How to Talk to an Upset Woman

If there is any one issue that I hear complaints about from young married couples more than any other, it is the issue of communication.  It is not always the failure of one sex over the other, but young men are often quite unprepared to speak to their wives in a ways that demonstrates patience toward the "weaker vessel." (II Peter 3:7)  This is made especially difficult if there is an emotional component.

What is amazing is that the bible provides several opportunities to learn how to speak to people, even women, in a way that communicates dignity and respect.  Many people accuse the bible of being misogynistic, or male-centric, but a careful reading shows that it is nothing of the sort.

In a passage that shows the dangers of being callous toward the plight of women dependent on men, Abram had failed to uphold God's standards.  He had followed the advice of Sarai his wife, and had sired a child by her handmaid.  Hagar, however, failed to maintain respect for Sarai her mistress once it was apparent that she was pregnant.  Frustrated by the situation, Sarai treated Hagar unfairly, and Abram refused to step in.  Eventually, Hagar fled from a hard situation, pregnant, afraid, and alone. (Genesis 16:1-6)

When the angel of YHWH found Hagar, the way that He spoke to her can tell us a lot about how to speak kindly.

He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” (Genesis 16:7-10)

Additionally, the angel made many prophecies about the son she would have named Ishmael (literally, God hears).  All of these would demonstrate that God's attention would be toward her for her protection in just the ways that humans had not.

Speaking with grace and care to a woman who was in a hard position involved asking questions and listening to her answers.  It involved validating her concerns and offering solutions, but not critically moralizing her actions.  It involved offering to make concrete commitments that showed that she was valued.

While we are rarely in the kind of position that is described in these passages, there are several important lessons that can be gleaned and put into practice.  How we use our speech toward others in our lives is an indication of what kind of heart we have. (Proverbs 16:24)  The God we serve is great to give us insight into how to handle challenging situations and interactions with grace and love. (Proverbs 15:4)