The Addict’s Guide to Conflict
Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable… If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In treatment, I learned this phrase, Do the next right thing. For addicts, impulsive behavior is a profound problem. When we pursue whatever idea that first pops into our minds, we are usually pursuing disaster. Our first impulse, in most situations, is the wrong one. This concept then, of pausing to make a thoughtful, conscious choice, to Do the next right thing, is an important one to the addict.
This is not just about chemicals. It is true in relationships as well. One does not need to be addicted to drugs to understand impulsivity. One just needs to be addicted to self to find that the first impulse in conflict is often the wrong one. The self-addict always demands his way, caring more about winning than behaving right. Unconcerned with the one he is in conflict with, he cares only about getting his way and smashing any opposition. Unfortunately, this is the most obvious in his closest relationships. It is usually family and friends who bear the brunt of the one addicted to being right.
The most important thing to the self-addict, is to make sure that everyone knows how right he is. He is justified, as he is always right. If he is right, then it does not matter how wrong he acts. Toxic behavior, yelling, anger, condescension and ridicule become suitable tactics when one is justified by being right. I’m right, so I’m justified in acting wrong…
Paul, in today’s passage said there is something more important than winning though. He said, that in conflict, it is far more important to behave right than to be declared right. Evil from those around us does not justify an evil response. We are to always maintain right behavior, even in the face of wrong. As much as it depends on us, we are to live in right relationship with others.
This is the opposite of my first impulse. My first impulse when confronted with an opposing opinion is to use whatever tactic it takes to prove my rightness. I am going to hammer you with my opinion until you see it my way. Paul did not say I could never disagree. He just insisted that my right conduct is more important than my victory.
Conflict and evil around me does not justify an evil response from me. In my self-addiction though, I insist it does. I am offended by your behavior, so now I am going to act offensively. Your bad behavior justifies my bad behavior.
Paul insisted that we are not to allow others to cause us to do evil. We are to do the next right thing, denying our impulse for the wrong thing. We are not to give away our right behavior in our need to be right. As our conduct is more important than our victory, we must continually deny self, keeping our eyes on God.