In this day of gas grills and Jenn-Air cooktops when a push of a button brings a flame to life, it is easy to forget the “good old days” of charcoal. In the event that it has been awhile since you’ve contended with little black briquettes, dirty hands, and endless fanning of the flames, let me refresh your memory:
Take an unruly bag of charcoal, pour its contents into the barbecue pit, build a mound (that’s where the dirty hands come from), and spray a generous portion of lighter fluid onto the pile. Next, using your body to block the sudden gust of wind that mysteriously appears, ignite your match and hopefully you will see an instant flame.
All good barbecuers know that the real secret to a red-hot fire is to get a few pieces of charcoal lit – even just one will do! That single piece will eventually ignite the rest. Unfortunately, the same thing can happen at work. All it takes is one piece of coal—one cranky coworker—to get the tempers burning. The writer of Proverbs tagged it perfectly:
A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood. (Proverbs 26:21 NLT)
Unless we want to cook up a plate load of trouble at work, this is one barbecue that needs to end quickly. So how do we put out the fire of cranky coworkers? God tells us:
Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. (Proverbs 26:20 NLT)
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 NIV)
God’s word is simply this: don’t pick up the hot coal. Standing toe-to-toe with the cranky person, or giving the individual a piece of your mind, simply stokes the fires of controversy and turns up the heat. God says to keep quiet and smother the person with love. If you’ve been burned, don’t tell others. Instead pray for the one who harmed you. Douse the burning embers of conflict with the cool waters of God’s love.
MY PRAYER: Lord, help me to keep my mouth shut when offended. Give me your grace to show love instead!