"Moral reason must learn how to make coercion its ally without running the risk of a Pyrrhic victory in which the ally exploits and negates the triumph." -Reinhold Niebuhr-
The 48 Laws of Power is a book written in 1998 by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers. Even though many of the Laws are amoral, manipulative, and un-Christian, they are nonetheless applicable to the realistic situations we encounter in daily life. This book takes over 3000 years of the history of power and summarizes it in the 48 Laws. I have gained much insight into the depravity of human nature and gained much insight into how to understand and address the issues when I am confronted with them.
Law 9 is titled “Win through your Actions, Never through Argument.” It states that: “Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with devastating cost to the victor. There are many times we want to make sure we “have the last word,” only to find that the damage inflicted verbally only makes the problem worse than it was in the beginning. No doubt, someone is reading this and feels that it is necessary to get your point across; that the offending party must understand your point of view. This dangerous behavior has consequences that make that individual distrust, harbor resentment toward you, and look for an opportunity to take advantage of your weaknesses. We all have them. I have never seen a successful, loving relationship borne as a result of one party coercing the other’s way of thinking or pattern of behavior.
In the realm of a marriage there a few fundamental principles of which many couples seem to be oblivious. We are all born “Man” or “Woman.” If at some point we are blessed by God to get married, we assume a position with a title. That title is “Husband” or “Wife,” and with those positions come job descriptions set forth by God. If we dare ignore them, not read them, or worse yet, rebel against them, there is a terrible price to pay for both individuals.
God is forgiving and gracious, but how many of us have committed an offense in our marriage only to run into unforgiveness, distrust, and a host of other emotions compliments of human nature? Arguing doesn’t fix the problem and doesn’t help in restoring the offending partner. If that individual does not feel that they are understood, continual reminders of the transgression will only ensure the individual’s mindset will eventually become, “It is easier to prove you right, than to fight to prove you wrong!” That individual will give up investing vulnerability into the marriage and it goes further downhill from there.
Many problems are a result of diminished love. Let me explain that. In the beginning of a relationship, individuals have been known to say they “fell in love,” or “were swept off their feet.” Notice that these two phrases require no action on your part. The sayings imply that “love” simply happened to you. As the relationship progresses and the novelty of the feeling passes and we see the partner’s good, bad, and ugly characteristics. The cute way they chew now becomes a pet peeve!
Then it is necessary to invest time, energy, and prayer into maintaining and nurturing the relationship. When problems arise, and they will, the worst thing we can do is spend all our time obsessively focusing on the problem and ignoring the ultimate purpose of the relationship. Focusing on the conflict soon becomes an even bigger problem. Enhancing one’s ability to love is the answer to negotiating the conflict.
There is hope for both parties, because of guidance and instruction in God’s Word.
Trust God to provide your every need. If we don’t believe He is able, we set ourselves up for failure. In the Bible, James opens his letter with a strong warning that those who doubt the Lord can expect nothing from Him (1:6-7). God's trustworthiness and faithfulness is clear in God’s Word and in believers' lives, but our shaky confidence undermines His work. I often refer to this as a slap in the face to God.
Wait upon His timing. We can get impatient when we don’t get what we want quickly enough. This also can affect how we “judge” the other person’s progress in the restoration process. In 1 Sam. 13:9-13, Saul assumed the prophet, Samuel's role and made a sacrifice to God. Like so many people who manipulate circumstances and timing, Saul was not happy with the results. He won the war but lost not only God's favor, Samuel’s friendship, and his testimony, but also his kingdom. No one gets what he really wants by supplying his own wants and needs.
Most importantly, we need to accept responsibility for our actions and for the effect it had on others. It doesn’t mean we have to carry their baggage, but we certainly need to be sensitive to the pain we inflicted. Proverbs 19:15, 20:4 instructs us that God does not open a door to opportunity while we sit idly and do nothing. We have to be in motion and ready to be guided. If we want to know God’s direction for a tough situation, we need to be seeking Him regularly through prayer and His Word. The Lord goes before us to soften hearts, but we must do our part.
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