Wow, Kids! They are amazing. They have so much to learn but they also have so much to teach us. Recently I've been trying to get a really simple lesson though to them, admittedly with limited success. It's what I call the "Dog's ears lesson".
All too often one of my children will either get involved in a conflict between the other two, or tell on a sibling in the hope of getting them in trouble. Yet most times, before they know it, not only are they embroiled in the conflict too, they also end up getting in as much, if not more trouble than the others.
And so I have tried to advise them. "It does not involve you, don't get involved" or "if you pick on your brother you must know you're going to get it back". Yet mostly the advice is quickly forgotten.
However recently I was reminded of the brilliant advice from Proverbs;
"Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own" (Proverbs 26:17).
What an awesome visual image of the exact problem. Getting involved in other's conflicts, or inviting conflict, is like grabbing a dog by the ears. I love how the proverb does not tell you what happens when you grab a dog by the ears. There's no need because the visual imagery is so rich you can imagine it, and feel it. You can hear the growl, and imagine the moment of panic as the dog twists in your hand, and before you know it, it's sharp teeth have punctured your skin..
It's crazy! You'd never grab a dog by the ears, especially not a stray dog you know nothing about. Who wants to be bitten? And so too, why would my kids seek to grab arguments they have no need to grab? They will only end up worse off for it.
Yet, what about us? How quickly do we grab hold of conflicts that are not ours? That does not mean we should ignore people's problems, but realise we don't have the emotional strength to take on all the worlds issues. Thankfully that is not our role, Jesus has done that for us. Our role is to help those he puts into our lives. Sure, we will end up with bite marks, no matter how good our intentions, yet think carefully before you decide to enter a disagreement, or escalate an argument. Many times we would do well to swallow our pride - and yes it is often pride that stops us letting go when the growling starts - and leave well alone.
Well, that's the advice I give my kids, who judging from the teeth marks all over them (sometimes literal) is mostly ignored. And so I am expecting that I too, like you will also largely ignore this sage advice and then look forlornly at our bite marks and wonder why!