You’ve heard that there are always two sides to every story. Both sides are trying to win or at least trying to be justified in their position.
You might be on one side of the argument or you might be the mediator who is trying to discern the situation. It happens at work (some corporations even have mediation teams), at church, in families (parents with more than one child know this situation all too well!), and elsewhere. Proverbs 18 has great wisdom for navigating these situations, beginning with this ground rule: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2, ESV)
Don’t be foolish in conflict–take pleasure in understanding!
The fool is selfish.
He only is concerned about expressing his opinion. There is no desire to listen to or understand the other side. The fool will likely interrupt the other person if they give that person a chance to talk at all. The fool will aggressively correct parts of the conversation he feels are wrong.
The fool’s mouth is destructive.
“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:6–7, ESV). When you take selfishness into a conversation, it will easily escalate into a fight and lead to destruction.
It is destructive outwardly
It will involve others. “Invites a beating” indicates that other parties are involved.
It is destructive inwardly
The fool’s mouth wreaks havoc to his own soul. Proverbs 18:4 says, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Words come from our heart (Matt. 15:18), so imagine what is happening to the heart or soul of a person who harbors such selfishness and bitter words. All of his being will be affected.
Follow this Simple Rule
Listen before you answer and consider the other side in order to discern well.
The goal in a conversation involving conflict is in Proverbs 18:5: “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.” And verse 13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
I say this rule is simple, but it’s not. Our pride will influence us to be the first to speak, to get ahead of the game and be the first to strike. But verse 17 tells us the problem with that: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Once we have heard the other side of the story, considered how the other person was thinking and how he was impacted by the situation that led to conflict, then we can begin to reconcile the situation in a godly way that seeks unity and not pompous victory.