How to decide whether to get drawn in to a dispute which involves other people

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 7 – Some more of the ways in which we must become faithful

This is a vexed question, to which there can be no easy or quick answer. What to do in any given situation will depend on all the specific facts of the case and on a number of relevant principles, one or other of which could loom large. Let’s consider first the general problem and then look at some of the different principles that the Bible sets out.

When a conflict arises at work, or in some other setting, such as amongst neighbours, friends or family, it may sometimes be right to get involved and to take sides or speak up. Other times God will want you to stay out of it. It depends on a host of factors. We have to weigh them all up, including, amongst other things, the following series of questions:

1) Is there right and wrong on both sides, or just on one side? If there is wrongdoing on both sides, I’d be inclined to stay out of it. If it is only on the one side, I’d be more willing to consider getting involved.

2) How serious is the dispute and how grave could the consequences be? If the dispute is minor, you may be best to keep out of it and only get involved if serious issues are at stake, such as someone’s career or reputation or a court case.

3) What are your respective duties to each of the parties? Sometimes you owe no specific duties to either party. Other times you may do so, such as where you are an employee of one of the parties. The greater the duty, the more you ought to be willing to intervene.

4) Are each of the parties wise, simple, foolish or wicked? If both of them are wicked or foolish, there is little point joining in. Nothing will be achieved and harm will come to you for having tried to help. But if one or both are wise, or even simple, that may be different. (See Books Five and Six for more detail)

5) Has the person who needs your help been faithful to you previously and are they generally faithful to others? If not, there would be little point in getting involved, because they would not appreciate your help or reciprocate it. They would not deserve it either.

6) Is anybody’s job, reputation, marriage or legal case at stake? If so, a willingness for you to take a risk may be required.

7) Are there frequent conflicts involving this person? Or is this a one-off? If frequent, there may be little point getting involved, as even if you did something on this occasion, another dispute would soon spring up to take its place.

8) Does the dispute properly involve you, or would you be meddling in a quarrel which is not your own, such that you should keep out of it?

He who meddles in a quarrel not his own is like
one who takes a passing dog by the ears.

Proverbs 26:17 (RSV)

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man,
But any fool will quarrel.

Proverbs 20:3 (NASB)

9) Is the wronged/innocent party worthy of your support, given that any intervention may involve you putting yourself at risk of hostility? Be aware that people often resent a witness or intervener far more than they resent their original opponent.

10) Is the party who needs your help seeking to use or manipulate you, or any other person? If so, you ought to back off.

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