• Richard Parrish

April Reflection by Richard Parrish - Handling Strife

Updated: May 19, 2021



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“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” - Proverbs 17:14


A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle” – Proverbs 18:19


“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” - Titus 3:1–2 (ESV)


REFLECT


It’s impossible to avoid conflict.


At times, family members can clash. Co-workers don’t always see eye-to-eye. Dare I mention politics?


Lately, it seems like we’re living in a petri dish that rapidly multiplies strife, disputes, and hatred faster than we want. Discord is all around us. But conflict isn’t new. How we handle strife is what matters.


No amount of talking about the importance of unity will stop arguments or heal disharmony. Our actions must back our rhetoric.


Uncontrolled strife is dangerous!

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” - Proverbs 17:14

The wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that once strife starts, it's like a forceful flow of unleashed water.


Living in a desert climate, I'm aware of how much damage a sudden thunderstorm can cause in a dry wash bed. Within minutes a trickle can become a raging torrent wall of water, destroying everything in its path.


Unrestrained and unfiltered conflict is equally destructive. That’s why we must regularly inspect our words and tone. Failure to do so can lead to disaster.


Dam inspectors and engineers understand how critical it is to examine the levee for even the slightest water trickle. Neglecting frequent inspection and correction of leaks is an accident waiting to happen.


And, the consequences can destroy life!


Like water, quarreling erodes the foundations of relationships.


An argument is like a slow water leak. This Proverb warns us:


Quit quarreling so you can prevent a significant breach!


Don’t allow bickering to escalate because relationships are at risk. Whether it is family, co-workers, or neighbors – mutual respect must always be honored because relationships matter to God.


This Proverb does not restrict different opinions or ideas. It’s not suggesting that we cannot communicate about our differences. However, it does advise us to refuse to allow our disagreements to become destructive feuds.


Another Proverb explains why non-constructive arguments are not beneficial:

“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle” – Proverbs 18:19.

When the subject of any argument neglects to honor and respect others, destruction is inevitable.


Wounding words encourage us to elevate walls of self-protection. Unfiltered words engender mistrust, and angry words injure. Wounded people have the potential of becoming irreconcilable enemies. Any prospect of re-establishing a relationship with the offended party is more complicated than conquering a walled city.


I understand the need for self-protection.


Perhaps, like me, you can think of instances when you’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s rant. The conflict is not comfortable, and the messages directed at us may not be accurate.


More than once, I’ve said to myself: “I’ll never let that happen to me again!”:


The statement was heart-felt but futile. There’s no way I can guarantee that others won’t hurt me. A declaration like that reveals woundedness, and it also reflects my inability to control what others may say about me. It’s as if I feel a need to place bars around the window of my life for my protection.


However, living behind bars separates me from relationships.


In many parts of my community, it’s common to see homes whose windows are barred. Often these window gates are attractive wrought iron coverings, ornately designed. However, what we envision as safety can also be destructive.


Some time ago, there was a news report of a family whose home caught fire. By the time they discovered the fire, all the entrances were engulfed in flames. The only escape route was windows – blocked by beautiful iron coverings. The bars, designed to protect them, prevented escape. The entire family perished.


Conflict is a reality of life. I’m familiar with injuries received because of quarrels. Sadly, I’ve also inflicted wounds on others. Too often, I’ve been impatient, insistent, and insensitive.


I’m also aware of my need not to be so sensitive.


Most of us have been on the receiving end of injustice. We have been called cruel names and falsely accused. We know what it’s like to be a victim. But it doesn’t mean we have a life sentence as a victim.


Paul reminds us: God justifies us, Christ intercedes for us, nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, and we are not victims, but conquerors, because of God’s everlasting love (Romans 8:31-39).


The wise words of Proverbs (and Paul’s reminder) are a timely reminder for us to:

  • Inspect our words and tone frequently, examining carefully any slight leak that could create a breach.

  • Acknowledge our differences, but always guard our relationships.

  • Be aware of how self-protection can separate us from relationships.

  • Remember, we are conquerors, not victims, and…

  • Not forget that differences do not have to be destructive when we value relationships more than winning an argument.

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” - Titus 3:1–2 (ESV)

RESPOND

  • Do I find myself reacting or responding to strife?

  • Does my tone reveal an argumentative attitude or compassionate heart?

  • Are my words guarded? Are they kind, gentle, and courteous?

  • Am I careful to avoid speaking evil against others?

  • To protect me, have I closed myself to relationships? How is this helping or hurting me?

  • Am I inclined to see myself as a victim or one capable of overcoming?


A great resource to help you stay focused on your spiritual journey is my book, The Five Barriers to Freedom. You can find it on Amazon, or get it for free by joining the Discover Hope email list.


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