Nobody likes personal conflict. It takes a toll on you emotionally, physically and spiritually. But sometimes conflict is unavoidable, even necessary.
There are two basic types of conflict: constructive and destructive. Constructive conflict arises when right challenges wrong and calls for repentance and reform. Destructive conflict, on the other hand, occurs when wrong assails right for selfish reasons.
The Book of Proverbs advocates constructive conflict. This is most evident in its repeated exhortation for parents to discipline their children. But it everywhere condemns destructive conflict. Indeed, according to Proverbs 6:19, “[God hates] a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
What are the sources of destructive conflict?
Hatred appears first on Proverbs’ list of sources:
Hatred stirs up dissension,
but love covers over all wrongs (10:12).
In this proverb, Hatred is the contradiction of love. If love wishes the best for the other, then hatred wishes the worst. There can be no harmony or peace between two parties when at least one of them is motivated by an irrational, implacable hatred for the other.
Another source of destructive conflict is anger.
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension,
but a patient man calms a quarrel (15:18).
An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (29:22).
There is, of course, such a thing as righteous anger. But righteous anger is the initial response to an injustice. What Proverbs warns against is the quick temper which flares at any slight, real or perceived, and then keeps burning without resolution.
A third source of destructive conflict is malicious speech.
A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends (16:28).
A fool’s lips bring him strife,
and his mouth invites a beating (18:6).
Without wood a fire goes out;
without gossip a quarrel dies down.
As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife (26:20-21).
Gossip, ill-chosen words, and a love of quarreling are the quick route to destructive conflict.
Substance abuse is a fourth source of destructive conflict.
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine (23:29-30).
Alcohol in and of itself doesn’t pick a fight. But a person who drinks (or snorts or injects) until he loses self-control is bound to get himself in a scrape.
Meddling in other’s business also initiates unnecessary conflict.
Like one who seizes a dog by the ears
is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own (26:17).
A sixth source of destructive conflict is greed.
A greedy man stirs up dissension,
but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper (28:25).
It is hard to be at peace with another person when you’re scheming about how to get their stuff.
There are more sources of destructive conflict than the six listed above. But if you want to avoid destructive conflict, start by avoiding them.