Our first response when we have been done wrong or falsely accused is to fight back, defend ourselves and to attack the accuser. Even in marriage, the closest human relationship, when we have been misunderstood or hurt we want to react verbally and show that we were in the right.
When friends at work or at church hurt us we want to defend ourselves and tell others how wrong they are and how right we are. It doesn’t solve anything, but is analogous to pouring gasoline on a burning fire, it makes things much worse.
Being quiet when done wrong doesn’t mean being a doormat nor does it mean we are not to deal with misunderstandings and personal hurts when we have been sinned against. God has given us clear directions on how to care for those situations (Matthew 18:15-17).
However, love enables you to not have to defend yourself every time you have been hurt or wronged. It takes the high road. Rather than talking about it to others (and pouring gasoline on smoldering embers) we just leave it with the Lord and love them rather than fight back.
Leaders must be especially careful in this area. All leaders, of necessity, are highly opinionated and have strong convictions. Sometimes those opinions are defended at the expense of a relationship. While believers ought to have strong convictions about foundational doctrines of God’s Word, we ought to love people more than our personal opinions and in defending our beliefs be gracious and kind.
At the root of all relational conflict is pride. The Bible says, “Only by pride cometh contention…” (Proverbs 13:10) The word “contention” means “to debate and quarrel”. The next time you are in an argument you can be assured that pride is involved at the core of it.
Do you know couples or siblings that constantly bicker? It is because of pride; someone has to be right and their pride will cause them to fight to prove their point, even if it harms the relationship.
I am not saying we ignore the truth and hide from disagreements, but I am advocating that we be slow to attack and to fight back. Truth does have boundaries, but it is to be held and defended with love. It is not enough that our position be correct, but so must our disposition. “Speak the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15)
I have had to learn this in my marriage. I don’t always have to “be right” even when I am right. God began to deal with me many years ago about having to have the last word in a disagreement with Paula. Usually those words were over silly issues we don’t even remember a week later. What fueled my desire to want to walk away with the knowledge that I had “won”? It was pride and I was a fool for doing so. It damaged my relationship with my wife.
Here’s another practical text concerning division and the dangers of not responding correctly when you have been done wrong.
“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with”. (Proverbs 17:14) Water is heavy when it is still, but when it begins to move and flow towards a specific point it has an incredibly powerful force and can do great destruction.
As soon as “strife” (quarreling and discord) begins it starts a powerful current that will result in relational destruction. The conclusion (“therefore”), is to avoid it before you get caught up in a heated argument proving your point only to result in a tsunami of verbal devastation.
The Bible warns us that “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit”. (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Usually at the beginning we have incomplete information and are rash to come to a judgment. At the end when we have all the pieces and details, the understanding of the situation is better – and we are calmer. This means we need a patient spirit which is slow to speak rather than a proud spirit which is quick to react.
In my ministry as a pastor there are times when I have been criticized, maligned and even hated. There have been occasions when I have met people with whom I have had disagreements and extended my hand and they refused to even shake my hand. Some have even not acknowledged me and just turned and walked away.
I rarely even mention these instances, but do here to make a point. It deeply hurts. In one instance it was just an honest disagreement, but the other times involved my having confidential information the other person did not have. If they knew what I did they in all probability would have come to the same conclusion and decision that I did. But I cannot tell them as it would hurt other people and they have trusted me with sensitive information.
So, I take the hit and it stings. It still does My flesh wants to react, fight back and tell other people what a jerk my enemies are for talking about me. But that is wrong and love doesn’t behave that way. I want to respond the way Jesus did when He was falsely accused and misunderstood.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”. (I Peter 2:21-23)
How do you respond when you are verbally attacked, gossiped about, or criticized harshly to your face? What do you do when your spouse disagrees with you? Do you defend yourself and fight back or do you listen and be quiet concerning things that are just mere opinions? Do you always have to be right? Is it important for you to get the last word in a disagreement?
I have often told my children when they get in a relational mess that the first rule of getting out of a hole is to stop digging. Whenever we keep talking, arguing, debating, and attacking to prove ourselves right we are just digging the hole deeper and deeper. And the casualty is the relationship.
Today, in your home and at work, when you’ve been wronged, rather than attacking the person by talking to other people, talk to the Lord about it and ask Him for grace to help you to be quiet. You will be glad you did and you will be showing them Christ’s love.
“Charity vaunteth not itself….” (I Corinthians 13:4)