"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strives to do what is good for each other and for everyone else."1 Thessalonians 5:15
We are all going to encounter people in our life that aren’t going to like us. They aren’t going to appreciate us for who we are, and they aren’t going to see the good things in us. We’re going to encounter people that think differently than we do. We are going to meet people in our life that don’t have our best intentions at heart. You’re going to have people that are critical of you because you haven’t lived up to what their expectation is. You’ll even have people come to dislike you because they’ve asked your opinion about something, and you told them what you thought rather than what they wanted to hear. God made no two of us the same, and none of us perfect. So you’re going to find the potential for conflict everywhere—at work, at the grocery store, on social media, in church, and possibly even in your own family.
Most of the time we can live peacefully with one another even when we don’t see completely eye to eye. And more often than not, we’re able to overlook what we perceive to be a character flaw in another person because we can see the good in them as well. But sometimes in the course of life, we find ourselves in the midst of a difference of opinion, a conflict, or even a long drawn out battle with somebody. We’ve all experienced that at one time or another. That person that is constantly picking at you. That person that never has a nice thing to say about you. That person that twists everything you say or do. That person that is constantly trying to bait you into fighting with them on their level. They’re trying to ruin your peace. They’re trying to steal your joy. What their motive is may never be known, but how you react to it is completely within your power to control.
When I was younger, I often fell right into the trap. You want to fight, I’m only too happy to accommodate you. I’m not going to stand by and let somebody pick at me, or demean me in public—I’m going to say something about it. And all too often, I’d fall right into their trap. That’s exactly what they wanted all along. They’d pick at me until I got mad. And just as soon as I did, they’d stand back and point, “look at what a bad person he is for losing his temper and saying what he was thinking. Haven’t I been telling you about him all along? Just look at the way he acts.”
It's very frustrating. Some of you are smiling, because you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been there, done that, seen that, fallen into that old ploy more often than you’d like to admit. Then you're mad at two people--the person that baited you into a fight, and yourself for being so stupid and letting them. But what I’ve learned as I’ve grown older is something my younger self just couldn’t understand. It is better to stay in peace.
Now I’m not saying we should go through life never ruffling any feathers. Sometimes you have to. When we see somebody’s actions hurting another person, we should absolutely step up. When we see somebody hurting themselves, we should step up. When somebody asks an honest opinion, you should give it whether it's the popular opinion or not. We should always defend someone in their hour of need, and help those in distress. We should always stand up and do the right thing when we see the wrong thing is being done. But understand that when we do find it necessary to stand up and do the right thing, we’ll find ourselves the most hated man in the room—as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
We will find ourselves in some very difficult situations at times, but if we can maintain our peace, it is much easier for us to be able to determine when we should step up and act, and when we should just simply let something go. And you'll soon see that more often than not, it's better to let things go. You'll discover that you've probably been reacting unwisely more often than you'd care to admit.
And it's perfectly fine to just let somebody stay angry with us. There are some people that are just that way, and there's not much you can do about it. A wise man once reminded me that every candle eventually snuffs itself out when it runs out of fuel, and anger works the same way. We're not helping that person by adding fuel to their fire. We help them by leaving them alone, and allowing their anger to abate and their judgement to return. Forgive them. Forget the things they've done and the things they've said. Pray for them. It's not at all easy, but that's how you turn things around.
When we stay in peace, God goes to work. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in my own life. That irreconcilable difference I had with a cousin sudden vanishes overnight when I stop fighting him back. That ongoing disagreement that has lasted for months with a coworker suddenly ends with a late night phone call and an apology for no apparent reason other than I decided I was done arguing with her. Just a couple weeks ago, an old friend that I didn’t think would ever speak to me again greeted me when he saw me and shook my hand as if nothing had ever come between us--that one even surprised me! That's God going to work on your behalf.
You should remember there's a time when you'll have to push back, and a time when you should let things lay. And if you'll ask, God to give you the wisdom to know the difference.
~Todd E. Creason