At any one time there seem to be dozens of conflicts going on throughout the world, in this hour there are civil wars in Tigray in Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria and lots of tension in other parts of the world. It made me wonder about how and why conflicts get out of control on such a regular basis.
‘Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’, the Psalmist tells us; but not without sparks, then fire, and how we handle it depends on whether the fire purifies or destroys.
In civilised society we have learned to handle each other, in the office, factory or family. We know not to walk in the minefields of each other’s shortcomings for the most part. But where there are differences that we don’t understand, notice or expect, it can get ugly.
I was part of a group once that was engaged in what I considered to be a very useful piece of work, I believed all had good motives, character and unity of purpose. The main organiser was not boastful, overly talkative or overbearing and was competent in his task. I had no reason to suspect that he was a megalomaniac with an ego the size of Mount Everest; its slopes and summit masked by a religious fog rendering it hidden. Unlike Everest though, egos are not made of granite but fragile material held loosely together with all the failings, wounds, shame and inadequacies of our fallen state.
A clash of egos was inevitable, because I also have one; one of the few man-made objects that can be seen from space (apparently); I can also tread rather heavily in sharing an opinion. By the time I realised that anything resembling the slightest criticism or challenge would not be well received it was too late; I had already made a pig’s breakfast of it and quickly realised that it could end in bloodshed. Any counter-reaction would have escalated any conflict even further.
Wounded pride is, after all, more painful than giving birth to a herd of elephants. Rage warps the mind as to what manner of vengeance is or is not reasonable or acceptable; hence the horror of war. It’s a remarkably short journey from misunderstanding and hurt feelings to murderous intent.
Perhaps God allows proud men to lock horns together to temper their egos a little or use them against each other; sometimes you’re the titanic having your hull ripped out and sometimes you’re the iceberg.