Conflict, Feasting, and Dry Bread

by Catherine McNiel on July 08, 2020

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

—Proverbs 17:1

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.  Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.

—Proverbs 15:16-17

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

—Proverbs 27:6

I remember the day my friend came over to my house in grief: her friends’ marriage was dissolving. “I don’t understand” she said, “they basically never fought or had conflict at all.”

The thing about relationships is that conflict is always occurring, somewhere, to some degree. If we refuse to talk about it, then something is dying below the surface without any chance for rescue. Some people are more inclined towards harmony than others, but we hurt and harm and rub each other wrong in a million different ways. So the question is: What do we do about it?

Proverbs wisely notes that some people respond to life’s troubles with aggression and pride. We can all whisper an “Amen” to the Proverbs that says, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” or “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Living with an angry, aggressive person is exhausting and painful (and sometimes worse). We all need a place of peace and safety.

But Proverbs also says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Those who really love us aren’t willing to keep the peace at any cost. Love believes the best, hopes, and perseveres­—and this requires conflict and confrontation at times. Not violence or aggression, but hard conversations, decisions, and boundaries. Telling the truth. The wounds of a friend can be trusted.

But can we listen? Are we ready to receive the careful, loving wounds from someone who knows us well and loves us faithfully?

In close relationship—including marriage— we are seen for who we truly are, and not merely the masks we put on. Will we use this closeness to build each other up, or tear each other down?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

Questions for reflection and discussion: Would you rather have a dry crust of bread in a peaceful house, or a feast in a family full of tension? Can you tell the difference between constructive and damaging conflict? Which do you tend toward?


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