Josh. She’s had a long day and I know exactly how it feels to be worn down by the kiddos. Look to help her.”

RED FLAG: If you or your partner are always irritable, regardless of the circumstances.  This would be an indication that there is something deeper going on and it needs attention.  Maybe it’s a lack of self-care or maybe the roles in the home are unbalanced.  Turning the cheek in this situation will not be helpful.  Encouraging your partner or taking steps yourself to find out what is making them or you unhappy is the remedy.

  1. When you know, because of past experiences, that the person who hurt you will eventually apologize for what they did.

I know for certain, that if I turn the other check after my wife has hurt my feelings, she will eventually apologize.  In fact, she is more likely to apologize sooner than later if I focus on helping her instead of battling her.  I have found that I actually feel better when I choose to help her instead of focusing on how I’ve been wronged.  As a result and after some time has passed, (usually requires that the kids are in bed) my wife usually reflects on her attitude and behaviors and realizes that she was taking her frustrations out on me.  By me not making an issue out of it, we are both able to move forward and have a nice end to a stressful day.

RED FLAG: When the person who hurt you never apologizes for how they treated you.  It will become increasingly more difficult to turn the other cheek when things don’t feel fair.  It can be easy to forgive when someone takes responsibility for their part, but the opposite is true as well.  If you find yourself on either side of this problem (you don’t forgive or your partner doesn’t forgive) I encourage the two of you seek help.  It will not be an easy road ahead if forgiveness isn’t a regular part of your life.

~ Joshua Emery