Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about conflict and words. There have been a few situations that I am moderating in some ways that have started and escalated very fast, all due to words.
Proverbs has some wise things to say about words:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
– Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
Here is how I see it:
When we are placed in a situation where someone’s words cause us pain (whether good or bad), we have an option. We can either approach the situation as an invitation into a boxing ring, or we can choose to walk in love.
All too often, I see words used in the same way a boxer throws punches. It is a reaction that screams, “You hurt me with what you said, so I am going to hit you back…but harder so you will know how I feel!” The problem with this approach is that it is a vicious cycle. It only escalates when elements of generalization, passive aggressive behavior, and hurt from the past are thrown in.
This isn’t how we are supposed to use our words.
In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about revenge, and sums it all up quite well:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.”
– Matthew 5:38-40 (NLT)
The first half of the scripture talks about the boxing mindset I mentioned earlier – “You hurt me, so I’m going to hurt you back.” But take a look at the second half: “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” This is totally against our first instinct. If someone hurts me, I am so ready to react and get my revenge. The problem with this approach is that after it is all over, all that is left is two people who are far more hurt than when they began.
Jesus’ approach calls for acting out of love, not out of revenge. It is by no means easy, but it is the right approach.
Next time someone says something that ignites your fire, take a step back. Instead of blowing up and throwing verbal punches, count to 10. Breathe. Don’t respond until your initial anger is over. When you do respond, be gentle. Ask clarifying questions and try to understand why the other person said what they said. You may be surprised in what you find out. Always remember: it is okay to be hurt, but it is not okay to hurt in response to your hurt.
Joyce Meyer said it best, “Hurting people hurt people.”
But on the flip side of that statement is hope – People who have experienced the healing power of Christ can bring the message of healing hope to others.
Which path will you take?