Strife Hurts People

No organization, even an extremely healthy one, is exempt from strife. Anytime you gather people together there will be strife. How we manage it is the challenge. Whether you allow it, and how you handle it determines how destructive it will be.

Q: What is strife?
A: Dictionary says that strife is vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antagonism.
Now, I think it’s important to define what is a strife-stirring person. What does someone who causes or creates strife in an organization look like? I am OK with disagreements and even conflict, but not discord and definitely not strife. It attempts to kill the peace and harmony of an organization. I view it like a cancer — a deadly disease that should not be tolerated. So it’s important that we define the kind of person that stirs up strife and how they do it and the Biblical (healthy) way to respond.

I realize that sometimes we are ignorant to being the cause of strife. I will readily admit that I have been the cause of strife before, although not intentionally, but still strife nonetheless. And I was punished for it, rightly so. I hope that by reading this blog entry, it will give us all some insight in helping people — as well as ourselves — stay clear of strife, the ultimate relationship killer.

Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”
We see in the above scripture that ‘strife’ is actually a result of perversion. Strife perverts the health of relationships.

Here is how strife works. This is a real-life example where I was the guilty stirrer of strife.

I used to work for a great church as youth pastor years ago. After I had been there for about six months, the newness and excitement — all the reasons I took the job — were wearing off. The honeymoon was over, as they say, and I started focusing on things that weren’t going right, at least in my opinion. I started seeing things the pastor was doing that I thought I could do better, or at least could help him do better (because I had been to Bible College and was edumacaded – ha ha!). I also started seeing faults* in other staff members.

*We all have them!
Side note: So far what I have described above is pretty normal — a sign of pride — but normal. We all do this to a certain extent. It’s human nature. Now, I will tell the part of the story where I entered into complete and utter sin and disobedience.

As I focused more and more on all the things I saw — that either needed to improve in my book or that I didn’t agree with — I just couldn’t keep myself from “sharing with others my concerns.” I was entering the danger zone – talking to other staff members about it, and even worse, people in the congregation. This is where it crossed over the line and became inappropriate. Honestly, I didn’t even realize I was doing anything wrong, I was young, ignorant, naïve and inexperienced. I felt I was just “sharing my heart" and allowing others to share their ‘issues with the church’ too. I may have even considered it my “duty to help the ministry.” I was misguided … perverse.

It gets worse. Because as I did this, others felt like I was the “go to” guy for talking about issues they saw with the church. And I honestly felt important — like I was providing a service — when actually I was poisoning myself, other staff, the leadership and God’s church in the deadliest of ways. It began stirring up strife. But fortunately I was at a church that didn’t tolerate strife and I was confronted, and I repented. I didn’t do it again.

The Bible* is extremely clear on how we should handle issues or strife with someone – you go straight to the person directly. Don’t talk to others about others. This is a direct sin against the teaching of Jesus. And Jesus knows how relationships work best!

*See Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15

Now I believe we can seek outside counsel in how to address issues, but even then we must seek counsel to truly resolve the issue, not just find someone to gripe and complain to and take our side. And if the place you work is that bad, you ought to find another job! But just to save you the hassle, it won’t be long until you find stuff you don’t like and see things you could do better, in your mind. I mean, seriously, every place has issues or imperfections. There is no perfect job or perfect boss. They don’t exist.

The morale of the story is: Don’t be the kind of person who is always looking for problems, and when you do see a legitimate problem, be the kind of person who FINDS A SOLUTION! All the high capacity leaders I know are never in favor of the kind of person who constantly points out problems. (If all I ever did were point out my wife’s faults, our marriage would stink, especially for her! She wouldn’t feel loved and appreciated by me. And it would poison me too, not appreciating her.)

People who always point out problems wear those around him/her out. (Side note: I am NOT saying we ignore problems or issues. No, no, no! A thousand times no! Work to resolve them, to fix them, to overcome them in such a way that builds trust and feeds unity in the organization. Don’t live in “Problemville.”

In my experience as a marriage counselor, what I have described is the most common cause of couple’s marital issues is that they are focusing on each other’s problems rather than on honoring each other and working on their own issues as well as fighting the problem together!

I got a little sidetracked and want to close by giving you one example of how strife can start. Let’s say Shelly hears Sally say, “Norma is ugly!” So, out of concern for Norma, Shelly goes and tells Norma, “Hey Norma, Sally said you were ugly! OMG! I can’t believe she said that, can you? Why do you think she would say that about you? That’s so mean. I would never say something like that about you.” (That is proof she would!) That right there is the seed of strife. Guess who is the one at fault?

Anyone, anyone?

Shelly is the stirrer of strife! She is the bad one. Yes, of course, Sally was being unkind, and even mean. But left right there, there is no issue, per se. Now Shelly could have, and should have said, “Wow, Sally, that’s uncool and unchristian! You shouldn’t say things like that. You should feel bad about saying that! Please don’t say things like that around me, totally not good!”

Let’s do our best, in whatever organization we are a part of, to be a blessing to the people in that organization. Pray for those in leadership, honor those above you, love those who are next to you and serve those under you! This is the Jesus way!