Proverbs 20:3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.
A dictionary definition of strife is: very angry or violent disagreement between two or more people or groups; bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; an act of contention; exertion or contention for superiority. A common buzz word relating to this that I hear on a regular basis is, “Drama.” There are those who thrive on strife and drama. However, most of us may only quarrel in certain situations.
What is it about strife that entices me to follow it down a path? Now I am not one who is big on creating strife. In fact, if it were up to me, I would avoid conflict all together. I do realize that healthy conflict creates growth, yet I still dislike it. Still, there are times where I get involved and even sometimes create strife in my life.
This really depends on the situation for me. Most of the time when I create or carry on strife, it is around some unmet need or want. I am not getting what I really want, therefore. I power up and go at the situation through conflict. Usually, when this happens, I become defensive and begin to protect my heart. I make excuses for my actions and decisions and become argumentative when I feel my character being attacked.
Most of the time, this idea about my character being attacked is all about perception. I just perceive that being disagreed with is about my character. Truth be known, it has little to do with me at all. My reaction though is based on my own insecurity. If someone gets close to what I am insecure about, I become defensive and strife usually follows. In fact, within the above definition, the area describing the exertion of superiority fits my style of strife. I do not want to feel inferior, so I set myself up as superior in order to guard that part of me that feels insecure. From this place of superiority I become condescending and sarcastic. What I think is protecting me is actually placing a barrier between me and the other person. This in turn may damage the relationship.
How do I get to a place where my insecurity is no longer in the way? I need to put this verse into practice. I must avoid strife. I am not to avoid necessary conflict. That is different than the strife. Conflict is inevitable. To avoid it would cause repressed, hidden, and denied problems that may surface as strife later. What I am to avoid is needless strife. So, how do I do that?
First, I need to acknowledge my insecurity for what it is; my insecurity. I need to own and take responsibility for how I feel and how my insecurity makes me feel. By doing this, I recognize that perceived attacks on my character may be just that; perceived. I also must own any truths spoken about me. If I am accused of being condescending, then I need to acknowledge that my statement was condescending.
Secondly, I need to recognize that the person I’m dealing with has an opinion. I may not agree with that opinion. Never the less, I must respect that he has an opinion. He is coming into the situation with his insecurities and past and he is formulating his opinions based on those. This approach actually allows me to have compassion and empathy for him. A great verse for me around this thought is Romans 12:18. This verse helps me to have a peace with the one I’m dealing with.
Third, I need to set boundaries. What does this mean? The conversation needs to stay on the task or issue at hand. I must separate myself from the facts and issue. When she begins to attack my character and get personal, I need to redirect the conversation to the issue at hand. I also need to gently help her to see that this is a boundary for me. We can discuss my character later when we are both ready emotionally to do so, otherwise, we must stay on topic.
Finally, I have to believe what I know is true about me in Jesus. Because of Jesus and my faith in Him, I am a good man. God created me good, He did not change His mind even though I have made many bad choices in my life and have not followed Him like I should at times. Again here, I also need to take responsibility for what I have done, yet also lean on the truth of my goodness.
As I write this out, I realize that I still have a lot of work to do in the area. Hopefully, I have done better in the more recent years. I thank God for His patience and His transforming power. I am also thankful for passages He sends my way as I continue to work on my heart.
1. What stands out for you as you read this passage?
2. Are you guilty of thinking of an example of someone you know rather than yourself when it comes to reading this piece of scripture? Explain.
3. Describe your insecurity that fosters strife when someone “attacks”.
4. Think back to a confrontation that involved strife. What was your insecurity? What was the other person’s insecurity?
5. Pay attention this week to how you handle perceived attacks on your character. Ask God to reveal to you how you react in the moment. Ask for God to reveal truth about you to you.
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