Recently, I’ve been struggling with conflict in certain areas. I haven’t addressed the conflict directly, because a) I didn’t believe I would be heard. I felt that my words would lead to more strife, and not resolve anything. And, b) I didn’t want to be guilty of stirring up strife or gossiping. What I ended up with was growing bitterness eating away at my joy and my relationships, and a sense of lonely isolation. Who could I take my problems to?
Where I was right
We ought not to gossip. Ever. Proverbs 10:9 tells us “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, and he (or she) who refraineth his (or her) lips is wise.” In other words: if you’re saying a lot of words, some of those are bound to cause trouble.
We also learn in Psalm 17:9 that “He (or she) that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends”. So it’s better not to share someone’s mistakes – especially if they ARE mistakes. Sharing the shortcomings of others destroys relationships – and entitles them to share your shortcomings. No one wants that!
Why I was wrong
First of all, covering a sin and keeping quiet are two different things. It takes grace and forgiveness and love to cover a sin (even a perceived sin against oneself). What I was doing was bottling it up and festering. Hardly gracious.
Secondly, I was in fact not refraining my lips at all. Rather, I was “dumping” the bitterness on my poor, patient husband, winding him into my festering malignance. It was unfair, and could very easily have “separated very friends”. That is hardly the behaviour of a loving, supportive wife.
Finally, Matthew 18 tells us how we should deal with conflict and sin. First, we go directly to the person involved, explain why we feel hurt or wronged, and ask for repentance or an explanation or an apology: we try to restore the relationship. (I didn’t do this because I was utterly convinced it wouldn’t work. Someone else did, and it did work). Second, if they refuse to mend their ways (or explain them, so that we see their perspective), get another godly friend involved. Only if that fails should anyone else be involved. That allows the person in the wrong (whether it’s them or me) the dignity to resolve the situation and restore the friendship without the politics and pain that often accompanies perceived (or real) injustices in small groups.
I was wrong for festering. I was wrong for not addressing the perpetrators. But most of all, I was wrong for not trusting God. The question is: do I trust my God to solve my problems? 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “[cast] all your cares on Him, for He careth for you.” Do I believe that? If so, I should take this to Him, and leave it there. If I really need someone to talk to, someone to unload on, I have Someone perfect, ready and waiting to hear and to heal. He can change my perspective. He can fix the brokenness. And He can give me peace even though I don’t understand. While godly counsel tends to wise action, in its absence we have access to the Godliest counsel of all: His precious Word, and that sweet hour of prayer.
Don’t neglect it as I have. Let’s commit to getting closer to the One who knows best.