Stop before you start

I often find reasons to criticize, especially when I am tired. Before long, my mouth is sour and I am growling at everyone around me. And then I read a proverb this morning that offers a solution. The first illustration that came to mind was the little Dutch boy who stopped the leak in the dam with his finger.

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
    so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”

Proverbs 17:14

This is the second illustration I thought of:

While this is an image of cleansing, it is also see the destructive power of water breaking loose. Once the water is out, you cannot recapture it, and once words are said, there’s no taking them back.

The word for “strife” refers to “strife, quarreling, scolding.” It is so easy to criticize in one little way, which can lead to another, and soon you’re swept away in the drudging of resentment. But am I taking this too far? Are occasional arguments good for a relationship? While discussing problems is healthy, arguments tear and leave scars. Some lead to generations of family feuds and estranged friendships.

But what if I have been wronged? Jesus spoke some words of wisdom in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

He offers us a different perspective on life. Later on in His instructional prayer, Jesus told them to say,

“and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Matthew 6:12

God has forgiven us chain-297842_1280of every sin, every proud look, hurtful word, and inconsiderate action. He gives us a new life that is not tied to licking our wounds before we attack. We have the power, and the command, to forgive. And we are freed from the chains of anger, just as we offer that freedom in forgiveness to others.

Relationships all need to be able to grow and change. Forgiveness gives us the freedom to stop problems before they grow, and address the ones that need to be spoken through love. We can stop arguments before we start them.

God, thank You for Your mercy for us. You forgive again and again while I take offense at the smallest things. God, thank You that You see each of us in love. Please help me to see how much You have given me, and learn to give of Your love to those I am frustrated with. Thank You! Amen.

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