The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. – Proverbs 17:14
Imagine you and I took a glass of water and sat down in your front yard. What would happen if we set it on the ground, and knocked it over? The water would spill out and go everywhere. It would immediately soak into the soil. Now imagine if I said, “Hey, put all the water back in the glass.” Impossible, right? No matter how hard you tried, you could never get it back. Once it has been spilled it can never be recovered.
Just as you cannot take back spilled water, you cannot take back words spoken in anger. You can ask for forgiveness and apologize for them, but you can never un-say them. So Solomon says, “Hey, because we can’t get the water back in the glass, let’s make sure we don’t spill it to begin with.”
There is a tipping point in every argument. There is a point of no return in every conflict. And Solomon’s wisdom advises us to abandon ship before we ever reach that point. Nothing edifying of beneficial happens once that point has been reached.
Solomon is not telling us to run from conflict. Conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and can even be healthy. Solomon is telling us to run from the quarrel conflict can lead to. This is the part of conflict where reason is replaced with passion. Where logic is replaced with insults. Where anger fires up in our heart and begins to control our minds and tongues.
When you feel that moment coming, Solomon says run! Get out. Literally leave the room, or the vehicle or the table. Call timeout. Say something like, “Hey, I fell unhealthy tension rising. I’m going to need some time to think and pray about this.”
Readdress the issue later with calm heads and hearts.
The word picture Solomon is using is a break in a dam. It trickles at first, then breaks open wider, and is soon gushing uncontrollably. Anger in conflict is like that.
So abandon the ship of quarreling before it ever begins to sink. Get out of the house before the fire even starts.
Take it from the wisest man who ever lived: you’ll be glad you did.