Contentious: given to arguing or provoking argument.
A contentious person likes to be right. If it takes convincing you they’re right, then welcome to an argument. Marriages involving contentious spouses struggle. One ‘contender’ and one ‘stone-waller’ . . . bad. Two contentious people. Not as bad but a lot louder. Contentious people rarely see themselves as contentious. They’re just pursuing the truth while protecting themselves. They won’t stop until they’ve got their point across. Their arguing is a habitual response to their spouse, the stimulus of conversation, or both.
And why do we attribute contentiousness to women? (Guys, grab your Bible . . .)
“It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 25:24
“It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” Proverbs 21:19
Considering the social status of women in Biblical times, it’s no surprise men would label women ‘contentious’ if they raised the least objection to their husband’s thoughts. I believe men are just as prone to being contentious as women.
But whether it’s her or you, whether it’s developed since you got married or if ‘it came with the package,’ contentiousness is a deadly, debilitating habit that can be stopped with focused effort. It doesn’t matter who it starts with . . . it’s who stops it that matters.
Contentious people never let anything go. They feel compelled to explain, defend, convince, convict, or just have the last word.
To ‘contend’ can mean ‘to contend in rivalry.’ Are you in rivalry with your spouse? Are you trying to prove them wrong? Or careless? Or selfish? Be careful, you might win the battle and lose the war. You may be right a thousand times out of a thousand and ten, but if you create an environment where your spouse feels attacked, belittled, disrespected, or just plain exhausted, your marriage and family will suffer.
Jesus was never contentious. He would speak His peace, then shut up, even when He was speaking to the Pharisees. One of the most glaring examples of His lack of contentiousness was when He met Mary and Martha after Lazarus died. He was verbally assaulted by Martha: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:2). Jesus replied patiently. Then went about raising Lazarus from the dead. He didn’t push back or contend. He kindly went on with His business.
When you’re tempted to be contentious, don’t. Stop with the facts and leave off that extra phrase that causes all the problems. If your spouse tends toward being contentious, talk about it. Ultimately, someone has to go first, either to stop the contention or to process it differently when it comes your way. Leaders go first.
Prayer – Lord, it’s clear from the Proverbs you don’t want your children to live in an environment of contention. Give us patience as we attempt to live with each other in an understanding way. Give us big ‘forgivers’ as we feel challenged, criticized and ‘contended with’ by our spouses. Help us to relax in your complete, unconditional love and acceptance. In your Son’s precious name, Amen.
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