In May of 1889 due to flood waters and neglect of needed repairs to a dam near Johnstown, PA, one of the most tragic events occurred in US history as the dam breached. According to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s website, 2,209 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed and $17 million dollars of damage occurred as a ‘….great wave measured 35-40 feet high, hit Johnstown at 40 miles per hour.’ This dam’s breach effected the lives of many and may have been averted by proper maintenance.
In the book of Proverbs, there is a verse that uses the imagery of destruction that a breached dam can cause with a common occurrence in our daily lives’ quarrels with others. Proverbs 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” It speaks to the fact that quarrels do not solve anything, but rather cause more destruction than good, but how so?
Quarrels or better stated verbal fights can inflict serious inflections mainly because the dam of our frustrations and anger overflow into the fight. Often in the heat of the verbal battle, our anger gets the best of us and we say things that hurt others. In a quarrel it is no longer about solving an issue but rather an all-out assault to win our position over another. We do this not by listening or taking in account the other’s position, but rather having an attitude of I must win over the other at any cost. The result is devasting as each person in the quarrel leaves with hurt feelings, anger, resentment and an unresolved issue. Quarrels can leave us in the wake of broken relationships and broken spiritual life, even more in the church these verbal assaults can cause split churches and people abandoning church altogether.
As Christ followers there is another way we must act when dealing with disagreements in our relationships and in the church. One way is discussing an issue before it gets out of hand. This means coming to the table and allowing for each person to talk out the issue in a safe environment. To do this means to respect the other person and their point of view even if you disagree. Listen to what is being said without loading up your ammunition to fire back a response before they are done talking. Allow timeouts when discussing something that is causing yours, theirs or boths blood to boil. Cool off and come back once again to talk calmly and open mindedly with each other. Even call in a fellow brother or sister in Christ to help mediate peace in the situation.
Second, realize sometimes we are going to disagree and sometimes we won’t get our way. We can attempt to come to a compromise yet in some situations a compromise is not feasible. In those instances for the greater good of peace we must learn to be okay with losing out on our position (unless losing out goes contrary to what the bible says). If we have stated our position and have been listened to, then that is all we should do. Our greater call is that God’s will be done thus our greater call is to show love over winning out in some dispute.
That brings us to the last thing, love. As Christians we must show love. Paul gives a laundry list of things that love is to a church in a huge dispute among themselves. He uses words like patient, forbearing, kind and does not boast to name a few. Yet at the end he says love never fails. No matter what win or lose we never fail when we share love. So the next time we see a quarrel coming, take a moment and heed Proverb 17:14. It may indeed keep us from feeling the damage a quarrel can cause in our lives.
 “Statistics about the Great Disaster.” Facts about the 1889 Flood, 2019, www.jaha.org/attractions/johnstown-flood-museum/flood-history/facts-about-the-1889-flood/.