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Be wise in your approach to conflict

Last week I began sharing with you some thoughts regarding how we can approach the conflicts we encounter in a more Christ-like manner. The foundational principle shared was: There is a God, and we are not Him. Basically, this means that we don’t know all the facts (though we often think we do) and we can’t control other people or the world around us (although we often try). Failing to accept this truth is foolish and will only invite more pain into our lives.

Instead of approaching conflicts foolishly, I want to invite you to choose wisdom. In the Bible wisdom (chokmah in Hebrew and sophia in Greek) is the ability to navigate life skillfully. It is not a matter of intelligence because educated people can still live foolishly. It’s also not obtained just because you have age or experience. Wisdom is recognizing the connections in life. My life today is an accumulation of choices I’ve made in the past. Where I will be tomorrow will be largely determined by the choices I make today. My words and actions affect more than me and will influence those around me. This is why scripture teaches that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7). The wise person realizes that their actions today will have to be answered for before the throne of God. The extent to which you recognize these connections and leverage them accordingly will indicate your level of wisdom.

So, what does this mean for the conflicts in our lives? First, it means that how you respond to a person or situation is connected to how things unfold. It is easy to blame others for what you said or how you reacted, but that’s what fools do (Prov. 19:3). The wise person weighs their words and actions before responding because they recognize the power in them (Prov. 18:21; 12:18; 15:28; Matt. 12:26). Unlike the foolish person, the wise understand that just because they have strong emotions toward a person or situation, they must be in control of their emotions and not allow their emotions to control them (Prov. 12:16; 14:17, 29). Unlike a thermometer which takes its cues from what’s going on around it, we must strive to be relational thermostats that influence our surroundings and set the “temperature” for what’s going on.

Secondly, wisdom recognizes the connection between a person’s actions and what’s going on in their heart (Prov. 27:19; Matt. 12:34). We’ve all encountered an individual who shouts, screams, and emotionally unloads on us or others. It is easy in those moments to focus on their overwhelming and hurtful behavior; however, wisdom would often guide us to look past their actions to assess what’s going on in their heart. Scripture teaches that what’s in our hearts directs our lives (Prov. 4:23). Often what we’ll find is that the majority of people who emotionally explode on us are often hurt or upset with something that has little to do with us. This in no way justifies their behavior, but it may help explain it.

Hurt people often hurt people…and are easily hurt by people. When my kids get a sunburn they are not very pleasant to be around. Because they are hurting, they can easily be more impatient and irritable. Also, any little bump by someone else can cause them to instinctively react in big ways. Similarly, we are broken people living in a broken world full of other broken people. It’s easy to bump into someone and experience a big reaction. I encourage you to wisely recognize these connections and get to the root of the problem. Listen more to what is happening in their heart and don’t get distracted by their words or actions. If this seems impossible, that’s because it is apart from Christ, which we’ll talk about next week.



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