“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.”
I don’t know how you are faring in your Bible study this summer, but I hope that God is dealing with you as strongly as He’s dealing with me! What boggles me the most is how, oftentimes, my day-to-day living is offering real-life illustrations of the ideas that I am studying in my quiet time. It. Is. Crazy!
Case in point:
Hot, short-fused tempers run deep down one side of my beloved family, and I did not manage to escape the curse. While I was guilty of angry outbursts on many occasions, I had a parent whose hot-blooded temper fueled many of my bad memories. The mood in our home was often one of heat and anger, tension that you could slice with a knife.
When I think back to that time now, I realize that isn’t how lives are supposed to be lived. Because of the feelings that those bad memories induce and the knowledge of the damage that was done and the intense desire that I will not be like that, I am terrified of conflict. I avoid in-your-face confrontation at all costs and even gentle disagreements have me shaking in my boots at times.
I don’t mean to say that the shift toward anger never happens upon my sails or that harsh words don’t roll off of my tongue. But the fact that I am so easily susceptible to fall on either side of the line tells me that it is an issue I need to take straight to the feet of Jesus. My recent study in the book of James and an encounter with a nosy stranger have given me the opportunities I needed to do that.
Look with me in James chapter 1 and verse 19: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Mark this in your Bibles, ladies, because I believe that this one sentence contains the holy guidelines that we should follow for every conflict we find ourselves a part of. Ever heard that saying about how we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen more and talk less? Here it is in holy composition!
Matthew 18:15-16 says that if I have a problem with a brother, I should acknowledge it WITH that person (and not behind his back). Even when I’d rather ignore the issue at its root, I must offer a chance to “gain my brother.” Look back at James 1:19, but now continue on to verse 20: “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” That by itself is direct enough for me to grant a second thought toward my anger-induced actions.
So the other day I was shopping with my eighteen month old son. It was past nap time and his attitude displayed it! His behavior necessitated endless correction. I finally stopped what I was doing to give him more direct attention, which I felt in my heart was needed. Next thing I know, a rather nosy employee was hounding me on the responsibilities of motherhood as if I didn’t realize what a weighty title “mother” is and couldn’t possibly pull off the role correctly. Her points were valid, but her intentions and attention toward me were ill-deserved.
Remember, I do not do conflict. Even in my own defense, I avoid it. I always walk away thinking of what I should have said and how I could have really stuck it to the person. However, when it comes to my son, Momma Bear always comes out. In this particular situation, things really could have gone either way.
Here’s what actually happened: I already told you, she made valid points (I was swift to hear her). So I politely smiled. When she finished, I kindly agreed with her (I was slow to speak). And I walked away, with no thoughts of what I should have said (I was slow to wrath). Yes, her words stung…she has no idea how I love my child. But I didn’t know her either and had no right to judge her based solely on her poor mischaracterization of me. My husband and family had plenty of words for me to go back and offer her, but I know in my heart that I did what the Lord wanted me to do.
Are you with me here, girls? In a world where every individual is never wrong and so many of us demand to exercise our right to proclaim our truths from every rooftop we can climb, conflict is simply unavoidable. We must guard ourselves with the instructions given to us in the Word so that we can appropriately respond when conflict is thrown into our laps. The way you react in these situations says a lot about who you are as a young lady in Christ. Who knows…what you find out about yourself may surprise you! It certainly did me.
Think back on a time when you were forced into a position you were uncomfortable with. How did you react? Were you surprised by your reaction? Do you feel like you behaved in the way God wanted you to? What could you have done differently? Share your experiences with us in the comments. You truly never know how your reality could help someone else with theirs.