I became engaged in a verbal altercation this week. I asked a man to refrain from calling an older woman a profane name. Without going into any detail, the issue was resolved.
After I returned home, I reflected on my behavior. The writer of Proverbs states two conflicting statements. “Answer a fool according to his folly.” As well as, “Answer not a fool according to his folly.” Evidently there might be a time for each of these.
Within me, I noticed a desire to want to “one up” the other man. I considered being louder, becoming aggressive, using personal verbal attacks on his manhood, intelligence, wisdom, along with many other things that I probably don’t remember.
I wanted to engage him, threaten, subordinate, and make him yield. I had all of these things running through my mind as we stood in this place.
In the running commentary in my mind were the checks, the limits that I knew I needed to try to maintain. “Nothing physical unless aggressive movement was made toward the vulnerable.” “Disengage, the point is made, look away from the man.” “Keep your mouth shut, more challenges will only escalate the situation.” “You profess to be a Christ follower, keep that in mind in this circumstance.”
When one is doing “right”, protecting someone else, it is easy to step further across the line to becoming a bully confronting a bully. This is the line that stands between right and wrong.
To listen to the other voice in my mind, “Knock him down before this gets out of hand.” “Laugh at him and get others laughing at him.” Or other things that might provoke the situation, those might be my instinct but they were not going to be beneficial. I would have moved from being protector to aggressor.
I’ve spent time this week trying to look at the interactions of Jesus with both friends and enemies to evaluate how he kept his balance. I’ve tried to think of the counsel of Proverbs on interaction with people. I keep coming back to the “anger of a man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Ultimately, that is what I seek, the righteousness of God. Controlling me is a full time job. I am glad God is gracious.