I was chatting with a friend’s daughter recently, and she reflected on how a student at school had tried to offend her. She described how recognising the student’s intention to stir up conflict helped her decide how to respond. Instead of becoming angry, she chose to stop the conversation without “bristling up.” Her choice defused what could have become a broader conflict with other friends taking sides.
There is something we can all learn here.
Bristle down and avoid the bait
The Bible says it is ok to get angry, but it is not wise to let our anger flare too quickly. Proverbs 14:29 (in the English Standard Version) says, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”
The current culture encourages throwing out comments like bait into social media and other social settings. The intent is to catch people and reel them into angry conflict over issues, both large and small, without any desire for personal, rational conversation.
Key thought: When we find ourselves confronted with provoking comments, we have a choice.
Instead of letting our anger make us “bristly,” causing us to take the bait, and be reeled into an argument driven by offence, we can stop, and take time to understand what is really going on. We can consider how we can exalt God rather than “folly.”
Taking the heat out of potential conflict
In the Bible, it says God is slow to anger and abounding in love for us. I would like to be like that too.
Psalm 103:8 says “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
I have discovered it can be helpful to allow my love for others to increase in situations of potential conflict by first considering the friendship I have with the person who has offended me. If the offence is not significant and has not damaged our relationship, I will be able to overlook it, and let it go. However, if I feel our relationship has been impacted negatively, I will want to go to them and try to understand the underlying cause of the words or actions that have offended me. I will try to consider my contribution and aim to understand the other person’s underlying values.
I am often humbled by the thought that God’s love for me is shown through mercy, and grace rather than anger. I want to live my life with those same characteristics. So I pray and ask God to help me to be slow to anger and abounding in love.
You might like to join in this prayer today
“God thanks for being loving, merciful, and gracious. Help me today to be slow to be offended by others, Help me not to quickly bristle or to take the bait of unnecessary conflict. Instead, help me understand others and join in healthy conversations that exalt you. Amen
This article was written by Kath Henry. Kath has a background in Nursing and Pastoring. She currently mentors leaders and runs spiritual formation retreats. Kath is married to Phil and they have a married daughter, two sweet grandchildren and a son who is in his twenties.