Fight Fair

Living the Dream Series Title

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Living the Dream | Part 2

Fight Fair

James 1:19-20



Series: “Living the Dream” (2 weeks ago)


1.) Invest in the lives of those of you that hope to get married one day by giving you tools on the front side of marriage that will help you prepare to Live the Dream


2.) Invest in those couples who are married – for some marriage good, for some things are tough – it’s not too late nor too early to invest in your marriage – to take these commitments and apply them in order to Live the Dream


Week 1 — Is a great (not just good) marriage possible? Is it possible to Live the Dream?


It is possible – but NOT LIKELY – if you do what everyone else does (50%)

So, marriage can’t be done the world’s way – unless you’re just planning to fail

Marriage must be done God’s way if you ever have a chance of living the dream – LOVE GOD FIRST


Coming Up

  1. Fight Fair
  2. Forgive
  3. Have Fun
  4. Never Give Up


Pick up Stay Pure a little later — Next week: Forgive with Roy Houston

So today: Fight Fair

Most problems in a marriage don’t start in the bedroom, they wind up in the bedroom.

So if we are going to Have Fun, we need to learn how to Fight Fair and Forgive, so that we are prepared to have the fun that God has intended marriage to have

So today: Fight Fair

Men and Women are Different

Men and Women are as different as cats and dogs

Let me tell you about a cat..

  1. They do what they want.
  2. They rarely listen to you.
  3. They’re totally unpredictable.
  4. They whine when they are not happy.
  5. When you want to play, they want to be alone.
  6. When you want to be alone, they want to play.
  7. They expect you to cater to their every whim.
  8. They’re moody.
  9. They can drive you nuts and cost you an arm and a leg.
  10. They leave hair everywhere.


Conclusion: Cats are tiny little women in fur coats.

Let me tell you about a dog..

  1. They can lie around all day, sprawled out on the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house.
  2. They can hear a package of food opening half a block away, but they can’t hear you even when you’re in the same room.
  3. They leave their toys everywhere.
  4. They growl when they are not happy.
  5. When you want to play, they want to play.
  6. When you want to be left alone, they still want to play.
  7. They are great at begging.
  8. They will love you forever if you feed them and rub their tummies.
  9. They do disgusting things with their mouths and then try to give you a kiss.
  10. They can look dumb and lovable all at the same time.


Conclusion: Dogs are tiny little men in fur coats.[i]

And sometimes men and women fight like cats and dogs

Dorthy Rosby in an article entitled “It’s Living Together That Makes Marriage Difficult” tells the story of the woman who shot her husband because he ate her chocolate.


She writes this,

“I probably read about that incident with a Hershey bar in my hand. At the time, I may have even thought he had it coming. But now that I think about it, even I, a confirmed chocoholic, think shooting was extreme.”


“It truly is the little things that destroy relationships. Margarine, chocolate, nylons on the towel rack, hair in the sink. I once heard about a couple who fought for more than four hours—over a rubber band. He had it, and she wanted it.… It’s the little things that happen when you’re living together.…


Part of the problem is that God made opposites attract: savers marry spenders; neatniks pair up with slobs; and early birds team up with night owls. Opposing idiosyncrasies come together like weather fronts when couples live together.[ii]

And when those weather fronts come together, sometimes there are significant storms! (even over little things)


The Reality is All Couples Will Fight

Some say, “We never fight.” And I wonder if they’re ever honest with each other.

Some say, “We’ve never had a fight, but there have been many times that we’ve had some intense moments of fellowship!”


All couples fight, BUT…

Healthy couples will fight FAIR toward a RESOLUTION


Unhealthy couples fight VICIOUSLY for VICTORY

  • Undercuts, accusations, criticisms, contempt, disgust, defensiveness
  • Fight to win – they fight to defeat the person they are supposed to be living life with together
  • The one they’re supposed to be building up they are beating down when they fight
  • Unhealthy couples fail to understand that winning at all costs is like tearing yourself apart limb by limb because together you are a one flesh union


Four Signs You Are Not Fighting Fair[iii]

**Listen with your ears, your heart, NOT YOUR ELBOWS


Dr. John Gottman – world-renowned marriage and family therapist with 40 years of research with 1000s of couples quoted by many including Focus on the Family

Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of a Relationship Apocalypse

These are 4 unmistakable signs that you are not fighting fair:


1.) CRITICISM vs Complaint

  • A complaint addresses only the specific action at which your partner has failed.
  • A criticism is an attack on your partner at the core (e.g. character or personality)
  • Complaint: “There is no gas in the car. I’m aggravated that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.”
  • Criticism: “You never remember anything! You can’t be counted on for your word!”
  • Criticism makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt, and unless you beg the grace of Jesus to redeem you, it becomes repetitive with more frequency and viciousness


2.) Contempt

  • Contempt is mean-spirited behaviors that communicate disgust and disrespect.
  • Mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling.
  • The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.
  • It does not move toward reconciliation and inevitably increases the conflict.
  • Really unhealthy: research shows couples that display contempt for each other suffer more illnesses and diseases than respectful couples.


3.) Defensiveness

  • May be natural but it is not fighting fair – not fighting godly
  • Conveys the message, “The problem is not me. It’s you.”
  • You avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior by pointing to something they did prior to their complaint about you.
  • She: “Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”

Defensive: (He) “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”

Non-defensive: (He) “Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. Let me call them right now.”


4.) Stonewalling

  • Disengagement – Tuning Out – One person shuts down and closes himself/herself off from the other
  • Illustration: My dad
  • Stonewalling is a go-to for men more than women
  • This saying may not be fair, but it is true: “In the home, if Mama ain’t happy, then ain’t nobody happy!”
  • One thing a man really does not like is a nagging, griping, hen-pecking woman.
  • God knows this and addresses it several times in the Book of Proverbs.

A wife’s nagging is an endless dripping” (19:13).

Better to live on the corner of a roof, than to share a house with a nagging wife” (21:9).

Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife” (22:9).

  • A man will not hang around a woman that is continually badgering him and beating him up verbally.
  • Basically he will take one of two actions: Fight or flight
  • Most men won’t fight their wives.
    • They will not fight them physically because it is wrong, it strips away their masculinity, and they will also go to jail (and rightly so)
    • Most men will not fight their wives verbally, either
  • Simple reason: Men almost always lose verbal battles.
    • Women are verbal animals.
    • Average male speaks 10-12,000 words per day.
    • Average female speaks somewhere between 20-25,000 words per day
    • In other words, women are well equipped for verbal battles and men are not.[iv]
    • And so men stonewall – check out (work, hobbies, whatever)


APP: Ladies be aware: don’t pile on Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt


APP: Men be aware: don’t check out, dig in


All couples will fight, but healthy couples will fight fair


If you are going to Live the Dream – you have got to do marriage God’s way – you have got to (1) Love God First and (2) Fight Fair


<<<James 1:19-20>>>

(NASB) 19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.


God’s Rules for Fighting Fair[v]


1.) Stop to LISTEN carefully

(v19) “…everyone must be quick to hear


“hear” = akouō = to listen with deep intent

We are quick to do a lot of things, especially when we are angry, and listening isn’t on the top of the list!

Listening is most difficult when we are angry

But we are a fool if we do not

(Prov 18:2, KJV) A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.


Tool to Listen Well: Repeat back what the person says.

  • Makes sure you know what was said
  • It validates your spouse, so they know you’re listening
  • It keeps the conversation on the issue at hand


2.) Guard your WORDS graciously

(v19) “…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak

(Prov 21:23, NASB) He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.

Give space for the Holy Spirit to intercept your speech and take your thoughts captive and bring your actions/reactions in line with the will of God and under the grace of God


Two More Tools

1.) Before you speak ask yourself:

  • Should it be said?
  • Should it be said now?


2.) Set Ground Rules (When You’re Not in a Fight)

5 Ground Rules to Keep Your Speech Full of Grace

1.) Never call names.

2.) Never raise your voice.

3.) Never get historical.

4.) Never say never or always.

5.) Never threaten divorce

***I quit because I’m not happy

***Your marriage is God’s plan A

***God does want your marriage to be fun, fulfilling, and bring you joy – BUT have you considered that God’s purpose in your marriage may not first be your happiness but rather your HOLINESS


3.) Handle your ANGER righteously

(v19-20) “…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.


Uncontrolled anger leads to uncontrolled speech.[vi]


And uncontrolled speech will bring all kinds of pain when you are angry

(Prov 18:21) Death and life are in the power of the tongue…


(Eph 4:26-27, KJV) 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.


(NLT) 26…Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.


“When you give the Devil a foothold into your life, he takes a stronghold.” – Rick Warren

If you give Satan control of one little part of your life, he will soon take over the whole thing.

If you let him in the door, he will take over the whole house.

Last Tool: Deal with it immediately


The grace of Jesus Christ is applied to your account, spend it on your spouse / relationships


When you fight fair, you fight the right enemy

Your spouse is not your enemy


The enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy you – and he will use your marriage as the battleground if you let him

So don’t let him in – shut the door – don’t give him a foothold

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:21

Plead with Christ – pray for your husband and pray for your wife

With Christ  —  all things are possible

With Christ  —  any marriage can be healed

With Christ  —  your marriage can be healed

With Christ  —  you can live the dream


[i] Daniel Akin, God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Marriage (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 64–65.

[ii] Daniel Akin, God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Marriage (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 56.

[iii] Ellie Lisitsa, “The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling” (April 24, 2013). Accessed from

[iv] Daniel Akin, God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas about Love, Intimacy, and Marriage (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 187–188.

[v] I owe a debt of gratitude to Craig Groeschel and Life Church for his influence on the outline of this passage in James from his series entitled “From This Day Forward.”

[vi] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 82.