Proverbs 17:14 (NLT)
14 Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.
All it takes is a harsh word, an angry demand, a condescending tone and a quarrel ensues. It is like opening a floodgate in that it starts slowly, but the flood grows larger as more water is released. A few words may turn into many until a quarrel is flowing like a river. So stop before the words become too harsh and a dispute breaks out that becomes hard to end.
Gordon McDonald writes in "When Bad Things Happen to Good Relationships," Leadership Journal (Winter, 2011) -- One of our family scrapbooks contains a note written many years ago by our daughter's best friend, Cindy. It was written when the girls were both 8-years-old and inseparable. They walked to school together every morning, enjoyed frequent sleepovers, and consulted one another on homework assignments each night.
Then one day a tiny incident stressed their friendship. Our daughter, becoming impatient when Cindy would not walk fast enough on the way to school, called her a slowpoke.
It was impulsive, a bad choice of words. One can only guess what it may have meant to Cindy. At any rate there was instant enmity between the girls. That evening there was no collaboration on homework. An upcoming sleepover was canceled. And the following morning the girls walked to school by different routes.
A day later a note, the one in our scrapbook, came in the mail. Addressed to our daughter, it read: "You called me a slowpoke, and I am angry at you. You're no longer my friend, Cindy." Could Cindy have been more specific? The issue, her feelings, the altered status of the relationship: all clearly defined in two sentences.
The separation lasted, at most, one more day. When both girls realized how much they missed each other, they offered mutual "sorrys" (one for walking too slow, the other for using the epithet slowpoke) and resumed their friendship. Soon, it was as if nothing had come between them.
Yet something had happened; something had been learned. One girl had become aware of the importance of guarding her tongue lest an errant word hurt another's feelings. And the other learned not to overreact in a heated moment. Valuable lessons. If remembered, the "learnings" might save both of them in many of the inevitable quarrels they would experience in the future.
In James 1:19 the apostle gives us some rules to follow, �You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.� The most important thing we can do is listen to another person, understand their feelings and relate to them as best as possible. Take time to think through their words and respond carefully with your own words. And if anger ensues, stop the argument and discuss matters when emotions are not running high. It takes two to argue; so if one stops arguing it is difficult for the other to continue.