I find this guest article from Bill Elliff convicting and compelling. Read to apply.
Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel. (Proverbs 20:3)
We do it all the time. It is rare in a marriage or a family for there to be an absence of quarreling.
No one likes it. It is not productive. Good, respectful conversations can be helpful, but the heat of a quarrel always leads to anger, disrespect, and an eroding of relationships. It dishonors others and rarely leads to good resolutions.
Some have become world-class arguers. It seems that most conversations lead to a quarrel for them. It can happen to you. It becomes habitual and engrained if you don’t find out to be released from this behavior. It becomes who you are and the way you operate. You will find that people don’t want to talk to you because you have developed a touchy, sensitive spirit, and they know that almost any conversation will not go well.
This is why the writer of Proverbs says, “Any fool will quarrel.” Just think of that. If I’m breaking out and beginning a quarrel, the Bible puts me in the category of a fool, along with millions of other foolish people. I am not counted with the wise.
So how do we remedy this? How do we stop being quarrelsome? How do we move from this immature, foolish behavior?
THE HONORABLE CHOICE
The root idea of the word in the Hebrew language used in Proverbs 20:3 means to “break out, to start abruptly with intensity, to have an argument with someone.”
The mark of honor is to “keep away from strife.” To rise above this means of communication. To never start an argument. To recognize where a conversation is headed and, for the glory of God and the good of others, quickly choose a different path.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)
This doesn’t mean simply gritting your teeth or covering your mouth. We must not only learn to walk away from this communication style but also go deeper than a merely humanistic restraint. We must identify the source and put the ax to the root of the tree.
A quarrelsome behavior stems from one root: pride. We think we know better than anyone else, and we’ll make sure we correct everyone, regardless of the relational cost. Our opinion is more important than people.
- I begin quarrels when in my pride …
- I want to show everyone what I know.
- If I feel I must make my point.
- I am driven to prove that I’m right and that others are wrong. (This feeds my ego).
- I want to show my (supposed) superior understanding.
- I am upset that I think someone is not hearing me.
- I feel slighted, misunderstood, and marginalized, and I must prove I’m right.
- I am hurt, and I want to retaliate. I want to make them hurt as I’ve been hurt. (This is called “revenge”)
- I am unwilling to listen to others and admit they might have a better idea. I attack before listening humbly.
- I am unwilling to die to being “right” in order to preserve relational harmony and goodwill.
WISDOM FROM ABOVE
James, the brother of Jesus, writes God’s truth to us. If I’m quarrelsome, I must humbly admit my need and seek a higher source of wisdom. I must realize that an argumentative spirit is not God’s way. I must quit blaming others for the ensuing arguments but accept responsibility for my part of the equation. This will lead to wisdom. Notice how precious this is and see if it’s not something you long for.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)
The person who has this wisdom is the best person on the team. The favorite relative. The wisest spouse. The most productive person in any conversation or decision. The one who has peace, promotes peace, and is pleasing to God.
INSULT FOR INSULT
The Apostle Peter adds life-changing, practical instructions for our home (and every arena of life) in 1 Peter 3:8-11. Meditate on this passage deeply. You will find the reasons you argue in these instructions and a simple pathway out. This will not happen overnight, but you must let this passage (and the Spirit who wrote these words) master you. Ask God to make it part of your foundational DNA, your character.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. “He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it.”
When you are beginning an argument, pause and realize, “I’m being a fool. This is driven by my pride. Regardless of what others are doing, I must humble myself and be willing to die to what others think about me. I don’t have to show my superior thinking, correct them, or dishonor them. Right now, by the power of the Spirit of God, I must choose to abandon this quarrel before it breaks out. I do not have to win. The path to real winning is for the other person to walk away feeling loved, honored, and blessed by my responses. Lord, show me how to bless them right now.”
This does not mean that I never voice an opinion and become a mindless robot. It means that I quickly abandon an argumentative spirit when the temperature rises. I humbly choose another path.
And I must be proactive. When I am insulted or marginalized, I must not return the insult or evil but ask, “How can I bless them right now? What does the Spirit of God inside me want me to do in response that would make them feel honored and blessed?” (By the way, genuinely listening with a desire to sympathize and understand always makes others feel honored). Then, I must follow God’s promptings. I must realize that people are more important than my opinions.
BY GOD’S EMPOWERING
At the core of this lifestyle response must be a deliberate, determined dependence upon the Spirit of God. The same Spirit that led Christ to respond like this.
While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:23)
Do you want to grow in foolishness? Then just keep arguing. Make no adjustments in your responses. Do what you’ve always done. Don’t humble yourself. Make sure everyone around you gets it in the teeth to prove your point.
Since you’ve read this article and if you desire to change, realize that you will be tested. It will probably come before the day is out. But tests are designed to help you grow in godliness. If you desire more, and you want to please the One who made you and has a higher life for you that will bless those around you … admit your pride, surrender to the Spirit’s leadership, and trust your case to “Him who judges righteously.” Don’t give evil for evil or insult for an insult, but give a blessing instead.
Copyright © Bill Elliff 2022 Used by permission of the author