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A New Treatment

The way I responded to my wife's requests meant peace for both of us.

A few years ago, one of our sons gave Norma a gift certificate for her birthday. It entitled her to an all-day beauty treatment at an expensive resort near our home. Norma filed it away for safe keeping and promptly forgot about it. More than a year later, she discovered it as she was sorting through some folders.

"Look what I found," she said, showing me the gold-embossed certificate.

I scanned it. "It's expired." I pointed out a date in small print near the bottom.

Norma frowned. "I hate to think I wasted such a thoughtful gift."

"Well, just call and ask if they'll extend the deadline," I said, even though I knew she would probably reject my suggestion. Norma dislikes talking to people she doesn't know, especially if there's a potential dispute involved.

"Would you mind checking for me to see if they'll still accept this?"

I sighed, but promised I would give them a call.

The young woman at the spa, though polite, was clearly reluctant to accept an expired certificate. But I exercised my powers of persuasion and eventually coaxed her into agreeing.

Proud of my people skills, I handed Norma the certificate with a flourish. "It took a little negotiating, but I convinced them to accept this. Your spa treatment awaits!"

"Did you find out the name of the person you spoke with?"

It wasn't exactly the expression of gratitude I'd anticipated. "Well, no."

"Gary, I can't use it if I don't know who approved it," she replied. "I'd be so embarrassed if I went over there and then was told, 'No, ma'am, we didn't okay this.' I need you to call back and ask for a name."

Internally, I reacted with a surge of irritation. Do I have to take care of every little detail? It's your certificate. You're the one who let it expire. You're an adult and should be able to handle this on your own!

My impulse was to throw the certificate on the table and stomp off in a huff. That's certainly what I would have done in the past. From my point of view, I'd tried to do a nice thing, and Norma had thrown it back in my face. She wasn't satisfied with the way I'd handled it—even though I was technically successful in my attempt.

Before I could blurt out my anger, however, the words from James 1:19 popped into my head: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

I considered my feelings of frustration. Was Norma's request really that unreasonable? Or was I just upset that she felt I hadn't done what was necessary? Most important, did I really want to spew hurtful words that would require damage control later on?

I did walk away—to make another phone call. It took only a few minutes to obtain the name of the young woman with whom I'd chatted. I even managed to get the name of a second employee in case she wasn't working when Norma went to redeem the certificate. I wrote both names on the coupon and gave it to Norma.

"Thank you," she said, smiling. "I appreciate you doing this even though you really didn't want to."

I'm happy to say the spa treatment went off without a hitch. Norma was able to enjoy our son's gift. And I reaped the rewards from controlling my tongue. I knew that being slow to anger would benefit my spouse. What I hadn't foreseen was the personal bonus that stems from not needing to repair wounds inflicted by my hasty words.

All couples deal with day-to-day, petty irritations such as whose turn it is to call the cable company or who gets stuck with the grocery shopping. In the end though, we need to remember the big picture. Rather than squabbling over those mundane tasks, we can put them to better use as opportunities to show love, patience, and a willing spirit to our mate.

Gary Smalley, Ph.D, founder and CEO of the Smalley Relationship Center (www.smalleyonline.com), is author of The DNA of Relationships (Tyndale). Visit him at www.garysmalley.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Marriage; Selfishness; Service
Today's Christian Woman, Winter, 2005
Posted September 12, 2008

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