communication on fire stop drop and roll by bridget willard

Communication on Fire? Stop, Drop, And Roll

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.  James 3:6

Are you the smackdown king in your marriage? Do you have a blackbelt in Tongue-Foo?  Do you have a quick, witty, albeit cutting, remark on hand for quick and easy use?

Mercier and I are both adept at making the snide remark or two; however, our goal is to maintain healthy communication. (I say “goal” because, much like yourself, we are only human and are bound to make mistakes.)

When I observe couples engaging in this sort of tit-for-tat war (when really a simple answer would suffice), I am reminded the fire prevention public service announcements during Saturday cartoons: Stop, Drop, and Roll


Just stop. Stop with the back and forth. Be the one who decides to end the merry-go-round of contentiousness. One of the two in the battle-to-the-death has to stop.

Maybe I have mixed in way too many metaphors, but indulge me for another: if you walk off the court after a harsh serve, it changes the game.  You don’t play tennis alone.


Drop your agenda.  Drop your pride.  Drop to your knees and pray.

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Romans 12:18

So what depends on you?  You have a choice in how you respond to people.  You can answer in a kind way or you can maintain the broken communication that is eroding the foundation of your relationship.

What do I mean by editorializing? Simply this:  don’t add your opinion to a statement of fact.


(Roll, with the homophone). Role play with me here. What role do you play as a catalyst to abrasive communication in your relationship?

Here’s a scenario. A husband and wife are leaving their house to go meet some friends:

Husband:  Do you have my jacket?

Wife:  No, because I’ve asked you a billion times and you, like always, weren’t listening to me. You were watching football. Why don’t you ever stop what you’re doing and just answer my question? What am I, your mother?  Get your own jacket.

Okay. In this scenario more information and opinion was given than required which incites hostility, regardless of whether it is warranted or not. You can imagine where the conversation leads after that.

Why not try this approach?

Husband:  Do you have my jacket?

Wife:  No, I’m sorry.

Husband:  That’s okay; I’ll get it.

You, as the wife, may have asked him a few times during the game. But I’d suggest that may not have been a great time. Either way, the editorialized answer is neither helpful nor productive to getting the task done on hand. That is, bringing the jacket.

Bottom Line

Remember what your elementary school teachers used to say?

If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

The truth of the elementary proverb still applies when you are adults.

A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1

Why not try to stick to kind responses and simple yes or no answers? Broken communication can be repaired, but it takes time and conscious effort to break your own bad habits.

Further Study:  I encourage you to look up the following verses from which the text is based.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “Communication on Fire? Stop, Drop, And Roll”

  1. Love this post. It’s perfect! I’m so grateful that my boyfriend and I live in a mostly grateful state and never argue or bicker. More laughter less grumpiness. We try really hard to build each other up always. Love your blog sweetie!

  2. Did you read my mind? I have to watch myself on this all the time, and I have a less enriching way of yanking myself away from the precipice. I remind myself I don’t have to go to every fight I am invited to. And I ask myself (and this I got from an old Cape Cod fireman, no less), “Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said by me? Does it have to be said now?” It’s gotten me out of a few potentially dark places. Love, love, love your thinking and writing.
    Diane Tucker

  3. Diane,

    You are very kind to take the time to read and comment on this post.

    I love that from the fireman:

    “Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said by me? Does it have to be said now?”

    It’s perfect.


  4. Hmmm, very good advice. I grew up in a home where sarcasm was used a lot, so I find that I respond to it very negatively when my husband uses it – and yet I throw sarcasm at him. It usually hurts both of us. We’re working on improving our communication. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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