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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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William Carey: Educational Pioneer

By the Rev.  Dr. Ed HirdWilliam Carey1

Who was William Carey, and why has he had such a major impact on our global culture?  On May 26th 2013, I graduated with my Doctorate from Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus.  While at Carey College, I often walked past a painting of Carey, showing his humble beginning as a village shoemaker in Paulersbury, England.  Carey was fascinated with reading books about science, history and travel journals of explorers like Captain Cook.  His village playmates nicknamed him Christopher Columbus.  Carey said that he was addicted as a young person to swearing, lying, and alcohol.  A major turning point happened when he was caught by his employer embezzling a shilling.  Fortunately his employer did not press charges.  For such petty larceny, Carey could have easily paid the price of imprisonment, forfeiture of goods and chattel, whipping or transportation for seven years to the plantations of the West Indies or America.  Facing his own selfishness, Carey had a spiritual breakthrough by personally meeting Christ that had a lasting impact on his values and lifestyle.

Carey had a quick mind and a natural love of learning. He would have normally become a farm labourer, but suffered from a skin disease that made it painful for him to go out in the full sun. If Carey’s face and hands were exposed to the sun for any lengthy period, he would suffer agony throughout the night.  So instead he became a cobbler, making shoes.  While making shoes, he was able to read and pray.  Through this, Carey developed a conviction that he was to go to India.  His unimaginative friends and colleagues tried to talk him out of this fantasy.  His five-month pregnant wife Dorothy was also dead-set against it.  His own father Edmund wondered if his son had lost his mind.  Carey said to his dad: “I am not my own nor would I choose for myself. Let God employ me where he thinks fit.”

William CareymapWith unshakable determination, Carey went to India in 1793 which was under the control of the East India Company.  He later ended up becoming a Professor of Bengali and Sanskrit in Calcutta, India.  Through teaching at Fort Williams College in Calcutta, he was investing in young civil servants from England, helping them to have a good start in India.  Carey believed that the future was as bright as the promises of God.  He had an exceptional natural gift for languages.  Carey called himself a plodder; whatever he started, he always finished.   Unlike a number of his family members and closest friends, Carey survived malaria and numerous other tropical diseases.  His first wife Dorothy however had a nervous breakdown before later dying.  Carey was heartbroken.

Some bureaucrats from the East India Company did their best to expel Carey and his team from India.  Anything that might affect financial profit was seen as a threat.  William Wilberforce however, having finally abolished the slave trade, presented 837 petitions to the British Parliament representing over half a million signatures, requesting that ‘these good and great men’ be allowed to stay in India.  Carey’s enemies attacked him in Parliament for being a lowly shoemaker.  Wilberforce won the day in the Charter Renewal Bill of 1813.

William Carey collegeCarey’s motto was “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

            Entirely self-taught, Carey impacted the emerging generation of Indian leaders that birthed the burgeoning modern democracy of India.  Serampore College was founded by Carey and his colleagues in 1818.  He produced six grammars of Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Panjabi, Telugi, and Kanarese, and with John Clark Marshman, one of Bhutia.  He also translated the whole Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, and parts of it into twenty-nine other languages or dialects.  Scholars say that Carey significantly contributed to the renaissance of Indian Literature in the nineteenth century.

While an ordained preacher and a church planter, Carey was fascinated with all aspects of daily living.  In 1818 Carey founded two magazines and a newspaper, the Samachar Darpan, the first newspaper printed in any Asian language. He was the father of Indian printing technology, building what was then their largest printing press.  Carey was the first to make indigenous paper for the Indian publishing industry.  He brought the steam engine to India, and pioneered the idea of lending libraries in India.  Carey introduced the concept of a ‘Savings Bank’ to India, in order to fight the all-pervasive social evil of usury at interest rates of 36% to 72%.

William Carey StampCarey introduced the study of astronomy as a science, teaching that the stars and planets are God’s creation set by him in an observable order, rather than astrological deities fatalistically controlling one’s life.  He was the founder of the Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.  Carey was the first person in India to write about forest conservation. In 1823, he was elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, one of the world’s most distinguished botanical societies even today.  As Carey’s favorite flowers were lilies, he had the honour of having one (Careyanum) named after him.

Having a strong social conscience, Carey was the first man to oppose the Sati widow-burning and female infanticide.  Sati was finally banned by the Government of India in 1829.  He also campaigned for humane treatment of lepers who were being burned or buried alive because of their bad karma.  The view at the point was that leprosy was a deserved punishment in the fifth cycle of reincarnation.

 william-carey grave           Carey loved India and never returned home to England, dying in 1834 at the age of 73.  Near the end, he said: ““You have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey-speak only about William Carey’s Saviour.”  My prayer for those reading this article is that we too would have the passion for learning and making a difference that William Carey once had.

 

Video: William Carey – A Candle in the Dark (click to view)

Ed processing

The Rev.  Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-an article for the June 2013 Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News, Academia.edu, and the Light Magazine

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse

-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.


-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Growing In Intimacy Through Conflict

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

I never imagined that we can grow through conflict, that we can discover greater intimacy through facing the conflicts in our lives.  Many of us are conflict-phobic. Through taking a course with my doctoral advisor Dr Paddy Ducklow, I learned that conflict is not something to be avoided but rather to be celebrated.   Many of us have learned from our families of origin to emotionally cut ourselves off whenever anxious situations emerge.  But avoidance and emotional cutoff just make things worse.

It takes courage to face painful situations in our life, courage to listen, and courage to confront.  Dr Ducklow modeled on this course a non-anxious presence that cared but did not get swallowed by people’s issues.  It takes a lot of inner resilience to be able to stay present and calm when the storms of life blow in.

Jesus modeled this by how he acted on a Galilean boat during a storm. Rather than panic, he was totally relaxed and challenged his disciples to have more faith and inner peace.  Then he spoke to the wind and storms, saying ‘Peace.  Be still’.  In the midst of our storms, Jesus is still saying ‘Peace. Be still.’

I first met Paddy Ducklow in 1972 during the Jesus Movement when millions of young people came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Paddy at that time was leading the youth ministry at West Vancouver Baptist Church which had between 800 to 1,000 young people attending their Sunday evening service Salt Circus. I remember attending Salt Circus. The place was electric.  Paddy later founded the Burnaby Counselling Group before becoming the Senior Pastor of Burnaby Christian Fellowship.  Wherever Paddy has gone, he has had a lasting impact on the lives of many, helping them to know greater intimacy and peace through Jesus Christ.

In more recent years, Paddy became the Senior Pastor of Capilano Christian Community on the North Shore, before stepping down to become the Professor of Marriage and Family at Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus.  Over two years ago, I began to once again feel the call to do a part-time doctorate.  E-mailing Paddy, I asked his advice as to where I might go to do my doctorate.  Paddy responded, saying that he was being inducted at West Vancouver Baptist Church that very night Feb 26th 2009 as Carey Professor of Marriage and Family.  I attended his induction, during which Paddy gave a hilarious talk on ‘Marriage for Dummies’. God spoke to me that evening, convincing me that I was to ‘step out of the boat’ and move forward on my doctorate.  The exciting thing about the Carey Doctorate is that it is a part-time program designed specifically for full-time pastors.

 In the past two and a half years, I have learned and grown in so many ways at Carey.  Paddy’s own Doctoral Thesis was on how we process conflict.  Paddy is passionate about conflict.  I will be doing my Doctoral project on Strengthening Marriages, particularly looking at couple conflict and family systems theory.  My vision is that many marriages will become more intimate, more life-giving as couples learn to embrace and celebrate the inevitable conflicts in their lives.  I dream of couples who, instead of emotionally cutting off and running, choose to hang in there and learn how to really be present to each other in ways that do not take each out.

Marriages and families are worth fighting for. Marriages and families are building blocks of our very communities.  It is so easy for us to take each other out and then give up on each other.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we will find the strength to be ourselves, to embrace the gift of family and community, to forgive and reconcile at the deepest level.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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2 Cups of Hot Apple Cider at House of James Abbotsford

Last night we had so much fun at House of James Abbotsford. If you have never been there, you will want to drop in. In an age when many Christian and mainstream bookstores are closing, House of James has morphed into a fresh entity, involving a coffeehouse, extensive music department, excellent food, and friendly relaxed atmosphere where you can just hang out while picking up a new book.

Some of people’s most favorite coffee shops would be Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and Bean around the World. The coffee is only half of the appeal. The other half is the atmosphere, the relaxed welcoming place to just be, the sense of community and connectedness that people are longing for. House of James Abbotsford is tapping into the holistic model. It is more than a bookstore, more than a coffeehouse, more than a music store. It is a place to be, to be yourself, to meet God.

Lando Klassen birthed House of James as a coffeehouse in 1973 during the Jesus Movement. All the essential DNA were there when it got off the ground: coffee, music, books, fellowship. Over the years,  House of James has morphed into a cutting-edge expression of the future of Christian bookstores.  Last night we did not just do a classic booksigning; we did a music concert with food and conversation and laughter.  Each of the 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider author had an opportunity to share from their portion of the book and from their life story. Dr Paul Beckingham and Bill Bonikowsky were hilarious and very insightful.   Fittingly I even drank a delicious 2nd cup of Hot Apple Cider before the evening was over.  My wife Janice and I shared from our chapter in 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider about our thirty-four years of marriage, and the principles that we have learned about life and love.

Dr Paul Beckingham is a military chaplain and former theological professor at Carey Theological College. He has been featured in both the first and second Cup of Hot Apple Cider books. Paul’s award-winning book Walking Towards Hope tells the story of how he recovered from brain injury while serving as a missionary in Kenya. Dr JI Packer comments: “My guess is that you have never read anything like this narrative before. My amazement is that it exists at all. My plea is: Don’t miss it! I covet for you what it gave to me.”  Dr Eugene Peterson, author of ‘The Message’ translation says that “Paul Beckingham’s Walking Towards Hope is a compelling and rigorously honest account of unimaginable suffering forged detail-by-excruciating-detail in Kenya and Vancouver into a whole and holy life. The magnificence of the story itself is matched by the magnificen ce of the writing, language, unblemished by cliches, luminous as an icon.”

Bill Bonikowsky, a long-term Alpha Canada staff member and former YFC leader, told an unforgettable story of a neighbour’s cat that became trapped in his floorboards during a bathroom renovation. Bill is such a gracious, humble, and encouraging person. It is a privilege to be featured in a book with him, especially one with an initial print run of 45,000 copies.

We were very pleased to have, at the booksigning, Steve Almond, the publisher of the new Christian ‘Light’ magazine,  which has filled a huge hole left by the closing of BC Christian news. Steve is passionate about doing a new thing, something that will help impact the local Christian community in Greater Vancouver/Vancouver Island.

I would recommend that you contact House of James online to purchase ‘A 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider’ by clicking on ‘2nd Cup’.

Alternately you can dial into Amazon  either in the USA or Canada and order a copy.  It is a remarkably well-produced books with many stories that will inspire you and often leave you in grateful tears.

Dr Paul Beckingham speaking at the 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider book-signing

Bill Bonikowsky, author, speaking at the 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider book-signing

Lando Klassen, House of James bookstore owner, speaks at the 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider book-signing evening

Ed and Janice Hird speaking about their marriage chapter in 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider

Tim Bonikowsky playing at the 2nd Cup of Hot Apple Cider booksigning

Dr Paul Beckingham is well worth listening to, a remarkable survivor and thriver.

Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-award-winning author  of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

for better for worse

-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.


-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Managing Anger in Marital Conflict

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

DPM 929 ( a doctoral paper for Dr James Ponzetti submitted to Carey Theological

St Jerome

 College)

St Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, agonized over how anger destroyed his relationship with his aunt. He wrote: “Tell me, how are we two going to face the Day of Judgement? The sun is witness that it has gone down on our anger not one day, but for many a long year.” (Ketterman, 2000) While St Jerome was obviously not married, his impassioned letter alluding to Ephesians 4:26 shows how vital it is to manage anger in marital and family conflicts.

Segrin, C. & Hanzal, A. (2009) observe that “no marital communication process has generated more scholarly interest than conflict.”  This is probably because as Garland (1998) puts it, “Whatever a family’s style of communication, conflict and anger are inevitable.”

The social sciences and seminaries often function in an academic apartheid. Never the twain shall meet. Both are poorer for it. My aim with this paper is to integrate the best of the social science and theological research in how we can help our families more effectively manage anger in martial conflict situations.

It was noted in the DPM 929 class how marital conflict has had more social science attention than the anger component in marriage.  Yet marital conflict involves many emotions, including both ‘hot and cold’ anger.  Hebrews 12:15 describes cold anger as ‘the root of bitterness which defiles and harasses many’.  Garland (1998) says that we must avoid allowing anger to take up Root of bitternesspermanent residence in our hearts. That is why anger, while encouraged in Ephesians 4:26, must be without sin or harming of others, and must not be taken to bed.  Wisely Ephesians 4:26 suggests that going to sleep with unresolved anger gives a foothold for the negativity which sacramental Christians would describe in their baptism as ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’

We know that anger can be expressed without sin because even the sinless Son of God in Mark 3:5 was legitimately angry at people’s insensitivity to others.  The challenge is how in the words of James 1:19 to be slow to anger.  Anger can easily take on a life of its own.  Waddell (Browning, D. & Evison, I.,1998) wisely comments: “Nothing kills marital love more than hardness of heart.”

In preparing to write this essay, fifty-five books on anger and martial conflict from the Regent/Carey and the Public Libraries were either read or scanned. The overall impression is that there are a lot of angry people stuck in conflictual marriages.  Greeff, A. and De Bruyne, T. (2000) observe that the ability of couples to manage marital conflict is key to the success of healthy marriages.  Some of the solutions in the books were creative, but many of them after a while seemed rather repetitive and predictable.  As well, around one thousand social science articles on anger and marital conflict were scanned through the UBC Library, of which one hundred and two were downloaded for closer examination.  It became clear that not all articles are created equal.

Managing conflict, says Gottman (Garland, 1999), is one of the central tasks of maintaining a marriage.  Gottman’s research Dr John Gottmanwas described both in class and in an article as the ‘Gold Standard’ of marriage research.   The Gottmans (2006) recommend that we husbands need to embrace our wife’s anger and learn the meaning behind the emotion. We need to rediscover anger as a healthy emotion that has its own wisdom if we will stop being so defensive. Gottman’s evocative phrase is “Look for the longing in each other’s complaint.”   Brain scans have shown us that we experience anger on the right side of the brain, unlike fear and sadness which is on the left side.  While fear causes us to withdraw, anger can actually stir us to make a difference and bring constructive change.  The challenge is how to harness the power of anger, much like people in BC harness the power of our mighty rivers for electricity.

Dr Gil Stieglitz, our past Coach for the Anglican Coalition in Canada, has been a major influence in helping our congregation become more proactive in strengthening and building marriages. Reminiscent of social exchange theories, Stieglitz (2004) says that love is meeting needs and that each marriage partner needs to aim to out-give the other at a 70/30 ratio.  We have found his ‘Five Problems of Marriage’ videos and books to be very practical in helping our couples manage anger in marital conflicts.

Thirty-four years of ordained Anglican ministry have taught me that alcohol abuse has a huge effect on anger and marital life.  Johns, A & Newcomb, M (2007) draw a strong research correlation between alcohol problems and anger-related marital conflict. Alcohol abuse has been scientifically linked with a much higher rate of physical violence during anger in marital conflict.  One study quoted by Johns (2007) showed that the rate of verbal aggression was 5 to 7 times higher among such couples experiencing marital conflict. Since 1982, I have been privileged to do many AA ‘Fifth Steps’ which has convinced me that supporting people’s recovery from addiction is a key to helping them manage anger better in marital conflict. When feelings and pain are suppressed through substance abuse, the checks and balances around anger in marital conflict often disappear. The Bible describes this phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:2 as ‘the searing of the conscience’. One of the reasons I strongly value the Twelve-Step process is not only for its helping people stop abusing substances, but also for its value in helping people manage anger and repair the damage done to marriages through past inappropriate anger.

It was reported by Vogel, D and Werner-Wilson, R (2008) that men are more likely than women to withdraw during marital conflict which results in wives feeling rejected. This withdrawal (Gottman, 2006) heartbreakcauses emotional distance, loneliness, and a lack of romance.  Ironically this is not about the husband not caring but because his over-caring makes him so anxious (Garland, 1998).  The husband’s withdrawal is associated with increases in the wife’s blood pressure, norepinephrine and cortisol, all of which are linked to poorer cardiovascular and immune outcomes (Loving, T., & Heffner, K., 2004) Cortisol is a useful hormone in the short-term ‘fight or flight’ response, but is very destructive long-term to the white T cells which fight off cancer.

Stonewalling in marital conflict (Gottman, 1999) is one of the more serious indicators of future marital collapse.  Faulkner, R., & Davey, M. (2005) observe that “women have considerable tolerance for physiological arousal and, thus, can maintain high levels of engagement. Men, in contrast, experience this arousal as being highly aversive and act to dissipate it by withdrawing from the conflict”.  The tendency for men to withdraw seems to be linked with the higher tendency for men to physiologically ‘flood’ during marital conflict. When the heart rate goes above 100, the ability to rationally process marital conflict significantly decreases (Gottman, 2006).  Gottman recommends the strategy of an agreed-upon ‘Time-out’ until the spouses can emotionally de-escalate.  This gives the wife more security and hope for resolution rather than when the husband just shuts down and goes away without any context for readdressing the conflict later.  Thomas Jefferson wisely said: “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”  (Tavris, 1992)

Marital anger for women (Cox, D & Clair, S, 2005) is often experienced as a threat to intimacy and connection.  This results in many women internalizing their anger in the form of self-hate, obsessive thoughts, and guilt, which paralyzes their ability to constructively make use of the emotion.

Anger, even when inappropriately processed in marital conflict, has a number of payoffs.  When we are hurt or threatened by our spouse, we tend to feel helpless and weak.  When the anger emotion clicks in, it can give us a surge of strength, power and control.  This need for control has been linked with some of the worst of the physical violence in marriage.  In the Twelve Step process, we reverse the control need by admitting in step 1 that we are powerless over our condition/addiction/marriage.  ‘Letting go letting-goand letting God’ is at the heart of true recovery.  I am reminded of Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 that God’s grace is sufficient for him, enabling him to realizing that when he is weak, he is strong.

Anger is associated with physiological and biological transitions, with the increase of our heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  The instinctive, natural way to express anger, says Spielberger (APA, 2009), is to respond aggressively.  Assertiveness training has been developed as a more effective way of managing marital anger than either stuffing one’s anger or dumping it on others. I have read many books on assertiveness training over the years which have been helpful but sometimes lack the needed gentleness of the ‘soft startup’ recommended by Gottman.

Much of the 1960’s counselling encouraged couples to let it all hang out and dump our anger on the other spouse. Research has shown that this actually makes things worse. Garland(1999) comments that “anger expressed in venting becomes the first step toward murder, not toward reconciliation (Matthew 5:22).”  Neither blowing up or clamming up really helps us manage anger in marital conflict (Cosgrove, 1988).  Tavris (1982) found that “aggression frequently has precisely the opposite effect of catharsis: instead of exorcising the anger, it can inflame it.”  Many people are afraid of marital anger because of its tendency to get away on us.  Plato wrote “[when reason] is asleep, then the wild beast within us, gorged on meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime it won’t commit.”

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. (2006) reported that spirituality, especially practices such as prayer between a couple,  is closely linked with reduced marital conflict.  The shared Praying Hands picturevision and relation virtues such as selflessness and unconditional love have been linked with better marital functioning in times of anger and conflict. Couples indicated that their involvement in scripture reading and regular church attendance increased their commitment to relational permanence.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) found that couples were able to increase their sense of interpersonal space by detouring their anger to God in marital conflict.  In my pastoral work, I have found that praying together can really help a couple, though most find such activity too intimate.  It is vital that the couple do not use prayer or the bible as weapons to win a fight, but rather as a way to resolve conflict and build a healthier marriage.

Mahoney, A. &  Pargament, K. ( 1999)  found the benefits of spiritual involvement as a couple to include greater global marital adjustment, more perceived benefits from marriage, less marital conflict, more verbal collaboration, and less use of verbal aggression and stalemate to discuss disagreements for both wives and husbands.  Before my spiritual breakthrough at age 17, I viewed marriage as just ‘a piece of paper’.  Marsh, R. and Dallos, R. (2000) observe that couples who view their marriage as being a sanctified object (whom God has joined together) are more likely to act and think in ways that protect their marriage.  Part of the improved handling of anger in marital conflict comes out of the religious couple’s allegiance to their meta-narrative and their God’s ethical expectations.  Even after thirty-two years of marriage, I still have to resist my tendencies to selfishness and irritability.  My faith is a major motivator to keep working on myself.

Lambert, N. & Dollahite, D. listed studies showing that the value of forgiveness is linked with better managing anger in marital conflict.  Gordon, K. &  Hughes, F. (2009) identified three elements of forgiveness:

 (a) regaining a more balanced and compassionate view of the offender and the event,

(b) decreasing negative affect towards and avoidance of the offender, and

(c) giving up the right to seek revenge or lash out toward the offender.

Ketterman (2000) observes that couples who refuse to forgive pay a heavy price:

“The physical costs of unforgiveness may include hypertension, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular ailments, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name just a handful.  Because negative emotions have a depressive effect and can suppress immune function, unforgiveness may even have an indirect link to major and severe disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.”

Jesus’ words ‘forgive and you will be Jesusforgiven’, say Ketterman, lie at the heart of marital harmony and health.  She speaks both as a psychiatrist of the Christian faith and as a victim of infidelity who remarried her husband.  Forgiveness is indeed a practical proven key to managing anger in martial conflict.

Another key to managing anger in marital conflict is the reduction of blaming behaviour.  Gottman (1999) calls this learning how to complain without criticizing.  Gottman (1999, 2006) talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) which are greater long-term indicators of divorce than mere anger. Research by Madden, M. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981) showed that blaming one’s spouse for marital conflict is negatively associated with marital satisfaction.  Couples that habitually blame one another are some of the most difficult to help.

Contempt has a major impact on how we manage anger in marital conflict. Day (2003) noted how “Husbands who were more extroverted were more likely to express anger and contempt during times of relational difficulty.”  Gottman (2006) defines contempt as including “hostility or disgust (rolling their eyes). Contempt often involves sarcasm, mocking, name-calling or belligerence.”  Contempt is the opposite of honour and respect.  Steiglitz (2004) teaches extensively in his books and videos on the need for husbands to honour their wives daily, which he defines as ‘adding value’ and ‘putting them first above our other priorities’.  He also emphasizes the need for wives to respect their husbands, which he defines as ‘acknowledging value’ by ‘finding and affirming his strengths in the sea of his weaknesses.”  Such acts of love go a long way in repairing the damage done through what he calls our S.A.D. (Selfish, Angry, Demanding) behaviours that we may slip into when our needs are not being met.

One of the more recent emphases in marriage research has been to study not only dysfunctional couples, but also long-term successful couples. Matthews, A. and Hubbard, M. (2004) noted one study of 576 couples who had been married for 50 years or more.   The three qualities attributed to such long-term success were trust (82 percent), loving relationship (81 percent), and willingness to compromise (80 percent).

Matthews and Hubbard also noted that the wedding ringsindividualism of North American culture militates against healthy anger management in marriage conflict. They suggest that the way forward is to rediscover a theology of marriage that focuses on the common good, the value of community, discipleship and missional orientation. Marriage, said Matthews and Hubbard, ‘must have a purpose, a goal, a task beyond ‘being together’.

Osborne (1988) insightfully noted that “Marriage is the most rewarding and the most difficult relationship known to man.”  As Gottman and others have observed, no married couples have been found to be free from anger in marital conflict. Gottman (2009) commented: “when Julie and I do our workshops with couples, one of the main messages we give is that we’ve found that really good marriages, people who are really happy, have terrible fights, where they’re thinking at the end of the fight: Why did I marry this person?”   Some marital problems never go away, but the wise  couple doesn’t get gridlocked on these unsolvable problems.  The AA Serenity Prayer expresses this wisdom of ‘the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed.”  David Mace, in Ridenour, F. (1989) notes how the Lauers studied three hundred marriages lasting fifteen years or longer. All the couples had times of anger and marital conflict. The key to these marriages was that they chose not to attack each other, but rather work on the anger. Mace (1986) compares anger to the squeak in your car’s engine that tells you it’s time for a tune-up. Anger can be your family smoke-alarm.  In our DPM 929 Class, I was reminded how healthy marriages and families are foundational to the health and stability of our society

How we interpret the meaning of anger in marital conflict is just as important as the conflict itself.  Lester (2003) holds that

“the hermeneutical process is central to the experience of anger. Individuals and communities decide what is threatening as they interpret life situations through the lens of their own narratives – their values, meanings, and beliefs.”

Our values and hopes for the future profoundly affect how we navigate the gottman-love-lab-3challenges of marital conflict.   This is why Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999) encourage couples to explore each others’ dreams and hopes, with an aim to create shared meaning.  It is important that couples in conflict do not give up on their ideals and dreams.  Higher expectations for romance and passion have been linked with increased marital satisfaction.  Sometimes in a desire to get along, spouses give up something essential that actually fuels the romance and passion of their lives.

Positive affect (such as humour or affection) during marital conflict was the only predictor of both marital stability and marital satisfaction 6 years after the wedding. This has also shown to be true for long-term couples dealing with conflict (Gottman, J. and Driver, J., 2004). Positive affect cannot be faked but rather cultivated over time with a series of enjoyable events. As suggested in DPM 929, a healthy marriage has learnt to celebrate the ordinary not just the extraordinary. My wife and I handle anger in marital conflict better when we take regular time together for peaceful walks, for chatting and listening, and for physical exercise.

In Gottman’s interview with Wyatt, R. (2009), he emphasizes the value of a soft-startup in managing anger in marital conflict.  Many couples, commented Gottman, say to their spouses “The problem is you, and your personality, your character; you’re a screw-up.” Such personal “you message” attacks do not help couples manage anger better. Garland (1999) says the “I and we’ messages of a soft start-up are “the difference between speaking the truth (Eph 4:25) and the judging of others that Jesus warned against (Mt 7:1).  Carl Roger’s active listening model has not born up under clinical research with married couples. It seems to be too demanding to expect one’s spouse to act as a detached Rogerian therapist in the midst of marital conflict (Gottman, 2006).

Anger in marital conflict is handled better when there are approximately five times as Making Marriage Workmany positive behaviours as negative behaviours. Couples in crisis usually only show a corresponding ratio of 1:1 (Gottman, 1999, 2006).  The need for a five to one ratio seems to come from the greater emotional impact of negative behaviours on a marriage. Garland (1998) poignantly notes that “truth, especially when it leads to conflict, must be wrapped in words and actions that build rather than tear down love for one another.”

Another well-researched principle for managing anger in marital conflict is the willingness to accept influence from one’s spouse. Gottman (2009) says “If you don’t accept some influence, then you become an obstacle and people find a way around you and you have no power.”  This is an area that I have had to work on our thirty-two years of marriage.  My wife reports that I have improved in this area.  Sometimes it is hard to recognize our own stubbornness and defensiveness because it may be hidden in strengths like perseverance.  Going for marriage counselling from time to time can be a real strength, though it is challenging to motivate both partners to be willing to go.  We have many couples in our congregation whose marriages have been deeply restored through a willingness to do the hard work of going to a professional marriage counsellor. The particular clinical counsellor that we bonnie chatwinmake the most use of in our church is Bonnie Chatwin who is both a nurse and a clinical counsellor trained at Trinity Western University.  I have been invited in a number of times by Bonnie and the couple to co-counsel in particularly challenging situations. One of my greatest joys each Sunday is to see couples in church whose marriages were over, but they did the hard work with a counsellor that enabled them to find new ways to rebuild their marriages and to handle anger more effectively.

We have one couple in our previous congregation who were divorced for six years after an angry misunderstanding.  The man kept on serving his wife in practical ways.  The wife kept saying to me: “Some day I would like to marry my husband again”. Finally on Father’s Day 2002, they were both kneeling to receive communion and she said to me: “I would like to marry him again some day.” We married them that Sunday at the end of the service, and then remarried them legally later that week.  I have followed up that couple with the Dr. Gil DVDs on marriage, and they are still together seven years later.  This remarriage not only affected the couple but also their extended family and friends.  Every restored marriage give hope to many others, especially to the younger generation that often lives together in a misguided attempt to marriage-ringsavoid the pain of divorce.

 I have seen some couples who refused counselling because they thought that it would be too expensive, only to spend far more on a divorce settlement.  I can think of a case where a successful entrepreneur was so devastated by the divorce that years later, he is still trying to rebuild his life and his career.  Bray, J. & Jouriles, E. (1996) confirmed that marriage counselling actually saves couples money compared to the costs of divorce and the medical costs associated with the reduced health of couples involved in marriage breakdowns.  Sadly though marital counselling is cost-efficient, many insurance plans do not reimburse for martial therapy.  Several couples I know have initially experienced great resistance from their insurance company over the area of paying for marriage counselling. Thankfully this was often positively resolved.

Sometimes Christian couples on the North Shore are suspicious of counselling in general, based on horror stories that they may have heard from others.  Not all counselors have the same professional competence or sensitivity to the Judeo-Christian values.   By the time that a man may be ready to go for counselling, the woman may have already emotionally detached years before. She may not have physically moved out, but she is no longer there.  Both husbands and wives on the North Shore often stonewall each other as to whether they are willing to try out marriage counselling. Many men see counselling as an admission of weakness, neediness and failure. I see it as an act of great courage that will reap great benefits if the couple does not give up.  Sometimes just when the couple are making progress in their counselling and the woman feels safe enough to finally open up, the man will pull the plug and claim that the counsellor is biased towards the wife.  “I will never go back to counselling”, a man told me. “We will just live as roommates”.  I encouraged this individual to rethink his stance.  Because many people on the North Shore are wealthy and successful, they are used to getting their own way all the time. Dominating their spouse from a power position does not work these days, especially as women have the ability nowadays to be financially independent.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the work of Dr. Gottman and others who are offering practical social science insights as to how we can better manage our anger in marital conflict.  The irony is that many of these research-based insights such as soft-startups, accepting influence, forgiveness, and positive affection all take us back to the historic Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage and healthy relationships.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

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Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

 

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