Episode 1. Being a Shock Absorber
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Arguments, conflict. It’s something that we all go through. But there’s some point – a flashpoint – where every argument begins. And it’s right at that flashpoint that we can do …
Okay, beginning of a new week. I’m trusting that you’re doing really well today. So here’s a question for you, right in your face, as we Australians would say, are you ready? Here we go. Question: Are you a blessing or are you a burden? And while you’re pondering that one don’t forget to stick with me because at the end of the program I’m going to tell you about a special gift that I’d just love to send you.
Last week we were chatting about this very thing, whether you and I are a blessing or a burden to the people around us and how we each can become more and more of a blessing because none of us wants to be a burden. So we’re going to continue with that theme again this week, it’s a big subject. Why? Let’s face it, opportunities are bound in life for us to be either a blessing or a burden.
Every time we interact with someone – our spouse, our children, friends, family, work colleagues, the boss, our subordinates, the person who serves us at the check out of a supermarket, whoever it is – each time we interact with someone we can be either a blessing to them or a burden in their lives.
And I have to tell you it’s actually much, much easier to be a burden. See being a burden doesn’t take much effort at all. Relying on other people to do things for you, things that you could really do for yourself is the easiest thing of all. Doing them yourself is much harder; it takes effort, it takes initiative.
Being short with someone, not giving them the time of day, not interacting with them, not showing any interest in them. I mean come on, let’s face it, that’s much easier than engaging with someone, finding out their problems and helping them. Yup, opportunities are bound to be either a blessing or a burden and it’s much, much easier to be a burden.
And yet, I don’t know, the older we get the more opportunity we have to look back on the life we’ve lived thus far, the more we wish that we’d have been more of a blessing than a burden and the more we want to leave a positive mark in the lives of the people around us. Maybe it’s something about maturity, maybe its something about the realisation that there’s less and less of our lives left to live, less time to be a blessing.
Whatever it is, even though sometimes we get lazy about this, we all do, in our heart of hearts most of us yearn to be a blessing in this world. That’s why we’re talking about this stuff because it’s important; I mean it’s really important, would you agree?
So let’s kick the week off with a really practical way that we can be a blessing. It’s by being a shock absorber in the middle of a conflict. See conflict is something that most of us have to deal with on a regular basis, in fact probably on a daily basis.
When imperfect people rub up against one another in a home or a work place or a shop or wherever it is, when imperfect people bump into one another then from time to time you can be pretty certain that sparks are going to fly. It happens in a marriage as the husband’s habits start to annoy his wife and the wife’s little foibles and weaknesses start to drive the husband around the twist.
It happens in just about every relationship because we’re all imperfect and we all have the capacity to annoy one another. I know I do. So let me ask you this, the last time you were in the middle of such a conflict, big or small, it doesn’t matter, how did you react? At that flash point, at the point where there’s a potential for this thing to escalate or to go away how did you react?
Here’s how most of us react most of the time. Someone says something or does something that we find annoying so we punch straight back, why did you do that? Why did you say that? How could you think that, you’re an idiot? Isn’t that what we do? We may not say it but we certainly think it.
Or when someone throws accusations in our face we ratchet up our response, we escalate the conflict, we come out boxing and defending ourselves and it may not be with words it maybe with stony silence, it maybe with an angry look or maybe with negative body language.
See this is how arguments start, that’s how relationships are ruined, this is how marriages start to fall apart, this is how murders happen, and it’s how wars begin. At some point it was nothing much but then we had to escalate the conflict. Look at it from that perspective and we can start to see how absolutely crazy this step of escalation is. We do it out of pride or whatever but we do it and bang, it’s on for young and old, we’re off and racing folks and it’s not much fun.
So I’m going to share with you right now the secret of how you can be a blessing right at that point of ignition, are you ready? The secret lies buried in a Book that was written about three thousand years ago by a very wise old king called Solomon, the king of Israel. He wrote down this secret as a Proverb, chapter 15 and verse 1, here it is:
“A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
See at that flash point of the conflict our most natural response is the second half of that Proverb, it’s to give a harsh word which will absolutely 100% of the time stir up anger. See that’s the anatomy of the escalation. Until that angry response there was no argument there was only the potential of an argument but we have to open our big mouths, we have to give a harsh response and that’s what causes the argument.
The alternative is the first part of the Proverb; it’s the soft answer, why? Because almost always the soft answer turns away wrath, it averts the conflict. At this point you might be thinking, ‘but hang on, I don’t want to be a victim, I don’t want to be someone else’s doormat where people walk all over me, that’s crazy’. But that’s not what I’m talking about, that’s not what the Proverb says.
Actually it takes a very secure person, a mature person, a wise person to give a soft answer that turns away someone else’s wrath. First we have to have our own anger under control and second we need the wisdom to know that if there is an issue that needs dealing with then we’re much more likely to deal with it effectively and get the response and the result we’re looking for in an environment free from argument than we are in a situation of anger and conflict that we ourselves have stirred up.
And whilst your adversary may never have appreciated what an incredible blessing you were by giving a soft answer to turn away their wrath instead of a harsh word to stir up their anger, hey you’ll know. You’ll know what an incredible blessing you’ve been in that place by avoiding a conflict that really, come on, never had to happen.
See all too often you and I are driven by what we think we’re entitled to. I’m entitled to some respect, I’m entitled of this and that and the other, how dare they talk to me like that, how dare they walk away from me, I’m going to fix them. Isn’t that the self-talk that runs through our head at the flash point of a conflict? I’m entitled, I am. Oh okay, maybe you are but there’s a whole bunch more that we’re entitled to.
See you and I have both rebelled against God at some point in our life; in fact it’s something we manage to do over and over again. What we deserve for that is Gods punishment, really we do, so why doesn’t God’s anger and wrath fall upon us every day of the week?
Well here’s why, because He doesn’t deal with us according to our sins nor does He repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103, verse 10.
In fact He does the very thing that we’ve been talking about, God holds back His punishment, He shows us mercy, He withholds the one thing that we deserve out of love for us and when we take that same mercy that God shows us, the mercy that had Jesus brutally punished on that cross two thousand years ago instead of you and me for what we deserve and we apply that mercy to a conflict situation.
A situation where someone has, as far as we’re concerned, sinned against us then we are being a blessing to them the way Jesus is a blessing to us. Does that blow you away? Do you see the power of a soft answer? It’s absolutely awesome.
You and I can be such a blessing with a soft answer instead of an angry word. Flashpoint – gone. Argument – gone … Peace. Now that’s what I call a blessing.