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Friday, November 8, 2013

That harmless wad of gum

I think we all have times when we just cannot avoid the quarrel - we step into it like we might just find an old piece of chewing gum on the bottom of our shoe after walking through the parking lot.  We did not intend to step on the gum - it was so small and almost unnoticeable on the ground.  Sure enough, the sticky goo latches onto the bottom of our shoe - and we are left with the mess of cleaning it up.  That one tiny piece of gum can leave a huge spot of sticky residue, can't it?  If not caught quickly, we can track it into our cars, leaving the sticky mess attached to floorboard carpeting, foot pedals, and the like.  Quarrels are a little like the chewing gum in the parking lot - no one really thinks about the consequences of just throwing something down.  We cast things around like they will not affect others, but in truth, what we think will go unnoticed and not really be all that harmful has the potential of becoming a huge mess with a lot of residue left behind which takes a whole lot of time to deal with!

Anyone who thinks and speaks evil can expect to find nothing good—only disaster.  An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions.  Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time.  People who stay calm have real insight.  After all, even fools may be thought wise and intelligent if they stay quiet and keep their mouths shut. (Proverbs 17:20, 24, 27-28 GNT)

Scripture is quite clear - if you love the quarrel, you are actually saying you invite or enjoy sin in your life.  It is like you love to just chew up gum, spit it out on the ground and then watch for the poor, unknowing suspect who will be the recipient of your careless deed.  One of the things which can incite a quarrel quickly is the boastful attitude.  Boastful people actually invite disaster - their prideful display creates the atmosphere where quarrels begin. God's warning is clear - the crooked heart will not prosper.  

Control the tongue, or you will not prosper.  In fact, God refers to the one who cannot control his tongue as one who has a "twisted" tongue.  The one who exhibits this "twisted" tongue is actually an expert at altering the words that are spoken - changing the meaning of those words by their manipulation. Quarrelers use this skill well - so as to use the words spoken to turn the situation around to their way of thinking, altering the other person's perception of the issue.  The end - disaster.

As we have explored on many occasions, emotions play such an important part in our lives.  It is by emotion we respond.  It is by emotion we experience through our senses and intellect.  It is by emotion we connect with each other.  So, it makes sense that it is also by emotion we are roped into engaging in quarrels, or avoiding the sticky goo all together!  The condition of our heart determines our course.  We often rely upon our emotions too much to determine our course.  This is why we study so much about how our emotions can get us headed in the wrong direction if we allow them their full rein.  

Sensible people keep wisdom before them.  It is like they have "intuitive sensors" built into their shoes which immediately sense the gum and then take a side-step to avoid the sticky mess.  Sensible people don't just rely upon some "sixth sense" or "intuition" though.  They have come to practice sensibility - through learning how to make wise choices, take careful steps, and enjoy the journey.  Attentiveness is probably one of the hardest things to maintain in life.  We tend to wander in our focus, go off into some thought about the next thing we will have to do, etc.  Being present in the moment is quite difficult sometimes, but in truth, it is the only way we will ever spot the quarrel just waiting to unleash its mess on us!

A truly wise person exhibits:
- A correct focus.  They aren't just "focused", but their focus is correct.  When we want to affect the outcome of the circumstance, we often just need to change the focus.  
- An ability to use their words sparingly.  Wisdom is not manifest in the vast number of words spoken, but in the sincerity, integrity, and uprightness of the words chosen.
- A control on their temper.  There is a "governor" over their temper.  They don't "blow", but allow the "steam" to escape before it does damage.  They don't direct the "steam" at another, but allow it to be taken upward, dissipating as it is.
- A willingness to honor and submit to authority.  Many a quarrel is a matter of rebellion against some authority in our lives.  If it isn't some "natural" authority such as parent, boss, or the law, it is usually some type of rebellion against the authority of God.
- A tactful method of dealing with disappointment. The wise don't focus on the person, they don't hold the grudge because the event didn't have the outcome they desired.  They have learned to release and re-engage.  Let it go and then focus on making it right.
- An attitude of acceptance when facing the test.  Testing is a matter of life. None escape it - but to accept it as the means by which we grow, this takes wisdom.
- A genuine concern for the other guy.  Maybe this is why the wise will avoid the quarrel instead of engaging in it.  They are skilled at diffusing the situation because they focus more on the value of the other person than on the object of the quarrel.

Some of the sticky messes we are left with could have been avoided if we'd have just been a little more focused, directed our disappointment toward the one who can actually do something with it, and then shown how much we value the other individual over all the silliness of the mess which has been trying to lure us in.  Just sayin!