A couple of years ago after a particularly terrible fight, Kyle and I instituted what we affectionately call, "The Stupid Card." The card is basically a non-tangible, contractual understanding that the person playing it did or said something stupid and that they realize it.
These are the rules:
1. Each person can play it once a week.
2. If you play the stupid card, the other person agrees to let whatever stupid thing you said/did/didn't do go immediately. It can't be brought up again. They can't be punished for it. The fight ends right then.
3. The relationship is considered healed at that moment.
The spirit of Stupid Card is instant-forgiveness. On the surface, it seems like an impossible idea. I mean, when I'm mad at Kyle for something mean he has said or something he forgot to do, the last thing I want to do is just let it go without any kind of a fight. After all, that's my RIGHT, isn't it, to give him my two cents?
So many times, a little bickering or an overreaction driven by outside stress or worry will escalate into a full-blown, knock-down, drag-out brawl. I asked Kyle once, "Wouldn't it be great if now and then we could just have a get-out-of-jail-free card? If we could just agree, once and awhile, to just let each other's stupidity slide without an argument?
Here's why I think Stupid Card has worked for us:
- Not only does the Card give us that one free pass a week, it forces us to put active forgiveness into practice. When the Bible talks about how God forgives us, it says he has separated our mistakes and wrong-doing "as far as the east is from the west." It's gone. I'm amazed at how much easier it is to let things, in general, go than it used to be. Stupid Card teaches you to let things go and not bring them up again.
- It makes forgiveness a habit. At first, we stuck hard and fast to our "one stupid card a week" rule. But occasionally now, Kyle will offer me a second chance. Once, in the middle of an argument that had no point, his mouth started to twitch. "Can I play my stupid card again?" he asked, trying not to laugh. "Only if I can play mine!" I told him. The Stupid Card becomes a rehearsal for every-day forgiveness.
- Sometimes, it's a relief. It's a relief for me when I play the card and Kyle says, "Sure. Of course." It's a relief for me when Kyle asks to play his. Staying angry is draining. Sometimes it's just wonderful to NOT have to talk through every little thing that went wrong, every little "you said this and that's why I did that and then you said..." When the rest of the world is loathe to let the stupid things go, it's such a comfort to come home to someone who says, "Let's just let this one go."
Has the card always worked? Does it stop every fight? Absolutely not. Occasionally, one of us will break the rules and refuse to accept the card. And the fighting usually continues.
But in the last two years, I think The Stupid Card has probably ended hundreds of fights (or potential fights). And that's more than I can say for my VISA!
So what about you? Anyone have a tip for resolving conflict in their own relationships?