As families gather together to enjoy fireworks in early July, many fear that relational fireworks might appear too. Family gatherings, congregation church meetings, city council meetings, and children’s playoff sporting events all have the potential for relational fireworks.
How do you prepare yourself when you have to be there, but you fear the relational hurt that often accompanies volatile situations? How should you approach situations in life where fireworks are likely to appear?
Often times after major holidays, our counselors spend time unpacking relational firework displays that occurred when family and friends gathered. Proverbs gives us some principles to evaluate our heart in the midst of conflicts. How ready are you to avoid the relational fireworks that may occur? These five principles will help you be ready!
Resolve to Love Deeply
Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
A posture of love towards difficult people is hard, but many fireworks can be defused by choosing to overlook offense. Our pride says, “We don’t deserve to be treated this way,” but we overlook the impact on the lives of others when we choose hate over love.
Our world has so much hate already, what if we choose this summer to be salt and light?
Resolve to React Appropriately
Proverbs 13:10 – “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
If you are like me, you might have had to look up the meaning of the word “insolence.” Try arrogance, incivility, offensiveness, and rudeness on as similar words. Sounds more familiar to many of us now.
I was just at a dinner party with family where an older man engaged my sons in polite conversation by taking an interest in their world and what they enjoyed. It was a delight to watch even though I knew my boys would have likely rather stared at their phones.
Finding common ground for good is rare. Division comes naturally, but many relational fireworks are diffused when we refuse to take the bait on divisive topics.
Resolve to Speak Truthfully
Proverbs 16:28 – “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
Perhaps you grew up in a family where people just don’t trust each other. We can lie to get along, but it always creates more distrust and the atmosphere where relational fireworks thrive. Choose to be a truth-teller, but choose to do that with an attitude of love. Trust will never take root without truth. Also, speaking truthfully requires you to speak; so silence is not a healthy option long-term. Try asking, “What could I do to help us all get along better?”
Resolve to Disengage Quickly
Proverbs 17:14 – “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
Proverbs engages a word picture of a dam about to break or a leaky pipe about to burst to describe the ways that relational fireworks ultimately lead to a powerful explosion. We are told to quit an argument before it gets out of hand. In your tense relational moments, it’s ok to throw in the towel on an argument you could still win. Most relational arguments don’t really have a winner. Pull out of arguments that are going nowhere, and return to constructive conversation.
Resolve to Ignore Peaceably
Proverbs 20:3 – “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.”
If you hang out on Twitter or Facebook too long, you realize that many seem to revel in discussing and creating controversy. They encourage outrage, then move on to the new controversy of the week. It’s as if they wake up and think, “Who should I be angry at today.”
While exposing fraud and abuse has its place, a constant quarreler is foolish. It saps your energy and stops you from loving those around you to whom you have the greatest responsibility. It’s ok not to have an opinion about every controversial topic. Relational fireworks result when we care more about being right on the controversies than we care about the people affected by them.
As you gather for July 4th festivities, or other places where relational hurt has been experienced by you, remember the wisdom that has worked for Christians for thousands of years. We don’t have to let our relationships explode because of “strife”. We can choose to be a change agent for good.