8 ¶ Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. 9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: 10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
Don’t be in a hurry to get in a fight. You have no idea what the outcome might be. Talk things out with the person with whom you have a conflict and don’t be telling tales out of school. It might get back to the person you’re trying to work things out with and make things worse. Many a person I’ve heard say they were trying to work out a problem with someone only to find that their talking about the problem to someone else got back to the first party and ruined everything.
In parts of the South there is a word called “politickin” where, let’s say a husband and wife have a falling out, as in, he cheats on her. Then, he, as he proclaims he’s repented of his sin and is sorry for what he did, goes around to the wife’s family and friends without her and tries to make himself look repentant. Now, what he’s doing is politickin and doing it behind her back, getting her family and friends to side with him or at least have pity on him. He’s gotten the wife’s family to betray her because in her highly emotionally charged state that’s what she feels, that they are taking his side. He also makes it unlikely she’ll forgive him.
This kind of backstabbing goes on in politics, business, and sports as well as the personal. In religion, you might have a popular Pastor caught in a sexual sin or even a crime go around to churches and get some pulpit time to declare either his repentance or his innocence when, after all, our Lord, when innocent, spoke nary a word in His own defence. This is politickin. You have to be suspicious. The old saying goes, if you are innocent don’t confess to something you didn’t do, but if you’re guilty you better cut a deal with the prosecutor. The only person who needs to say anything other than “I didn’t do it” is the guilty party.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, Scene II it is said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, which is often misquoted as “me thinks thou doth protest too much”. This means that you are so emotional about your innocence you sound guilty.
Commentators agree that this set of verses mean, and let me repeat, don’t be in a hurry to get into a public argument or even go to law with someone, you don’t know how its going to turn out, talk it over only with the party involved lest they hear about your politickin and you wind up with egg on your face that you can never wipe off. I’ve seen families hurt by ignoring this advice, marriages ruined, and friendships ended. With regard to legal matters, Jesus says this;
Matthew 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Much of the problem with disputes going too far has to do with our worship of Self. We demand our “propers”, as they say and are very sensitive to any perceived disrespect. Many people, partly due to their own temperament and partly due to our culture’s “me first” mentality, can’t allow their personal worth or importance to be put to the test in a dispute. These Proverbs cut you down a notch and make you think that perhaps the victory isn’t worth pursuing, I could lose, who is to say, and either way, my reputation may be tarnished forever. I only wish I had known this truth forty years ago. My entire life until the age of 46 was involved in spending too much time getting into drama, the results of which either “boomeranged” on me or just made me look worse even when I won. Think carefully before you strive. Some battles just aren’t worth winning.