Zeke our 60-pound male Vizsla (Hungarian Pointer) has a wound on his back leg. I believe it was caused by Siri the notorious conference dog that used to accompany me everywhere. Siri likes to chew on Zeke and he is apparently okay with that.
So the wound isn’t much but Zeke keeps licking it. A little licking is okay even good, but constant licking is a problem. One trip to vet and we now have Zeke, “the dog,” as Zeke the “four-legged lampshade.” Yes, Zeke is sentenced to wear the “Cone of Shame.”
Having lived my life into adulthood I now look back from time to time in search of wisdom. Inspecting the lessons of my own life, I am struck by how often I have had the ability to turn small problems into larger ones by making poor choices. Of course, this capability is not one to which I hold the exclusive title. We are all prone to making poor choices.
As a local pastor, I would marvel at the problems created in families and congregations by poor choices related to communication. Person A feels neglected, dissed, insulted, hurt, (you name it) by person B and it manifests itself in anger. Now the simple solution given to us by Matthew 18 is for person A to go and speak with person B directly. Unfortunately, that’s not what typically happens. Instead, Person A goes to all his or her friends complaining about person B but really seeking affirmation. When we are hurt we seek those who will help us lick our wounds but we know that too much licking is not good as it leads to infection and such.
Time after time I have seen this scenario occur in congregations. A person does not feel heard or valued by their pastor so instead of going to their pastor, the only real solution to the issue, they go complaining to all their friends in the congregation. BTW, pastors can do this as well. The advent of email, both a blessing from God and the Devil’s tool, has brought us the infamous “reply all.” Now, I am able to complain to ALL my friends at once with one tap of my pinkie.
Congregational conflict is mostly comprised of groups within a congregation who have formed in order to lick each other’s wounds. Inevitably they come to believe their group has “the truth” because they are only speaking to and hearing from others in “their” group.
Whether we are speaking of our family life, our occupational life or our congregational life…the words of Matthew 18:15 would serve us well. “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” Simply put, have a private, face to face conversation.
It’s not necessary for we Humans to put “cones of shame” on one another. We can simply follow biblical wisdom and go to our brother or sister with whom we have concerns thus restoring communication and avoiding serious conflict.
Peace and Honor,