In this episode:
There is a lot of stuff going on in our world right now. This means a lot of opportunities to argue, for people to follow their gut and then make a mistake, for not being prepared enough for financial stress, and for choices that could lead to consequences. In relationships, it's often tempting to say, "I told you so" when someone else messes up. But what if we flipped the script to 4 other little words? I still love you. Whether it’s related to a pandemic, an election, a cause, or a disagreement, we have the opportunity to love. And that’s how we win at relationships.
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In this season where family members are home with one another, plans are canceled and life is different from what we expected, tensions are higher than usual in some families. This series will be short programs to help you with practical tips in everyday life.
A trip around social media will make it quite obvious that people are frustrated, angry, disappointed and sad. I’m sad when I read the posts! As I’m working on editing a book for couples that will be coming out later this year, relationships are on my mind. But I’ve realized it isn’t only marriages that need help. Many friendships and parent/child relationships could use some help too!
I want to talk about four little words that are oh-so-tempting to say, but can be so destructive in a relationship. I want to say them SO often. Too often. I like to be right. I like to win arguments. I’m not proud of that.
Let’s set this up a little. Imagine that you have an adult child. Perhaps this child still lives at home part time. They have a car that cost them all of their savings to purchase. You remind them numerous times that they need to check the oil and take care of it. And one day you get the phone call.
“I’m stuck on the side of Interstate 94 in 6 lanes of traffic. My car died and I have about 8 minutes left before my phone dies too.”
This little voice pops up in your mind. You know you’ve been talking about maintenance. You reminded this child recently that leaving without a phone charger makes no sense when there are 42 billion of them on the kitchen counter at home, several in the junk drawer, and yet there is never one in the car.
Ok. Back to reality.
“I don’t know. It started clanking and then the engine light came on. And now it’s dead.”
Even I know the signs of a blown engine.
(PS – I made up this story based on a pile of experiences and not one, lest I “out” either of my children and make family enemies.)
Now, what are the words that are right there behind your teeth waiting to come out? They have made it from your brain to your throat, to the tip of your tongue and you just want to spit them out.
I told you so.
Four true but destructive little words that can break a relationship. That child broke down on the side of the road can already hear your voice. The husband who forgot his coffee on the kitchen counter (yes, this one is from real life) for the third time in a week knows he did it again.
Aside: (my husband needs to stop putting coffee in the camouflage tumbler!)
When you warned someone that their choices were going to land them in deep trouble, sickness, financial hurt, emotional pain, broken heart…they don’t need to hear “I told you so.”
Let’s talk about how to turn these 4 little words into something that can be of benefit.
What if we turned “I told you so” into these four words: “I still love you”?
I still love you even though you didn’t listen to me.
I still love you even though your choice cost us a chunk of change.
I still love you even though you are the victim of your own irresponsibility.
Responding with “I still love you” tells the other person that their failure is not bigger than your love. It tells them there are no conditions on your love. It reassures them that they are still valuable.
My husband has fallen for some scams when it comes to purchasing used cars. Even when my gut says, “No way!” his sometimes says, “Go for it!”
I haven’t always responded with, “I still love you.” It might be through gritted teeth if I did.
Saying I told you so is like chanting, “You were wrong.” Over and over. It might make me feel powerful for a moment, but it breaks the relationship and makes the other person feel small. Saying I still love you will take practice. It isn’t my first and natural response!
The other thing to note is that the nonverbals send the message loud and clear too, so it isn’t just those four little words! Sighing, looks of disproval, rolling eyes, folded arms…they all say it too.
The best resource I can think of is an example from someone who depicts perfect love.
Peter was a close friend of Jesus, one of the disciples. Jesus was walking with his disciples right before he would be arrested, put on trial, and crucified.
31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
33 Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
35 “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same. (Matthew 26:31-35 NLT)
But on the same day, Peter is outside in the courtyard while Jesus is being flogged inside and this happens.
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.
73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”
74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.
75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75)
After his resurrection, Jesus didn’t go to Peter to say, “I told you so.” Instead, he restored his relationship with Peter.
I will forever need to practice this one. But every time I hold back the “I told you so” and express love instead, it builds a relationship with someone else and it chips away at my own pride.
There are a lot of people who will make what is going on in our world into an opportunity to win. Whether it’s related to a pandemic, an election, a cause, or a disagreement, we have the opportunity to love. And that’s how we win at relationships.
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Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.
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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.