“The end of a matter is better than its beginning; a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 (HCSB)
Glancing out of our kitchen window, anger instantly replaced the inner peace I had enjoyed following a women’s retreat. During my weekend absence, my husband had radically trimmed the lowest branches of our towering evergreen. From snowfalls to high school proms, those graceful, sheltering branches had served as the perfect backdrop for cherished family photographs.
My mind became a personal battleground as I repeated to myself, “I will NOT overreact. I WILL handle this well.” Within minutes, my mature self-talk evaporated in an outburst of tears and anger. “You knew how I felt about trimming the evergreen. You should have waited for me!”
He calmly defended his position: Mowing would be easier, and the poison ivy patch was now under control. I, however, remained frustrated that my input had been ignored, and throughout the evening, my outward attitude clearly reflected my inner anger. Eventually I adopted a “what’s done is done” approach, and I adjusted to the altered side yard view.
Months later, distinct areas of brown needles began to overtake the silvery green branches, and it became apparent that our evergreen was dying from the poison ivy spray. Fortunately, this slow decline afforded me time to discern my attitude and response. Looking back, I was confronted by my arrogance: a belief that my landscaping taste was superior, that my point of view mattered more than my husband’s, that my vision created the most beauty.
In reality, by asserting that he should have waited for me, I was questioning his judgment — implying that my plan ought to have taken priority. Pride, much like the poison ivy spray absorbed by the deeply rooted evergreen, had overtaken my perspective. This haughty attitude resulted in actions as unattractive as the dying brown boughs and threatened to create distance in my marriage.
As an isolated incident, a pride-filled squabble is unlikely to derail a relationship. However, a pattern of superiority and self-righteous pride could easily erode the most loving of marriages. Ecclesiastes 7:8 reminded me that I could choose my next response and change the outcome of our landscaping disagreement.
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning; a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.”
No matter how poorly a disagreement or difficult confrontation begins, our initial reaction does not have to determine the outcome. When conflict arises, so does the opportunity to seek godly behavior through honest reflection, disciplined growth and ongoing prayer. Asking God to reveal any pride or selfish intentions within us can change the course of interactions, resulting in more satisfying resolutions and intact relationships.
Thankfully, quieter, more gracious discussions replaced our earlier, anger-fueled debate. Exchanging my arrogant attitude for humility allowed me to both seek and offer forgiveness. Today, a stately tree stump stands in our side yard, a constant reminder to guard my pride and to seek God’s guidance to transform difficult beginnings into peace-filled endings.
Lord, I often assume that my way is the best (or only) way. Help me adopt a new approach to conflict — one that recognizes my pride and reminds me that relationships matter more than my personal preferences. Prompt me to offer gracious and peaceful words as I interact with others, and give me courage to revisit any areas of conflict that would benefit from my humble apology. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Proverbs 14:3, “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.” (NIV)
Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (CSB)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
Prayerfully ask God to reveal any prideful patterns within you. Then consider: With whom do you need to cultivate a humbler attitude? What steps can you take today to bring a peaceful resolution to a strained relationship? Share your ideas with us in the comments!
© 2019 by Beverly Pounds. All rights reserved.