Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)
Some battles are worth fighting, but quarrels are wastes of time – time we’ll never recover or relive. I know some people who want to argue just for the sake of being able to prove a point and be declared “right.” But “right” at what cost?
Many of the things we disagree about aren’t paramount. They aren’t life-giving or life-changing. Yet through the disagreements, we damage each other. We try to dismantle the other point of view, but in the process, we dismantle friendships. We erode our own credibility. We elevate ideas or even ourselves in arrogant ways. The points we prove aren’t just about the content of our quarrels. We prove many things about ourselves that we might rather ignore.
Watching someone throw fuel on a fire might give a momentary thrill, but it’s destructive. So, the next time you dig in your heels to prove a point or spew your viewpoint on social media, remember: a breached dam isn’t cleansing; it’s destructive.
Why do we assume we know someone’s motives?
We think they’re irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, disorganized, or a myriad of other motives. When we don’t like the way someone responds, we can quickly assume we know his or her reason. And rarely is that assumption positive. We can slowly think we know someone in ways that we really don’t.
And that’s dangerous to a relationship, whether it’s at home, work, ministry, or in friendships. We need to be patient enough to clarify through observing patterns over time or simply asking, “Just so I don’t take this the wrong way, can you let me know if you’re (irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.)?”
Much of the time, if we’re willing to honestly listen and change our assumptions, we’ll find we’re wrong. And in the process, we’ll let others know we care enough to listen. We’ll try to understand them even when we wouldn’t do things the same way. We’re willing to let someone change what we assume.
And in the process, we’ll deepen our relationships. After all, people are more important than assumptions. People are more important than being right or having things our own way. Listening and being challenged isn’t comfortable, but it’s essential if we want to grow, both personally and relationally.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
How does encouraging others help them?
How does encouraging others help you?
What have you been building through this season of life, or rather, what has God been building?
We often think of encouragement as a personal thing. We send an encouraging note or someone says just the right words when we need to hear them. We think of encouragement as a moment or action, but it’s so much more.
Encouragement can become a habit, a characteristic, not just personally but in a relationship or across a community. Encouragement isn’t an individual task or accomplishment. It is intended to be given and received. Encouragement is shared. It builds community, and it can characterize a community. It’s how we build one another up. With each encouragement, we place one brick on top of another and build a bridge across which we can reach each other and take journeys into new adventures.
Encouragement reaches out to others, whether we are giving or receiving. It opens our hands and hearts. And it’s not always a pat on the back that makes us feel good. Encouragement is also challenging. It’s a dose of courage that speaks the truth in love. It can never be ill-intended or dishonest but it is also never overly sweet and sappy. It is authentic. It is equipping. It is inspiring, and it always spurs change and growth.
Pay attention today and share encouragement as often as you can. Sometimes encouragement happens with a moment, and sometimes it’s an investment over time. Either way, you can be characterized by it. Discern what you are supposed to say and do to whom and when. God will guide you. Refuse to take matters into your own hands, but don’t drag your feet and declare God isn’t encouraging you to encourage others. He always does!
Psalm 118 begins and ends with the same words:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1,29)
What if we bookended every day, every situation, every conversation with this reminder? How would this consistent claim give context to everything we do, say, and think?
We repeat things to ourselves all the time. We have favorite mantras we live by and repeatedly claim. We share them with others as we deem appropriate. But how truthful is what we claim to ourselves? How humble are we to seek the truth in what we live by?
How will you bookend today? How will you fill the in-between?
Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14)
The distance between people who have never been close rarely feels as far as cracks and chasms that grow between people once close to each other. The latter might be minute in comparison to the former, but it can feel overwhelming, isolating, and painful.
When distance grows, we feel betrayed. Not always, but it’s strongly possible we’ve had something to do with the betrayal (and distance). Even our reactions can influence the crack-soon-to-be-chasm. We can’t change what someone else does, but we can certainly choose how to respond to it.
When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It might be wise to keep our distance, but we can choose respect, forgiveness, and compassion, even if it’s in our attitudes and conversations that have nothing to do with direct communication with them.
When friends betray us, we don’t have to betray them. It’s easier to build a bridge over a crack than a chasm.
The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They built it with beams and installed its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them Meremoth son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz, made repairs. Beside them Meshullam son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok son of Baana made repairs. Beside them the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not lift a finger to help their supervisors.
Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate. They built it with beams and installed its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them the repairs were done by Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, who were under the authority of the governor of the region west of the Euphrates River. After him Uzziel son of Harhaiah, the goldsmith, made repairs, and next to him Hananiah son of the perfumer made repairs. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.
Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler over half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. After them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs across from his house. Next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab made repairs to another section, as well as to the Tower of the Ovens. Beside him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler over half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs—he and his daughters. (Nehemiah 3:3-12)
What a pattern: “next to them…beside them…next to them…beside them.” Together, they made repairs and restored a wall.
We must work beside one another, working as a united body to get things done. When we work on our own, we might get a little done, but there’s no connection, no grander purpose.
I have a hard time believing all these people got along through the process of living life beside each other. Surely there were disagreements. Yet they moved forward toward a common goal. They might have taken slightly different approaches with slightly varying time frames, but they connected with each other. They knew they were stronger together.
We need to be willing to set some things aside and come together in our commonality in order to repair and restore. We’re not going to agree on everything. We’re not going to be available at the same time. But we can move forward together. And while the end goal might seem to be the thing that ties us together, in the end, it will be the process of coming together that is the most important and most lasting.
Be boldly humble as you repair and restore alongside others today.
But many of the older priests, Levites, and family leaders, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house, but many others shouted joyfully. The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouting from that of the weeping, because the people were shouting so loudly. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13)
Same situation, different response.
Isn’t that how it often is? We assess someone’s response to a milestone event, challenging situation, or chronic season of life with a baseline of what we expect or what is generally expected. But we’re different. We bring differences into each situation as we face it. Different backgrounds, different relationships, different feelings, different concerns, different beliefs, different assumptions. What we’ve lived through matters, and sometimes it makes us more sensitive, while other times it makes us more calloused. Or we could say it sometimes makes us strong and sometimes vulnerable. We pit responses against each other, as if one is positive and the other is negative.
That’s not always the case.
We can’t completely understand everything someone brings into a situation and response. We can’t even possibly know all that goes into our own response. But we can still be sensitive to and patient with ourselves and others. We don’t have to prove someone else is wrong in order for us to be right. We can live life alongside others despite our differences. In fact, our lives can become richer as we listen to others’ experiences and widen our perspective to realize life isn’t as linear as we’d like to force it to be.
Wind around a little. Start a conversation with someone different from you. After all, the process of getting to know someone else might just clarify some things about yourself, perhaps in a way you never expected.