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Scripture: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts. (Proverbs 17:14)

Observation: Another one of the many wise saying from Solomon contained in this book.

Application: How many times we wished we had not said something?  How many times we wished we had not had an argument with our spouse, particularly when we know we started it, when we know we know we were wrong to begin with and now we don’t know how to fix it?
Solomon’s advice is so good and practical and one we should keep in mind.  One strife, or an argument, or a fight begins, it is so hard to stop it before it cause harm to one, both, or to the relationship.  Words fly, feelings are hurt, resentment sets in, forgiveness is hard to come, peace and harmony take a while to return.  It is so much easier to stem the flow before it is too late.  Instead, PRACTICE THE PREVENTION RULE.  Benjamin Franklin was on target when he stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We must learn to resolve conflict before it starts. God’s instruction on this point is clear: “The beginning of strife is like the letting of water. Stop the flow before it starts. Quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  – Proverb 17:14
Here are some suggestions:
1. LOOK FOR AREAS WHERE YOU ARE TO BLAME.  When you look for your responsibility in the conflict, it causes the other party to soften and often come to your defense.
2. ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS.
• Is it a Worthy Battle? Proverb 19:11 – PICK YOUR BATTLES. Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.    (Proverbs 19:11 NRSV)  Is this really a big deal? Do you want to have conflict over this? Is it really worth the anxiety and agony? Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that during a game there is going to be what is called “incidental contact.”
• Am I Wrong?  Be quick to say “I was wrong.” If you say that simple phrase to your family members, it will open a highway of opportunity for real discussion. If you are wrong, admit it. It isn’t a big deal. Sometimes we’re wrong. By admitting it, we will stop the flow of conflict. . . . immediately.
• Should I React or Respond? To React – Instinct, Impulse, or To Respond – Takes Thought.  When we react, we don’t think, we just act! There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. To react requires no intelligence, only instinct. But to respond, you have to get that three-pound chunk of gray matter in your head involved. Responding requires time; it takes the facts. Only when you respond will you have a chance to resolve conflict.  In conflict, too many of us react when we should respond. Be certain you respond; don’t just react with a knee-jerk, thoughtless reply.
• What Difference Is this Going to Make in My Life in Three Days? What Impact Will it Have in Five Years?   Many times, if you will ask these two questions, you’ll find that what might have been a ridiculous conflict is simply not worth the battle in the scheme of the big picture.  In his classic book,  Brave New World, Aldous Huxley made a very intriguing observation: “When two parties argue for an extended period of time, both are wrong.”  Philippians 2:14 admonishes us to do all things without   complaining   and disputing.  When you say the right thing in the wrong way, it becomes the wrong thing to say even though it might be right!

Here are a few suggestions as to how to say things more effectively to one another.

• Use the Still, Small Voice.  If we got down close to the ear of our child and whispered, the power of those words was amazing. The spirit in your heart affect’s the tone of your voice. If you’re filled with unresolved bitterness and resentment, it will come out in your voice.  Lower your voice. Take a deep breath and speak in measured tones. If you’re in a rage, step away and calm down. No one listens when you’re shouting, but everyone does when you whisper.  Watch your body language and eye contact. A certain demeaning toss of the head or look in the eye can make the hearer angry and defensive.
• Maintain Your Sense of Humor.  We can resolve many conflicts by simply allowing ourselves to laugh at the circumstance and at ourselves.
• Don’t Get Personal.  Don’t say irresponsible things about each other with the intent to hurt and
demean. That’s attacking the person, not the issue at hand.  Address the issue, not the individual.
• Don’t Bring up the Past.  Don’t bring up issues from the past and attempt to use them in the current conflict to win the verbal battle and bolster your position.
• Don’t Get off the Subject.  Don’t get off the subject by widening your argument to issues unrelated to the current conflict and discussion.  * Remember, he who angers you controls you.  Anyone can take away your freedom, but remember, the most important human freedom is your freedom to choose your attitude in any circumstance.
• Avoid Statements That Are Impossible to Defend.  One person may say, “I asked you to pick me up at school.” The other may reply, “No, you didn’t!” The first person responds, “Yes, I did!” This interaction is endless and fruitless. Make sure your statements are the truth.
• Avoid Six Fatal Phrases:
1. “You always. . . .”  No one always does anything.
2. “You never. . . .”  Again, you cannot accurately use the word “never” about another person’s behavior or choices.
3. “You should/could have. . . .”  Stay out of the past. How can you rationally discuss something someone “should” have  done? You can’t go back. Operate in the present.
4. “Why didn’t you. . . .”  – You can’t rewind the clock. . . .  This statement is certainly not part of a good, healthy conversation.  If you ask a person, “Why didn’t-you. . . .?” there is no way they can “rewind” the experience and fix what they have already done. It is a waste of breath.
5. “I would have. . . .”  Now you’re getting arrogant. “I” would have done it this way or that way. “I” wouldn’t have made that mistake. This remark only separates you and your listener even more and breaks down any chance for productive interaction.
6. “You make me. . . .” – No one makes you!  This one’s a real dandy. Talk about taking away all responsibility for personal behavior.  This statement is the king of them all! No one makes anyone else do anything. We choose. We are in control of our own actions and choices. Instead of saying, “You make me…,” say to the other person, “I feel…,” and explain your emotions from your perspective.

Replace Those Six Phrases with These.
1. “In the future…”  This is a proactive statement. It gives both of you a positive position for a beneficial conversation and takes the defensiveness and sting of accusation out of your interaction. For example say: “In the future, would you please leave my keys on my desk and not in the car?”
2. “Next time…”  You cannot change what has already happened. There are no magic wands in families which will unspill the milk or magically erase a word or deed. For a more positive approach to how you say things, try this. For example, say: “The next time you find out you will be late picking me up after work, I would really appreciate it if you would call and let me know.”
3. “What would have to happen…” – Open-Ended Gives the other person a chance to respond.
A person who is given the opportunity to think about their ideas, thoughts, position, or interest in a matter will be much more open to what you have to say. This phrase is one of our most important suggestions related to how you talk to someone. For example say:  “What would have to happen for you to be more helpful around the house with the children?”

Prayer: Father, help us to stop fights and arguments before they begin and thus maintain the peace in our homes we all long for so that they will be a haven of rest for all who dwell within.

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