Maintain the distance
Have you ever been roped into an argument just by being in the wrong place at the right time? It is like some current pulled you into the raging waters and you found yourself just barely able to hold on for the ride! It isn't enough you were there, the other person wants to make sure you don't escape without "weighing in" on the argument - giving your opinion only opens the door to a more "heated" discussion! Sheesh! How did that happen? Well, it isn't always about whether we "wanted" to argue, it is about how well we "refused" to argue. Most of the time we don't "want" to argue - we don't get out of bed in the morning with the determination to pick a fight with someone today. Yet, we might just struggle a little with this ability to refuse to argue - especially when the subject begins to turn toward something we are passionate about, or even us! Learning to refuse to argue is indeed a skill we each will be well served to acquire!
People who refuse to argue deserve respect. Any fool can start an argument. (Proverbs 20:3 ERV)
I like the plain truth - ANY fool can start an argument. Back in the day, this rather burly, gold chain laden guy on TV used the expression, "I pity the fool" to describe anyone who got in his way. I think the expression is apropos! ANY fool can start an argument - it takes a pretty wise man or woman to actually avoid stepping into the trap in the first place. Margaret Thatcher actually used to comment about how much she liked someone to argue or debate with her. She was once quoted as saying she actually didn't think it was their "job" to agree with her - it was more or less their job to challenge her. This is an interesting way to look at a life in the political arena, but I don't know if I'd want to live life like that each and every day! In truth, I don't think I could be President of the United States just because I don't like conflict!
Colin Powell said, "Great leaders are almost great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand." There is a lot of truth in those words. The wise will be able to "simplify" the arguments of another - to actually get at the core of the argument without ever having to "enter into it" in the first place. There is this skill of being able to "cut through" to the core of the matter and expose it for what it is. This brings insight - insight brings light - and where light is, darkness has to flee!
In a sense, we all get roped into arguments we didn't really want to get into in the first place. It wasn't the right moment when someone approached us and we responded in a little bit of a hasty manner, or with a curtness to our response which led the other guy or gal to just plain "take offense". In an instant, we see the flare of tension and the beginning spark of an argument. What one small spark has the potential to create is a huge forest fire! There is something about refusing to even give the first spark which bears us considering today. To avoid being the type of person who "sparks" the argument, we also need to be the kind of person who recognizes the flint set at the perfect angle to actually make a spark when brought into contact with any opposing force!
To do this, we need to remain ever vigilant over our own "position" in the situation. The flint is nothing until it is struck - no threat of a spark until something of opposing force strikes it. Herein is the wisdom Solomon refers to - the ability to step away from the argument - to not be the opposing force which will send the spark into full igniting force. A wise person will recognize the wisdom of keeping distance from those "poised" for the argument. They will not be treading "unaware" of the hazards before them. In fact, they are attentive to the tenor of the group, the stage which has been set. Why? It is impossible to be trapped when one is attentive to their surroundings! Just sayin!